What a newbie needs to learn about the World Cup from another newbie …

So you want to get in on the action, eh? Me too. Problem is, while I can sit through and enjoy the odd game of soccer (see I messed up already), ahem, football, when there’s bacon around, I don’t know enough to truly comment on anything World Cup related.  Yes, I know how many players are on the field at once and the rules and what not, but what about the more subtle nuances that will help me feel part of the cool football crowd? So here’s my slightly researched attempt at preparing for the World Cup, beginner-styles:

WC Groups

1.  The big names are the obvious ones

Immediately, I assume that every team that is actually good is going to be from a country I wouldn’t immediately think of when I think football. This is not the case. It’s pretty much the standards. Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, England (sometimes), etc. So don’t bother cheering for Iran or Japan because you think they’re underdogs (although … see number 2).

2.  Everyone loves an underdog

Of course, we do. We’re Canadian for Pete’s sake, and we’re Torontonian to boot. So if that’s your game your picks should be:

    • Belgium
    • Ivory Coast
    • Uruguay
    • Australia

The best part about these options is they’re all from different continents so you can choose the one you most identify with or the one you want to travel to the most, or the one you just recently visited.  No, I can’t tell you anything specific about these teams. But I hear they’re great, just not the greatest.

3.  No “I” in team … except for these guys


Balotelli. Ronaldo. Torres.

It’s great to have a favourite team, but what about the actual players, the men.  You can’t just yell “Go Spain” at a TV for two hours now can you? Well, you could, but serious football fans wouldn’t appreciate it very much. So here are a few names (that are incredibly biased) that you can shout until your heart’s content.

  • Spain: Fernando Torres (and he’s a bit of a dreamboat too)
  • Italy: Mario Balotelli (He’s a crazy one to watch: he usually scores and/or gets sent off in the same match. He’s also allergic to grass [not even kidding] and he once set off fireworks in his bathroom, almost causing his house to burn down  [again, not even kidding])
  • Brazil: Neymar (yup, one name, like Madonna)
  • Germany: Phillip Lahm
  • Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo
  • England: Steven Gerrard
  • Uruguay: Luis Suarez (another crazy one; he’s been known to bite the opposing players)
  • Argentina: Lionel Messi
  • France: Karim Benzema

4. World Cup Moments worth knowing about



  • Two World Cups ago some French dude, Zinedine Zidane, headbutted an Italian dude, Marco Materazzi and that was kind of a big deal. For all the gory details click here.
  • Last World Cup, I had just returned to working at the Duke of Kent after a stint in Edinburgh and Spain won the tournament. It was a busy day at the pub and I remember the constant horn honking on Yonge Street. That’s why living in Toronto is awesome.
  • A bitter rivalry exists between England and Argentina. In June 1986, these teams met in the quarter finals. Six minutes into the second half, Diego Maradona (arguably one of the best footballers ever) scored using his hand. Following the match he claimed the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. Argentina went on to win the match 2-1 and knocked England out of the tournament.
  • One of the saddest stories in World Cup history was the murder of Andrés Escobar. The Colombian scored an own goal in 1994 against the USA, and was shot and killed in his home country two weeks later. One common theory is his own goal caused gambling losses to several high-powered criminals of the time. Technically, this has never been proven. Talk about taking the world’s most popular sport too seriously.

So you still don’t really know anything about soccer. Yes, ok, I call it soccer. Here’s an easier solution to your football naiveté. Head over to your favourite Duke and saddle up to the bar. Early, so you get a good spot. Ask the person sitting next to you to tell you a bit about the World Cup because you read a silly blog about it and you didn’t learn a thing. They’ll probably tell you a story or share a specific moment that changed their idea of a player or the sport and, in turn, that might change you too. Either way, get out there, make friends and have fun. You’re bound to say something silly but who cares, because when it comes to any sporting event – it’s all about the enthusiasm.

Duke Pubs Draught Beer: Our Story

As a cornerstone in the restaurant and bar industry for over thirty years, the Duke Pubs have been laying the path for others to follow when it comes to pouring draught beer in Toronto. Strategic partnerships with the country’s top beer producers, equipment specialists and training programs have elevated our draught beer experience to an unparalleled position in which we take great pride. We hope you will as well, as you learn our story.

With almost one million pints pulled annually in our six Duke Pubs, we prepare our “Honest Pint” with pride and expertise, from the time we install a new draught system to the moment we serve a pint to you, our guest.

Honest Pint 400x533_Jan 14

With monthly scheduled draught system cleaning and maintenance provided by Draft Systems, coupled with participation in a forty point audit system conducted monthly by BetterBeer.com, we guarantee every pint we deliver is the freshest, cleanest and safest draught beer you will find in Toronto.

When we partner with industry leaders and quality innovators, they approach us knowing we take our draught beer seriously. Over the years, the Duke Pubs have helped launch multiple brands and breweries in Toronto including Alexander Keith’s IPA, Stella Artois and most recently, Shepherd Neame’s continental North American draught release of Spitfire Kentish Ale. The trust in our staff, systems and sales strategies allows market leaders the perfect avenue to best showcase their product with confidence.


Our executives, managers, bartenders and servers participate in industry leading training such as the Prud’homme Beer Certification Program provided by Thirst for Knowledge Inc., and the BetterBeer.Com Certification Program. Our level of commitment to learning everything about beer sets us apart. Currently the only accredited Beer Sommelier Certification program in Canada, our staff are eager to advance through the three-tier Prud’homme program.


Delivering a pint the way a skilled brewmaster intended is what we do well at The Duke Pubs. We offer an ever-evolving guest tap series and weekly product samplings paired with staff training, and we use branded glassware and coasters, as the foundation for a premium draught beer experience for you, our guest.

The Duke Pubs Draught Beer Story has been written over the last thirty years and the next chapter will be written with our excitement, knowledge and commitment to sharing the best quality draught in Toronto. We have been leading the way and look forward to continuing the journey with you. Fancy a pint?


Written by Mark Grassie, Duke of Somerset Manager

Let the Dukes Spice Things Up!

Good KarmaThere’s something about the Duke Pubs’ curry that I can’t quite put my finger on. As a server at the Duke of Kent, I quickly became mildly addicted to the Bombay Chicken Curry over the five years I worked there. I recall genuinely being excited for a shift at work just so I could order it. Needless to say whenever I’m at a Duke Pub these days, it’s my standard order.


The funny thing about the Duke’s curry recipe is that it’s been around as long as me. How long is that? Promise not to tell anyone? An incredible 30 years. So that alone gives you an indication of how popular the dish is on the menu. The most interesting part is that each location has a slight variation on the dish. Like any recipe, it’s the Chef who gives a dish its unique flavour and the Dukes incorporate customer feedback to ensure everyone is getting the kind of traditional curry they’re craving. For instance, I like a curry with a lot of kick, so when I order my curry, I ask for an extra side of the Duke’s homemade suicide sauce and an extra side of Duke Pubs Rhubarb Chutney while I’m at it. Truth be told, I’d eat the chutney on its own if it were socially acceptable. The flavourful heat is the perfect dish to warm you up this long (never-ending-why-won’t-you-just-go-away) winter we’re having and even if you’re more of a mild kind of a currydiner, a crisp pint of Steam Whistle Pilsner will help cool things down.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had patrons ask or almost beg for the curry recipe to take home. If that sounds like you, you’re in luck. The Duke Pubs Curry Spice and Rhubarb Chutney are now on sale for a special March price of $12.99. To start off this venture, the Dukes partnered with


 George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts Food Innovation and Research Studio to perfect their rhubarb chutney recipe. Next they were off to David’s Condiments who helped them master the recreation of their Curry Spice and Sabatini’s Gourmet Foods who handled the Rhubarb Chutney. It’s always best to leave jarring to the pros.  Not only do these kits come with the Curry Spice and Rhubarb Chutney but they include the new Chicken Karma Masala recipe so you don’t have to guess once you’re in the kitchen.
But that better not mean you won’t venture into the Dukes as much because, let’s face it, no matter how good the curry you make at home is, there’s something about the Duke Pubs that just keeps you coming back for more. But hey, if you don’t pop in as often … more for me!