The Irish Examiner has today given its suggestions for beers for each nation at the Euros. Four are the same as mine. It remains to be seen who will actually be able to present a photograph of a completed line-up however. I completed mine yesterday, returning from Vienna with the last of the 24 in hand. Turned out the absurdly posh Julius Meinl shop stocked Croatian beer so in theory I needn’t have ordered that in, but then again that was the same order that got me the fun German ones (more on that later). 3 days to go…
One more beer left to procure and we’re going to do this one in style. No Austrian beer anywhere so taking desperate measures. Well, actually, we’re going there anyway but it just so happens it’s the last country I need. Hoping I might find Stiegl, my favourite Austrian beer. See you next Tuesday!
I thought I’d give an early indication of what this blog is not going to be, as in, not a beer ponce fest. As if on cue, British supermarket Waitrose surpassed itself this week with these superb ‘tasting notes’ for, of all things, that staple of vagabonds and dog-laden travellers Carlsberg Special Brew. It’s exhibit A for exactly what I won’t be writing for the next month. This is actually pretty restrained compared to this review of the French Alsacien beer Fischer I stumbled upon:
Got this one in France while on vacation last summer.
From a 65cl swing-top bottle into a mug.
APPEARANCE: Pours a one finger, medium looking, fluffy white head with great retention. Fades slowly to a good cap leaving some sticky lacing to the sides of the mug. Clear amber yellow with medium carbonation evident. A splotchy wisp and ring remain leaving some lacing down the glass. Good looking for the style.
SMELL: Caramel notes, toasted grain, grainy bread aromas with some floral and grassy hops in there.
TASTE: Follows the nose nicely. Caramel and toasted malts up front with some nice floral hop bitterness at the swallow. A big finish or bready sweetness, honey and caramel flavors, bitter floral hops and some grassy notes. Decently flavorful and enjoyable.
PALATE: Medium body and medium levels of carbonation. Creamy on the palate, smooth going down and finishes dry. Good feel.
OVERALL: I guess it’s the anti-lager syndrome on this site, but this is a solid pale lager. No question about that. The nose and flavor were plenty enjoyable and well balanced, and the look was rather appealing as well. A good lager worth checking out if you’re in France.
Clearly a US-based beer aficionado, somewhat reminiscent of the US Eurosoccer snobs who’ll be tuning in to Euro 2016, dropping disparaging comments about MLS as they go. Actually I’ve got a soft spot for such people, particularly after a guy once rescued us when we were lost in Miami and drove us to our hotel purely because he’d been drawn by the Portsmouth shirt I was wearing. And my wife so disapproves of me wearing those things.
Anyway, getting to the point, don’t expect any particularly erudite observations on either the games or the beers. I once failed to even hoof the ball back over the advertising hoardings to a couple of warming up subs at a Lewes v Stevenage Borough Conference match before sheepishly saying “that’s why I watch” to blank non-comprehending looks. Much as I love watching the sport, I’m no scholar of the game, not so much of the “he needs to push up a bit”. Likewise, I doubt steel workers in France’s industrial German-speaking eastern fringe ever used to come off shifts thinking “I could murder some caramel, floral hop bitterness and bready sweetness”. And especially not ‘a splotchy wisp’, whatever that is.
And it won’t be all craft beers either. Don’t get me wrong-I think the craft beer industry is nobly fighting back against the faceless beer conglomerates. I’ve been warned that a couple of Poland’s most famous beer brands have long since gone to the dark side, whisked up in vats in just a day, effectively a sort of beer mix with a bit of vodka chucked in. However, for some countries I wanted to drink as the romans do, and why not?
Whilst rooting out the beers I needed for my Euro 2016 beer odyssey I thought I’d spare a thought for the bottles and cans that won’t be joining us.
Lithuanian beer (‘alus’ as they call it) does ok and turns up more and more in places. Švyturys is good. Utenos sounds like it could make you ill but is also in fact drinkable. It really wouldn’t be worth searching out Estonia’s absurdly-named A. Le Coq beer unless it were really needed.
DENMARK & THE NORDICS
Denmark’s absence is a biggy, not least because it makes Carlsberg, the official beer of Euro 2016, ineligible for my Euros beer adventure. I might’ve ruled it out anyway on the grounds that the bottles and cans which abound in every shop have all been brewed anywhere but in Denmark. I also dodged a bullet in not having to consume one of those big scary cans of Faxe.
A Norwegian craft beer did leap out at me just once in a craft beer store in Warsaw but had to stay on the shelf this time. Surely it’s just too expensive to bother brewing and exporting anything from that country? Finland’s Lapin Kulta would’ve been a shoo-in for a football championship in France, except the name has nothing whatsoever to do with rabbits.
The most notable absentee on both the footballing and fermentation front, but at least on the latter front it won’t be missed. It rules out Heineken, but rightly so frankly (I’ll inevitably be drinking other beers that they own, at least three I think). Last time round for the World Cup I think I had a Grolsch and possibly a Bavaria but I don’t even remember. Obviously wasn’t very memorable.
Mythos beer (believe it or not) is available in a specialist international food shop in Warsaw and occasionally ends up in Lidl at knock down prices. Funnily enough it came up in a discussion amongst work colleagues about how some of these drinks just aren’t quite the same when taken out of their habitat and how Mythos is a case in point. Apparently Mythos in Greece is served in glasses that have just been taken out of the freezer. Difficult to replicate here without risking my glassware. Luckily, I don’t have to.
Had Israel qualified the kosher beer staring mysteriously at me in a local falafel joint would have done nicely. Will have to wait for another occasion.
UEFA’s micro nations must surely also have micro breweries. It would definitely be fun to try Gibraltar, Liechtenstein or San Marino’s finest offerings, assuming somebody’s garage brewery is up to the task, but one of those either qualifying or having their beer available is a Leicester City x 5000.
Some nice looking Scottish beers have turned up out here. I particularly liked the look of Innis and Gunn‘s various offerings, and just today was looking longingly at a bottle of Belhaven, but alas the Tartan Army haven’t qualified so that’s that.
No, it’s not a way of choosing presidential candidates (although it couldn’t do a much worse job). These are of course the three UEFA outliers of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. I spent my winter holiday drinking Georgian beers and they’re not bad, particularly when accompanying scrumptious Georgian cuisine. One of them, Natakhtari, just turned up a week ago in a local wine shop, but alas the land of Georgi Kinkladze and Temuri Ketsbaia failed to make it this time.
That does say Natakhtari. I checked!
I seem to remember Armenian beer turning up in a supermarket here about a year ago, but if so it’s come and gone. The absence of Armenia’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, arguably one of Europe’s best players, is surely a far bigger loss to the tournmane, albeit a blessing of sorts for the commentators. About Azerbaijan I have no clue, and with Kazakhstan the same come to that. I have had Moldovan beer, from a Russian shop which closed down a year or two back, but I’d have a devil of a job trying to get it now. It wasn’t bad either. Belarusian beer was on sale here one day when I wasn’t paying attention and I briefly considered buying it in lieu of a Russian one.
At one stage I found a shop that sold the whole gannet of Balkan beers-Serbian, Macedonian, Montenegran…but not Croatian. I won’t be troubling myself over Kosovo quite yet, who are yet to kick a ball in UEFA competition (and whose population will almost certainly be supporting Albania after their drone flag antics that impressed the Court of Arbitration for Sport so much).
As it happens I was in a Warsaw beer store this very day and a group of Serbians were in the queue in front of me were bemoaning the dearth of decent beer in Serbia (i.e. they said “it’s shit”). Perhaps we have been spared.
Surprisingly, we have very few overlaps. Iceland continues to surprise. This list goes for Ölvisholt Lava, a so-called ‘imperial stout’ (I’m having trouble buying into some of these labels). I suppose I generally thought that countries like Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway (had they qualified) are just too bloody rich to bother brewing and trying to export beer. To some extent they are, but beers from the Nordic countries are finding their way out, not least to other European countries that have lower taxes on alcohol. 🙂
Efes for Turkey seems unavoidable. Zlatý Bažant for Slovakia might be unavoidable but I’m still woking on it, just to be less cliché. Being extremely well-acquainted with Ukraine I’ve never come across Krokodil (?), apart from in stories of a nasty home made hard drug which is rampant in Russia. I can find no reference to such a beer so may have been had here, although I can picture it being some sort of craft beer. Truth is Ukraine is not as far away as people think and there are some very good Ukrainian beers now circulating around shops in Poland and further afield. They’re probably right on Silva for Romania and I’m convinced the one I’ve gone for is better. San Miguel and Pilsener Urquell are old news to me but I’m impressed with their Italy choice of Cortigiana. Difficult to get those sorts of gems where I am.
Am planning to publish my own starting lineup next Wednesday.
Pub industry trade publication The Morning Advertiser also explored this theme for the obvious marketing potential, face offs between beers from the different Euro 2016 nations rather than a full list for all of them. They manage to get the Swiss Hürlimann (or a picture of it at least-bear in mind that it could be the Shepherd’s Neame brewed on license version) and an Icelandic beer. I had predicted Iceland to be probably the most difficult country to track down but in fact picked up an Icelandic craft beer at a shop just a couple of minutes from my workplace, and even saw it in one other specialist beer shop since. I must add however that it is not the positively terrifying Icelandic whale’s testicle craft beer. Different ball game that.