Beer and football. It’s one of the world’s most sociable double acts and, with Euro 2016 hogging the TV listings, now is the time to stock up on the stuff for a month’s worth of sporting action. To give the beer shelf in your fridge a bit more Euro appeal, our scouts have scoured the continent in search of the best bottles from each of the countries represented that are available in the UK. With craft ale having a global renaissance, many former beer-shy nations now produce drinks that can compete with the traditional brewing powerhouses, meaning competition for places is tougher than it has ever been. So set your furniture in your favourite formation, make sure your beer glass is match-ready and see if you can pick a winner.
Gavroche, 8.5%: £2.69 per 330ml bottle, Beers of Europe
Gavroche is a ‘Biere du Garde’, meaning a ‘beer for keeping’. But at a wobble-inducing 8.5 per cent, they certainly don't mean goalkeeping. There’s much to admire in this top-fermented, strong amber ale. It tastes of caramel, mellow summer fruits and delicate spices. Dispatch it down your gullet with a nonchalant flick of the wrist.
1936 biere, 4.7%: £1.69 per 330ml bottle, N.D John
This is an uncomplicated golden lager brewed with spring water pilfered from the Alps. This Swiss offering is unlikely to trouble the big-hitting beer nations but, if you’re after simple beery refreshment to wash down your TV supper, it’s bound to hit the target.
Ursus Premium, 5%: £2.39 per 500ml can, Beers of Europe
Match a can of this premium macro lager versus most Euro lagers and it will hold its own in a beery one-on-one. It’s a no-nonsense lager, smooth and malty, easy on the hops. Watford fans should drink it to toast their keeper Costel Pantilimon, who’ll be representing Romania. Non-Watford fans will find him easy to spot – at 6ft 8in, he’s the tallest player in the tournament.
Iliria Weissbier, 5%
Our scouts had a torrid time tracking down any UK-available Albanian beers. In fact they had trouble finding any Albanian beers full stop. If you happen to find yourself in downtown Tirana during the European Championship, shimmy into a bar and ask for an Iliria Weissbier, a tasty German-style hefeweizen which we are told tastes of ripe banana, cloves and lemon.
Available from Albania
Charnwood, Fox Tale, 4.6%: £2.66 per 500ml bottle, Hoptimism
It’s based in Leicestershire, has a fox for a logo and is giving the established order a run for their money – if Jamie Vardy was employed by a brewery it would be Charnwood. Playing to its English strengths this ruby brew has rich malts leading out some herby hop flavours before a peppery bitterness kicks in. Stock up – it’s good enough to go the distance.
Baltica No.6 Porter, 7%: £2.49 for 500ml bottle, Beers of Europe
Here’s a strong contender. This ballistic, Baltic booze has a wonderful, heady aroma of chocolate, coffee and old leather football. The taste of roasted coffee beans and liquorice will play tiki-taka on your tonsils, while the creamy, bittersweet aftertaste will have you cheering for more.
Golden Pheasant (zlaty bazant), 5%: £2.59 for 500ml bottle, Beers of Europe
Slovakia could be the surprise team of the tournament, but this beer is most definitely destined for mid-table mediocrity. It’s a sweet tasting pilsner with a mild hoppy bitterness – suitable for pairing with a half time BBQ-ed burger, but best to edge your bets on a better booze if the footy proceedings you are watching head for extra time.
Celt Experience, Brigid Fire Rye IPA, 6.2%: £2.90 per 330ml bottle, Eebria
For those who believe the Welsh squad needs all the help it can get, we’ve summoned Celtic healer St Brigid to keep a protective eye on Gareth Bale and co. It’s a melting pot of flavours with rye, smoked wheat and French yeast combining to produce a spicy, dry IPA with bitter pine flavours.
Franziskaner, Hefe Weissbier, 5%: £1.75 per 500ml bottle, Tesco
Germany has long been a dominant force in both football and brewing, with Munich often the source of the best action in both fields. This traditional tipple is a great example of the Munich wheat beer style: cloudy and frothy with banana and clove aromas and crisp orange and lemon flavours. Few beers can have toasted more footballing success than this one. Prost!
Obolon Lager, 5%: £1.89 for 500ml bottle, Beers of Europe
A half-decent Euro pilsner. Steady going and easy on the palate, it boasts a bready, malt forward taste with spicy, grassy hops providing support. It’s not going to set the world alight, but it’s a pleasant tipple. Not so much Roy of the Rovers, more like Roy from the Rovers Return.
Tyskie Gronie, 5.5%: £1.75 per 500ml bottle, Sainsbury’s
Our Polish scouts report an impressive showing from the Amber Brewery, but its beer seems unlikely to make a transfer to the UK any time soon. Instead we’ve picked the ubiquitous Tyskie – a no-frills lager that can be relied upon to fill a gap at the back of the fridge.
Boundary, Filthy Animal Chilli Porter, 4.8%: £2.75 per 330ml bottle, Beer Gonzo
To provide an additional bit of fire power up front, this Filthy Animal has been infused with chilli. The hot streak in our bottle comes courtesy of smoked chipotle – a perfect foil for the roasted coffee flavours of porter – and the brewers have got substitute chillis lined up on the bench for subsequent editions.
Tyris, Riu Rau, 4.5%: £3.10 per 330ml bottle, Ales by Mail
Spanish beer is rapidly rising up the rankings and can now offer much more variety than the country’s big brand lagers. This beer, crafted by a microbrewery in Valencian Country, is similar to an English bitter with a backbone of slightly toasty caramel malts and a dry, herby bitterness. A Spanish surprise that’s pleasantly drinkable.
Zagrebačka Pivovara, Ožujsko, 5%: Ozujsko
As with their Euro 2016 football squad, you’re unlikely to spot any of Croatia’s beers in British bars. The county’s biggest brand, Ožujsko, is the lager of choice for holidaymakers sunning themselves on the Dalmatian coast and, if you can get hold of a bottle at home, you’ll find it performs at its best during the hottest conditions.
Budweiser Budvar, B:Dark, 4.7%: £2.70 per 500ml bottle, Ales by Mail
Few other nations can match the experience of the Czech’s striking lager partnership of Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar, but we’ve gone for a different option. Budweiser’s B:Dark is made with classic Pilsner ingredients and the addition of some dark malts, lending it a slight charred smokiness to compliment sweet malty flavours. The tournament’s dark horse?
Efes, 5%: 24 x 330ml bottles for £30.82, The Drink Shop
One or two craft ale breweries have started cropping up in Turkey, but none have yet managed to transfer their wares abroad. However, Efes – the journeyman Turkish euro lager – has long been plying its trade on these shores. It's a decent, a top fermented, Hallertau hopped light, bright booze. Just the ticket for slurping whilst viewing some feisty Turkish futbol.
Birrificio del Ducato, New Morning, 5.8%: £3.59 per 330ml bottle, Honest Brew
Italy has recently developed an appetite for craft beer and the nation’s brewers are now showing more invention than a Lorenzo Insigne free-kick. This saison has a creative midfield of ginger, coriander, green pepper and chamomile, enthralling the drinker with floral flourishes amidst some spicy interplay. Superb brewing skills.
Westmalle Trappist Dubbel, 7%: £2.30 per 330ml bottle, Waitrose
Belgium is awash with superstar beers, so it's difficult to choose who to gets to lead the line. For us, Westmalle’s Dubbel receives the nod ahead of the rest. It’s an elegant, cultured Trappist beer – brewed by monks in one of the eleven recognised Trappist breweries - with the sublime flavour of dark fruits and silky caramel. World class.
Republic of Ireland
White Hag, The White Sow Milk Stout, 5.2%: £2.49 per 330ml bottle, Honest Brew
Any success for Martin O’Neill’s men is likely to be cheered with great quantities of stout. Our choice of black stuff comes from County Sligo and displays neat touches of chocolate sweetness and toasty bitterness beneath its creamy tan head. Hopefully it’ll be toasting the nation into the tournament’s latter stages.
Omnipollo, Noa Pecan Mud Cake Stout, 11%: £9.50 per 330ml bottle, Beer Gonzo
You may need the wages of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to drink much of this but, like Sweden’s star footballer, it’s a bit special. A wine strength imperial stout that’s full of nutty and chocolate layers and is oh-so-smooth and satisfying. One of the world’s best performers.
Sagres, 5%: £4 per 4x330ml bottle pack, Sainsbury’s
One of Europe’s most capped beers can expect a lot of bottle-opener action during summer evenings of football and barbeques. Slightly sweet and full of fizz, when served ice cold, gets the job done.
Brew Age, Hopfenauflauf, 5.4%: £2.99 per 330ml bottle, Beers of Europe
We don’t expect Austria to get very far in Euro 2016, but at least their fans have a decent beer with which to drown their sorrows. Brew Age makes coach-loads of fine boozes, and this one is its subtle, suppable best. Neat exchanges of play between hop and malt make it a beer to savour.
Hopfanatic, NoHopLimit, 8.5%: £3.49 per 330ml bottle, Beers of Europe
It has been 30 years since Hungary last appeared at a major football tournament so their fans already have good reason for some beery excitement. Caution is advised if this is their beverage of choice: it’s an American-style double IPA with floral and citrus bitterness ramped up through five different hop varieties and an ABV reaching the giddy heights of 8.5%. Expect some very merry Magyars, regardless of the results.
Einstok White Ale, 5.2%: £1.99 per 330ml bottle, Waitrose
Iceland have been sneaking into the opposition’s dressing room and stealing a peek at their rivals team tactics sheet. This Belgian-inspired Witbier is a riot of spicy coriander and zippy orange zest. It also happens to be made from the purest Icelandic mountain water – unsullied, untouched and undefiled. It's unlikely that the Icelandic goal net will remain in such pristine condition.
Despite a great showing from the home nations, we’ve picked Belgium’s Westmalle as our Euro champ: one of the world’s best beers, widely available at a decent price. And with the national football team among the pre-tournament favourites there’s a good chance of making it a Belgian dubbel.
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