Tuesday, 12 June 2012

#39: Euro 2012 Group Stages and Loosely Linked Beer Talk

Euro 2012 started on Friday, with Poland, Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic fighting it out. Needless to say, the tournament didn't start for me until Spain played Italy yesterday. It was a promising day, with Cork winning the Munster Semi-final and Italy and Spain ending in a draw, an Ireland win would have been perfect. Flags and scarves up, Sam Adams in the fridge, cheap Ireland charity t-shirt on the back... Anyway, we know what happened. In an effort to redeem my national pride and to desperately induce some sense of superiority over the Croatians, I reflected on the fact that we have better beer. Well, probably. I did some research a few weeks before the tournament - as I planned to stage my own Euro 2012 of Beer - and I realised I was going to have trouble buying and trying the beers from some of the participating countries, especially at short notice. For example, I don't know where in Cork I can get my hands on some Croatian, Ukrainian or even Russian beer, and some countries (Spain, Poland, France, Portugal) are only represented in my locale by absolute toss.

So instead, I will do one beer per matchday, with the first four obviously in hindsight (I told you I'd be distracted). 

For matchday one, it was really no contest. I've never had a Greek or Russian beer, and I have to make this clear, I'm not about finding the best beer, just my favourite, and in this case Budějovický Budvar takes it for the Czech Republic. A full-flavoured pilsener that I found ridiculously enjoyable with my curry a while back.

For matchday two, we had more interesting prospects. Netherlands, Denmark and Germany all produce fine beers, with La Trappe, Mikkeller, Wieckse Witte, Paulaner and Weihenstephaner all vying for the considerable honour of being called my favourite. Portugal and beer is a venn diagram that in my mind only has one tiny and insignificant interception - Sagres. Nothing there, then. I would even consider Heineken for the Netherlands, because I have to say having a 250ml glass of the stuff on tap in a sunny Amsterdam really is a much different experience to being served a pint of the fizzy water we get here. That's all redundant, though, because I don't think I was ever not going to choose Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier for Germany.

Matchday three was once again more straightforward. Italy and Spain don't offer much that I've experienced and enjoyed - Peroni was my most recent, with it being unremarkable and, to be honest, not even very refreshing, which I consider the very least a beer like that should be. Croatia was a no-go for me so Ireland have it in the bag. It's a close battle between Porterhouse Brainblásta and Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne's Carraig Dubh, with the latter edging it for it's massive success in making me really enjoy it, despite it's obvious handicap of being a porter.

Finally, matchday four had England and France fighting for the points on the pitch, and they were really the only two contenders in this group. I do know that Sweden have some goods to offer, but I can't say I've tried any, so I can't vouch for that. I also have to admit that I've been slacking on my research - I haven't tried Trois Monts yet. It appears on paper to be the best French beer I can get a hold of, with the only others I can get a hold of being Kronenbourg 1664 and Desperados. It would have been unfair to the good people of France if I put either of these forward only to get destroyed by any number of classy English ales. Don't worry, though, I plan on selecting 4 runners-up beers to make up a quarter finals scenario. How these will be selected is shut up, that's how. Seriously though, rules and regulations for this competition are corrupt on a Turkish football scale. Anyway, my winner for Group D has got to be Fuller's London Pride. It might not be groundbreaking or game-changing, but it's damned delicious drink. Quaff away, but with Trois Monts on the horizon, a beer of a style I am very much attracted to, England may not exactly be running away with it. Money permitting, Sweden may also launch a late challenge for the remaining spot...

So, a recap of the top placed finishers in each group:

Budějovický Budvar - Czech Republic
Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier - Germany
Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne Carraig Dubh - Ireland
Fuller's London Pride - England

Once again, I can't stress enough how the competition is about me finding my favourite and most enjoyable drink, as opposed to judging what is technically the best beer. I simply haven't got the beer knowledge for that sort of thing, to be honest. Also, in an effort to make this as fair as possible, I'm only going to allow one entry per country. This is mainly to prevent me from giving Ireland two beers in the quarter finals, though it doesn't account for me being forced to choose relatively shit beers for countries that I just can't get good beery access to.

Spain, Portugal, Poland, Russia, Italy... I apologize in advance.

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