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Germany – The current holders of the World Cup Germany are also one of the world leaders in beer. Different areas of Germany are known for brewing their own styles but the most famous region is Bavaria where they brew an estimated 5000 different types of beer. One of my favourite German beers is Weihenstephan Hefeweizen which at 5.4% is full-bodied with a lovely smooth texture and a sweet banana flavour. Also Schenkerla Rauchbier which is probably my favourite beer in the world. Incredibly strong smoked flavour and full bodied. It is like a liquid hotdog from a BBQ. Germany are one of the most famous countries in the world when it comes to beer and with their massive range of beer are one of the favourite for the tournament.
Poland – I visited Krakow for a few days last summer and I was suprised by the quality of beer choice. They were mainly lagers but most were of a good quality. One beer I really enjoyed was Ksiaceze Pszenicze which is hazy refreshing wheat beer with a banana flavour. The three biggest breweries are Zyweic, Okocim and Tyskie control 80% of the beer market in Poland. Tyskie the most well known Polish beer in the UK wasn’t readily available in Krakow and I only saw it on a few occasions over the four days I was there. I visited Multi Qlti an excellent craft beer bar in Krakow which had 19 keg beers and 13 of these were from Poland. MY favourite beer here was Milkolak by Reden which is a sweet chocolately milk stout. I also visited Pod Prad a tiny bar near our hostel where they had a huge range of bottles and here I had Fortuna Sliwkowa which was a delicious and very sweet plumb porter. Craft beer is making waves in Poland and I’m sure many more microbreweries will continue popping up across the country.
Ukraine – Beer is immensely popular in Ukraine and most styles are influenced from Germany so you’ll find loads of pale lagers. The biggest breweries include Lvivske, Chernihivske and Obolon. In terms of volume of beer produced Obolon are one of the biggest breweries in Europe and they account for 80% of all beer exported from Ukraine. Their most popular beers include Obolon Premium which at 5.2% is a standard lager which apparently has a distinct taste which reviews suggest is unpleasant. Craft beer is very slowly entering Ukraine and there are over 200 microbreweries around the country but this only equates to under 1% of the market. It is difficult for new breweries to get noticed as a new law to help deter alcohol abuse imposes strict guidelines and an annual advertising fee of around £16,000 is imposed on every company which is crippling for microbreweries. One of the most popular microbreweries is Pravda Beer Theater based in Lviv they have recruited American Correy McGuinness as their head brewer. They only opened in 2015 but have already got a name for themselves with some interesting quirky beers which feature labels of world leaders including Obama, Putin and Merkel. The state of Ukraine’s beer scene will still be dominated by the likes of Obolon if those advertising laws continue.
Northern Ireland – Their southerly neighbours are known for Guinness but what is beer like in Northern Ireland. Guinness has definitely influenced drinking north of the border as stout is still the preferred beer style. Unbelievably there are no big companies dominating breweries in Northern Ireland. Caffreys Ulster Brewery opened in 1897 closed down in 2004 leaving no big company breweries in Northern Ireland. Hilden Brewing Company which opened in 1981 is now the oldest independent brewery in Northern Ireland. They have quite an extensive range of beer and of course they brew their own take on Guinness called Hilden Irish Stout and reviews suggest it is full bodied roasted with hints of coffee and toast. I’m a big fan of Irish Stout so I’d love to try it. Another one to mention is Whitewater which is the largest microbrewery in Northern Ireland. Their Belfast Lager is supposedly top notch but I like the sound of the brilliantly named Clotworthy Dobbin which is a rich ruby porter with hints of fruit and toffee. There has been an enormous increase in microbrewies in recent years. In 2012 there were 5 microbreweries in Northern Ireland, now there are 28 and counting. The underdogs are punching well above their weight with their beer, much like the football team.
Who will qualify? Germany are obvious favourites and will have no problem winning this group. Behind them you would have to fancy Poland although you can never write off Northern Ireland.