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Croatia – 90% of beer consumed in Croatia is brewed in Croatia. The most popular brand is Ozujsko and I tried some when I was in Zagreb a few years ago which is where the brewery is based. The 2nd most popular is Karlovacko which is the national beer of Croatia and brewed in the city of Karlovac. Croatia also has a newly emerging craft beer scene with Zmajska Pivovara (Dragon Brewery) opening up in 2014 being one of the first. The majority of Croatian craft beers aren’t the most imaginative and are the usual lagers or american pale ales but I suppose if that‘s what the population enjoys then not. One variation that does sound very interesting comes from Croatia’s first mircobrewery Pivnica Medvedgrad is Dva Klasa which is a dark clouded wheat beer which is dark purply red colour.
Czech Republic – Known for excellent pilseners such as staropramen, Budvar and Pilsener Urquell but is their much of a craft beer scene. There are over 300 small breweries in Czech Republic which make up just 1% of the market. A few of these new breweries are using traditional pilsener lager techniques and applying these to craft beer styles such as an american pale ales. This is an interesting idea but you could argue both styles are best kept seperate. One brewery that stands out in Czech Republic is Falkon. Established in Zatec by Jacob a homebrewer and beer writer in 2012. They have brewed many interesting beers including a Smoked Porter, Milk Stout which all go alongside their flagship Stalker IPA.
Spain – Beer is very popular in Spain and it is the fourth biggest producer of lager in Europe and tenth in the world. Spain have got a load of big players in the lager world. The internationally exported Estrella Damm and San Miguel as well as Mahou Clasica & Cruzcampo which are popular within the country. Alhambra is another brewery in Spain who as well as brewing the nations favourite lager also offer popular alternatives such as Mezquita a red abbey beer which is 7.2% and sounds delicious. Craft Beer is slowly making its mark in Spain with more than 150 craft beer brands across spain but this is only 0.5% of the market. Cibeles are one of Madrid’s top craft beer breweries and have produced a dozen different styles including a stout, rauch and a barley wine.
Turkey – Efes Pilsen absolutely dominates the Turkish beer scene and makes up 80% of the market. The other beer is Bomonti which is also brewed by Efes and is similar to their Pilsen but it has a sweeter and maltier flavour. I can’t find any sort of craft beer scene here or anything else other than Efes being brewed in Turkey.
Who will qualify? Spain are the clear favourites in this group and have enough big players to get them through. Croatia and the Czech republic will be fighting it out to finish 2nd and get automatic qualification and both may well progress if they avoid heavy defeat to the Spaniards.