To keep up to date with all of our beer related activities follow us on Twitter @Pubcask
Belgium – One of the strongest football teams and of course one of the beer powerhouses of the world. There are just under 200 breweries in the country and many household names we are all familiar with. I’m a huge fan of De Halve Maan in Bruges as I visited the brewery a few years ago. They produce the excellent range of Brugse Zot beers and Straffe Hendrik Tripel is one of my favourite tripels in the world. Most Belgian microbreweries are brewing Belgian style beers so its good to see some are trying international styles like other European Countries. There is De Dochter van de Korenaar right is on the dutch border who apparently brew an excellent Double IPA. One of the best craft brewers is Brasserie de la Senne. They brew traditional Belgian beers but also do a few unique ones such as zwet IPA which is hoppy brown with a rich chocolately taste.
Italy – Italy is right in the middle of the wine belt but if you are eating pizza then you’re going to have a beer to go alongside it. The most popular brands of Italian beers are Peroni and Nastro Azzurro who are both owned by SAB Miller. Both of these are pale lagers and this is by far the dominant beer style in Italy. However over the last few years craft beer has changed all of that and is now extremely popular throughout the country. There are now over 600 breweries and a new microbrewery is opening every few weeks. Birra del Gorgo who have been brewing since 2005 and have an impressive range of beers including a bizarre Tobacco flavoured Porter. Another worthy mention is Loverbeer by BeerBera. This is an 8% sour beer made using local grape juice more synonymous with wine. The popularity of craft beer has even come to London where the UK’s first Italian Craft Beer pub has opened up. The Italian Job in Chiswick has 12 beers on draught and an extensive bottle range to choose from.
Republic of Ireland – Known for Guinness all around the world but there is much more to beer in Ireland than a pint of the black stuff. I visited Dublin last year and tried most of these first hand. One of the most popular is Porterhouse in Dublin who have been brewing since 1996. Their Irish Stout Plain Porter has won many awards and I rate it even higher than Guinness. I also tried JW Sweetman in their bar in central Dublin who have an excellent red ale. The best beers I tried were from Galway Bay Brewery which included Stormy Port a rich Irish porter and Buried at Sea at sweet milk chocolate stout.
Sweden – There are two categories for beer in Sweden. First there is lattol (light beer) which is under 2.5% and can be sold to anyone anywhere. Then there is Starkol which is any beer over 3.5% and is sold to people aged 18 and above in pubs and 20 and above in government-owned liqour stores. However there is also Folkol which is in between these two and can be bought at any grocery store. So over the years this has led to international brands selling their usual beer as well as a weaker version to fit in the Folkol category. Like most european countries Sweden has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon and there are well over 100 breweries around the country. The beer scene is very inspired by the United States with bars designed with lots of paraphenalia and they are one of the biggest importers of US beer. One of the oldest is Nynashamns Angbryggeri who were founded in 1996 and are best known for their Bedaro Bitter which is flavoured with English malt and American hops to create a classic style bitter. One of the most popular breweries is Omnipollo in Stockholm. They brew an interesting array of beers including a 7% IPA called Milkshake which is flavoured with strawberry and vanilla and Noa Dubbel Barrel which is a 11% Barrel Aged Pecan Imperial Stout. Although it is worth mentioning that the brewers travel around the world to brew these beers so I’m not sure how Swedish they really are.
Who will qualify? The big favourites are Belgium and they should have more than enough quality to see them through. It’s a fight for 2nd place with Sweden, Ireland and Italy all ok but I fancy the Italians to pip the other two with their experience.