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Austria – You would suspect that a country bordering Germany has a big beer market and you would be right. The most popular beer choice is Marzen a malty golden beer and just behind that is Pils which is particularly popular on draught. One of the most well-known brands is Stiegl and the brewery even has a museum of beer and beer making near Salzburg. Another brand is Ottakringer and I have tried their beers when I was in Vienna. Their classic Helles was quite delicious whilst watching a band play outside St Michael’s Church. Another worthy mention is Freistadter Bier who have an impressive range of beers. Freistadt which translates as ‘Free City’ is a city that was granted a brewing law in 1363 which allowed citizens within the city walls to brew and serve their own beer. In total there are over 70 breweries in Austria with quite a few microbreweries popping up in bigger cities. Brew Age in Vienna are a young innovate brewery who produce the usual IPAs in quirky bottles but also brew an oatmeal stout, iced barley wine and a seasonal elderflower beer.
Hungary – Known for their love of light lager the main breweries in Hungary are Dreher, Pecs and Borsod who dominate most of the market with their own signature pale lager. When I visited Budpaest a few years ago I did have a Borsodi Lager and I can’t recall anything particulary great about it. There is a big craft beer scene in Hungary and in Budapest in particular. Legende Brewery opened in 2013 in Budapest and brew over 25 different beers including lots of strong IPAs and a variety of fruit beers. Another brewery in Budapest that is worth mentioning is Rothbeer. They have an impressive range of beers including a 7.5% Smoked Porter called Pyromania and Wee Heavy a 7.1% Scottish Ale.
Iceland – It is such a good story that Iceland even reached the Euros. A country of only 300,000 has performed way beyond it’s means. Beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989 so beer drinking culture is still relatively new for them. One brewery I have heard of is Einstok who I didn’t actually know that Einstok was an American Brewery based in Iceland but they are using Icelandic water and brewing it in the country so surely this can be classed as an Icelandic brewery. I‘ve tried the Pale Ale on a few occasions and it was an ok pale but didn’t stand out a great deal. Their white ale is a Belgian style witbier which sounds really good. Another one of their beers I would like to try is the Toasted Porter which is a 6% rich porter with hints of toffee and chocolate. The top rated Icelandic beer online is Lava by Olvisholt Brewery and it sounds incredible. Lava is a smoked imperial stout with a sweet chocolate flavour and at 9.6% it’ll kick your arse as well.
Portugal – A country known for port but they are also the 11th largest beer producer in Europe. The beer market in Portugal is dominated by two major companies Unicer Brewery produce the Super Bock brand that includes Original their flagship pale lager. They have brought out some different flavours including a Stout in 2003 and Green a lemon beer in 2004. They also sell a lot in other native speaking countries such as Brazil and Angola are the biggest selling Portuguese beer in the world. The other well-known Portuguese brand is Sagres brewed by Sociedade Central de Cervejas. Their main beer is Sagres a 5% pale lager but they also brew Preta a dark munich style beer and a few other seasonal varieties. Sagres has good link with football and has sponsored many of the big clubs including Benfica and they are currently one of the main sponsors of the national team. There isn’t really a craft beer scene in Portugal but there are still a few smaller breweries plying their trade. Sovina were the first craft brewery to rise in Portugal and they are seemingly the biggest and most popular. They brew five types of beer which are amber, wheat, helles, stout and IPA. Another brewery is Letra who categorise their beers by letter. A is a Weiss, B is a Pilsner etc.
Who will qualify? Austria are the favourites and have a good solid team and should win the group with their sheer quality and choice of beer. Portugal have their Ronaldo (Super Bock) but not much else and will find it difficult getting past the emerging Iceland and Hungary. I think we’ll see a few surprises in this group.