Sitting down to write a feature on the beers of the 24 nations lining up at this year’s European Championships, it becomes apparent that it is difficult to do so without sounding like an amalgamation of David Brent, Alan Partridge and Smithy from Gavin and Stacey. But here goes ...
Italy. They love their pasta. They love their sports papers. They love their car horns. They, bizarrely, also love Tennent’s Super. What a buzz it is when you lay your eyes on a Tennent’s sign, draft tap or bottle.
As for their own lager, we all know Peroni. It is reportedly the most readily available lager in Edinburgh, which says a lot about the Capital and particularly the overrated George Street.
The diamond in the rough is Ichnusa from Sardinia.
If Peroni is goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma - overrated - then Ichnusa is midfielder Nicolò Barella, who is fittingly from the same island. Cool and crisp, the bottle design features the Sardinian flag, a drapeau many would die for.
Elsewhere in Group A, the Swiss national team should perhaps take some inspiration from Eichhoff lager, who have recently gone under a redesign - putting its iconic (iconic in Switzerland) squirrel branding front and centre.
When looking at the tournament schedule Swiss games are often ones you (a) need to be drinking plenty of Eichhoff or (b) should just watch the highlights.
For Turkey, you can’t go wrong with Efes and we’ll take inspiration from Hal Robson Kanu and Wales' left-field success at Euro 2016 and suggest Tiny Rebel. Jam Doughnut Pale Ale?
If Carlsberg produced a beer to match the popularity of their slogan then, bloody hell, they would have made something very, very special. Alas, they did not.
Another popular option is Tuborg. Again, as uninspiring as striker Yussuf Poulsen's goalscoring record for the national team. Denmark is a lovely country and Copenhagen a splendid city. They deserve a brewer and beer to match, especially when their national team shirts are also so smart. Enter To Øl, a former “gypsy brewery” which now produces a wide range of options - plus it is trendy and hip as hell.
Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit Finland’s capital Helsinki will know that it requires remortgaging the house to get a drink. And even then, just a half pint. As is the way across Europe, Carlsberg and Heineken groups control some of the biggest breweries. Olvi has to be the lager of choice, with ingredients mainly of Finnish origin.
It's a pity a Glen Kamara or Jari Litmanen beer has not been created.
Moving to Belgium. Can we just move swiftly on? If a lager/pilsner is your drink of choice, this isn’t the country for you. Sour beer? Fill your boots.
Now we come to Russia. The beers of this nation are not commonly found in Scotland, but there is plenty of choice. Ochakovo, Permskoye Gubernskoye, Rifey and Nevskoe Imperial. Nothing is more enticing than the word ‘imperial’.
Heineken, Amstel, Grolsch. Johan Cruyff. Rinus Michels. Louis van Gaal. Big names, known all over. All good and well. But let’s give Bavaria it’s due. A bit like Bert van Marwijk. Unfashionable, but effective. Available in many UK supermarkets too.
Don’t get it confused with German beer. It’s very much Dutch.
There can only be one in Ukraine and arguably the beer in the whole of Europe which has football running through it. Since 2013, Obolon has owned a football club in Kiev. They play in the second tier and their nickname is Pyvovary (the beer brewers) and the club’s bar has a foosball table in it. Who cares what it tastes like.
Lager beats energy drinks every day of the week. So Ukraine over Austria who, in football terms, align closely with Red Bull and the dominant Salzburg team. Yet, according to research in 2018, the Austrians drank the second most beer per capita in the world. We can only doff our caps. Augustinerbräu Kloster Mülln Märzen is the one to go for
Now then, North Macedonia. It’s not the first place this writer thinks of when thinking about lager. And one of those off the beaten track places you just ask for the popular lager and hope for the best. Skopsko is just that.
Scotland defeats England every day of the week.
Tennent’s or Carling? It’s not even worth thinking about, let alone asking the damn question.
When a Tennent’s is placed down in front of you, it’s a feeling similar to the one when you realise Ally McCoist is co-commentator for the match you’re watching. Carling? Mark ‘Lawro’ Lawrenson.
Croatia produces the excellent Karlovačko, better than the more popular Ožujsko. Then there is Czech Republic. A true lager heavyweight. A giant in the field. Budvar, Krusovice, Staropramen and Pilsner Urquell.
The aforementioned quartet are readily available in the UK yet there is something so refreshing about Urquell that requires an exaggerated but satisfied ‘ahhh’ after sip.
That 2008 Spain team which won the Euros. There were big, familiar names on the team, akin to the beers we have all had and perhaps even sampled on holiday to the country. Then there was Marcos Senna. A really assured, slick and understated presence in midfield. In lager terms, that is Estrella Galicia.
Moving to Sweden. Omnipollo. Colourful cans, interesting flavours and edgy designs. Very Swedish.
One thing Polish beer is, it’s strong. Worryingly though, it doesn’t taste strong. A dangerous combination, but also one which may be perfect for some of the fixtures across the groups. There are plenty of Polish beer choices in Scotland and the best of the best is Zywiec (pronounced je-vee-et).
Not so popular is Slovakian beer, but if given the chance don’t pass up being able to settle down to watch talismanic midfielder Marek Hamsik with a crisp pint of Saris.
In terms of the sheer volume and consistent quality of beer, look no further than Germany. Giants of the game.
You can list loads of talented stars as part of the squad. And you can do the same with the lager on offer. Berliner Pilsner, Hofbrau, Augustiner Helles, Lowenbrau, Spaten. But there is always one star. The Toni Kroos of beers: Rothaus Pils. An incredible example of German lager engineering.
Hungary, however, doesn't have a star to match their premium, undisputed king of beers: Dreher. Anyone who has had the pleasure of sinking them under the Budapest sky will understand.
In Portugal, there are the big two. Fittingly not Porto and Benfica, whose duopoly was smashed by Sporting this past season, but Sagres and Super Bock. Everyone should have a preference and it should be Super Bock, from the north.
As for France? A nation let down by its lager choices. When Kronenbourg 1664 is the most popular option, you know you have issues. Former France boss Raymond Domenech once proposed to his girlfriend, a TV host, live after his side had just been knocked out of the Euro 2008. Being offered a Kronenbourg is as awkward as that was.