At the start of Euro 2016 we featured a box of booze from Best of British Beer, its contents clinking with six English light ales and lagers and six brews from other Euro footy nations. We promised to guzzle the lot and feature our favourite as a Beer of the Week when the tournament was over. We also used the blog to publish our own predictions for the tournament. The beers were great; our predictions were rubbish.
Now the show is over and the big shiny trophy is locked away in the Portuguese team’s trophy cabinet, where it’s likely to be doubling up as another mirror for their knee-bruised captain, Ronaldo. England fans have finished drowning their sorrows – at least until the unveiling of their next unimaginative manager – and the Welsh have seen off their heady hangovers. Meanwhile, we’ve been trawling back through our tear-stained beer drinking notes to decide on our boozy winner.
Despite being encumbered by the responsibility of having Nick tip them for Euro glory, the French team swaggered their way to the final. Although they failed to leap over the final moth-infested hurdle and puncture Portugal’s dull defensive stubbornness, we can at least reveal success for French brewery Thiriez and its blonde saison-like beer Etoile du Nord.
This beer was downed during France’s smash-and-grab raid against misfiring Germany in the semi final, one of the few games to sustain our interest up until the final whistle, making the memorability of the beer all the more impressive.
Brasserie Thiriez is a small brewery based in French saison territory, close to the Belgian border. Etoile du Nord (translation ‘North Star’) was formerly known as Frere de la Biere* (Brothers of Beer) and is mostly a saison-style number, but with a bit of an Anglo twist: it was developed in partnership with an English brewer (hence the original title) and contains Bramling Cross hops from Kent. These little bitter bullets have been ramped up more than you would expect in a saison, giving it some unusual, intense hop flavours alongside the barley, wheat and the brewery’s own frisky saison yeast.
It’s a pale, cloudy brew, with an initial fruity lightness, all soft and foamy. But bitterness soon rumbles in from the deep – earthy and oaky, perhaps with a touch of gauloises smoke mingling in the background. It’s a strange brew that doesn’t really fit into any traditional categories. Simply file under ‘tres magnifique.’
With our Euro 2016 predictions being crap, the English team pitifully buckling under the pressure of mighty Iceland, and very few quality games to enjoy, the only real winner was beer. But in this category, at least the English can stake a small claim in its delicious success.
*And in America it’s known as Thiriez Extra
Beer supplied by Best of British Beer
Brewery: Brasserie Thiriez, Esquelbecq, France
Beer name: Etoile du Nord