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Forget Eurovision 2020: Secret Drinker picks his best European beers

In any normal world next week would have seen us enjoying the biggest cheese-fest of dodgy pop singers and naff dance routines, all served up with a massive dollop of national bias.

Yes, sadly Coronavirus has robbed us of an annual institution, Eurovision - or has it?

We enjoyed a romp around the main European countries in beer format. These are the drinks Mrs SD selected for our own version of Eurovision.
We enjoyed a romp around the main European countries in beer format. These are the drinks Mrs SD selected for our own version of Eurovision.

High-camp Euro parties have been cancelled in their thousands and producers of questionable sequinned jumpsuits have hastily switched production to medical gowns.

But, it seems the show must go on and the whole Eurovision carnival has shifted across to the Internet and is now called the EuroVision Song Celebration.

On the dates of the semi-finals, May 12 and 14, there will be two special shows on YouTube. These will feature all 41 countries taking part but will not be competitive - great news for the UK of course as we'll avoid the usual crushing defeat and sneering from all corners of the continent.

Show one will feature the hosts, Holland, and two of the 'big 5', Germany and Italy. Show two will feature the other three of the 'big 5' - France, Spain and us.

But, the organisers still want people to party at home and are inviting us to take part by sending in videos of us singing, dancing, jumping or just generally partying along.

The EuroVision Song Celebration happens online next week
The EuroVision Song Celebration happens online next week

Well, I like a party as much as the next man but invitations to don my best Eurovision outfit and wave union jacks about left me cold, but I did have another brainwave. I decided to inject competition back into Europe by testing beers from the main countries and, what's more, making it fairer than Eurovision by doing a blind tasting session without knowing what the drinks were or where they were from.

Mrs SD was in charge of shopping and said she got whatever was available on the shelves at the time. So, competing in our Euro showdown we had the big five and a few extra countries for good measure - Germany, France, Spain, UK, Italy, Belgium, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Now before I start delivering the verdicts reached by my apprentice and I it is important to understand all purchasing decisions were out of my hands and the apprentice's tastes need some refining. Simply identified by a letter from A to H we were presented with each beer by my good lady wife and these were our initial combined thoughts.

One hundred per cent fair and unbiased (unlike Eurovision!), it was a strictly blind tasting session with no favour shown to any particular country’s beer.
One hundred per cent fair and unbiased (unlike Eurovision!), it was a strictly blind tasting session with no favour shown to any particular country’s beer.

Beer A. Good carbonation, but a slightly flat/metallic aftertaste, there is a taste of hops to it.

Beer B. Very little smell, darker than any others, a faint taste of a sherry barrel, you wouldn't need many.

Beer C. Lighter in colour, less taste but still quite refreshing, tastes like it's out of a can, more fizz.

Beer D. Doesn't taste as strong as it looks, slightly less fizz, the taste is not as rounded, stronger smell.

Beer E. The head remains longer, it smells metallic and is incredibly fizzy, a very light colour.

Beer F. It has a much sweeter aftertaste, kept its head best of all, alight taste but reasonable aftertaste.

Beer G. Iconic lager colour, only a little aftertaste at the back of the mouth, flatter than the others.

Beer H. Cloudy, unusual smell, a bit Leffe-like, almost a meal in itself, a little citrusy, it's a grower.

Having drunk our way round Europe we then scored the beers and ranked each country. Here's the results...

First place went to the UK with Shepherd Neame’s 1698, a worthy winner. Right, just missing out on top spot was Kronenbourg’s 1664, a very creditable second for France
First place went to the UK with Shepherd Neame’s 1698, a worthy winner. Right, just missing out on top spot was Kronenbourg’s 1664, a very creditable second for France

First place with top marks went to the UK, with Shepherd Neame's 1698 (6.5%). To be fair this was always likely to be a winner up against what is basically a selection of Euro lagers - but Mrs SD was adamant it was the obvious UK selection on the shelf (Beer B).

Second place was taken by France with the ubiquitous Kronenbourg (5%). Neither of us could believe how high up the list this one finished, but unlike Eurovision this was an unbiased, apolitical competition (Beer D).

Third position went to Belgium with Vedett (5%). Another surprise how high it finished and, with all the great beers this country produces, you probably wouldn't select this one to represent it, particularly the extra blond version (Beer E).

Not necessarily Belgium’s best offering, but Vedett still did well coming in third. Right, Strictly speaking it’s not Euro fizz, but Franziskaner Weissbier took fourth place for Germany
Not necessarily Belgium’s best offering, but Vedett still did well coming in third. Right, Strictly speaking it’s not Euro fizz, but Franziskaner Weissbier took fourth place for Germany

Fourth place was secured by Germany with Franziskaner Weissbier (5%), like Shep's 1698 this one isn't classic Euro fizz like the others, but we could only drink what Mrs SD served us. A traditional wheat beer first brewed in a Franciscan monastery near Munich (Beer H).

In fifth place was Poland with Tyskie (5%). The most popular Polish beer in both Poland and the UK. Not one I was familiar with but it has previously taken top spot in the 'Beer Oscars' Grand Prix at The British Brewing Industry Awards (Beer C).

Sixth position was taken by Spain with Estrella Damm (4.6%). Proof the blind tasting was fair as there have been several occasions the apprentice and I have ordered this lager at the bar. This flagship of the Catalan brewery is now popular right round Europe (Beer F).

Poland’s best seller in Poland and the UK, Tyskie came fifth in our Euro competition and Estrella Damm was Spain’s representative and finished in sixth place
Poland’s best seller in Poland and the UK, Tyskie came fifth in our Euro competition and Estrella Damm was Spain’s representative and finished in sixth place

Just avoiding 'nul points' in seventh place was the Czech Republic and Staropramen (5%).

From the country's second biggest brewery, this is another firm favourite on tap and is famously brewed with a touch of coriander (Beer A).

Bumping along the bottom in eighth spot and propping up the rest was Italy with Bierra Moretti (4.6%). Luigi Moretti would be turning in his grave.

Just avoiding last spot, Staropramen from the Czech Republic took seventh place. Right, Italy was the unfortunate recipient of nul points for its Birra Moretti
Just avoiding last spot, Staropramen from the Czech Republic took seventh place. Right, Italy was the unfortunate recipient of nul points for its Birra Moretti

He founded the company in Udine in 1859 but it was taken over by Heineken in 1996. Hard to believe it scored nul points (Beer G).

Most astonishing for us was the fact we scored three of the lagers we would often order at a bar right at the bottom of the competition.

And, I do accept in a completely fair and equitable contest the UK and Germany should really have been represented with traditional lagers too, but Mrs SD was responsible for this and there was no favouritism!

The final results are in and, by some miracle the UK has won for the first time since Katrina and the Waves. Poor old Italy came in last with nul points.
The final results are in and, by some miracle the UK has won for the first time since Katrina and the Waves. Poor old Italy came in last with nul points.

Anyway, those who remember the good old days of Eurovision will recall Terry Wogan was hardly balanced and unbiased - his almost xenophobic chortling tore into many of our continental neighbours.

If it wasn't a dodgy Dublin pub singer knocking out a bland ballad or Brotherhood of Man and Bucks Fizz flying the flag he ripped into them.

Love it or hate it, you can't deny Eurovision's incredible popularity so if you do decide to get involved online perhaps you should also try drinking your way around as much of Europe as you safely can during lockdown.

Sheps have followed in the footsteps of Bucks Fizz by conquering Europe
Sheps have followed in the footsteps of Bucks Fizz by conquering Europe

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