Just along the road from Old Street tube station in London, past the Moorlands eye hospital, lies a hidden gem. Sitting there, unassuming and yet welcoming, is the Bavarian Beerhouse. The first of its kind in the UK, the Old Street branch first opened its doors in 2005. On Saturday afternoon, I sampled its charms.
To purpose, of course, was to watch the evening game between Germany and Portugal. The twist to the tale was my friend Liam. Like me, a frustrated Scotsman, Liam picked out the Netherlands as his team to follow during Euro 2012. I then bet him that he wouldn’t wear a Dutch shirt in a German bar. Alas, at 2.30 in the afternoon Bavarian Beerhouse in Old Street had three customers and one was a Scotsman wearing the Dutch away shirt.
Saturday’s first encounter was Liam’s adopted nation taking on the unfancied Danes. When I am with a group of friends I always like to have a small bet on the first goal scorer. I really fancied the much derided Nicklas Bendtner, based largely on the fact he was excellent in the Championship in season 2006/07, even sadly scoring against the Sky Blues. However, Alex beat me to it, so my vote went to Michael Krohn-Delhi. On twenty-four minutes, his neat finish sealed me three pounds. After ninety minutes, Denmark secured an unlikely and somewhat undeserved three points, and we encountered a hazy world.
Liam, so convinced that the Dutch would win, and bravado rising by being very popular in a German bar, stated that, if Denmark somehow beat the Dutch, he would treat us all to a Jaeger Train, the combination of Jaegermeister and Red Bull, lined up as a train. Pushing the Jaegermeister like a bunch of dominoes, it creates a pleasing aesthetic.
As I have already stated, I love Germany. I have driven around the country, been captivated by two very different cities in berlin and Munich, and camped in the Black Forest and at a very odd and intense Mini Golf academy in Bavaria. The team is exciting and the fans are engaging. But there is one aspect of Germany that will never win me over: the food.
During the 2006 World Cup it was easier. At precisely the same time each day, Alex and myself would eat chicken noodles (noon) and then Bratwurst (6pm). However, later that year I became vegetarian, and Germany sure loves its meat. Alas, I ate a vegetarian schnitzel which made me feel sick for days. Before that though, came the main event.
Impartiality is a huge hindrance. Whilst engulfed within a partisan crowd, be it at the stadium, at the Berlin fan-mile or in an underground German beerhouse in the capital of England, the game takes on a far different view when compared to neutrality. Watching the game back, Germany were a shadow of themselves that graced South Africa in 2010. The expectation paralysed the more positive parts of their play, and the attack were out of sync. Crucially, unlike the Dutch, a victory was snatched. Watching the game at the time, however, was a sea of celebration.
With the placed packed to capacity (there is a £10 per person entry for Germany games) the atmosphere was never full of animosity. Liam was viewed with pity for Holland losing, but also with warmth and affection. He had his picture taken with a variety of obliging Germans, and the conversations were intelligent and intriguing. A man in a Portugal shirt walked in before the game, and he was treated with the same warmth. Of course, it helped that Germany won, but even when the game was locked at 0-0 the fans were friendly. I wonder whether this would be replicated in many other partisan bars around Europe?
Group B is certainly fascinating, if far more cagey than the other groups we have seen thus far. It could be the first group that is fully settled, because if Germany and Denmark repeat their victories on Wednesday, they will qualify after two games, leaving the Danes and the Portuguese heading for the exit. This is a huge incentive for Germany, and I wonder what the reaction would be to any fake Dutch who enter the Bavarian Beerhouse before that crucial encounter.