It’s not all Mythos and Amstel anymore. During the 1990’s Amstel was one of the most prominent beers available in Greece before Northern Greece Brewery Ltd created Mythos Beer and then became the Mythos Brewery in the early 2000’s. I remember a summer holiday in Rhodes with my Dad in 1996; his pints of Amstel fizzy and immensely coppery. I didn’t enjoy tasting it but I was only aged 10 at the time. Now Mythos is part of the Carlsberg group they are probably the most well known Greek beer but I find it lacking in flavour so I tend to look elsewhere for my fix.
FIX Hellas is a lager of German influence. The original brewer emigrated to Greece from Bavaria in 1864. Available in both cans and bottles, FIX Hellas is my “go-to” beer. It’s clean and refreshing flavour is perfect for drinking in the Greek sunshine. It remains quite sweet with a citrusy hint whilst tending to have a lower carbonation than a typical lager which is quite pleasing and ale-like. Olympic Brewery also produce a schwarzbier; FIX Dark, and a weisse; FIX Weisse, sometimes branded as FIX Royale.
Greek craft beer is way behind the rest of Europe. Lager from global breweries is guaranteed to be the on draft (if the taverna, bar or restaurant has beer on tap…) but if you’re lucky one or two craft beers may be available. Santorini has it’s own small brewery Volkan (EDIT: Volkan has recently moved its brewing to ZEOS Brewery on the mainland), whose beers tend to be more readily available on Santorini and the surrounding Cyclades Islands. Volkan’s beers are quite unique in that they add local grape honey at the end of the brewing process and distillate from the Citrus Medica leaves. This rare fruit grows only on neighbouring Naxos and South East Asia. The beers tend to be sweet from the honey addition but the floral aroma and citrus blend to form a delicious refreshing beer.Volkan Black; a black wheaty pilsner stands out from the bunch with a slight roasty character to it and also Volkan Grey with it’s addition of bergamot distillate. After a long, hot day (doing very little other than read…) these beers are the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of complimentary nuts and a Greek sunset.
Septem Brewery seem to be the top Greek Craft Brewery currently with nine beers in Ratebeer’s Top 20 beers from Greece and I was lucky enough to find some of their beers on Koufonisia and Milos when I visited in July 2016. το κυμα (To Kyma – Translation: The Wave) is a small set of apartments with a bar and jetty-style seating area edging out over the rock pools towards the sea. In the evening small lanterns create a low ambient light to enjoy the sunset as day goes though dusk and into the night. Two Septem Brewery beers were available. Septem’s Saturday Porter was full of roasted coffee and chocolate aroma. The Sunday Golden Honey Ale was incredibly malty and sweet but sharp lemon and a Belgian yeast profile made this beer much more drinkable. With both beer’s hop profiles going for bitterness over aroma and masked by other flavours and aromas from roasted malts and honey I was hoping to find a big IPA with a bold use of hops for bittering and aroma. It’s not often I have to travel 125 miles by ferry to find an IPA…
Ω! ΧΑΜΟΣ! (O! Hamos!) is one of most popular tavernas in Milos, maybe even in Greece. Milos seems to be one of the “foodie” places to go to in Greece with many of the tavernas producing modern versions of uber-traditional Greek staples. This is further illustrated by the drinks menu too. Gone are the days of wine lists consisting of only €3 carafes of white or red (or rose if you were lucky…) replaced by local wine; wine from the mountains in Northern Greece; wild fermented wine and so much more. The beer menu at Ω! ΧΑΜΟΣ! was the longest beer list I’ve ever seen in Greece. With 13 beers though it doesn’t quite stand up to the pubs and craft beer bars of the UK.
With our lunch at Ω! ΧΑΜΟΣ! I had Pikri IPA from Kirki Beer. A 5.7% hop driven IPA with a crisp body; a delicious compliment to the succulent lamb dish cooked with dill and mizithra cheese; all wrapped in parchment paper. The appetiser was just as tasty; deep fried sun dried tomatoe fritters, and Buigardi; mizithra cheese, spicy chillies, tomatoe and pepper baked in the oven until hot and molten. We just had one beer each with lunch so I took the beer list down to the beach opposite the taverna to ensure I got myself another to enjoy later in the sun.
Septem’s 8th Mera is the big juicy IPA I was hoping for. Packed full of Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic I couldn’t expect anything less. Massive citrusy aroma billowed out from the glass as it warmed in the sunshine. The beer was served with some candied nectarine and kiwi which contrasted perfectly with the bitterness of the IPA.
So whilst Greece lacks in quantity of craft breweries and bars, the quality of the beer being produced is high. Many are producing pilsner and lager that is a superb refreshment during a long hot day and wheat beers easier to brew in the hot climate. To see well executed India Pale Ales and dark beers though is fantastic and I can only hope the scene continues to grow and each year I can find many more craft beer delights.