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Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

Our only excursion during our week in Corfu was a day trip to Corfu town. It is a pleasant place to stroll around, and we ended up at the Old Fortress, with magnificent views of the town and surroundings. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a lot of history if you want to look into it.

Signs pointed the way to a café, where I was pleasantly surprised by the beer list. Almost fifty beers, lots of Belgian and German imports. The standard Greek pale lagers, but also a good selection of Greek micro beers, including smoked lager and a dunkel from the Craft brewery in Athens and the whole range from the Corfu brewery.

I had the smoked lager from Craft. A fine hoppy lager with a little campfire added. Cereals, long dry finish. And a small glass of the Corfu lager, which was not quite in the same league, but it did its job nicely on a hot day.

Note that this bar/café/restaurant is inside the fortress, which is a museum with limited opening hours.

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Corfu beers

It turned out that the beach bar had two beers from the Corfu brewery, luckily the two most interesting ones. They brew two pale lagers as well, but they do not really stand out among the others on offer – and I don’t think they are meant to, either.

The two dark beers are both 5% British style beers. The Corfu Bitter is slightly hazy brown. Unfiltered and with low carbonation, but there is no residue in the bottle to speak of, either. Caramel and toffee, a little yeast. Moderate bitterness. Pleasant bitterness, though I would have preferred a more liberal use of hops.

When I order a bottle of the Special, the bar maid lights up.

- I prefer this one. It is really fresh!

Sweet malt and grainy body. Glowing amber, slightly hazy. Low carbonation. Fine bitter and aromatic hops, a discreet kiss of yeast.

A wonderful beer, and they seem to take the freshness seriously. The beer was bottled just a few days before I bought it, and it had a best before date only two months later.

By the way, I received a kind invitation to visit the brewery, but it did not fit into my schedule for the week, as it was on the other side of the island. Maybe next time.

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Sign of the times

A week with my family on a sunny Greek island does not include any great expectations for beer hunting. Sure, I know there are micro breweries in Greece, a few of them with very respectable beers. I had even sent off an e-mail to Corfu’s own micro, asking if they could deliver a few sample bottles to my hote, but I had not received any answer.

So I was quite content in sipping a few pints of Alfa and enjoying a can of fairly decent Greek versions of German pilsener. But then I managed to wander a few meters down the beach from the hotel, where there was a very inviting sign.

Maybe there is a God after all. At least a minor Greek one.

Corfu Beer sign

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A week in the sun

Luckily, there were more interesting beers than Mythos to be found. Stay tuned!

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Pretty proud of that. Three umlauts in the heading.

When I booked my flight to Lisbon, there were several options, with Lufthansa and KLM the most cheap and convenient. Lufthansa even had several options – I could go back via Munich, Frankfurt or Düsseldorf.

I wouldn’t mind a few hours in Munich, but I realized that downtown Düsseldorf  is only a few minutes from the airport by taxi. And that I could have a four-hour stopover and still get a cheap ticket.

So, even before the schedules arrival I find myself in a taxi towards my first Altbier outlet, Füchschen, on the outskirts of the Old Town. Less than 20 Euros brings me to the doorstep.

There is a crowded bar with standing room only at the entrance, where the oak casks are dispensing the beer by gravity.

I go further in through various large rooms and find myself a table at the back. Lots of groups of families and friends out for their Sunday lunch, very cozy atmosphere. I ask for an Alt, and the waiter is swiftly back with a 0,2 liter glass. This is their standard glass, and you are supposed to drink this in multiples, they stick to the traditions around here.

You might have had bottled versions of this beer type, but I must say this is something you should have fresh from a brewpub. Sweet and sour, rich maltiness, yet oaky dry. Lovely mahogny color, low carbonation, but a fluffy head. In a German polsner served from tap, this is achieved by spending 7 minutes to get a proper head. In this beer straight from the oak, I assume that there is little carbonation in the first place. The wood aging gives the real, rather harsh, character here. Some vanilla, but mostly sourness.

There is an extensive menu, with all the pork dishes you could imagine. Some seasonal offerings, too, I was seriously considering the roast goose. But when I was told that their Christmas beer was only to be bought as a take away, I decided to head for my next stop, as I had some more places to cover. But I bought a bottle, sure.

Fuchschen Alt

Fits in well with the Christmas decorations

 

Fuchschen blackboard

The takeaway offer

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Just now my shelves are filled with the new offerings from Nøgne ø, so it is perhaps lucky that I don’t have access to the most interesting brews from Denmark. (But if any readers are curious about what to buy me for Christmas, please read on..)

Last month saw the release of a range of bottles of barrel aged beers from Nørrebro Bryghus, limited to 250 liters of each beer. Right now Ølbutikken informs me about the new beers from Mikkeller.

There is a Christmas beer, what Mikkel calls a hybrid between a Red Ale and a Wit Bier, with lots of American hops and bitter tropical orange peel. It is issued in 1,5 liter bottles and named Red White Christmas.

Their “ordinary” Christmas beer is named Mikkeller Til Via Fra, and all the vintages from 2006 are also for sale.

What else?

Mikkeller 黑 (Peated)

Mikkeller/Nøgne Ø Tyttebær - with lingonberries and brettanomyces

Mikkeller/De Molen Mikkel & Menno Weizenbock

Presumably they have the Islay Cask Beer Geek Brunch as well….

What’s next?

According to the Mikkeller blog, there will be a collaboration between Mikkeller and the Craft brewery in Athens, Greece. But that’s still in the planning stage.

Photo courtesy of Alex at www.beer.gr

Danish and Greek brewers

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Island in the sun

In case you are wondering, the current photo in the banner is from the Greek island Syros.

There is a waterside bar close to the centre of Ermepolis, the church is dedicated to St. Nicholas.

Don’t tell anyone!

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A bit of a dry spell on the blog for the time being. I had hoped to visit a nanobrewery up in the Norwegian mountains last weekend, but my designated driver got too lazy….

Lucky then that I have friends who can help out as guest bloggers – Alex Serezis is a Greek beer lover, trying as best he can to trace imports and micros in the Athens area. Things seem to be improving, here is his report:

The first beer store in Athens is a reality since Saturday 31/1/2009 . The place is called Beer Factory and it is located in the Northern suburbs of Athens, near a metro station about 15′ away from the center of Athens (Syntagma Square).
I arrived a bit earlier than the opening so that I could take some pictures while the store was empty and had the chance for a quiet look around.
I was positively surprised when I saw the place since I expected it much smaller and with less quantity.

The first floor contains the main store. There are some wooden shelves on the left and right walls that have most beers neatly arranged. Wooden tables and shelves in the middle have more beers and gift sets.

There is also an old wooden bookshelf that has books, DVDs, clothes and other breweriana. Many shelves contain a lot of glasses, mugs and Steins and there are even a few growlers  present.

There is a second floor that has been transformed to a small beer bar that will be used for gatherings, events and for the Beer Club they plan to launch (no details given yet). The bar looks nice and there is an installation for draft beer. However the place would benefit from a wooden floor and ceiling as it looks kind of “cold” now. There are some bottles from all over the world and some old plates and wooden décor on the wall.

There is also a third floor that is being used for their offices and some storage facilities.
 
The selection is quite big for Greek standards. I would estimate the total number of labels at the opening at about 200 or maybe more (silly me I forgot to ask). Nothing over the top or very rare though. Apart from almost all imported beers on the Greek market , I found some new labels from the Greek micros as well. Most of them were German with an emphasis on Bio (organic) beer. I also noticed 3 Schorschbock beer (very strong bocks 13-16% ABV) in 2 different sizes and in gift boxes as well. The stronger beers tend so sell well in Greece.

 
A nice surprise was the presence of some US beers (Anchor and Flying Dog) and the absence of crappy Macros (Bud, Miller, Heineken, Amstel, Mythos, etc.). The imported beers in Greece are mostly Belgian. All major trappist and abbey ales are here (no westies though). 

 
A wide range of Eastern European beers can be found as well. Baltika 6 Porter and Zywiec Porter are probably the most noticeable ones.
Another nice touch was the presence of larger bottles (since they usually don’t sell that well in Greece) ranging from 750ml – 3l ! A lot of nice gift boxes were also present. I bought a set containing 4 Tripel Karmeliet and their very nice big glass.
At the opening they had some waiters and waitresses in Bavarian outfit offering free beer (some HB, Kozel and Corsendonk) along with some cheese and cold cuts.
 
The price of imported beer in Greece is in general rather high (especially in comparison to some other European countries and given the fact of the low basic income of Greece), however most of them where cheaper than the liquor stores where you could find some of these beers. The main reason for that is the high profit the importers try to make.
Overall the impression was positive. I would like to see more variety and less ordinary labels. I hope that the place will be well received and in the future we will see more efforts like that.

 

Amen to that. The beer market seems to be improving in many countries. Let’s hope for a few more quality brewers in Greece, too!

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I try to plan my travels as well as I can. Most of my trips are, believe it or not, not arranged for beer purposes, but are either business trips or holidays with my family. It is then a matter of organizing thins in a way that allows for beer drinking and beer shopping – how to spot the loopholes in the programme and how to go for the most promising spots.

One advantage of being active in the online beer community is that you have a network of beer hounds all over the globe. When my travel arrangements for Athens were finalized I got in touch with Alex, who is also active on ratebeer. He offered to come by my hotel with some hard to find bottled Greek beers, while I picked a few Norwegian bottles to bring along. Clearly a win-win situation. In addition, I stumbled across a few bottles myself in a Plaka shop while waiting for my group to arrive.

So, how are the beers?

I have not tried them all yet, but generally they stay on the safe side and brew lagers that have nothing extreme about them. Two beers from the Rethymnian brewery were fresh and unpasteurized, a blonde and a dunkel. They were decent, but did not have much of a body. The same goes for the Genesis beers – they are playing it too safe. The bottle of Piraiki Pale Ale from Pireus survived the trip back home, and has not been opened yet.

And Alex brought some lovely pistachio nuts from Aegina as well, and even a few rare imported beers. Thanks a lot!

 

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A bit of a back log now, but I won’t be travelling as much over the next few months, at least not abroad.

There was fresh snow on the roofs outside my hotel window in Switzerland, but I just had enough time to get some breakfast before heading back to the airport again. I already checked in, and a glace at the shopping mall after security confirmed my suspicions that the focus was more on watches and chocolate than beer.

The flight went without any more fuzz, and my suitcase even turned up at Athens airport after spending the night somewhere in the bowels of Zurich airport. (This is, presumably, where the gnomes are working nowadays).

Having done my homework, I went straight to the airport, but I did not take it all the way to Syntagma. Instead I went off at Andelokipi.

Early April, but the heat is already radiating from the asphalt and concrete as I step out on busy Alexandros avenue. It is easy to find my destination, right across the street.

I have written about the splendid beers from the Athens Craft brewery before, as I found several of them in the bars and cafes of the Cyclades two years ago. I have never had the chance to visit their home turf, however, so it was very convenient that the brewpub itself was on the way from the airport.

The brewpub is split in two. In the front it is like a conservatory where they probably roll back the rood on balmy summer evenings. In the back it is darker, with the brewing vessels dominating the room.

I orders a plate of grilled vegetables and a pint of their black lager, the only one of their regular beers I haven’t tasted earlier. The beer is dark with a red glow, crowned with a beige head. A whiff of smoke, a little liquorice, a little coffee. A hint of burned toast, too. There elements are by no means extreme, they just add up to a full spectrum of flavour in an easy drinking and refreshing lager.

Greece does not have the climate for barley wines, but rather for lighter beers that can be consumed in quantities, especially during the summer months. This is exactly what the Craft brewery delivers – but they brew them with flavour, which makes them stand out among the rather bland macro lagers you are usually stuck with.

Their smoked ale is off, so I have a pilsner before I, reluctantly, settle the bill and step out on the sidewalk to hail a taxi.

Note: They certainly brew beer on the premises. I am told, however, that they also have another brewery on the outskirts of Athens supplying beer to other bars and restaurants. The range seems to be the same, although many bars tend to have just one or two of the Craft beers.

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