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Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

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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A beery tune

While I was away, Christoph and his brother has made a music video with beer bottles and beer glasses as the only instruments. A nice song, but it would probably have been even better with a better beer than the Becks!

 

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A brief stop in Athens

Sometimes it looks like the good designers only work with crap breweries. But not always.  The Athens Craft brewery goes for style as well as taste. I have tried their beers in the islands – now it is time to taste them on their home turf. If I can squeeze them into my schedule. Which I usually manage…

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