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I spent some days in Cyprus earlier this month. There are good beers to be found, but don’t expect much of the local brews.

This was no beer trip as such, but obviously I kept my eyes open for interesting beers. I last visited ten years ago, and what I found was a brewpub in Limassol brewing just one pale lager .

I’m sorry the photos in the old post are no longer visible, Photobucket is charging a stiff yearly fee for sharing photos which are not worthwhile.

This year I stayed in Larnaca – with a one day excursion to Nicosia. I start with my apologies to the brewpub Pivo in Nicosia, it was way above 40 degrees the day I came to town, so I had to return to the coast before opening time. I have every reason to believe they have good beers.

So. The 1900 Art Café Bar has a bar downstairs and a restaurant upstairs, crammed with posters and paintings. A fairly typical Cyprus menu, I had a very nice lamb and spinach stew. A good selection of Belgian beers, some other imports, but the only domestic beer was KEO. A fine place, I hope they can encourage some domestic breweries to make beer for them in the future.

Cyprus 1

The main beer bar in Larnaca is the Barrel House, tucked away in a courtyard off the pedestrianized Ermou street. A quiet spot in the afternoon and early evening, getting more noisy later. A well curated beer list, including a few Greek craft beers.  De Molen, Flying Dog, Kaapse, Kees, Thornbridge and De Dolle are among the breweries in the menu. And they are quite explicit: Please note we do not serve beers such as Amstel, Budweiser, Carlsberg, Corona, Fix, Heineken, Keo, Leon, Stella Artois etc. I hav a Viven Master IPA, brewed at De Proef for Beer Development Viven. A light, fruity beer, quite sweet. They could have called this a Belgian Blond instead, but it’s a nice beer.

Free snacks on one of our visits, a deli counter with meat and cheese if you want to eat more. Very good service. Ask if they have something new that’s not in the beer list.

A few yards away is the wine shop Cava Spiritology, which also carries some beer. There are splendid Belgians like Westmalle Tripe and Roedenbach Grand Cru, but also some Cyprus craft beers. I tried a few, but they were not too impressive. The brewery is called True Ale, they have five beers, of which I tried their Blonde Ale at 2,5% and  their Pale Ale at 3%. It is difficult to brew good low alcohol beers, I think they would be better off going for stronger beers. The shelf life of this Ale is virtually limited It says on their bottles. It is most certainly not, especially not in this climate.

Cyprus 3

Nevertheless, there are good beers to be found here, including a premium, well hopped lager from the Greek Delphi brewery. It is a very good shop for wine also, ask for recommendations. I bought a few bottles of an excellent Lebanese wine we had earlier at a seafront restaurant – the meze at Maquam al Sultan was the best meal in town.

Then to the big disappointment – The Brewery. Presenting itself as a brewpub in a prime spot in town, they even offer a sushi/Thai buffet once a week. I was very disappointed by both the food and the drink.

There is what looks like brewing equipment on the first floor, but on closer examination it is fake and dusty. It turns out they have never brewed beer on the premises at all. Our waitress tells us they buy the beer from Germany. On the plus side you get a sampler set of the beers for free, but the beers were all very dull. Pretending to have a range of nine beers, and pricing those at three times the going rate of domestic brews is not acceptable. The buffet was not up to much, either, even when the restaurant was half full, the cooks struggled to keep up with demand, and the cooking was very basic.

Cyprus 2

I can recommend Larnaca as a holiday destination. The beaches are clean, the service is generally very good, the food is of high quality (though there is a tendency to deep fry similar to Scotland) and people speak good English. And the widely available national lagers, KEO and Leon, are pretty good, I found that Leon had a bit more flavor. There are import beers, too, including some cans with pretentions. Like in Italy, some people think that a German-looking Omlaut is a sign of quality. Insëlbrau was the local example.

Cyprus 4

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New York beers

Another reason to start saving up for a transatlantic ticket: The New York Times writes about beers from New York in their travel section this week.

A sample:

O.K., so New York isn’t an internationally celebrated beer capital. But microbrews and craft beers you won’t find in much of the country are sold throughout the city, in flavors ranging from subtle to walloping (but skewed heavily toward walloping). Sure, you might find Saranac and Brooklyn Brewery beers in a state near you, but others are not available in much of the country; one of the state’s finest breweries, Southampton, just made it into its ninth state, South Carolina. Not bad.

(Careful readers may cry hypocrisy, recalling that in August, “Weekend in New York” celebrated cheap beer, mostly of the corporate swill variety. But can’t a Kobe beef snob enjoy a Quarter Pounder once in a while?)

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From the Washington Post

Hoping to avoid the sniffers and spitters of the wine-tasting rooms, we have instead trekked to Napa seeking great American . . . beer. Oh, go ahead, make your jokes, roll your eyes. Napa for beer? What’s next, a trip to Wisconsin dairyland to find great hummus?

Well, surprise, surprise: Turns out if you want great beers, the towns plopped deep in California wine country offer some of the best craft brews being made in America today. In fact, the area has a craft-beer pedigree like no other.

This is true for parts of Italy, too, seems to me that wine making can give the right inspiration for craft brewing. The Panil brewery outside Parma has a wineyard as well, and it makes good sens to offer both if you sell your bottles directly to the public. And a market that is willing to pay premium prices for good wines will probably be willing to fork out some more for craft beer.

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Ancient beer?

I would have thought that the New Scientist knew the difference between wine and beer, but have a look at this:

Chocolate was first produced by the ancients as a by-product of beer, suggests a new archaeological study. And evidence from drinking vessels left by the Mesoamericans who developed chocolate suggests that the source of chocolate, cacao, was first used 500 years earlier than thought.

Mesoamericans – who flourished in central America before it was colonised by the Spanish – developed chocolate as a by-product of fermenting cacao fruit to make a beer-like drink called chicha still brewed by South American tribal people.

The Mesoamericans before Columbus’s time, developed a taste for the chocolate better, but their cousins down in South America stuck with the beer, says Cornell University archaeologist John Henderson, who led the new study.

If you ferment grain, you get beer. Barley, wheat, millet, maize, rice, oats, rye or more obscure types of grass. But if you ferment fruit, you get fruit wine. Not beer.

When I look up chicha in Wikipedia, I find that it is a general term for a fermented beverage. It can be made from maize – which would technically make it a beer – or it can be made from cassava or fruit.

According to an anthropology page I found; Among Amazonians chicha is a dietary staple, as well as a work incentive and social lubricant. OK, I have to admit that sounds like beer. But it could be wine, too. But it looks like thin porridge.

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