The sun hit us hard. We had arrived in the South, in the Sun, in Greece. It was a thirsty weather and we knew little to nothing about Greek craft beer. But we knew of one place, pointed out to us by Konstantinos Avramidis of Elixi – who we found via Untappd and contacted via Facebook. With an unsure future for Ratebeer, such might be something we need to get used to.
Big cities and known beer areas have blogs that talk about beer, that offer maps for crawls, reviews of locations or lists of places. Not that long ago, every self-respecting beer tourist’s first place to research was Ratebeer. What distinguished it from the rest was an easy to navigate Google Map. Untappd does not offer that, so you have to search locations to see who checked in what. Or find out about local beers and then see where they were checked in. You may even have to get in touch with a brewery to ask. Basically, some effort is needed that a well-curated site could saved us from.
Craft Beer is also happening in Greece
We found a Marea beer via Untappd and the brewery on Facebook. Marea is a brand produced by the Elixi Microbrewery: “Elixi is a family business run by my father and I and was established in the spring of 2013”, explains Konstantinos Avramidis. They started the venture because of their love for beer and because of the lack of quality beer produced in the Greek market, he writes: “Our main characteristic is the emphasis on the creation of unfiltered and non-pasteurized beer products brewed in the traditional way of second fermentation in the bottle.” Back when they opened, they were only the sixth microbrewery in Greece. The number has grown over the last four years, but in all of Greece there’s still only 35 microbreweries, says Konstantinos. However, ten more are under construction, so the number is growing. According to Konstantinos, the names that stand out are Septem, Siris Microbrewery, Santorini Brewing Company, Noctua which is quite new but very promising and of course Elixi Microbrewery.
Now here it gets a bit difficult: The brewery is called Elixi, but the beers are not: “At the moment we produce two different brand series called Delphi and Marea which count three beers, six by the end of 2017”. That however is not all that’s being brewed in Drosia, a small village near Chalkida: “In addition to our own brands, due to the complexity of our recipes, our know-how and the quality of the final product, we have attracted and collaborated with some contract breweries and produced brands such as Kirki, Pikri and Alexander the Great.”
It’s to no one’s surprise that the big brands dominate the Greek market. According to Konstantinos, craft beer constitutes for less than 0.5% of the nation’s total consumption. In the area we spent our vacation, Mythos und Fix by the Olympic Brewery were everywhere. Both these brands are part of the Carlsberg Group. Number one in Greece is Heineken however, with one of their Greek brands being Alfa. Reasons for this will sound familiar: “The oligopolies control the distribution channels. Then there’s a lack of education regarding the product itself. This is the biggest challenge for us, firstly to educate the store managers, make them understand the difference and the gains of adding craft beer to their lists and then penetrate the local market. This will result in making our products significantly cheaper and accessible to the consumer. This is the only way to create a beer culture!”
The beers we drank
But now, how do the beers taste like? The previously mentioned big brewery beers taste like you expect a Euro or Adjuct Lager to taste like: Good enough on a recliner on the beach, but pretty bad otherwise. Now, the craft beers were of proper good quality. Kirki and Pikri were good proponents of the American Pale Ale and IPA kind, with a good balance underneath the butch hop character. However, we did bring one home and it didn’t travel too well, so drink it in Greece. Another stand out was Wednesday White IPA by Septem. This used some new world hop varieties, namely Waimea from New Zealand and Vic Secret from Australia This gave it a hint of onion-y/rubber-y, but overall this was very tasty. There’s also an artisanal alternative in the lager category: Nissos (ΝΗΣΟΣ) Pilsner by Cyclades Microbrewery at Tinos Island. It won Silver at the European Beer Star in 2014. As for the Elixi beers, the Marea is an easy to drink Blonde that comes with different art on the lables, so you can get into Pokemon-mode and “catch them all”.
The Elexi beers are distributed in the whole of Greece (plus seven other countries) – we found them in Nydri in the De Blanck Wine & Champagne Bar. Konstantinos advises to keep asking for local craft beers. “Don’t compromise with the first beer the waiter decided to sell! Also, do not hesitate to contact the breweries on social media or use Untappd to discover where you can taste Greece’s finest!”