Marios Mantzoukis, is somewhat of a beer sommelier and a very passionate one at that. As the co-owner of one of the most comprehensive beer bars in Athens, he is excited and proud of the new and emerging independent Greek beer industry that is producing first-rate beers and winning awards all over the world.
So much so, that he quit his job as an engineer, to develop a launching pad for microbreweries around Greece with his good friend Nectarios Kefalas.
“We met all the domestic brewers in Greece when we started, and told them we’re here to help get these beers out into the market and make it known to people,”
he said. Fix and Mythos have traditionally been considered the national beers of Greece but have been bought out by the large multinational players of Heineken and Carlsberg. Both companies currently control in excess of 85 per cent of the Greek beer market and recent figures suggest there are about 25 independent Greek breweries that share the remaining 15 per cent.
With such an obvious disparity and uneven playing field, the efforts of Marios and Nectarios’ Barley Cargo project seem all the more poignant. Having opened in 2012, Barley Cargo has an impressive 230 beers on its list and 70 of those are Greek varieties. The interior space is geared towards breaking down the language barriers around beer with open crates stacked to shelve the selection, encouraging people to touch and feel the beers. Marios says,
“When we opened, even Greeks didn’t know there were so many Greek beers available, so I was determined to open people’s minds.”
Microbreweries such as Nissos from the island of Tinos and Septem from Evia are winning awards for their innovative beers. Nissos won a Silver European star in 2014 for its Pilsner, which at the time was only 18 months old.
Septem who won the ‘Brewer of the Year’ award for Europe in 2015, are sourcing ‘A’ grade materials and coming up with new and innovative ideas. They produced a small run of Indian Pale Ale (IPA) using their own house made hop which Marios believes we will see more of. Greek beer makers have traditionally imported their raw materials but some are starting to establish their own farms and growing local hop and barley.
“The breweries here are experimenting, coming up with new ideas and they are doing it very well, drawing from all the recipes, IPA’S, Stouts, Pils, Lagers, Weiss and Ales. So you will easily find a Greek beer you like,” he said.
Nissos Microbrewery is a prime example of a small-medium sized Greek beer maker who has managed to overcome a lingering national recession to create a brand that is not just about great craft beer but one based on national pride. The founders couldn’t fathom the thought that Greece wouldn’t have its own beer to speak of, which would have been a cultural disgrace not just for Greeks but also in the eyes of American music legend Frank Zappa. Nissos references him on their website and he sums it up perfectly,
“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline— it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”
So to all the Zappa diehard fans, you owe it to him to drink more Greek beer and at the same time you’ll be supporting an industry that really ought to continue prospering.
Marios’ picks: 5 Greek craft beers to try
Understanding beer, a quick reference guide
Ales & Lagers
Beer falls into one of two main categories, Ales or Lagers and within them there are countless varieties. The main difference between a lager and ale comes down to the type of yeast used; saccharomyces pastorianus is a lager yeast and saccharomyces cerevisiae is an ale yeast. The lager yeast sinks to the bottom, while the ale yeast rises to the top. The brewing technique for each style is another inherent difference between the two.
Lager yeasts thrive at lower temperatures whilst Ales prosper at higher levels. Here are the main varieties you will generally find within the Ale and Lager categories:
Ales – India Pale Ale (IPAs), Porter, Stout, Brown Ale, Bitter, Weiss
Lagers – Pilsner, Bock, Dunkel, Helles, Rauchbier, Marzenbier, American Pale Lagers, American Dark Lagers
*Bioorganic beers have been processed from the beginning to end as certified organic
Barley Cargo: 6 Kolokotroni, Athens T. +30 210 323 0445
We would like to thank Barley Cargo for their assistance with this article. This post was not sponsored in any way and as always, all opinions are our own.