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Marios Mantzoukis, co-founder of Barley Cargo. Photograph: Why Athens

Make it a Greek beer please

A Greek engineer turned bar owner is supporting the fledgling Greek microbrewery industry, by changing the mindsets of the local beer drinking crowd in Athens

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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,” 

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The rise of Greek artisanal beer. Photograph: Why Athens | Make it a Greek Beer

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.”

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Beer equals fun at Barley Cargo. Marios seated in front of the open stacked shelves of beer. Photograph: Why Athens | Greek Beer

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.

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Septem Brewery from Greece won European Brewer of the Year in 2015. Photograph: Why Athens | Make it a Greek Beer

“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

 

  • Greek Beer Why Athens City GuideTop of the hops: 5 Greek beers as recommended by Marios from Barley Cargo.
  • Greek Beer Why Athens City GuideSeptem 8th day – This is an IPA brewed on the island of Evia. It pours a dark amber colour with a full light tan head. Powerful aromas of fruit and pine with a bitter citrus flavor and complex finish.
  • Greek Beer Why Athens City GuideRed Donkey is an unfiltered amber ale and heralds from the island of Santorini. The beer is fruity, full bodied and richly coloured.
  • Greek Beer Why Athens City GuideNissos Pilsener – Awarded a silver European Beer Star in 2014, it was one of the first beers launched by Nissos in 2013. This Pilsner is unpasteurized and 100 per cent natural, made in small batches. Brewed on the island of Tinos, it is made from certified organic ingredients. This Pilsner pours crystal clear with a rich golden colour, spicy and fragrant with subtle malt flavours.
  • Greek Beer Why Athens City GuideCorfu Red is an unpasteurised and unfiltered amber ale made on the Island of Corfu. A moderately sweet beer with hints of caramel and red berries.
  • Greek Beer Why Athens City GuideVoreia Pilsner - Brewed in Serres in Northern Greece, this Greek beer pours a clear golden colour with a white head. The sweet malty aroma carries through to a light to medium body beer with a sweet finish. Marios likes the Voreia Stout, which has aromas of coffee and chocolate and pours near black with a light tan head.

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.

  • Sophie Senza

    I would love to try those beers definitely i m going to support you guys Greek Beer for me this Summer.

    • Why Athens

      Good on you Sophie, we think you’ll enjoy them.