Last Updated : 21/12/10
don't know a lot about Greek beer except there is some and some of it is (apparently) not bad, but every time we think about going to Athens for a few scoops and quick nedding of the trams they start rioting and burning things in the streets so we've not managed to get there as of yet... But we will!
So, many thanks to Jon Tugwell who sent me this gen although, in my usual style, it's taken me a year to get around to putting it on here... sorry guys...
Work sent me to a conference in Athens so I looked forward to trying some new beers. My previous experience with Greek beers I dare say is the same as everybody else’s – Mythos – a sickly sweet version of lager. I did some on-line prep before I left and found there were 2 microbreweries in Athens – Craft and Piraiki. In fact it looked on some sites as if there are 3 but 2 shared the same address in Pireas. Craft had a couple of pub/restuarants so this was going to be easy to find but I couldn’t discover anywhere that sold Piraiki. I dropped an e-mail to the given address 2 weeks prior to leaving but received no reply so I don’t know if they still operate.
Athens is connected to the airport by a Metro system which is easy to follow and announces forthcoming stations in English for all those that cannot follow the simple map. There are 3 lines in the city itself and they are simple to find as they are colour coded, and fortunately the signs are not in Hellenic, however you need to know the terminal station to get the right platform.
After an event free change of line I arrived in the evening and quickly noticed that the hotel I had chosen for price was not in the most salubrious part of town as evidenced by the ‘ladies’ on the street corner. Not to matter as I wouldn’t be spending much time in the hotel anyway.
As I only had this first night free, (conference dinner with a colleague on the second night), I headed out for the Beer Factory, an off licence that looked promising. This meant heading back towards the airport but it was only one stop away from the where Craft have a pub so two birds with one stone.
Knut Albert describes the shop as being close to Doukissis Plakentias metro and it is. What he doesn’t tell you, because the station was closed when he visited, is that the station is in the centre of a major interchange involving the motorway and a major road as well as a train station. In the dark and faced with an array of slip roads whatever exit I left by I can report that a printed Google map isn’t the best navigation aid. So back down into the hall and find a local map which, contrary to all the other helpful travel information is written in Hellenic and I have the address in English. Great.
A helpful attendant however located the street I was looking for on the map and pointed me to the exit I needed. According to the map I needed to cross the railway line and just follow the road into town. It really was that simple but it better be noted that the footpath runs on the roadside of the crash barrier and is not particularly wide! I can imagine that at rush hour it is quite a dicey experience what with crossing the slip roads as well.
The choice in the Beer Engine is good but not great, it covers two walls and a central gondola for gift packs, etc. That said it may well be a god send for the serious Greek beer drinker. The main emphasis is on Belgium beers in various sizes along one wall but there were not any that an experienced Scooper would not have tried. There is also an array of English (including Greene King IPA!!), American and German beers. The Greek beers are not particularly well displayed being just a part of the general stock on the second wall.
They had products from 6 breweries in stock including Craft and I took an example of each and a Polish beer I hadn’t scooped before. In reality it meant leaving most of the Craft beers, as I would be trying them later, and one other. These were for the hotel or bringing home if I couldn’t manage them.
So off to Halandri and the Craft Brewery. Halandri is a district, a large district and the Metro station is on one edge. Time being of the essence I decided to take a cab to the pub. Google has the brewery address in English and the pub address in Greek but this wasn’t going to be a problem as being the only microbrewery in the area it was bound to be known, wasn’t it! I told the driver where I wanted and off he sped. After a while he asked me the address and as I couldn’t pronounce the street rather than take a look at my map he called into base and gathered directions from there. In actual fact it did not appear that he had to divert from his route at all and very soon I was jumping out at the lights and paying 3 Euro for the ride, which was very reasonable I thought.
Upon sitting down at the table the waiter brought a taster tray of their six beers, without being asked. I started with the Athens Lager which was just as described – thin and sweet and similar to my previous experience of the genera. Next up was the Dark Lager which was just a dark version of the previous but not as nice. Is this true with all dark lagers if there is a pale variety as well? At this point I thought I would quench my pallet with the Weiss which was cloudy, smelt as a Weiss should and actually wasn’t too bad compared to what I had drunk so far. I should have saved it because the Smoked Lager was not to my pallet at all. I am not a great lover of smoked beers (Alaskan Smoked Porter being the big exception) but I can generally see what is trying to be achieved, not in this instance. It is a shame that portfolio’s are there just for the numbers rather than because it is another style that has been mastered.
Two to go. Next was the Red Ale and this was the worst of the lot. While the others were weak imitations of their style at least the ingredients could be tasted. Unfortunately the Red tasted medicinal, fortunately I hadn’t paid for it. It was therefore with trepidation that I approached the last beer which was Pilsener. Although not as tasty as a true Pilsener it was at least drinkable and by far the best of the bunch.
The food was good and the menu recommends a beer to drink with each dish. Obviously I didn’t need to refer to this and ordered a Pilsener with my food, which was a good helping which I couldn’t finish.
Of the Greek bottles I would only recommend Septem everything else being pale imitations of the style they were trying to achieve.
It is good that there are these small breweries to challenge the Heinebergs of the world but if they made quality tasting products instead of trying to reproduce the pisswater they churn out then I am sure their acceptance would occur quicker, which would benefit both the small brewers themselves and the drinker.