Although Greece is well known as a producer of great wines, due to its ideal climate for vineyards, in recent years Greeks have also turned their tastes toward beer. Microbreweries are popping up right and left in all parts of the country, challenging the well-known international beverage giants.
Of course, multinational companies still control most of Greece’s beer market, but consumers are quickly developing a taste for home-grown micro-brewed varieties, while beer consumption has gone up overall.
According to the trade association “Brewers of Europe,” beer consumption in Greece came to 3.9 million hectoliters (103.67 million gallons) or 36 liters per capita per annum, in 2016, when the most recent figures were available.
While still operating on limited profits, the number of small brewers in Greece is rising rapidly. There were only seven registered microbreweries in the country in 2011. Only eight years later, there are forty-five, according to business newspaper Naftemporiki, citing figures from the Brewers of Europe.
The Hellenic Association of Brewers says there is a burgeoning interest in obscure brews which are often branded based on the place of origin, including Delphi Beer, Fresh Chios Beer, Corfu Beer, Cretan Brewery, Ikariaki Brewery, and so on.
Almost every region of Greece now produces its own beer. There is the Siris MicroBrewery of Serres and Northern Greece, which produces the Voreia range, the Cretan Brewery with its Charma beers, and the Ikariaki Brewery on the island of Ikaria.
It is most interesting to note that all those microbreweries appeared during the economic crisis, when one would have thought that Greek beer drinkers would have been more likely to turn to cheaper, generic products.
Nevertheless, the trend shows that the years of recession actually triggered the entrepreneurial spirit of some Greeks, who turned to catering to more specific consumer groups and, more importantly, are making quality products with an eye to international markets.
In addition, Greece’s forty-five microbreweries have opened up hundreds of job positions at a time when Greece needs them most.
Greek beer drinkers have also shown a preference for Greek labels and products as a means of supporting local businesses during the crisis. This “economic patriotism” has undoubtedly helped Greek microbreweries to continue their development.
While the share of Greek microbreweries in the Greek beer market is only about one percent currently, there are two Greek breweries which make up eight to nine percent of that share. The Hellenic Breweries of Atalanti (EZA) and Macedonian Thrace Brewery (Vergina) both have a strong presence on supermarket shelves across Greece.
The top ten beers from Greek microbreweries, in random order, are:
The unique Chios Beer includes mastiha, the island’s most famous product. It is about to enter the international market and the company is hopeful that the taste will be loved as much as the popular liqueurs made from mastiha.
There are many donkeys on Santorini, but only the Yellow Donkey is drinkable. This fresh, light local beer is hopped with Aurora, Styrian Goldings, Cascade and Motueka. It has 5 percent alcohol and is unfiltered and unpasteurized.
Volkan is another great beer from Santorini. In its unique brewing process, it brings together lava rock-filtered mineral water and the best local ingredients, such as rare Santorini grape honey and ancient citron essence from Naxos.
The Siris microbrewery, from Serres, in northern Greece, makes Voreia (“North”) beers. They come in eight varieties (stout, pilsner, wheat, etc.) and are aimed mostly at beer connoisseurs who enjoy combining their brew with other culinary delights.
The aptly named Nisos beer is made on Tinos island. One of their varieties, the Bohemian Pilsner, won the European Silver Star award in the pilsner category among hundreds of others.
Septem, made on Evia island, offers a different beer for every day of the week. It debuted in 2009, and in 2014 “Sunday’s Golden Honey Ale” won the bronze medal at the International Beer Challenge. Prior to that, other varieties had won medals in the same competition.
Another unique Greek beer is “Bio 5,” its name signifying that it is made from five grains. This high-quality lager was introduced on the Greek market in 2011 by the larger-scale Athenian Brewery.
Delphi beer is produced by Elixi S.A., a company based in Attica, with its brewery in Chalkida, Evian. The blonde pilsner, which is fermented in the bottle, was first introduced in 2013.
Corfu has its own brewery as well. Corfu Brewery Ltd. makes Corfu Beer, two different ale varieties, as well as Ionian Epos, a fine Pilsner. Established in 2009, the company employs equipment using the latest technology, and there are only 1,000 liters produced in each brew.
The makers of Solo call each of their six beers “a craft beer with soul.” The Cretan microbrewery operates between Heraklion and the small village of Alagni, and their delightful motto is “Good beer is a human right.”