Admittedly words like microbrewery and ale don’t come to mind when you think about Greece. Although beer has been drunk in the country since antiquity, until quite recently there was never much of a beer culture in Greece. In fact, when Karolos Fix established the first major brewery in Athens in 1864, he felt obliged a few years later to create a beer garden as well in order to promote the custom of drinking beer.
Both Fix’s beer garden and his beer lasted for almost a century; indeed for decades Fix enjoyed a near monopoly on the beer trade, that is, until the arrival in the 1960s of Amstel, Heineken, Henniger, and finally Carlsberg. Of these only Amstel and Heineken survived; at one point the two brands controlled 98% of the market.
Things are changing. New Greek breweries have appeared, both large-volume companies with a very dense distribution network like Mythos and local microbreweries such as Brinks Beer in Rehtymno and the Donkey Brewing Company on the island of Santorini. You can find organic beer and fresh, unpasteurized beer, and places to drink them, too—there a dozen or so biraríes in metropolitan Athens alone. Munich it’s not, but some of the beers you can now find in Athens actually are made in accordance with the centuries-old Bavarian Reinheitsgebot, which decreed that beer could be made only from water, barley and hops.
Among the best artisanal beers are ones from Septum. In fact, of the five most highly rated Greek beers on ratebeer.com three come from this microbrewery: a wonderful malty, honey-sweet golden ale; an English pale ale; and a porter. Septem also makes a very decent unpasteurized but filtered Pilsner, which I also like but isn’t always easy to track down.
The young brewery, which delivered its first beers in 2009, was started by Sofoklis Panagiotou and Giorgos Panagiotou with a vision of innovation, quality and social responsibility. Their track record so far seems to bear this vision out, not only in the high-quality beer they produce but also in their business practices, if one can judge by their brewery. Located in Avlona on the island of Evia the handsome high-tech facilities were designed and built in line with green building practice.