It began with Mythos…
I love beer! In our early days in Crete I drank Mythos, like everyone else, before discovering that the brewery, although in Greece, is owned by Carlsberg/Heineken. So what about beers in Crete?
The most popular beer in Greece, shamefully is Amstel, the famous rat’s piss, (Gunnar’s rating 2.2/5) also from the Heineken stable. I would yearn for the typical English beers, and got Marstons Pedigree, Ruddles County and Abbot Ale shipped out, latterly also available at the English shop in Kalyves.
A point of divergence, tho I like my own judgement on beers, I do consult with RateBeer, because its packed with beer fanatics from around the world who have tasted just about every brew. Tastes vary enormously but I like Gunnar, who’s tasted over 10500 beers, and likes what I like! So you’ll see his ratings with some of these.
So back to the story of beers in Crete and Greece, like the development of fine wines here, beers have followed and there are now several great microbreweries both on Crete, and in other islands in Greece.
Evia and Septem
But lets start on another island, Evia. Here is based Septem, who offer an innovative range of beers for each day of the week.
There is IPA, Pilsner, wheat beer, the glorious honey ale for Sunday, a red beer ala Duckstein but with more taste, a Porter and, when God had done his stuff and himself needed a break, “8th Day”.
This monastery type dark brew at 7.5% is wonderfully rich with dark caramel flavour, most important a marvellous drink to sip (Gunnar has it at 3.8/5, highest amongst his Greek beer tasting). And then there is the glorious Honey Ale!
Septem was set up by the Panagiotou brothers and began production in 2009. Sophocles, a chemist and oenologist, instead wanted to bring the science and art of winemaking to beer brewing. Basically he treats hops as the “grape” of beer, therefore searching the world for those bringing the distinctive aromas and flavours he seeks.
Beers brewed in Crete: Charma
Back in Crete, microbreweries were springing up too, in fact Cretan Brewery, who produce the Charma range, started in 2007. You’ll find their products, at least the draft lager, available widely in tavernas, bars and cafes in the Chania prefecture. Based outside Platanias Cretan Brewery has newly redeveloped industrial scale facilities, and they are probably only loosely to be described now as a micro brewery.
Nevertheless they are very strong on environmental responsibility – they have optimised the process to reduce water consumption, recycle the waste yeast and hops for animal feed. Solar panels generate heat, and a geothermal system provides cooling. I have to admit I’m not a fan of the taste, finding it a bit bland and characterless. But its definitely real Cretan!
Dr Bernd Brink – trailblazer!
The first real Cretan beer was a result of Dr Bernd Brink, a German mathematician based in Scotland. He came to Crete and, as a German might, wanted to bring to the island above all a genuine German beer. So the Rethymnian Brewery was set up. There is a charming detailed history of their travails, both with bureaucracy, manufacturing, the weather, and marketing issues on their website.
These bureaucratic obstacles did not end with the start of the brewery, but continued, forcing them to change the name from the then well known “Rethymnian” to Brinks, after the owner. I always feel this creates an unfortunate link to the security company of the same name, but maybe its just me. They make a lager and dark beer, both used to be very expensive, but they now also produce a cheaper one under the label Cretan Kings, a lager – its not wildly exciting, and not easy to find.
On to my favourite of the beers in Crete! Lyra Beer. Its still quite difficult to find – for example, Pallas bar in Chania on the harbour front, Apostolis Fish Restaurant, Cactus Bar, of Porto Kalyves, and Il Fornou on the beach front at Kalyves.
And, of course, at Panokosmos! A golden ale brewed with best quality hops and Greek malt at the Mediterranean Microbrewery, Kissamos since August 2015 by Haris Maragoudakis – so just up the road from Panokosmos!
As Gunnar, my guru on RateBeer, has it: Hazy deep golden with creamy white head. Aroma is malty, cellar, spicy hops. Taste is light sweet grainy, dry spicy finish. Good light sticky mouthfeel, low carbonation. Refreshing.
White Mountains ale from Lafkas Brewery
Finally, a newcomer, the White Mountains beer from Lafkas Brewery, in the outskirts of Chania. It all began with a love match between a Greek boy, studying wine making, who visited Belgium to find out about beers, and there met a Belgian girl! Five years later they ended up living together in Crete and making their own Belgian-Greek beer – a fusion of Belgian know-how with products from the wonderful Greek climate. Their one beer, a triple Hop Pale Ale was launched in 2017, found only in Crete.
Gunnar’s verdict: Good start. And he’s tasted over 10,500 beers so he should know!
Beers at Panokosmos
At Panokosmos we have an Honesty Bar where our guests can select from any of the Septem “Days of the week” beers from Evia, and the Kissamos Lyra Golden Ale. Its just part of our unique style, offering our guests the luxury of a first class hotel, the privacy of a private villa with the atmosphere of staying with friends!