Craft Beer in Athens

Greece: a place for sun, sea, beautiful islands, historic monuments, wine and ouzo but beer…? Read on. I visited Athens regularly from the late 1980s up to 2008 because I had several friends living there who taught English as a foreign language. Back then it was almost impossible to find interesting beer, the choice mainly being Amstel, Fix, or Mythos, all macro lagers.

After a long break, I returned at the end of February 2024 and how things have changed. There are now several excellent microbreweries and taprooms and a new enthusiasm for quality beer, especially (but not wholly) among the younger generation. The Greeks enjoy their drinks as much as anyone, but the ‘drink to get drunk’ attitude is far less prevalent in their culture.

I only managed to visit three taprooms, the first being Strange Brew, Falirou 86, Athens 11741 (metro Singrou-Fix), which is close to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Its website is Strange Brew is a nomadic brewer that currently uses kit at various breweries in Greece, including Hios Beer and Alea Brewing. The taproom has 12 taps, all dispensing Strange Brew beers and there is also a fridge containing cans and bottles to drink in or take away. It is a small, friendly venue with knowledgeable staff. There was good 1970’s rock playing which was a bonus. There is a small outside area.

Strange Brew

Their Tropiki session IPA (4.5% ABV) is a cloudy golden beer with citrus and tropical fruits on the nose and the taste is tropical fruit and grapefruit with a good malt balance. The finish is medium long and bitter. The Mandy Black export stout (7% ABV) is an almost black beer, with coffee and chocolate on the nose, without being overpowering. The taste is roast malt, some coffee and chocolate, with a smooth mouthfeel. The finish is long and dry. The other beer I tried was their Jasmine IPA (6.2% ABV). Intense jasmine flowers with citrus on the nose. The taste is citrus and tropical fruits with a long and bitter finish. There were two old copies of London Drinker magazine in this bar!

The next day I went a bit further afield, into the northern suburbs, and visited the Local Pub, Haimanta 25, Halandri 15234 (metro Agia Paraskevi then a 15 minute walk). No website but you can find them on Instagram.

The Local Pub

This place is more like a traditional British or Irish pub. I have to say I am never thrilled to find such places abroad, with the usual dark wood and old Guinness and Murphys adverts. However, alongside keg London Pride, Guinness, Murphys and Strongbow, this is an outlet for the fairly high-tech Anastasiou Brewery, which is situated to the left and right of the pub. 15 taps dispensed their beers. Again good rock music was played. There is a large outside area, and the pub was busy early evening.
The first beer I tried was Dry Pale, which had a floral, citrussy nose. The taste was grapefruit and tropical fruits, with a good malt balance. The finish was medium length, bitter. The other beer I tried was Anastasiou’s Dry Stout, with roast malt, some coffee on the nose and a dry taste with coffee, chocolate and a hint of smoke. Finish was dry and long. Both these beers were competently brewed but somehow their flavour profiles were a little subdued. A friend who is a regular at this bar ordered a Cascade IPA and he said that it had stronger hop characteristics, so maybe I was just unlucky with my choice.
My final bar was Barley Cargo, Kolokotroni 6, Athens 10561 (metro Monastiraki). No website but it is on Facebook and Instagram.

Barley Cargo

This large bar is situated near to the tourist area of Monastiraki (but sufficiently far away not to be overrun) and has one of the most impressive range of draught and small-pack beers that I have seen. It has an industrial feel and one wall has shelves with a huge range of bottles and there are a couple of fridges with cans and bottles for on and off-sales. A tap rack runs almost the whole length of the bar. Service is friendly and the staff are very knowledgeable. Their measures range from 0.25L to 3L, even for an 11% ABV Belgian style Tripel! Flights of four beers are also offered and there is a page on their menu entitled ‘Speciality and Extreme beers’, largely comprising barrel aged beers from Thessaloniki’s Sknipa brewery.

My first beer was Noctua’s Craft Pilsner (5% ABV). Noctua is an Athens brewery (in the trendy Gazi district) which is gaining an excellent reputation. It does not have its own taproom but organises regular tasting events and brewery tours. A golden/straw coloured pilsner, the nose was biscuit and bready with a little citrus. The taste was crisp with a hint of spice. The finish was medium length, bitter-sweet. A good example of a modern pilsner.

Next up was Ikariotissa Unfiltered Blond (5% ABV). This brewery is located on the island of Ikaria. It is hazy golden, with citrus, herbs and pepper on the nose. The taste is tropical fruits, a hint of spice, and hop bitterness. Finish is long and bitter. Finally I went for Noctua’s Endangered NEIPA (5.6% ABV). It is cloudy yellow/gold, with peach, pineapple and mango on the nose. The taste is initially sweetish, tropical fruits, pineapple, with a full mouthfeel but becomes bitter. The finish is very long and quite bitter.
One thing to note is that in Greece some venues take a very relaxed attitude to smoking or vaping indoors, especially as the night progresses. However there was no evidence of this in the three bars I visited.

There are several other craft beer bars throughout Athens and I look forward to visiting these on my next visit.
Steve Thompson