Greek Beer: From Antiquity to Modern Microbrews

Three cans of beer. Photo: Public domain

Greece may not be well known as a beer-drinking country, but beer has been consumed there since ancient times. The production of beer in Greece did not take off until the middle of the 19th century, however, when the Bavarian prince who became King Otto of Greece came to town, bringing his own brewmaster with him, according to the book Regional Greek Cooking by Dean and Catherine Karayanis.

Though Otto was deposed, his brewmaster stayed behind in Athens and his son, Johann Karl Fix (Fuchs) opened the Fix brewery in 1864. Fix beer became the official beer of the Greek royal family even with the arrival of the new king from Denmark.

The company had monopolized the industry into the mid-20th century. In 1965, the government’s decision to make it easier for foreign companies to come into Greece and produce beer began to hurt the company’s bottom line as did an association with the junta a few years later, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1983. Attempts to revive the brand began shortly thereafter, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Fix beer became more widely available once again.

Other companies had by then established themselves with Greek beer brands including Mythos, introduced in 1997, and micro-brews like Peiraiki whose products are certified as organic by the Organization for the Control and Certification of Biological Products or DIO. From northern Greece, Vergina beer was first bottled in 1998, and according to its website is “the first 100% Greek beer.”

An ad for Fix beer. Photo: Nsaa, via Wikimedia Commons

Beer is especially associated with the summertime, though year-round consumption seems to be on the increase as Greek micro-breweries now produce a wide variety of beers. Enjoy a cold one with the following recipes.

Chicken with Peppers and Beer

1 whole chicken, cut in pieces
4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 leeks, thoroughly washed and thinly sliced
3 large bell peppers, color of your choice, cut into strips
1 teaspoon Greek dried oregano
Greek sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 can Greek beer

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil until it shimmers and sear the chicken pieces on all sides until lightly golden brown over medium high heat. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside on a plate. Add the onion and leeks to the pot and cook until translucent. Add the peppers and cook for two or three minutes. Return the chicken to the pot, add the oregano, additional salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed, and the beer. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about an hour and a half until the chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice or hilopites.

Beer Bread

4 cups all purpose, unbleached flour or Zea flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt
1 can or bottle Greek beer
Greek extra virgin olive oil
Greek dried oregano (optional)
1/4 cup pitted olives of your choice (optional)
1/4 cup feta, crumbled (optional)

Prepare the baking pans by drizzling a tablespoon of olive oil in each of two 9 or 10-inch diameter Pyrex pie pans and set aside. Loaf pans may also be used. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the can or bottle of beer and using a rubber spatula, stir together until a sticky dough forms. Divide the dough into two discs, placing one in each of the prepared pie pans. If using olives (pits removed), add them to the center of the dough disc, and fold the edges of the dough over until the olives are covered in the middle of the dough. If using feta, add it to the center of the dough disc, fold the edges of the dough over until the feta is covered in the center. Sprinkle the top of the bread with oregano, if using, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until the bread is lightly golden brown and produces a hollow sound when you knock on it after about 45 minutes to an hour. This crunchy bread is best consumed the day it is baked.

1 Comment

  1. Ancient Greeks saw beer as barbarian, preferring wine.
    Meade was made from honey, other ales were made from grains
    with heather, juniper, figs and sometimes used wine must for yeast.
    Beer yeast and coffee are the most high protein foods.

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