A woman pours a glass of beer during the 4th Athens Craft Beer Expo in central Athens, capital of Greece, on Oct. 15, 2017. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)
ATHENS, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Greek beer lovers and foreign visitors flooded Zappeion exhibition hall in the center of Athens this weekend to taste the unique products of a new industry which flourishes in Greece in the years of the debt crisis: micro brewing.
About 40 exhibitors from across the country presented their labels next to brewers from countries where microbrewery has made strives, such as the Netherlands, Britain, Italy and the United States.
More than 100 labels were put on display during the 4th Athens Craft Beer Expo "Zythognosia" (Knowledge of Beer), organizer Constantine Stergidis, head of Vinetum Wine Communications, told Xinhua.
In 2009 the Hellenic Association of Brewers which supported the event, had six members. Currently there are about 40 microbreweries across Greece and their number is on the rise, he said.
"What is interesting about Greek beer right now is that we are at the beginning of the beer craft movement in Greece. This is a country which was dominated by big brands and in the past no more than five years we have seen a huge amount of small breweries being created in different parts of Greece," Stergidis noted.
Stergidis, as well as many microbrewers, attributed the small "miracle" which is unraveling in the sector to the debt crisis to a large extent. The crisis which has hit Greece hard since 2009 forced many Greeks to change careers, while consumers turned to local products in many cases to support the ailing local economy.
"Many Greeks because of the recession they are looking for things to do. And making a small brewery, a micro brewery, at first it seems easy. It is not like wine, when you can make wine once a year, so every mistake is fatal," Stergidis explained.
The initial investment does not exceed 100,000 euros (118,000 U.S. dollars), he said.
Why should a Greek or foreigner consumer choose the product of a Greek micro brewery over a foreign label? Because they are offering beer lovers a different flavor, Stergidis stressed.
The products of the Greek small breweries are beers of high quality, of different styles and aromas which are made based on new recipes from local products.
During "Zythognosia" visitors had the opportunity to taste innovative products, like the dark beer which was aged in a barrel that used to hold red wine.
Although the products from microbreweries make up only a very small part of the market (almost one percent) according to the Hellenic Association of Brewers, they gradually gain popularity in Greece and abroad.
"I think that there is a future for exports. Maybe it is not as big as that of wine because there are so many local breweries all over the world that it is difficult for Greek beers to compete against them. Maybe in Greek restaurants, because we are very lucky to have a very vibranyt Greek restaurant ethnic scene abroad, so maybe in those restaurants Greek craft beers will have a future," Stergidis said.
Oenologist Sofoklis Panagiotou, co owner of Septem brewery and President of the Hellenic Association of Brewers, is already exporting about 23 percent of his annual production which reaches up to 1.2 million bottles.
Septem is a family run business set up in 2009 by Sofoklis and his brother at their homeland in Evia, two hours drive northeast of Athens.
After working for 13 years in the wine production he wanted to try something different and return to his homeland, Panagiotou told Xinhua.
"We first came up with the idea to establish a micro brewery in 2005. We wanted to make beers which will be similar to wine, beers which will have flavor and aroma and will be different from the monotonous products available on the market," he explained.
"We wanted to create something in our homeland and promote this land as much as we can," he said.
Visitors queue to taste beers during the 4th Athens Craft Beer Expo in central Athens, capital of Greece, on Oct. 15, 2017. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)
Panagiotou brothers have already won more than 30 international awards for the brews they produce in their homeland.
Yorgos A. is a newcomer in the sector. He is one of the three young scientists who launched Strange Brew and produced their first beer this May and their second label in September. They produce about 1.5 tons of beer per month.
Yorgos is an engineer, while his friends and business partners are mathematicians. They started as amateur home brewers and gradually decided to turn their hobby into a business.
"We purchased the first kits in 2009 and we started making beers at home, because we were tired of the beers we could find on the market. We were looking for something different," he told Xinhua.
Yorgos took up a postgraduate course on the Science of Wine and Beer at the technical university of Athens when they made the decision to invest more time, money and effort in micro brewing.
"Amid the crisis in Greece, traditional professions have been severely affected, so we explored the prospects of getting involved in production... We want to experiment and create something innovative, new, interesting, not boring," he said.
Yorgos is confident that his products and the products of the emerging Greek micro brewery industry will one day be acknowledged by more and more beer lovers abroad.
"We believe that gradually we will manage to look in the face from the same eye level other markets in Europe," he said.
Visitors of the Athens exhibition gave Greek brewers high marks.
"There were many new Greek beers presented and some of them were very interesting," Nikos S. told Xinhua.
"It is pretty good. It is a good place, a lot of good beer," Christopher B., said.
"There were several beers which I had never heard of before and they were far better than the products of well-known brands," Dimitris T. said. (1 euro= 1.18 US dollars)