"He's crazy..." says Kostas Avramidis when I ask him about his father who became a beer producer. Pantelis, his father, worked in the clothing industry and decided to give up. His project was to make wine. But it's more expensive and more dicey. You have to find plots, to know how to treat the vines, how to finance a winery, jeopardize the work of a whole year at harvest time. When you have no links with the wine system, it can be very complex.
Then, with his wife Dia Papanikolaou and his friend George Kostopoulos, they met by chance Davide Zingarelli, an Italian brewer. Go for the beer! He helped them to start their own business (Elixi) : he set up all the brewery and he developed recipes. First they thought about establishing the brewery in Delphi, a hour away from here. Delphi is known widely for its extraordinary ancient site. The Avramidis family knows this area of Greece, they have a house 30 minutes drive from Delphi. But Delphi folks want to protect their extraordinary landscape. We understand them...
So they move their idea a little away. Some praise the very high quality level of water near Euboea island. Then they are in Chalcis, an hour's drive from the capital and the same of Delphi. And they kept the name known worldwide, in English and Greek, for the lager: Delphi.
Greece does not grow hops and malt here is of poor quality. Therefore they need to import. Hops from the US and malt from Germany. The beer is then produced, taking time. After seven days of fermentation and ten of maturation, it is not pasteurized, no filtered, before bottling. All is handmade, from brewing to labeling. For now, they produce around 6,000 bottles (75 centiliters) per year.
75cl bottles? Such as wine bottles? Exactly. There are also half-bottles (37,5cl). Such as wine bottles.
The bottle shape reminds me the traditionnal bottle of champagne. Why? "The Greeks today believe that beer is a simple refreshment, like a common soda. We are trying to change that. We wanted a high quality product that is actually a 'gastronomy beer'. So we took inspiration from the wine system. "
Come on, it's all marketing? OK but...
But in the glass, the beer keeps its promises. The boss wants Delphi to be drunk in a wine-designed glass. This is actually the best way to develop its aromatic side that contrasts with the surrounding donkey pisses. Aromatic, but also less light and more complex than others. The idea is to drink two or three glasses with meals, not necessarily more. As for wine. "The greatest Delphi fans are also strong wine lovers."
Obviously, if I make a comparison, I think about the Belgian Cantillon beers. Although it is obviously not the same quality level yet. "We're at the very beginning of our process. We would have a spontaneous fermentation beer but we have to take his time."
For now, it's hard to find Delphi elsewhere than in Greece. There has some exports in NYC but that's all. Note also they have a very pleasant IPA called Marea.
Finally, Pantelis seems to think all the time about wine... Perhaps he will try. To be continued.
And what about the Greek crisis? We talk soon.