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Beer Time, Athens

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Beer Time is a bar and restaurant situated right on Iroon Square in Psiri, one of our favourite Athenian districts. It’s a lively square and although it’s just a five minute walk from Plaka’s Monastiriki Square (tourist central) it’s mostly locals who come here of an evening. If you’re looking to learn about (and taste) the world of Greek microbrewing, then without a doubt Beer Time is THE place to come in Athens.

Thanasis, the owner of the pub, worked in Germany for over twenty years in the communications industry and gained a passion for beer whilst travelling around central and southern Europe. After taking early retirement he decided to come back to Athens and open the city’s most authentic beer pub.

“Beer Time is known as the house of Greek microbreweries,” he explained as we sat waiting for our drinks and food to arrive. “We stock beers from every microbrewery that exist in Greece at the moment, which means we have over twenty five individual beers including a couple of organic varieties. As well as these beers from Greece we also have a strong selection from Germany and others from around the world that are considered must-haves in pubs, such as Guinness from Ireland, Fullers London Pride, Brew Dog Punk from Scotland, Leffe Blonde from Belgium and Flying Snake Dog from the U.S.A.”

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Lamia doesn’t usually drink beer so she started with a strawberry beer. She could have had a choice of Greek wines instead but when in Beer Time, well, it seemed appropriate to check out the beer.

I had a beer sampler. This is a wooden paddle/holder which carries five different beers of 0.2 L size each. It’s likely that you won’t know these or most of the other beers available at Beer Time but that’s no problem, Thanasis understands this and is happy to let you try before you buy; you get a shot glass tester of anything you want here free of charge and then you order from there.

In my beer sampler I got a Charma dark lager from Crete, a Zeos pilsner from Argos, a Corfu ale special and then two varieties from Germany called König Ludwig (voted the worlds best wheat beer in 2008) and a Hacker Pschorr Original Oktoberfestbier. This was indeed a fine selection of beers, the Hacker is usually only served at Oktoberfest in Munich so to find it outside of that is a rare occurrence whilst the Charma dark lager can’t be found anywhere else in Athens due to the high cost of transportation..

“It’s unfiltered and unpasteurized,” said Thanasis. “Fresh beer like this has to be transported whilst refrigerated and I’m the only person in Athens who wants to pay for that sort of transport from Crete.”

Another thing to mention is that the beers at Beer Time are served at the correct temperature. At lesser pubs in Greece and indeed around the world many of the beers are served ice cold so that you can’t really taste if they’re sub standard or not (which if they’re mass produced modern beers then invariably they are). But here at Beer Time everything is served at about 1 degree centigrade, the correct temperature to allow the beer’s flavours to shine.

Before we get into talking about what we thought of the drink and food we experienced at Beer Time, we’ll show you a few photos of the interior. There’s a ground floor, an upper and also a cellar. It was designed by Thanasis’ wife; she’s an interior designer and it shows.

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And here’s a view of the toilet; the taps gave water over a little square of glass so it flowed like a waterfall, pretty good eh!

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As we looked around, Lamia almost started crying tears of joy. Not because of the decor, but the music.

“Oh my god, it’s ‘In a Manner of Speaking’ by Martin Gore. It’s an extremely obscure song that I’ve loved for years. You never hear it anywhere in Canada apart from a really hip place. I mean, not hipster places, but really, really hip places…” Later, sandwiched between 1980’s music that included Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, A-ha and Soft Cell, another Martin Gore song played, Thanasis said that his 13 year old son had made the play list. We passed on our compliments, anybody of that age with such good taste should be told about it (later some lesser known Stone Roses was played, another credit to the young lad.)

Downstairs is a cellar bar that’s only open on the weekends; it felt pretty German-gothic to me with it’s wooden ceiling and dim lighting.

“Groups often hire the place out,” said Thanasis, “I can give them a tap and draft barrel to themselves, they choose their own music, they have it to themselves.”

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The barrel cellar is visible through a perplex panel beneath the upstairs bar. This was influenced by many visits to Italy where it’s usual in cheese or meat shops to be taken into the cellar to try before you buy, a concept that Thanasis has embraced enthusiastically at Beer Time. The first photo below shows the view from the bar area, the second photo shows the view from the cellar looking upwards towards the bar.

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Ok, to our own experiences.

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Lamia’s Strawberry Beer was mixed on the premises with a local beer and strawberry cordial.

“It’s fruity, like there’s actual fruit in there, which must be down to the quality of the cordial. The beer tastes nice as well, I’m not an expert but it’s pleasant and not bitter at all. There’s a light floral smell and I like the fizzy fuzz on top! The orange slice is dripping it’s juice into the beer and flavouring it with a citrusy zing.

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Every one of the five beers in my Beer Sampler were very good…

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…although I have to say that the Greek Pilsner was the best, followed by the Charma and the Corfu Ale. Both German lagers were not as much to my taste; they’re traditional and of a guaranteed quality but with the Greek breweries it’s like they’ve said ‘let’s take this traditional beer brewing and put some happiness into it’. My sample indicated to me that if you mix German brewmasters with the Greek knowledge of wine making then the results are some really enjoyable, sunny drinks. Even if there’s hints of caramel and chocolate, the overall taste will still have some sunshine in it.

As I was drinking I thought of a brilliant new tour idea. All of these beers I was trying come from the Greek islands because there’s lower taxes payable by businesses operating there. Wouldn’t it be great to do a tour of the islands, visiting breweries on every one, in much the same way as tourists visit the whiskey distilleries in Scotland! That’ll be huge in the future, I’m certain; remember, a beer tour of the Greek Island. You heard it here first!

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The food menu helpfully signifies what’s vegetarian, vegan or gluten free.

“There are two menus,” said Thanasis, “one for Greeks and one for foreigners. People have different expectations you see. Greeks only eat certain foods with beer, whilst tourists do expect to see feta and moussaka on the menu, so we cater for them all equally.”

The good thing about Beer Time is that there’s no language barrier here, if you want to just have the touristy Greek food then it’s there but if you want a more all round modern Greek experience then you can speak to the staff and find your way using their recommendations. 

For starters we shared the Pikilia, a series of three dips (Tzatziki, Taramasalata and Melitzanosalata) with pitta breads on the side.

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The dips were very light and the pittas crunchy, almost like nachos. I really enjoyed the very subtle smoky eggplant dip; it grew on me slowly as we at, a little more so than the garlicky Tzatziki which was very strong in taste.

Then we had another starter, the Beer Mezes.

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With this platter there were crunchy onion rings, cheese pies, delicious crispy chicken wings and a BBQ tomato dipping sauce, a smoky sausage with crispy skin that was nevertheless easy to cut into and finally crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside meatballs. The onion rings were lightly fried, crispy and not oily. The cheese pies were deep fried and packed with melted feta. I picked them up and my hands weren’t too greasy by the time I finished eating them.

Another dish was brought to the table, melty, chewy cheese encased in a tangy BBQ sauce and sweet honey. It was called Soutzouki and it was truly delicious. I think it’s usual in some Greek restaurants to be bought extra dishes for free now and again so when this arrived with a salad, we didn’t worry too much and just enjoyed the taste.

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If you’re not really hungry we’d say that two starters would be plenty enough to share between two people. The Greek salad itself was a very big portion (and fresh too, the onions hit the back of your throat and the olives were juicy and plump).

For mains we decided to sample the specialty dishes of Beer Time’s Persian chef. Lamia got the Chicken souvlaki and I got the Kebab.

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The chicken souvlaki slid smoothly off the metal grilling spike.

“I can tell the meat was marinated well, it’s like mom makes,” said Lamia. “The green and red peppers are soft and have charred edges. The marinade makes it a slightly sweet dish, I like it a lot.”

My kebab was very juicy. The meat comprised of two strips of beautifully spiced beef served over pittas and under crunchy fries with an extra thick cool yogurt on the side; there was a satisfying range of temperatures, textures and flavours. It was also a good portion size; after eating it I was certainly feeling full and ready to lean back, listen to music and finish my beer.

Speaking of beer, we’d moved on by now from our original choices. Lamia had chosen an Ionian Epos.

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It tasted of malt, nuts and spices. It was sweetened with honey and to me it was exactly like the barley wine we make back in Kent in the UK. It was also just as strong as that English brew, about 7.5%.

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I had the Rethymnian brewery Brinks dunkel organic beer. As with all the beers sold at Beer Time each bottle comes with a dedicated glass to get the best out of the beer.

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Despite its medium-dark colour it has a very light flavour and offers extremely easy drinking. Excellent stuff!

For dessert Thanasis bought Halva to the table, along with Tsipouro shots.

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“The Halvas tastes exactly like Shuji, a Bangladeshi dish I used to eat for breakfasts at the weekend,” said Lamia. I liked it, not overly sweet but firm in texture.

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The Tsipouro was from the island of Tinos and tasted a little like Ouzo (with anise). Made from grapes to a traditional recipe it had a strong kick, like grappa. It certainly warmed us through and got us ready to be on our way.

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Our verdict is that Beer Time is a must-visit place in Athens if you enjoy beer. You can learn lots from Thanasis about Greek microbreweries if you like – he’s knowledgeable and passionate about beer – and you can sample all the beers that are made in the country.

The interior is comfy, the rest of the staff are friendly and the customers are almost entirely Greek so you can be sure that whilst Beer Time may not be a traditional Greek experience it most certainly is something that the locals enjoy now. And last of all, if you need any more convincing, the Greek beers are excellent and there’s a long happy hour with buy one get one free available!

To discover more about Beer Time, please see here - www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g189400-d3621711-Reviews-BeerTime-Athens

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