Greece – a beginner’s guide to Greek zythology

Beer, EU, Greece

 Happy New Year to one and all. I hope 2016 brings you happiness and good beer. My festive period proved very fruitful on the beer front. It kicked off with an amazing beer advent calendar (courtesy of Gareth) from Malt Attacks, a great beer shop in my neighbourhood. I discovered two new amazing beer bars: Wakefield Beer Exchange in my hometown and Dynamo near me in Brussels. And to top it off, I got an incredible gift (courtesy of Gareth) of a ‘brewing experience’ at Beerstorming – a tiny microbrewery around the corner from my place. That’s right, I’ll soon be trying my hand at brewing my own beer!

Name of beer: Mythos

Beer description: 4.7% lager

Greek word for beer: ζύθος (zythos) or μπύρα (býra)

Date joined the EU: 1981

Have I visited? Yes, twice


The country 

So we move into the 1980s. A decade of big hair, small government and Mediterranean enlargements. After the restoration of democracy in the 1970s, Greece was the first of the southern Europeans to join the club in 1981. It brought with it a rich historical legacy, an exciting alphabet and some questionable accounting practices. Welcome aboard.

I have visited Greece twice. The first occasion was on a “girls holiday” to the island of Kos aged 18. The holiday primarily consisted of water parks and Chinese restaurants, so it’s fair to say I didn’t get to experience Greek culture at its finest, but I had a great time nevertheless.

The second time was to Athens in 2014 for a national parliaments event during the Greek Presidency. I found the city – its architecture, food, people and so on – completely fascinating. This time I truly embraced all things Greek: visiting the acropolis, cautiously sampling ouzo, recklessly devouring souvlaki and getting a taste of dimokratía in action in the Voulí.


View from my hotel room – Parliament to the left, Acropolis in the distance top right

The Parliament

The Greek Parliament’s official name is the Voulí ton Ellínon (Βουλή των Ελλήνων), which translates as Parliament of the Hellenes. It is a unicameral parliament of 300 members – 250 elected by proportional representation to represent constituencies and then 50 additional members attributed to the party that received the largest vote share. A pretty nice bonus prize. It meets in the lovely Old Royal Palace on Syntagma Square. In front of the building stands the Presidential Guard – the Evzones – who perform a wonderfully elaborate and, to be frank, downright silly changing of the guard ceremony at regular intervals.


The Evzones in front of the Parliament

I am privileged enough to have sat in the chamber of the Greek Parliament, which is a marble and gold-panelled amphitheatre surrounded by several tiers of balconies. I am also privileged enough to have partaken in a wonderful working lunch there – the Greeks know how to do a good buffet.  

The beer

The Greek beer in my collection was Mythos – a light lager beer from the second largest brewery in Greece (also called Mythos), now a subsidiary of Carlsberg. As we expected this to be a rather ‘mainstream’ lager, we decided to make things more interesting and authentic by accompanying our tasting with a range of Greek snacks courtesy of Ergon.


Beer, snacks – it’s all Greek

So, armed with breadsticks, vine leaves, tzatziki and feta cheese spread, we cracked open the Mythos. Appearance-wise, it was a typically straw-coloured pale lager with a slightly fluffy head. Scent-wise, it smelt fresh, floral and a little grassy. Again, classic lager. On first tasting, Gareth and I were both quite positive. It tasted sweet with a sharp herbal edge, which was refreshing and pleasant. Initially, it made a great accompaniment to our Greek treats. I deemed it “pretty decent”, but definitely overshadowed by the amazing breadsticks.

However, once it had started to warm up just a little – only 5 minutes or so after being removed from the fridge – the taste was a “little off”, in Gareth’s words. It developed an aftertaste which was too sharp and almost syrupy. For me, the carbonation was also a bit much.

So in sum, we found Mythos to be an enjoyable, albeit not so unique, Euro-lager, but only if you drink it super fast whilst nibbling on a mezze. The best thing about the tasting was definitely discovering the word ‘zythology’ – the study of beer and beer-making – from the Greek word zythos for beer. So, although the Mythos zythos did not amaze us, it’s always nice to expand one’s vocabulary – not a habitual consequence of consuming alcohol.


A zythologist at work


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