Cultural adventurers in Cyprus seeking insight and authentic experiences may not associate beer drinking with the island’s unique and individual Mediterranean character. In 2016, individual consumption was 55 litres or around 97 pints, compared to 67 litres (116 pints) in the UK or a whopping 104 litres (183 pints) in Germany, according to The Brewers of Europe Report, Dec 2017.
It’s unlikely that a growing taste for the hop will overtake the grape any time soon. The history and culture of wine making in Cyprus can be traced back nearly 6,000 years (possibly even before the Greeks). Nevertheless, The Medfest Limassol Beer Festival returns on 23rd July with more than 30 stands and 100 brands of beer to be sampled over four days at Enaerios parking place – just 3.50 kms ( 2.17 miles) from Londa Hotel.
The first beer in Cyprus was a cargo of 50 barrels
It’s believed that beer was only introduced to Cyprus during the late 19th century. The first beer that may have arrived in Cyprus was a cargo of 50 barrels that came with the ‘Thessalia’, recorded to have landed just after the British took over control of the island from Turkey in 1878.
Early 1927 saw the founding of ‘Cyprus Wines and Spirits Co Ltd’ (KEOO), later renamed in 1951 as the well-known brand, KEO with a new logo carrying the invitation to “Be Happy and Drink Well”. A new factory for production of the KEO brand had already opened in the mid-1930s, however it was noted at the time that Cyprus consumed no more than 500,000 litres of beer, mostly imported from Europe or produced by a handful of small local breweries. Since 1951, KEO has been producing ‘Pilzen’ beer and still maintains its headquarters in Limassol, from where it exports to Europe, US, Canada and the Middle East.
It is generally thought, however, that the first commercial brewery in Cyprus was ‘Leonbeer’, founded in 1937 and which continued for more than 30 years. Then in 1968, the company stopped production of the brand when it was granted the license to produce Carlsberg beer in Cyprus, the first ever country to produce Carlsberg outside Denmark. Leon beer was successfully relaunched in 2003.
Music and beer have long been drinking partners
Cyprus is well known for it’s summer season of Wine Festivals held in key regions, such as Limassol and Nicosia. But ale connoisseurs visiting Limassol during June and July can enjoy a hop-flavoured experience at TWO beer festivals.
The Medfest Limassol Beer Festival provides cultural explorers a further unique opportunity to discover the many new and smaller, independent brewers from around the world who will be offering their unique fermented blends. Over the four days at more than 35 different stands, 100 types of beer can be sampled, whether from the main Cyprus producers or the many international microbreweries plying their crafted beverages.
Music and beer have long been drinking partners, of course, and MedFest will feature well-known musicians from Greece and Cyprus. Among the artists appearing are popular Greek singer songwriters, Stelios Rokkos, Lavrentis Macheritsas and Christos Thevaios. Dimitris Basis will perform a tribute to the late Dimitris Mitropanos, renowned for his mastery of the Laïkó Greek music style. Also set to appear are Greek bands Magic De Spell, now rocking into their 38th year, Yellow Bikes and many more.
Organised by Display Art Plc, which established the SeptemberFest Nicosia Beer Festival, the event runs Monday 23rd – Friday 27th July, 20:00 – 00:00 at Enaerios parking place, Limassol.
Beer games, and competitions with prizes
Limassol Beer Festival 2018 was held June 28 – July 1st at Potamos Germasogeias – only a 20 minute walk from Londa Hotel. The festival also featured well-known artists and bands from both Cyprus and Greece plus live screenings of the World Cup – beer and football are inseparable, of course – plus beer games and competitions with prizes.
Among the many live musical offerings were Italian new-generation reggae band, Mellow Mood, ranked third in Europe, and seven-piece band, ‘Locomondo’, who fuse Caribbean sounds to Greek music elements, and are the first Greek band to record in Jamaica. Sunday showcased the band ‘Mple’ who recently celebrated their 20th year in the business and are led by the inimitable vocals of lead singer Georgia Kefala. Also appearing on the final day was Greek actor, composer and singer Lakis Papadopoulos who has released 21 albums and written songs for other artists on 15 albums over a 35 year career.
Two local brewers account for about 90 per cent of annual consumption
While Cyprus ranks 50th in the world for wine production with around 14,200 small independent vineyards, the brewing of beer in Cyprus remains mostly dominated by two companies – KEO with its own branded beer and PhB Ltd, responsible for the Carlsberg and Leon brands.
Together, the two local brewers account for about 90 per cent of annual consumption, compare to 10 per cent for the many other imported beers. It’s estimated that Carlsberg is the market leader with around 50-52 per cent of the local beer market followed by KEO with 37-40 per cent.
Both breweries have also picked up a number of international awards between them over the years. PhB Ltd gained overall top ranking of all Carlsberg breweries worldwide in 1997, 2005 and 2006 while KEO beer was awarded the Golden Medal in ‘The Brewing Industry International Awards’ in 1987.