I spent my last evening in Cyprus milling around on my own in Larnaca. In amongst the blaring seafront bars competing with each other for the cheapest Keo, and sandwiched between the golden arches and an ersatz-Scandinavian ice-cream chain, is a bar/restaurant called The Brewery, decked out with breweriana and decommissioned brewing kit with four house beers on tap.
It's not a microbrewery, however, and gives no indications (in English, at least) of the beers' origins. I have my suspicions, though, on which more later. What they're definitely not doing is competing on price with the neighbours: 33cl of each beer costs at least €5 a throw. Should you be so inclined, you can get them in measures up to three litres in a table tap, and there are also two self-service bars which can be reserved in a designated area. The non-draught selection is largely canned rubbish like John Smith's, Caffrey's and Guinness, plus bottled lagers like Warsteiner, Sol and Bud. From what I saw, none of the beers is as popular as the iced coffee drinks and fruit cocktails which formed the vast majority of drinks sold.
The house beer that interested me most was their Dark Lager. This reminded me a lot of a Czech granát: good dry, roasted grain notes though with just a touch of sourness on the end. The addition of some nitrogen into the gas mix gives it a fluffy head more like a wheat beer.
I was expecting a wheat beer to be the base of the Cherry beer, but it really really tasted and felt like a lambic to me. It's sweet and very slightly syrupy but, tempered by the underlying hint of sourness, that isn't a problem. The result is balanced and pleasant; tasty and refreshing -- very reminiscent of some of Belgium's lighter krieks, like Mort Subite and Timmerman's. Though while the taste may be Belgian, the price is positively Norwegian, at €6 for a 25cl glass.
The commercial parallels continued with the Lager: a very pale clear yellow with none of the graininess I enjoy in standard microbrewed lager. Instead it has a very Germanic hops-malt balance and really could be any of a number of pale lagers from big German breweries who know how to make it properly. Could it be a rebadge? Could they all be rebadges, in fact?
With this in mind I finished the set with the Wheat beer. Greenish-yellow, lemon-perfume notes and some isoamyl under it all. If you'd told me it was Hoegaarden I'd have believed it without question. The only thing that stops me announcing that these are all simply macrobrews in disguise is the advertised strengths: 5.3% for the Dark Lager; 4.5% for the Cherry, 4.8% for the Lager and 5.3% for the Wheat. This, if truthful, doesn't tie in with any easily-grouped bunch of mass produced beers from, say, InBev. The mystery remains, and my preference for knowing where my beer comes from means that's not a good thing, especially at these prices.
The Brewery is loud, crowded, insanely dear and with poor service. It's still probably the best bar in Larnaca, however.
Feels good to be home.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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