munchies.vice.com – After years of struggling to find work in his native Athens, Yiannis Papathanasiou, a mechanical engineer, decided to give up—and turn to beer. Last spring, Papathanasiou opened the first microbrewery in Sparta, Greece.
On a sweltering afternoon in August, standing outside his small brewery in the green valley of the Taygetos Mountains, near a village where his mother had grown up, he said he was “very tired, but happy.” He’d been selling out of his Sparta Beer brews, a lager and an American Pale Ale, nearly all summer.
In Greece, a wine-loving country where hard alcohol sales have plummeted amid its financial turmoil, there’s been a surprising little boom in local craft beer—an industry that was almost non-existent when the economic crisis hit in 2009. In the last two years, the number of microbreweries has more than doubled across the country’s mainland and its islands, from 15 to nearly 40, according to the Hellenic Brewers Association. Like Papathanasiou, many of the new wave of craft brewers are educated young people who were flailing in a tough job market—Greece continues to have the highest rate of unemployment in the E.U—and needed to figure something out. They’re also just young guys (they are mostly men) who are passionate about beer, want to create new industry in their financially strapped country, and are working to forge a modern beer culture for the first time in Greece.
Last year, four longtime friends, each about 30 years old, opened the first independent microbrewery in Athens, inside an old car garage. “What we’re doing is difficult, but we love it,” said Jason Panagiotopoulos, a former journalist who decided to actually give up a job at a Greek radio station to pursue the microbrewery with his buddies—two engineers and a food technologist.
Very very dope! Sometimes you gotta say fuck it and take a risk