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Wine & Beer


Short History of Beer

Beer is one of the oldest beverages, and brewing appears to be one of the oldest processes known to man, as old as barley grains are known to have existed. Its presence to mankind is recorded since the 6th millennium BC, in writings of the Ancient Sumerian and Mesopotamian people. For the Sumerians, beer was extremely widespread and the thirst for beer may have been a key factor in the domestication of barley in the southern Levant.  According to this theory, prehistoric hunter-gatherers stored wild barley in porous containers.  If the grain got wet, it sprouted, a process known as malting. Malting converts some of the grains’ complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, and naturally occurring yeasts fermenting the sugar into a primitive beer that was lightly intoxicating and superior nutritionally. 


Mesopotamian men and women of all social classes enjoyed beer as a staple, and its role cannot be underestimated since up to 40% of the barley harvest was fermented into beer.  In fact, Hammurabi’s Code (1700 B.C.) contained regulations related to beer trade and consumption issues.  Brewers advertised beers of different strengths, giving trade names to their brews. Others were identified by added flavorings, for example pomegranate beer was called ‘alappanu’.  Ninkasi is the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer and the Hymn to Ninkasi, inscribed on a nineteenth-century B.C. tablet, contains a recipe for Sumerian beer. The hymn gave directions for making beer, which modern brewers could follow to create a low-alcohol beverage that might resemble the ancient brew1.  Beer was also a popular drink in ancient Egypt here along with bread appeared in everyone’s table and was at the time a common form of payment. Unlike the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations, ancient Greeks knew little about beer and hence they used grains for making other products.


In Europe today the principal producers of beer are

Germany and the CzechRepublic , but beer was not brewed in these parts until 80 BC. Having crushed many of the Germanic tribes around 100 BC the Romans (who had previously fermented wine) took the beer brewing knowledge and spread it to the rest of the continent. Hence, it was the Romans in the 1st century BC who introduced beer to mainland Europe and up to the Middle Ages brewing was a woman’s job. Gradually the making process shifted away from family tradition to centralized production in monasteries and convents (hospitality for traveling pilgrims). By 1200 AD beer making is firmly established as a commercial enterprise in Germany , Austria , and England . The Germans preferred cold temperature lagers (bottom-fermentation) stored in caves in the Alps whereas the English preferred mild temperature ales (top-fermentation) stored in cellars.


In the Middle Ages brewing beer was a primitive science, but by the 15th Century it was also becoming a very lucrative industry. Brewers looking to make greater profit often used cheaper ingredients of mixed variety to achieve their financial goals. Unscrupulous brewers would add fruit, herbs, eggs, tree bark, fish bladders and who knows what else to their beer. As a result, beer was frequently foul tasting and occasionally poisonous. In a beer-loving country like Bavaria a purity law was desperately needed. In 1516 the Bavarian Dukes Wilhelm IV and Ludwig X created the Reinheitsgebot - German Purity Law. The Reinheitsgebot stated, in brief, that only pure and essential ingredients be used in beer and the only ingredients allowed were barley, hops and water. Today, of course, yeast is also recognized as a vital ingredient. Yeast was a brewing element whose effect was not understood at the time the law was written. In the 1500’s, brewers utilized naturally occurring, airborne yeast and attributed fermentation to the will of God. In fact, lambic beers are still produced this way. Eventually all the lands of Germany enforced the regulation. Thanks to this regulation, Bavarian beers quickly became renowned for their superior quality. As a result of the Reinheitsgebot, German beers became world renowned for their quality and consistency, enjoying the reputation to this day. The Reinheitsgebot remains the oldest food regulation in the world that it still exists.


The industrial revolution led to the construction of many large breweries in Europe. The microscope revolutionized scientific understanding and allowed the discovery of yeast. Detailed analysis of the fermentation process was predominantly carried out by Louis Pasteur. New specialized forms of yeast were cultivated, allowing the production of a range of lagers and beers, both in Europe and the USA .



Beer in Cyprus

Being closely linked to the Greek civilization, Cyprus too has a short history on beer consumption. Historical references on beer production and consumption are nearly non-existent and it could well be assumed that beer was introduced in Cyprus in the late 19th century during the first years of British colonization. It is worth noting that the first shipment on vessel 'Thessalia' that arrived to Cyprus after the British took over from the Turks in 1878, brought 50 barrels of beer, a fact illustrating English national habits and also implying that no beer was available in Cyprus at the time4. It could be further noted that Cyprus, with its limited flows of ‘soft’ water, could not provide the major raw material for beer production in earlier times, as could

Germany and other mainland European countries. 


The size of the local market in the 1930s and 40s is well described by a KEO manager of the time, addressing a Directors meeting in 1947 for the issue of setting up their brewery. He commented that the Cypriot market consumed no more than 500.000 liters of beer, mostly imported from

Europe and few quantities supplied by small local breweries. Existing evidence suggests that Leonbeer’ was the product of the first commercial brewery in Cyprus, founded in 1937 by Mr Christodoulos Platanis in Nicosia . For a number of years, M. Platanis & Co Ltd remained the sole producer of beer in Cyprus. In 1962 Mr Photos Photiades joined the company and in subsequent years changed the name to Photos Photiades Breweries Ltd. Leon beer production was discontinued in 1968, the year that the company was granted the license to produce Carlsberg beer in Cyprus, which made Cyprus the first ever country to produce Carlsberg outside Denmark. Leon beer was re-launched with great success in 2003 by Photos Photiades Breweries Ltd.


The other major Cypriot brewery, KEO (Kypriaki Etairia Oinopnevmatodon), was established in 1927 as a wine and beverage manufacturer. KEO beer was launched much later, in 1951 following completion of its own brewery in Limassol, a factory that was designed by Czech experts and which is still in operation. KEO is a Pilsner type lager beer which has gained popularity among both Cypriots and tourists as a light refreshing beer best suited to be consumed cold especially during the hot Cyprus summers.


Beer in Cyprus has remained a two company affair; KEO with its own branded beer and Photos Photiades Ltd with the Carlsberg and Leon brands. Together, the two local brewers account for about 90% of annual consumption, while literally hundreds of imported beers account for the remaining 10%. Based on market estimates, Carlsberg is the market leader of the local beer market with around 50-52% followed by KEO with 37-40%.


Leon beer ranks third with 3-4% an astonishing share when one considers that it has only 4 years of life in the market. Both breweries have earned a number of international awards for their dedication to quality. Photos Photiades Breweries ranked 1st overall from all Carlsberg breweries worldwide in terms of Quality for the years 1997, 2005 and 2006. In 1987, KEO beer was awarded the Golden Medal in ‘The Brewing Industry International Awards’, a worldwide recognition for the brewery and one that opened new markets for KEO beer and wines.


Beer is clearly a popular drink in Cyprus. This is an unequivocal conclusion, when one looks at statistical data of the last thirty years, as beer has been a multiple of wine consumption. Statistical data (2008) indicates that beer consumption is 60 liters per capita, while the corresponding wine consumption is 19.7 liters. Other spirits form an even smaller fraction of beverage consumption (4 liters). Out of the 60 liters consumed nearly 82% is locally brewed beer, representing in absolute figures an annual production of 40 million liters.


Another area of the Cypriot beer universe that is worth highlighting is the relatively low share of local production that is exported (3.5%).The penetration in foreign markets should gain a higher priority for KEO and Leon beers in the years ahead, if they are to realize additional benefits from the globalization of the beer market.


The Table below shows statistical data related to the beer market of Cyprus








(local and global in thousand Liters)






(in thousand Liters)





Local consumption

(In Liters per head)









Global Beer Industry trends

Beer is the largest volume alcoholic drink in the world. In the major world markets, such as

Germany and the UK , it accounts for around 80 per cent of all alcoholic drinks, and in the US for more than 60 per cent. Traditionally brewing markets have been with a high degree of localized appeal. Hence, the industry used to be dominated by local breweries satisfying the demand for good quality beer. To date, the German market is characterized by a high degree of fragmentation. The world beer production has experienced steady growth that has been mostly due to rising consumption in emerging markets The industry produced 1,166 ml hectolitres (hl) of beer in 1990; 1,253 in 1995; 1,383 in 2000; and 1,478 in 2003. Since the second part of the 1990s there has been a constant decline in consumption trends in the Western European and North American beer markets and increasing consumption trends in several emerging markets, especially in China , Russia and Mexico . While in 2000 the US ranked first in beer production, in 2003 China became the largest producer of beer in the world. The constant increase of beer consumption in Russia and the large opportunities for growth in per capita consumption in China and Russia have strengthened the brewing industry in these countries.


Statistics for the year 2008 indicate that brewers in major countries produced 181.10 million kiloliters of beer, up 1.2% from the previous year and an all-time high. China retained its position as the world’s largest beer producer for the seventh straight year, with its output topping 40 million kl for the first time at 41.03 million kl, up 5.5%. The United States and Russia came second and third, respectively, with 23.01 million kl and 11.40 million kl.

Per capita consumption statistics for Europe place the Czechs, Irish and Germans as top of the league and North European countries above the EU average whereas Mediterranean countries consume much less than the EU average.



Per capita consumption (lt)

Czech Republic










United Kingdom












EU average
























Source: The Brewers of Europe Statistics 2004



Attempts for the internationalisation of the brewing industry started long ago, for example British company Bass exported beer to Russia since 1784. Until 1990 the role of foreign investment operations in the brewing industry was limited. The leading companies seem to have followed somewhat different types of internationalisation strategies. Until the beginning of the 21st century the leading American brewing companies, namely Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing and Coors, based their operations predominantly in the US and had an exclusive focus on beer. Their foreign expansion involved licensing agreements covering production, distribution, and commercialization of beer. The leading Asian breweries, such as the Japanese Kirin, have mainly used a somewhat different strategy. They have diversified into other food related businesses, for example, in functional foods and soft drinks. They relied on internationalisation mainly in Asian countries. The strategy of the leading European breweries was with major focus on the brewing sector and they expanded internationally through foreign acquisitions. The foreign expansion of European breweries targeted Western Europe, the region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), Asia and other parts of the world. This approach to internationalization has recently been adopted by Asian and US breweries. CEE has played a significant role in the growth strategies of European breweries, increasing their market reach in terms of consumer base, volume and dynamics. This process has been largely helped by the economic and political changes in CEE during the transition period.


A recent tendency in beer consumption points towards the small, local brewery and away from the big multinational brands, a case similar to the turn towards small regional wineries that started in the late 1990s. Consumers are now becoming oriented towards more local and traditional flavours, aiming at new tasting experiences.



How Beer is made?

Water, hops, malt barley and yeast supplemented occasionally by corn, maize, rice or sugar are the key ingredients in the making of beer. The art and science of brewing lies in converting these natural food materials into a pure and pleasing beverage. Although great strides have been made with the techniques for achieving high-quality production, beer today is still a beverage brewed from natural products. The main ingredients of beer have remained constant over time but it is the precise recipe and timing of the brew that gives one a different taste. On average, a batch of beer will take about 30 days to produce. To be more specific, brewing takes nine and a half hours while fermentation and aging combined take between 21 and 35 days for ales and a little longer for lagers.


Hops are plants of the genus humulus, a climbing plant with male and female flowers. They are used for flavoring beer, giving it a bitter flavor and aroma. Its use today is held as a standard, but in beer's history, hops were only introduced in the late medieval period. The degree of bitterness of the beer depends on the hop rate. Different varieties, ranging from very bitter to aromatic, are used to contribute to the flavor and aroma of each beer. Hops are mainly added in pellet form and smaller volumes of essential oil add an extra touch of aroma to the beer.The term Noble hops traditionally refers to four varieties of hop which are low in bitterness and high in aroma. They are the central European cultivars, Hallertau Mittelfruh, Tettnanger, Spalter, and Saaz. They are each named for a specific region or city in which they were first grown or pare rimarily grown.


Pure water is an essential ingredient in good beer and brewers pay scrupulous attention to the source and purification of their brewing water. The water used in brewing is purified to rigidly-set standards. If it does not have the proper calcium or acidic content for maximum activity of the enzymes in the mash, it must be brought up to the standard.


Malt barely is one of the most important raw materials used in the production of beer. Malt is produced from barley which has been germinated for a limited period of time and then dried normally followed by a slight roasting. During the period of controlled growth in the malting plant, specific barley enzymes are released to break down the membranes of the starch cells that make up most of the kernel. These are internal changes only, apart from a slight change in color, the external characteristics remain essentially unchanged. Only special varieties of barley are suitable for beer production and no such variety is commercially grown in Cyprus. 


Yeast is a single-celled micro-organism which reproduces rapidly by dividing. It is added to the process to convert

the sugars of the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide by fermentation. Breweries develop their own strains of yeast and preserve them very carefully. The use of pure yeast culture developed by Emil Christian Hansen in 1883 at Carlsberg’s Central Research Laboratories in Copenhagen was a significant technological advance which made it possible to control the process of fermentation. Production methods will differ from brewery to brewery, as well as according to brewery equipment and beer types. The main processes will, however, be similar.



Types of Beer

Beer is broadly divided into two major categories, based on the type of yeast used in the brewing process. Ale beers are characterised by the top fermentation process where the yeast remains on top of the final product. On the opposite, lager beers are bottom fermented, implying that the yeast sits at the bottom after the fermentation process is completed. Additionally, the different types of yeast used give beers their own, distinct characteristics in taste, aroma and colour.


Lager: The word lager is derived from the German verb “lagern”, which means: to store. During the late Middle Ages, before the days of refrigeration, fermentation was a hit-or-miss affair, especially during the hot summer months. To ensure a supply of beer for the summer, brewers in the Bavarian Alps stored kegs of spring brew in icy mountain caves. As the beer slowly aged, the yeast settled, creating a drink that was dark but clear and sparkling with a crisper, more delicate flavour. In 1842, lager acquired its familiar golden colour when a brewery in

Pilsner , Czechoslovakia perfected a pale, bottom-fermented version of the beer. Lagers typically take more time to brew and are aged longer than ales. Lagers are best enjoyed at cooler-than-room temperature.


Pilsner: Original Pilsner comes from the Bohemian town of Pilsen. These lager beers are often more dry with a crispy flavour and a clear golden colour.


Bock Beer: A lager type beer which originates from the famous medieval German brewing town of Einbeck. Heavier than lager and darkened by high-coloured malts, Bock is traditionally brewed in the winter for drinking during the spring.The word "bock" in German also means "billy-goat", and many commercial breweries include images of goats on bottle labels.


Ale: Although the term covers a fascinating variety of styles (pale, dark, brown, light and bitter), all ales share certain characteristics. Top-fermentation, the inclusion of more hops and the higher fermentation temperatures that produce    significant amounts of esters and other secondary flavour and aroma products, give these beers a distinctive fruitiness, acidity and a pleasantly-bitter seasoning. The important distinction for ales is that they are fermented at higher temperatures and thus ferment more quickly than lagers. Hence, all ales typically take less time to brew and age than lagers and have a more assertive, individual personality, though their alcoholic strength may be the same. Ales are best enjoyed at room temperature or slightly warmer.


Porter and Stout: Whether dry or sweet, flavoured with roasted malt barley, oats or certain sugars, stouts and porters are characterized by darkness and depth. Both types of beer are delicious with hearty meat stews and surprisingly good with shellfish. The pairing of oysters and stout has long been acknowledged as one of the world's great gastronomic marriages.


Wheat beer:   Most often known as Weissenbier, this beer is brewed with a significant proportion of wheat. It is common for wheat beers to also contain malted barley and a lower amount of hops. The addition of wheat lends wheat beers a light flavour and pale colour. Wheat beers are usually top-fermented (in

Germany they have to be by law). Wheat beer is distinguished by its creamy texture and sweet flavour, and some styles have overtones of banana and clove. Belgian wheat beers often contain spices such as coriander or bitter orange peel, giving them a slightly fruity and spicy flavour.



Beer and Health (extract from a study on the Benefits of Moderate Beer Consumption by the Association of The Brewers of Europe)

Beer is made from wholesome raw materials, malted barley, cereals, hops, yeast and water. All these are natural substances which contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. As with any natural food, thousands of components can be identified in beer including antioxidants, vitamins (particularly B vitamins), minerals such as silicon and fibre. Beer is 93 per cent water and is a thirst quenching long drink which is relatively low in alcohol. In general lower strength drinks, like beer, have been shown to be absorbed more slowly from the stomach leading to lower blood alcohol concentrations.   While moderate consumption of beer can provide many essential vitamins and minerals it is important to remember that no single source can provide the full range of elements essential for life so beer must always be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.


Scientists who have studied the reduced risk of coronary heart disease in beer drinkers report that the reduction in risk is greater than would be expected from the alcohol alone and speculate that other factors in beer such as vitamins and antioxidants could also be protective.


Research that has looked at the properties of alcohol-free beer indicates that the potential beneficial effects from the natural ingredients are likely to apply equally to this type of beer.


Beer is also a source of soluble fibre which is derived from the cell walls of barley. Two glasses of beer contains an average of 10 per cent of the recommended daily intake of soluble fibre and some beers can provide up to 30 per cent. Other than keeping you regular, fibre has a further benefit by slowing down the digestion and absorption of food and reducing cholesterol levels which may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.


Natural antioxidants are found in fruits, vegetables and cereals. They are present in beer, where they come from both the malt (barley) and hops as ingredients. The total amount of antioxidants in beer will depend on the style of beer and therefore the raw materials and the brewing process used. Per drink (of equivalent alcohol content), beer contains more than twice as many antioxidants as white wine, although only half the amount in red wine. However, many of the antioxidants in red wine are large molecules and may be less readily absorbed by the body than the smaller molecules found in beer. Research has shown that the antioxidant content of blood is raised following beer consumption suggesting that the antioxidants in beer are readily absorbed and perhaps more readily than that from solid foods.


The health significance of antioxidants is that they may play a role in the protection against cancer through their action against free radicals. They are also thought to reduce the risk of heart attacks by inhibiting blood clotting. Thus the anti-oxidants in beer may have a positive health effect on the drinker.


Like bread, which is also made from cereal, beer is a good source of many vitamins which are essential for life. To make beer the barley is sprouted first (malted) which actually increases the nutritional value of the cereals used. Beer is particularly rich in most of the B type vitamins for example niacin, riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6) folate (B9) and Cobalamin (B12). For those vegetarians who enjoy drinking beer this is a natural source of B12. As well as adding to a healthy diet, the vitamins and minerals in beer may confer additional health benefits. Recent research suggests that the B vitamins (B6, B9 and B12) may give beer drinkers additional protection against cardiovascular disease compared to drinkers of wine or spirits.


Beer has a favourable balance of some essential minerals. It is relatively high in potassium and low in sodium. It is low in calcium and is rich in magnesium which may help to protect against gall stones and kidney stone formation. This may be on reason why daily consumption of a glass of beer was reported to reduce the risk of kidney stones. Of course the increased intake of water may also play a part here.


Beer is a rich source of dietary silicon which is readily absorbed by the body and has been shown to be the major contributor of silicon in men’s diet. This silicon comes from two natural sources - water and barley. Research is underway that will investigate whether the dietary silicon provided by moderate beer consumption actually protects against osteoporosis.


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Suggested Bibliography:

  1. Cooking in Ancient Civilisations, by C.K. Kaufman. Published by Greenwood Press 2006
  2. The Beer markets, in Trofima & Pota volume 308
  3. The story of KEO, by Anna Marangou, unpublished document
  4. Beer, its history and economic value as a national beverage, F.W. Salem. Published by


The Seven Golden Rules - suggeted by Photos Photiades Breweries Ltd

  • Beer should always be consumed as fresh as possible.
  • Lager beers are normally served at 6°C
  • Beer should not be served in glasses that have been freezed as aroma and taste are altered
  • Serve beer by tilting the class in an angle of 45° and fill up leaving about 2cm of glass empty.
  • Always store your beer in a cool and dry place.
  • Do not subject the beer to large changes in temperature.
  • Never expose beer to direct sunlight.
  • Do not chill packaged beer to the point of freezing.
  • Use clean, well-rinsed glass.
  • Do not subject the beer to sudden shocks during transport.

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