‘Have you come for the tour?’
‘Er, no we didn’t realise there was a tour.’
‘Well I’m afraid you’ve missed the tour. The bar is open though.’
Which was, after all, why we had come; so that was good news.
We were at Aphrodite’s Rock Brewery, Cyprus’ first licensed small batch craft brewery. When we passed the sign for a microbrewery I must admit I was surprised, it wasn’t what I had expected to find on an island at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. However it does make a fair amount of sense. There is a large expat community and a high number of Cypriots spend time in the UK and other English-speaking countries, where they pick up a taste for a wide range of beer styles.
The main Cypriot beer we had seen up until that point had been Keo, a 4.5% lager that is endemic on the island. In the tourist tavernas you would also find Carlsberg, Mythos and a few other imported lagers. In the supermarket we also spotted Crabbies, London Pride, Budweiser and a host of other imported drinks, presumably there to satisfy the expats as well as the locals. What this microbrewery offers is something a little different and, from talking to the lady behind the bar, it sounds as though they are carving out a market for themselves on the island.
We tried the tasting paddle, taking you through all five of their beers. Building on their roots, the first beer was Yorkshire Rose Best Bitter, their lowest strength beer (at 3.8%) and an easy drinking bitter made with English hops and malts. It was light and pleasingly bitter.
The ESB is a chestnut colour has a nice sweetness before the bitterness drifts through. I have a fondness for ESB as a style and this was a good example, with a good balance of flavours. Next was the west coast IPA, full of Cascade hops so it comes with a bold, floral aroma. At 6% it is their strongest beer and it tastes it, but it has a nice flavour to it: hoppy but with a decent base of malt to prevent it from being an all out bitter beer.
The fourth was a little more unusual. Lian Shee is an Irish Red Ale, which is (apparently, reading the tasting notes) and ancient Irish style of ale. I feel I should probably have known that by now; my beer education continues. It does have a red colour, as you would expect, and it pours with creamy head that was a little more unexpected. There are caramel flavours in there as well and it was rather nice.
Lastly we turned our attention to the London Porter, which includes local carob bean extracts. It is a light, spicy beer (light in texture, not colour) and has a sizzle on the tongue as you drink it. Coffee and chocolate flavours are at the forefront and it was surprisingly refreshing in the warm Cypriot afternoon sun.
The main difficulty, as it was explained to us as we chatted with the lady at the bar, is the storage and serving of their beers. Bars that are used to letting a pint of Keo lager slosh into a glass are not necessarily the best at delivering a delicious real ale to you in the best condition. At the brewery bar they chill the glasses to help control the temperature of the beer in the hot conditions. A little unusual by British standards, but it seemed to work out well for a drink under the hot sunshine of Cyprus.
After the tasting paddle we moved on to a large glass of our favourite: a pint of ESB for me and a half of IPA for Mrs RB. We also bought some bottles of those two beers to take back with us; they went very well with a barbecue that evening. It is, perhaps, a slight shame that all of the ingredients are imported. It does ensure a quality product, but it doesn’t particularly make for a Cypriot craft beer. Perhaps as the business develops, and I really hope that it does, then they will be able to fold in more of the local materials alongside their existing brewing know-how. That would be really interesting to see.
If you find yourself in South Cyprus, heading north out of Paphos, then keep an eye open as you meander up through the hills. A large sign at the side of the road will lead you off to where Aphrodite’s Rock Brewery and, if our experience was anything to go by, a very pleasant afternoon await you.