Within the shadow of the towering Athens Hilton lies the Red Lion pub. On draught is AMSTEL Lager, with numerous brands of British and German bottled beer. A .5 liter glass will cost 500 Drachmae, about $2.50. The bar offers dart playing, music, and palm reading but little oxygen. The disc-spinning bartender was often not visible behind the lingering clouds of gray smoke. One point the travel guides all fail to mention is that in Greece, chain-smoking is mandatory for everyone over the age of 15. Rumor has it that the Europeans have bought out all the domestic brewing facilities here and I could not find any sign of the Aegean, Spartan, or Fix labels.
Half way between Athens and Cairo lies the island of Crete whose plentiful outdoor cafés provide the opportunity to taste more of the beer and less of the air than those of Athens. Beers from northern Germany, Berlin, and Bavaria abound as well as those from the Netherlands and Great Britain but draught is not available during the "off season". A popular haven for darters and English-speaking ex-patriots is Tassos Place at 28 XAN(AKO((Handakos) in the capitol of Iraklion. I found the Krombacker Pils, 1047 OG, 4.6% v/v, to be light in color and body with a pleasant hoppy flavor. Also available were four ciders; Strongbow, Woodpecker, Merrydown Vintage Dry (8.2% v/v), and Merrydown Traditional English (5%). The service was relaxed-paced and the crowd mostly male but the games, music, international soccer on TV, and the interesting clientele made it worthy of repeat visits. Be forewarned that it is significant that you will find no Greek translation for the phrase "non-smoking section". One archeological find of interest; above a small Italian restaurant, through the narrow, spiral metal staircase, past the second story restrooms, behind some abandoned furniture, on a dusty shelf, I discovered a visibly weathered, partial six-pack of Coors standing amid a collection of local antiques. I wonder if the date code was in Roman numerals. A return visit in the summer is now in order to confirm my suspicion that the numerous beachside cafés and restaurants offer the perfect spots to sip some cool, quality beers while deciding whether adequate sunscreen is on hand to forgo the swimsuit at the local "suits optional" beaches.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - March, 1992