Last Updated : 21/12/10
ark Enderby completes his ticklist of the so-called "Axis of Evil" by visiting this country which, I'm sure you can imagine, isn't high on my must-visit list...
Syria has 2 breweries – Barada in Damascus and Al Sharq in Aleppo. However, the beers are not that easy to find since the usual offering is Almaza from Beirut which is a pretty standard 4.2% lager. This may have something to do with the fact that both beers are somewhat acquired taste. Both weigh in at a measly 3-3.5% (Barada advertises itself as 3.4%) and come in 500ml bottles which can be clear, brown or green – often with suspect BBE dates. Given the prevailing temperatures (it reached 46 while we were there), this seems a recipe for disaster! The resultant beer was hazy with low carbonation and a pronounced apple taste (reminiscent of some micros). I did manage to pin down a can of 5% Barada Strong (which also seemed to appear labelled Turbo) which tasted identical so I suspect the beer is meant to taste like this!
Otherwise, the Christian corner shops dealt a wide range of cans and bottles from far and wide. As with other Arab countries, there appears to be a liking for strong beers ranging from the tolerable to the undrinkable. These are sourced from far and wide e.g. Darguner Bear Beer Extra Strong (12%) from Germany; Faxe Extra Strong (10%) from Denmark; Roxy (10%) from the General Investment Co of Jordan (which could only be described as noxious); SuperMax (10%); Titanic (10%); Efes Extra (10%); San Miguel Horse (8%); Tuborg Strong.
Other more normal beers included Al Arham Meister (5.2%) from Egypt; Heineken – sourced from Al Arham and Holland; Stellar (Egypt); Budvar (the real deal!); Efes.
Prices varied widely with 500ml cans at 80p in shops and up to £4 for a small Amalza in hotels!
Fortunately, the last hotel produced draught Paulaner at a reasonable price in happy hour.
Finally, for drinking atmosphere, Baron’s Hotel in Damascus is a must. Frozen in time with 50s/60s advertising and signage – and a fascinating display of old spirits marketing material on the back bar – this was the hotel favoured by Lawrence and Agatha Christie. It is full of atmosphere and very relaxing on a hot dusty day!
So that finishes my Axis of Evil beer crawl ... where to next?