"Water is beer in a lower state of evolution. When it grows up it will be beer," Nissos founder Alexandros Kouris advised when I said I'd prefer his pilsener over water at lunch with him this week.
Alexandros Kouris had a growing love of craft beer, when back in 2011 he made the decision to brew his own. And he chose to brew pilsener as he finds it the most elegant of ales. It goes further than that though. After a successful career in business consultancy in large corporations, Kouris laments how big multinationals are affecting the world and wanted to return to small and artisanal. He wanted to do a 180 degree turn and produce "good beer with a strong local identity."It wasn't just love of beer that got things started. His life partner Maya Tsokli introduced Kouris to the island of Tinos where amongst the 8,000 residents there is an artists community, that includes her father. Nissos is in fact the ancient Greek word for island as well as the name for the new Greek unpasteurised pilsener that is brewed at the Cyclades Microbrewery, in the village of Vaya on its island home.
The brewery home, the Aegean Sea and the Cyclades island Tinos, are reflected in the Nissos logo colour and in the 'anchor and dolphin' symbol which is on the label and also under the crown. The logo in fact was inspired from illustrations in the floor mosaics on the neighbouring island Delos. Clever I said. Happy he said. Kouris, a fanatical diver, sports one of the widest grins I've seen, so it isn't surprising that he describes dolphins as happy. He enthused that dolphins are remarkable, "all the love and sweetness they bring out in human beingss." Dolphins he added added mean "some sort of prosperity." When I asked him if he'd swum with dolphins I got more than I'd bargained for. Yes, but he had also cage dived with white sharks!
But what about the beer? 18 months ago the new craft beer was launched with early acclaim. Nissos took home the Silver Bohemian-Style Pilsner 2014 Award at the European Beer Competition in Bavaria. This week Nissos was officially launched - on tap and bottled - in Australia. The pilsener pours crystal clear, with a deep golden colour and natural carbonation, and a long malt taste. The unpasteurized, artisanal beer is made using a slow, traditional and all-natural brewing and fermentation process.
“We noticed that there was a gap in the Australian market for quality, artisanal, craft beer. Understanding that Australia, and Melbourne in particular, holds the largest Greek population, second to Greece itself, it was an obvious next step for the brand,” Kouris stated.
The award winning craft beer has been brought to Australian shores, most notably in Sydney and Melbourne, by Beverage Imports Pty Ltd, and will be available at all Nick’s Restaurant and Bar venues with a future roll out of on-premise to occur over the next twelve months.
"Believe it not, I've never smashed a plate in my life" Kouris declared. "Smashing plates was hot in the Greece of the '30s and '40s. This was a time when it was put out as entertainment. It's so cute and lots of people get excited."
Smashing plates was the perfect climax to a fun-filled evening at CYREN for the Nisson Pilsenser launch in Australia. Celebrity guests including the Greek Ambassador, Jay Lyon, Melinda Kemp Tim Dormer, Samantha Frost, Rachel Smith, and Emma Birdsall, beer writers and Sydney Scoop were invited to ‘eat, drink and smash a plate’, enjoying an abundance of authentic Greek foods including such classics as Spanakopita, grilled lamb and chicken, salt and pepper octopus, and freshly shucked oysters.