Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Light Greek Beer

A slight change of pace today. Or theme. For once  we're moving away from Scotland . . . and back to WW I. You didn't think you were going to escape all of my obsessions, did you? I just alternate between them, like a fairweather football fan.

The passage below is taken from a WW I propaganda magazine, as you can probably tell from its upbeat tone. But it does tell us something about beer, so I can forgive its other sins. Dann of Pretty Things passed it on to me. He was wearing a very similar uniform at the X Ale launch last week. Makes me think that we really should brew a WW I beer sometime. He's already got the dressing-up gear.

Greece produces a remarkably light beer - lighter than the lightest lager - and supplies of this were obtained for the British troops at Salonika. As mentioned in another page, the camp at Lembed, to which they marched after landing, was some four miles from the landing-place. Sellers of fruit and cheap drinks, we read,were sollicitous to offer their wares as soon as the ranks of the French troops broke up on arrival at camp, and no doubt the British had similar experiences. Later on, the soldiers were allowed to go into Salonika, where they were soon on friendly terms with the Greek soldiers in the town, and the diversity of uniforms about the streets made a picturesque sight. May complimentary remarks were made about the fine bearing and equipment of our own men."
"Illustrated War News", Nov. 3, 1915, page 23.
There's only one thing I know about Greek beer from this period. That it was brewed to the Reinheitsgebot because when Greece became a monarchy in the 19th century, they imported a Bavarian prince to be king. Germany was the prime source of royalty for several centuries. All those little states meant there were plenty minor royals knocking about.

I'm still trying to get my head around "lighter than the lightest lager". Isn't that water? I doubt the soldiers gave a toss. I know how coarse and heavy those British uniforms were. They were doubtless glad of anything liquid and alcoholic. Especially after rolling those barrels up a hill.

I hadn't realised that British forces had fought in the Balkans during WW I. I would tell you more, but it's such a complicated and confusing campaign I don't have the space. Or the inclination, if I'm honest.


BryanB said...

Presumably the photo was taken just after the Franco-British landing at Salonica, which accelerated the Greek "National Schism".


Ron Pattinson said...

BryanB, I'm pretty sure it is. Having read a little about the divisions in Greece, I'm not sure I believe that stuff about the British and Greek soldiers getting on like old friends.

Martyn Cornell said...

Both my grandfathers were in Greece during the First World War, the paternal one in the Royal Engineers, the maternal one in the horse artillery. Indeed, Grandfather Cornell was among the British troops sent to Georgia after the Great War was over (he used to boast in later years that he'd seen Stalin's birthplace) as part of our little unsuccessful meddle in Caucasus politics, which eventually saw the Soviets re-establish Moscow's rule over Georgia - now THERE'S a chapter of British military history you never read anything about.

Germinal said...

It was indeed a strange time where the historical propaganda rarely meets the accounts of the pepople lived through it. Truth is often lost through the cracks...