Efes: Turkey’s truly local beer

One place I never imagined I would travel to was Turkey. Yet in 2016, I found myself right in the heart of many of the greatest civilizations the world has seen. Being a huge lover of history, it turned out to be quite an experience. Of course, what is an experience without a beverage here or there?

After trying Raki, a popular Turkish alcoholic drink, made with twice-distilled grapes and aniseed, which tastes like liquorice, I realized I needed to find some beer.

Beer in Turkey experienced a resurgence in the early 2000s. However, our guide told us that the beverage is no stranger to the region. While it may have had different variations to the people of the area, beer or fermented beverages have existed there for centuries.

Today, the market is primarily dominated by the Efes Beverage Group. It was established in 1969 as part of the Anadolu Group. The Efes Beverage Group’s flagship brand is Efes Pilsen. It also brews about 30 other beer brands, including nine other styles of Efes and beers for other main breweries around the world.

Efes Pilsen is exactly what you would expect, a light, crisp pilsner that is easy to drink. A golden yellow colour, it has an ABV of 5%. This was primarily the only beer we could find while in Turkey. It was easy to see that Efes dominates the majority of the beer market.

What is truly interesting about Efes is that everything about the brewing process happens in Turkey. Efes has three breweries in the cities of Izmir, Ankara, and Adana, two malt facilities (Afyon and Konya), and a hops processing plant (Bilecik). Barley is grown in the country and Efes even set up a research and development department, which provides support to the local farmers. The hops are also sourced from Turkey as seven different varieties grow in Bilecik.

Photo courtesy http://www.anadoluefes.com

You have to hand it to Efes for making it a “local beer” on such a grand scale. Turkey has a population or over 82 million and covers 783,356 square kilometres. In North America, we tend to applaud craft breweries for their work locally sourcing ingredients but Efes has been doing it for decades. Now, they even export Efes to Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia. Pretty cool for a country not known for producing beer.