Despite the conservative attitudes towards alcohol and the newly implemented laws, beer is one of the most popular drinks in Turkey, and the Turks are slowly coming alive with their approach to Turkish beers, craft beer, and microbrewery. This is somewhat refreshing considering that the history of beer in this spot dates to Ottoman Empire times.
In the post-war years, the government had a monopoly on beer with the historic Bomonti brand, yet the market nowadays is dominated by two players: the Danish Tuborg/Carlsberg and the variety under the Turkish beer brand Efes group.
Craft beers are newly emerging with a trend that started in 2011 by Gara Guzu brewery. Though they’re just started, the Turks are getting experimental after being heavily influenced by international varieties. This future of beer may pop out of this underdog country.
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Famous beer brands in Turkey:
Founded in 1969, the parent group (Anadolu group) is a holding company that has dominated the Turkish market since the 1980s. Anadolu Group is the 6th largest brewery in Europe and the 11th largest in the world, and the star of their show is the Efes and Pilsen range. They’re the highest seller, perhaps because while the taste of barley malt and hops is dominant, their beers are not very bitter. With an extensive range, you may be able to find beers from 3-9ABV.
Frequent patrons of Wetherspoon may have tasted Efes before as they export to over 50 markets, and their holding company has breweries in various countries.
Favorites may be the classic Efes Pilsen with its iconic bottle, Efes Dark Brown, which has a coffee and chocolate aroma, Efes Draft with its fresh flavor, and Efes Dark with caramel aromas and at 6.5%.
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Owned by the same group that produces Efes, Bomonti used to be the oldest beer in Turkey. The balanced alcohol and the light formula make this a favorite amongst young people and new drinkers. The 4.3-5.8% ABV range does include a variety with intense foam.
Bomonti beer began life in Istanbul in the 1890s. Created to rival beer imported from Munich at an affordable price, a beer garden was quickly established near the brewery with views of the Bosphorous, and the streets and neighborhood were named after the brewery.
This beer even became an official supplier to the imperial court. After World War I, this company was forced to sell to a Turkish company for the next ten years, after which the Turkish state took control. Unfortunately, the old brewery and beer garden was demolished after it ceased production. Some parts of the original site were preserved, and a microbrewery named Torch opened in 2016 (see below).
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With a close relationship with Carlsberg for over 17 years, this is another major player in the Turkish beer market. Established in 1967 in Turkey, the Tuborg brewery started life in the 1870s in Denmark. That may explain why the Turkish ‘leg’ of Tuborg brews their own beer in Turkey and distributes imported beer.
Capable of producing over 36 tons of malt and 579 million liters of beer, this is one of the larger breweries. Highly focused on quality, they produce their beers according to the German Purity Law and approved by the Technical University of Munich.
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Another owned by Anadolu Efes group, the Marmara range is a lighter range for those that are beginning their journey into the world of beer. A touch bitter, this pale drink usually works better being paired with a meal.
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Craft Beers in Turkey:
Efes, unlike many conglomerates, is happy to share center stage with the microbreweries of Turkey. In order to help with the Turkish breweries, they funded Brewstival, a festival that had beer experts judge the home-brewing competition. Efes took a step back to let the smaller breweries show off their goods.
Another reality is that some restaurants and alcohol shops feature limited brands of beer over others because of the restrictive distribution agreements, thus it may be difficult to discover the following Turkish craft beers in most places. However, the craft beer sector is still alive with passionate producers and experimental flavors.
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Escaping the city life, a couple moved to the Aegean city of Muğla, laid the foundations for a brewery in 2011, and created the first Turkish microbrewery.
Named with the region’s dialect, this “Black Sheep” brewery is always mentioned in all guides about beer in Turkey. With a variety ranging from blonde and amber ales to Irish-inspired stouts to beetroot beers, this family-owned business has something to whet everyone’s appetite. Whether it’s their collaboration with Irish company Jameson or whether it’s their dedication to forego preservatives, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors, this dedicated company always seems to find itself invited to international beer conferences, beer festivals, and even exports around the world.
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International styles with a Mediterranean twist, this company is inspired by the warm, sunny beaches of its home: Bodrum. With a variety of well-balanced, refreshing drinks, there seems to be a concentration of that exotic, summery taste.
Founded in 2017, this boutique brewery seems to love to recreate the invigorating tastes of abroad blended with a Turkish, summery vibe. You may be amused to find that the bakery that experiments with flavors such as chestnuts, tart fruit, and dry finishes has been named after the owner’s dog.
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A high-class craft beer producer, this brewery has hardly automated its bottling/labeling, and they don’t keg. Their ASF Ale’Ya is wonderful during the winter due to their Christmassy spices, and their lovely red Smyrna Ale has 5% ABV with good malt, hop, and fruity palate. Their beers tend to have a lingering aftertaste that’ll have you reminiscing long after tasting.
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3 Kafadar – Graf
3 Kafadar does tend to open their plant in the future but, at the moment, their carefully designed recipes are brewed on their behalf. Whether you want a citrus hit or a chocolatey taste with three roasted malts and two different types of hops, these harmonious blends may be up your alley. Sometimes referred to as a ‘postmodern take,’ you may wish to give Graf a try before you leave Turkey.
Trokya Bira – 2 Köprü
Trokya Bira is founded on the ideology of introducing boutique beer culture to the Turks. Every three or four months, this brewery introduces a new flavor of the beer. Flooding into the Istanbul market, these adventurous beers can boast flavors like pineapple, marmalade, pine, dried fruit, and a variety of buttery notes. Yep, you read right: pineapple flavors in an amber beer. Pleasantly surprising, you can find beer for all seasons: the sweet summery kind and ones with a hint of autumn inside.
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Dasbira, a nano-brewery located in Kırklareli is the brainchild of a young couple that once home-brewed themselves.
Their beers are produced without any filtration and pasteurization, waiting 6 weeks for fermentation and maturation. They use only the main ingredients, malt, hops, yeast, and water. The first beer of this brand is Das Dies’ale, a strong amber ale with a medium body, and 6.6% alcohol by volume. The beer’s name is inspired by diesel fuel, and they added ‘ale at the end because of the beer’s type.
The beer is malty, with notes of caramel and balanced by the hop aromas and bitterness. You can enjoy a Das Dies’ale in many shops, restaurants, and pubs in both bottle and draft forms.
Das Bira has a map on their website that lists all the places you can find their beer in Istanbul and Turkey; dasbira.com
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Knidos Brewery and Bosphorus Brewing Company
A bit of a trek to get to, their English-styled pub contains at least eight different taps of their own brewed beers. Based in Istanbul, their main brand is an IPA which, ironically, stands for Istanbul Pale Ale. However, with their brewery and restaurant run by two English expats from Doncaster, the IPA distinction seems more of an in-joke than anything. Established after Philip Hall began missing the beers back home, he began home-brewing. After teaming with Turkish businessman Sedat Zincirkıran, they started brewing up to 5,000 liters of beer.
If you can taste the Britishness in the beer, that’s because they import their hops from Norfolk. From ten days to sixty, this brewery is so focussed on innovation that they’re even working with a historian to brew an ancient Turkish wheat varietal to recreate tradition as well as using Turkish herbs.
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Torch Brewery and The Populist Bar
Located in the former Bomonti Brewery, now an entertainment complex, this brewery opened its doors back in 2016. Utilizing custom-sized equipment and a floor plan that’s a little outdated, there were many hurdles to jump in order to brew their impressive range in such a historic location.
The Populist bar was built with a glass wall between itself and the Torch brewery so as to avoid any legal issues, and this place has at least 12 taps. In homage to the rakı, the German owner has even created a beer with an anise flavoring. An experimental spot that has to be visited by any beer lover.
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Pera Bira – Zıkkımm
If you anger a Turk, they may tell you “Zıkkımın kökünü ye” translated as “go eat the roots of the oleander plant” (Zakkum or Zıkkım) – which is extremely toxic. With its skull design, Zıkkım’s humorous play-on-words is a fun take on branding from a company owned by Park Gıda alongside its sister range, Pera Bira. Not a small company by any measure, considering they do have a facility capable of producing 52million liters of beer a year, they are hard to find as they don’t possess the same distribution networks of Efes and Tuborg.
Whether you like your beers dark – with a cardamon, spicy, deeply roasted grain, and dark fruits – or pales with banana aromas or a nutty, toffee/butterscotch beer, this brant has a long-lasting, bittersweet flavor for you.
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A lowkey microbrewery, their blonde ale (“Cunda Sour”) is inspired by the island breeze. There’s a wonderful harmony and taste with 7% ABV. They have a summery, Caribbean feel.
Istanbul’s Best Craft Beer Bars and Pubs
Corner Irish Pub
Craft Beer Lab
Bosphorus Brewing Co.
Kadıköy No. 30
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We’ve rounded up the most popular 4 Turkish beer brands and 10 Turkish craft beers. With this list, you’re sure to know what to order when you visit a pub or a bar in Turkey.
If you love drinking Turkish beer as much as we do, then don’t forget that our food tours are visiting some of the best culinary neighborhoods in Istanbul, and they include tasting 20+ traditional Turkish foods with an expert guide who can tell you about their history. Book now to make sure you get on one of the limited spaces available!
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