Beer in Turkey
Beer has existed as a beverage in Anatolia since the Sumerian civilization. Archaeological findings have shown that Sumer people knew how to ferment beer. Early Turks in Anatolia fermented boza, which was much like kvass.
The modern history of beer in Turkey started with the Ottoman Empire. During certain periods of the Ottoman Empire, drinking alcoholic beverages was forbidden in some cities, but many small producers in Istanbul made boza with a high alcohol level like beer. Beer was first produced and served at Erzurum by some small Armenian producers in “beer gardens” (Turkish: bira bahçeleri). The first modern production of beer in Turkey started with the Bomonti beer factory in Istanbul in 1894 by the Helvatian Bomonti brothers.
In 1933, the company invited a brewer from Germany, Karl Hoffner, for the production of traditional German beers. Hoffner, with the permission of the German Brewers’ Guild, moved to Turkey, where he started the production of high-quality German beer and stayed there. Many years later, his grandson Rauf (Hoffner) Vagifoglu after his famous grandfather, follower of the German brewing traditions in the region of Antalya, opened production of beer and two restaurants named in honor of his grandfather – “KHOFFNER Brewing Company”, which function to this day.
There were many pubs and bars in Istanbul, Izmir, and Thessaloniki. Production of beer in the Ottoman Empire was 1.2 billion liters in 1894. This increased to 9.9 billion liters in 1913–1914.
Atatürk, the first president of the Turkish Republic, founded an ale factory in Ankara. İsmet İnönü, the first prime minister of Turkey, worked to improve the old Bomonti Beer Company. This created the first beer competition in Turkey.
The Turkish beer market experienced 20% growth from 2001 to 2005, with many international brands gaining popularity.
Efes Beverage Group, a subsidiary of Anadolu Group, is the largest producer of beer in Turkey, with approximately 80% of the market. Their main product line is called Efes Pilsen (5.0% ABV), after the Turkish name for the ancient city of Ephesus near the İzmir brewery. Efes also produces Efes Dark, Efes Light, Efes Extra, Bomonti and Marmara. Also, as of March 2005, Foster’s Lager has been brewed, marketed and distributed in Turkey through Efes Beverage Group. Efes exports to markets in Europe, Russia, the Caucasus region, the Middle East, Africa, and South-east Asia.
Efes also produce a Hefe Weiss and a Hefe Weiss Dunkel under the Gusta label. A further addition is the Efes Dark Brown which is flavored with coffee.
Türk Tuborg, a former subsidiary of the Danish Carlsberg/Tuborg group, also brews beer in Turkey under the Tuborg name, but is now owned by the Israeli Central Bottling Company (CBC). Danish Carlsberg is also popular in Turkey among other brands found internationally.
Another major brand, Tekel Birası, is known as the oldest producer of beer in Turkey (founded in 1890). It was a state monopoly brand until 2004. There is also Perge Pilsner managed by the Sural Group, and KHOFFNER Brewery company created by Rauf (Khoffner) Vagifoglu, which is located and mainly consumed in the Antalya province. There is also Diabrau, produced for the Dia supermarket chain.
- Atatürk’s Forest Farm Ale (inactive)
- Becks, by Efes
- Bomonti (first beer company in Turkey; nationalized by TEKEL, it was rebranded as Tekel Birası; now produced by Efes Pilsener with the original recipe)
- Bomonti, unfiltered versions
- Carlsberg, by Turk-Tuborg
- Dark, by Efes Pilsener (like ale)
- Dark Brown (coffee aromatized)
- Efes (lager, but with added rice and sugar)
- Efes Extra (high ABV)
- Foster’s Lager, by Efes Pilsener
- Gusta, by Efes Pilsener (wheat malt ale)
- Löwenbrau (once)
- Tuborg Gold
- Tuborg Kırmızı (Red) (high ABV)
- Marmara Gold, by Efes Pilsener (%4.1)
- Marmara Kırmızı (Red) (high ABV)
- Miller, by Efes Pilsener
- Pera 1a
- Pera Hefeweizer (once)
- Pera Kölsh (once)
- Pera Pilsener (once)
- Perge Pilsner, by Sural Group
- Vole (once)
- Osmanlı’da Bira, BirayaDair.com
- Robert Joseph, Roger Protz, Dave Broom. The Complete Encyclopedia of Wine Beer and Spirits. Carlton Books.New York: 2000. ISBN 1-84222-063-2