Today is the birthday of Johannes Karl Fix (February 24, 1832-1895). Johannes Karl Fix, which was probably Fuchs (for “Fox”) in his native Germany, was born in Freistadt, which at that time was part of Bavaria (but today is part of Austria). He founded the Fix Brewery in 1864 in Athens and was the first major brewery in Greece. “About 30 years earlier, his father had started brewing beer in Greece. As purveyor to the court of the Greek king, the company was able to maintain a monopoly position in the Greek market for about 100 years. After the bankruptcy of the company in 1983 and several failed attempts to revive it, Fix beer has been brewed again in its own brewery since 2009. The reason for this is the relatively high popularity of beer in Mediterranean countries.”
Here’s a history of the brewery, from Wikipedia:
The brewery founder’s father, Johann Adam Fix, a miner from Edelbach in Spessart, had followed the call of King Otto to Greece and had – like other Bavarians – settled in Iraklion near Athens. He was responsible in the management of the mines in Kymi, Euboea. Earlier, he had left his son Johann Georg behind with his mother. When Johann Georg traveled to his father at the age of twenty, he was to be picked up in Piraeus; but his father was murdered on the way by robbers. After the event, Johann Georg Fix was rescued in Iraklion, he stayed there and started to import barrels of beer from Bavaria. Later, he decided to produce beer himself and launched a small enterprise selling his home-made beer in Kolonaki (today a expensive and celebrated shopping area in the heart of Athens), which was a good place for socialising for the Athenian Bavarian community. Joseph von Ow, who was in the service of the Athenian royal court in 1837–39, wrote in his memoirs:
“The Bavarian compatriots have company among themselves. – A brewery has been in operation in Athens for two years and is being used heavily. Professor G. Everus from Oldenburg rightly notes how excellent it must be for a Bavarian soul to have his patriotic drink here – on the border of the Orient! A society – To the Green Tree – (with garden, bowling alley, stone beer steins, singing and loud conversations) reminds of the far bank of the Isar! “
Around 1840, the beer is said to have prevailed throughout Greece. Johann Ludwig’s son Karl Johann Fix (Karolos Ioannou Fix) in 1864 founded the Fix brewery in Athens, coinciding with the appointment of the next king of Greece, George I, from beer-loving Denmark. The new royal court encouraged Charles’s efforts, and Fix Company soon became the official purveyor to the Greek Royal Court, and has been the only major in the country till the middle of the 20th century. It was located at the foot of Lycabettus also in Kolonaki and competed with small breweries such as Gulielmos (Wilhelm) and imported beer from Trieste and Vienna (Schwechat). The German brewers (including Fix) are said to have barely met the demand for beer and “became wealthy in a short time.” Beer was therefore more expensive than wine. Around 1905, 89,000 hectoliters were produced in eleven breweries.
This is an account of the history of Greek brewing beginning with Fix’s brewery, from Food & Dining.
Modern brewing in Greece dates to the period just after Greece became independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1832 following a decade-long war of liberation. The new Mediterranean nation acquiesced to the persuasiveness of Europe’s empires, which paraphrased Frank Zappa by insisting that all real countries need a king in addition to beer and a football team.
So it was that a member of the Bavarian royal family set up court in Athens, soon to be followed by brewers and sausage makers. After all, all kings were not Bavarian, but all Bavarians (including their kings) needed beer and brats. Some things never change.
A Bavarian miner named Fix was among the early arrivals in Athens, intent on serving royalty by making money. He began dabbling in brewing, but it was his son Johann Karl Fix who founded the eponymous brewery in Athens in 1864.
By this point the Greek Royal Court had become Danish on grounds of Bavarian kingly ineptitude, but as we know Danes are beery to the core, and Fix the younger, being a well-read capitalist, began his pursuit of the new monarch’s favor. This quest resulted in the Fix brand becoming “official” purveyor to the royals, and subsequently a quasi-monopoly in Greek brewing for decades to come.
By the time of my 1985 visit to Greece, Fix was acknowledged as the must-drink Greek beer by all those who had preceded me on the backpacker’s circuit. But as I soon discovered, Fix no longer existed, having passed from the scene two years earlier following a multitude of setbacks.
The reasons for the decline of Fix in Greece were quite similar to those afflicting post-Prohibition family breweries in America. For one, bigger breweries (in Greece’s case, European multinationals) wanted a piece of the action and expended their resources to achieve it by hook or crook.
Also, the Fix family’s younger generations proved far less adept at brewery management than their elders had been. The Fix brewery also came to be seen as aligned with the right-wing military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 through 1974, and when the junta fell, paybacks were hell.
And this account is from The First Cemetery of Athens:
Tragically, Georg [Johannes Karl’s father] was shot and killed by robbers in 1862 while awaiting the arrival of his son Johannes from Bavaria. His grave can be found in Iraklio’s Roman Catholic cemetery. In spite of that terrible event, Johannes decided to remain in Greece. Informed sources have him working at the palace briefly, gaining the concession for the importation of ice from Mount Parnitha to Athens and/or apprenticing at the brewery of Melcher and then taking it over around 1864 when Mr. Melcher died. However much of that beginning is solid fact, it is true that he had begun his own small brewery and moved it from Paleo Iraklio to Kolonaki in the late 1860s. His business grew, partly because of hard work and partly because his beer had a reputation for consistent quality.