As I gave thought to my #beersoftheworldcup challenge, I knew that beer from some countries would be more difficult to source than other. Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, production, possession or distribution of any alcoholic beverages is illegal in Iran and punishable under Islamic law. It seemed that my challenge had just become much more difficult.
The earliest known chemical evidence of beer in Iran dates to circa 3500–3100 BC from the site of Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran, and there is evidence of beer-drinking over a long period in the Persian Empire. Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, most of the breweries in Iran have switched from producing alcoholic beers to non-alcoholic malt beverages with Istak and Delster being the most popular brands being consumed across the old Persian Empire.
Now that I knew that there was an Iranian option available, I just had to find a bottle. As luck would have it, I work with an Iranian lad who pointed me in the direction of Middle Eastern grocer, Babylon Foods in Glasgow as a likely outlet to help satisfy my non-alcoholic malt beverage needs.
Istak is a non-alcoholic malt beverage brewed in Iran from top-quality Bavarian malt and using the latest German technology. The non-alcoholic brew is available in a variety of natural flavours to suit almost every palate, from lovers of quality malt beverage to those who enjoy fruit-flavored beverage. After a little advise from the friendly Babylonian, I decided to take home a bottle of the lemon flavour Istak and scored Iran from my list.
The Istak pours with a very thin head that disappears very quickly. With a deep copper colour, the beverage was lively in the glass with good carbonation, whilst faint aromas of malt and molasses are easy to identify. The Istak actually tasted ok, although more like ice tea rather than a proper beer - in fact, I believe that on a hot day, the Istak would be great served over ice as a refreshing cooler.
As a non-alcoholic drink, Istak is one of the better tasting alcohol free brews that I have tasted but just not something that I would buy in the future as an alternative to beer.
Keep up to date with my progress on Twitter as I try to complete my challenge and you can also let me know which Iranian beers you would pick, using the hashtag #beersoftheworldcup