Welcome to Malta

Although they’re rarely seen outside their domestic market, Maltese breweries such as Lord Chambray have earned a stellar reputation among their international peers. Charlotte Cook learns more about the tiny craft powerhouse in the middle of the Med.


Malta is a classic holiday destination; sun soaked, delicious carbohydrates (the small pastizzi, ricotta filled pasties for sale for 50p all over) on every street corner, beautiful churches, and the lasting legacy of the many cultures who have occupied the islands since antiquity. It is also a wonderful destination for beer, with several craft breweries dotted around the country, using local ingredients, and keeping the people of Malta (and the many visitors) well hopped. Maltese people like good food, and traditional snails and rabbit are a signature of many restaurants. They also like good wine and excellent beer, with many dedicated craft beer bars in Valletta, such as the brilliant 67 Kapitali, a stone’s throw from the Carmelite Oratory, whose vast dome dominates the skyline of the city. In Malta you can get great beer, with friendly and attentive service, and have an experience you will not experience anywhere else.

Let’s talk about Cisk

Every Mediterranean holiday destination has its signature beer: cañas of Estrella in Spain, bottles of Mythos in Greece, frothy pints of KEO in Cyprus, and whatever Italian thing marketed with a little man with a beard is popular continent-wide now. These beers have a place, both as refreshment and as fuel for the marauding bands of bar-hopping tourists. Malta is no different, and its national brand of lager is Cisk (pronounced Chisk), produced on the outskirts of Valletta by Farsons, which has been the biggest brewer in Malta since 1928. Farsons also produce non-alcoholic, low carbohydrate and shandy versions of Cisk, as well as an IPA, lactose stout, amber ale, and the incredibly refreshing soft drink Kinnie. 

Beer has been drunk in Malta since before 1928 of course. Like many small nations in strategically significant locations, Malta has passed through the hands of many other countries and organisations, all of whom brought their own tastes, traditions and products to the island. Beer was certainly widely available in Malta following the British occupation. Once the British had ousted Napoleon they established Malta as a naval base, using the well placed natural harbour and fortifications that had been built up over the centuries, but also bringing in British sailors who required their ration of beer. In 1880, the brewery H&G Simmonds in Reading began to ship beer to Malta for the stationed servicemen, and continued to supply the nation during the First World War, when many injured soldiers were sent to Malta to recover. H&G Simmonds merged with Farsons in 1929, and acquired the Cisk brand in 1948. 

Farsons claims that the original recipe for Cisk is still employed today, and you can visit the brewery. For a beer enthusiast, seeing the vast copper vessels from the 1950s, still producing beer daily, is a worthwhile expedition. 

The plant is flooded with natural light from the huge bay window surrounding the brew kit, and the tours are led by industry veterans, who know the brewery and the beer inside out. Following the tour you go up to Cisk Tap, a rooftop bar, for a complimentary pint. Beer always tastes the best from the brewery, and Cisk is a fresh, classic lager. It’s well carbonated, with just the right amount of noble hop character. This might be Big Beer, but it’s Small Island Big Beer; there’s obvious care and pride that goes into making Cisk, as the gleaming copper brewing vessels attest. 

Copper used to be the standard material used for making brewing vessels, as it helps to reduce sulphur compounds and is malleable and strong, perfect for the heat and stress of a brewhouse. Modern breweries tend to be more sterile-looking, as stainless steel lacks the inherent warmth that copper possesses. Here the old vessels are maintained and used daily; copper requires frequent polishing, so this in itself is an impressive undertaking. 

Get ahead, get a bus

Malta has some of the highest levels of car ownership in Europe, and the roads are busy, making buses by far the best way to get about as a tourist. Historically, the buses here were run as a private enterprise, where anyone with a vehicle and a licence could set up a bus route, parking the bus outside their homes at night. Buses would pass from father to son, and the brightly coloured vehicles became a symbol of Malta, often with a protective shrine next to the driver’s cabin, just for a bit of extra luck. Many of these old buses were rickety, belching out fumes into the small streets, and many were actually repurposed former British military vehicles with the bus infrastructure simply welded on top. 

With public transport infrastructure seeing notable development from 2011 onwards, these colourful buses saw a sharp decline in use. While the government run system is definitely more reliable, you can still experience Old Malta, as some of the old buses have been refurbished and are running their old routes as tourist attractions. 

Lord Chambray Brewery

Gozo is the second island of Malta and there is a very excellent brewery there; Lord Chambray Brewery in Xewkija offers tours and has a tap room, and is on the meandering bus route from the ferry terminal. The brewery was shut down for a winter break when I visited, but I was able to try the beer elsewhere in Malta, and was blown away by how consistently good and interesting the beer was. 

Lord Chambray Brewery was founded in 2014 by the D’Imperio family, and was the first craft brewery in Malta. It focuses almost exclusively on the domestic market, producing a year-round offering of six core beers, with two perennial seasonals and regular one-offs. There is a clear British influence, with Grand Harbour best bitter and San Blas English IPA, but there is also Fungus Rock American stout and Blue Lagoon witbier. These are available on keg and in bottle, as well as the occasional cask. 

The seasonal beers consist of a rose gose brewed with wild caper flowers foraged on Gozo, and a spiced winter ale made with local carob honey. The specials range from a prickly pear IPA to peach sour ales. Lord Chambray has also invested in a centrifuge to take production and quality control to the next level. 

Lord Chambray clearly take great pride in showcasing Maltese ingredients. When you’re driving around the island, the prickly pear bushes are impossible to miss, and in the summer prickly pear juice is available from street stalls. Malta has a unique flora and climate, and being so small it is possible to collect wild ingredients relatively easily. The use of flowers and honey in Lord Chambray beers really does set them apart, making them distinctly Maltese in a market that is dominated by American influenced flavours. Their beer is excellent and should be sought out. 

The Brew

The Brew is the only brewery in the Central region of Malta, and offers up to 23 different kinds of beer, from alcohol-free pale ales to oak smoked wheat beer and a hefeweizen. The award-winning food menu is American BBQ-inspired, with unlimited wing evenings and meat platters. The beers we tried were all good, but the standout is undoubtedly the Valletta lager; amber, with a bright and refreshing aroma. Come here for a flight of four half pints of The Brew’s on-site brewed beer, see how many chicken wings you can consume, and watch the harbour go by. 


Huskie brewery is another with a strong presence in Malta, based in Qrendi in the south of the country, and still run out of a garage. Launched in 2021 by two friends who had been home brewing since 2017, Huskie offers bottle conditioned American-style beer. We tried the Old Boy, an oak aged APA, which at 4.6% didn’t quite have enough backbone to stand up to the wood tannins, but it’s an interesting idea, well-executed and unique among the Maltese beer scene. We also tried the 5% Mosaic pale ale which was very pleasant, with a strong Mosaic character and clean Maris Otter malt profile. 

The standout beer from Huskie was the Alpha IPA. Coming in at 6% and hopped throughout the boiling process in the style of 60 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head, this beer is a really good traditional American IPA. Piney and clean, with a pronounced and lingering bitterness, this is the sort of beer that made me interested in brewing in 2011, and whenever I come across one I regain that sense of excitement and intrigue that I experienced when I was 22. The Chaos stout is also a strong contender; a 5.8% traditional style stout that balances residual sweetness with the drying effect of the roasted malt. 

There are some venues in Valletta and beyond that have Huskie on draft, but the Why Not? bar on the steeply sloping Santa Lucjia’s Street in the heart of Valletta is a perfect place to sit outside and drink in the sun. The almost perilous angle of the rickety chair outside works well as a natural way to mediate how much you drink, as many Huskie beers weigh in on the heftier side; once you feel yourself starting to tip, it’s a good time to head elsewhere. 

For those who don’t want to risk a tumble down the steep steps of Valletta, Malta has its own soft drink, a bitter orange flavoured soda called Kinnie. Originally developed in 1952 as a domestic alternative to sickly sweet imported pop, and largely unchanged since then, Kinnie is a firm Maltese favourite. It tastes almost like an alcohol free negroni, and is distinctly bitter and challenging, in contrast to the easy sweetness of Coca-Cola. There is an alcoholic version too, called Kinnie Spritz, but nothing quite blows the cobwebs away from a night of too many Maltese beers than a delicious can of Kinnie. 

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