January 2, 2014

Beer Festivals for 2014

Israeli beer festivals are great fun.  Not only do you get to taste a lot of different beers, but the whole atmosphere becomes one of a big party, including music and food.  Everyone becomes friendly; introverts offer you advice without being asked; conversations with strangers begin naturally and easily.  If you think the beer has anything to do with it, you're right.  Beer has been the socializing drink for, what, over 6,000 years.

Bringing friends together for 6,000 years:
Babylonian beer drinkers.


What about wine?  Also a social drink, but wine is polite conversation, quiet laughter, dainty sips, holding your wine glass up high so others can see it.  Beer is letting your hair down with real friends, using the malt and hops to help you pry out discussions that really matter.  I'm generalizing here, of course, but wine interacts with people; beer connects them.   

And so it is with beer festivals.  Not only are they great social events, but they also give beer lovers an opportunity to try all the new (and some old) Israeli craft beers in one place.   

I wanted to tell you what to expect in 2014, like, "you read it here first."  Even though I found out it's still too early for the actual dates, this is what I do know about the four major public events.

TA Beer Festival in the winter vs. . . .
Tel Aviv "BEERS 2014" Exhibit -- These have been held in the Nokia Stadium in the winter, the last one being in January 2013.  However, the next one has been postponed until September 2014.  Write that in your calendar.  I agree with this decision by the organizers, the Ben Ami Studio.  Beer festivals should be in the summer.  It was terrible showing up at Nokia with a heavy, soaked winter coat that I had to carry around from stand to stand.  Beer festivals should also be outside -- but I understand that might be a problem in Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem Beer Festival - "Ir Habira" -- The last one was in Independence Park, a great improvement over the parking lot of the First Train Station!  Eli the organizer told me that this year's will also be in Independence Park, sometime in August. He said that this will be the tenth year of the Jerusalem Beer Festival and, to celebrate, a number of the city's bars and restaurants will be offering specials.
 . . . Jerusalem Beer Festival in the summer.

One other note: Last summer's Jerusalem Festival divided the brewers into two groups, with the "bigger" ones on the high ground, and the start-ups bunched together and sharing tables in the lower area.  I understand they had to pay very little, if anything, for their space.  For the major brewers, you had to pay for the beer, but the start-ups were giving it away for free.  As you can imagine, these new guys were inundated by mobs of people and it was difficult to even reach their tables.  Their supplies of beer soon ran out.  Although I think it's a good idea to give new breweries exposure to the public, and it should be continued, I would hope there's a way to avoid the mob scenes in the future.  Don't ask me how.                        

Beer buddies are the best kind.
Mateh Yehuda Rustic Beer Festival  -- I must admit: this is my favorite.  They have struck just the right balance between location, atmosphere, food, music and beer.  It's held at the intersection near Srigim and Givat Yeshayahu, in a lovely wooded area.  Last summer, they hosted nine breweries from the Mateh Yehuda region (an impressive number of craft breweries in such a concentrated area) and five "guest" breweries from elsewhere in the country.  The Mateh Yehuda tourist organization told me that the next festival will also be in August.    

Beer City Festival in Haifa -- Don't look for Israeli boutique beers at this festival.  It's sponsored by Tempo Beer Industries, brewers of Goldstar and Maccabi, and those, along with some foreign beers which Tempo imports (such as Heineken, Paulaner, Murphy's and Samuel Adams), are the only brews available.  There is good music, though, since with Goldstar as its backer, it has the budget to get some of the biggest names in Israeli popular music.   It takes place on the Students Beach and, alone among beer festivals, entrance is free.  This helps explain why it draws the largest crowds by far of any Israeli beer festival. 

By the way, the Beer Festival in Haifa started out 20 years ago as the Goldstar Beer Festival, opening at the Tel Aviv Port.  It moved over to Charles Clore Park near Jaffa (where I attended it a couple of times), and then after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, moved to Haifa as a show of solidarity with the residents of the North.             

The secretary at the Haifa Tourism Board laughed when I asked for the exact date.  "That's all the way off in the summer," she said.

Paying for tickets at the Jerusalem Beer Festival.
One more word about beer festivals.  The best ones, in my opinion, may charge a fee for admission -- but then you get all the tastes you want for free, or for a token charge for each.  At the last Jerusalem Beer Festival, you had the absurd situation of having to pay an entrance fee and then found that the big brewery stands were forbidden to sell tastes.  You had to buy, in most instances, full glasses of beer.  This is kind of stupid since it negates the reason most of us go to beer festivals in the first place -- to sample many different beers, rather than just to get smashed.  So festival organizers, please take note: Let us have our tastes.

So, as 2014 begins and with the summer festivals only eight or so months away, I wish everyone a Happy Brew Year!                        


6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info, waiting for summer already, Happy Brew Year!!

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  2. This post has been including in the Shiloh Musings: Bo בא Come! Havel Havelim and the Sh'vat Kosher Cooking Carnival.  Please check out the carnival, visit/read the other blogs, link and share, thanks.

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  3. Yitzchak Miskin1/05/2014

    Of course, the one festival MISSING from the list is the fabled Kibbutz Maabarot festival. It was awesome when it existed. Maybe it'll come back? Are you going to check into it?

    And lastly, for all the other readers, that is sweat dripping down my shirt on that 40 degree evening, and not spilt beer!

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  4. Was the Tel-Aviv Beer Festival postponed to October29-30th?

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    Replies
    1. Petal,
      I'm sorry to say that you missed it. The BEERS 2014 Exhibit was held in Tel Aviv on September 9-11. If you go through some more recent posts on my blog, you'll see that I reported about that date more than once. About the festivals in 2015, I'll report on those as soon as I get the information.

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    2. Petal,
      I stand corrected. Apparently a German beer maker is sponsoring an "Oktoberfest" in Tel Aviv on October 22-23 and 29-30. You can read more about it here:
      http://www.touristisrael.com/oktoberfest-tel-aviv/14213/

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