May 31, 2016

The winners of B'tsisa

It's a funny name for English speakers to pronounce, but the B'tsisa home-brewing competition is quite prestigious here in Israel.  Winning first place, or even a lesser medal, has been the impetus for some hesitant home-brewers to advance to more commercial production.  

Alex "Shmoo-Shmoo" Filimonov (left) joins
Bob Faber and the old blogger for a
glass of his Golden Pekko beer.
(Photo: Nick Vorontzov)
I recently attended the B'tsisa (which means "During Fermentation") mini-festival and award ceremony at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv with my friend Bob Faber, who is also a judge on the Israel Brews and Views Tasting Panel.

The competition this year was sponsored by the Beer & Beyond beer super-store and by the Protary Craft Beers import agency.  Not surprisingly, most of the beers being poured were from the sponsors: Rogue beers from the U.S., imported by Protary, and several beers brewed by staff members of Beer & Beyond.

Of the latter, I tasted two, both brewed by Alex Filimonov, affectionately known as Shmoo-Shmoo.  Both were excellent examples of India pale ales full of exciting hop flavors.  The first was the Shmoo Golden Pekko, brewed with Golden and Pekko hops, giving the beer a burst of tropical fruit tastes.  It reminded me of the old Juicy Fruit chewing gum.  (Is that still around?)  When the B'tsisa winners were announced, this beer took third place in the Freestyle category.  

Erez Adar with his shiny still.
Maybe it really is a saxophone.
The second IPA from Shmoo-Shmoo was the Shmoo Simcoe Single, made only with Simcoe hops.  The dominant aroma here was mango, and the taste was very bitter and piney.  Alex told me that he uses 300 grams of hops for a 20 liter batch.  Not surprisingly, the IBU (International Bittering Units) measurement is a hefty 82.  

Both of these beers are heavenly for hop-heavy beer lovers.  Unfortunately, you can't buy them anywhere.  They were made just for this festival and competition. 

Of the non-sponsoring exhibitors, there were only three.  One was TDM Professional Brewing Equipment, staffed by owner Erez Adar from Moshav Srigim.  He was standing next to something that looked like you could play in a band, but it was really a still.  It avoided all of the characteristic spirals of copper tubing.  All of the cooling and distillation is electronically controlled within one central pipe.

Oded and Moshit Gur promote
their DeDe Beer.
Next to him were standing Oded and Moshit Gur from Kfar Saba, home-brewers of beer with the DeDe label.  The only beer they were pouring that night was their American Amber, which had a very untypical taste for that style.  Redolent with caramel and berries, it ended with a tart aftertaste.  Actually, it was a very alluring beer.  I could have stayed there drinking, but the long lines at the next table drew me over to --   

Lior Degabli, who was pouring some of his delicious and highly original Baron's beers.  Just as I got there, he ran out of his amazing Double IPA, which I tasted previously, and his Chile Amber Ale, but some kind soul offered me a sip from his cup.  The only thing I remember is the little pepper explosion in the back of my throat.  This is not going to be anybody's go-to beer, but rather something you might want to try ever so rarely to add a little "pilpel" to your beer experience.

Lior Degabli at the popular
Baron's Beer table.
Other "quieter" beers, though no less tasty, that Lior was pouring included his Coffee Cardamon Stout (which lives up to its name in spades), Chocolate Robust Porter, Hazelnut Brown Ale, and Imperial Stout

It was the premier appearance of Baron's Hazelnut Brown Ale and it came in second place in the Hazelnut Brown category!  I was able to bring a bottle home and enjoy it far from the madding crowd.  True to its name, it pours out a lovely opaque brown with a thin head.  The aroma is strong chocolate and roasted barley.  These continue in the taste, along with a sweet, nutty and buttery flavor.  It's on the way to a stout, though the mouthfeel is much lighter and the finish is sweet.  The bottom line verdict: an excellent beer.  Two thumbs up!             

Always exciting to drink Baron's beers.  It's a shame they're not available in more beer and liquor stores.

Two of my favorite brewers:
Boaz Lanner of Lanner Beer, and
Niva Hermoni of MaiBEERovicz.
(Photo: Nick Vorontzov)
Shachar Hertz, owner of Beer & Beyond, gave us a word from our sponsors with a slide show of a new line of hop extracts now available in his store, and Rotem Bar Ilan plugged the different Rogue beers on sale in Israel.

Then, with great sound and light, Shachar Hertz emceed the awards ceremony to an appreciative audience.  The five categories were based on the different Rogue beers imported into Israel, plus a Freestyle category for all others, three Honorable Mentions, and a Best in Show.  In the interest of space, I'll only name the first-place winners, though Shachar did say that in several instances, the voting was very close.  

Brown Ale -- Tomer Corem, Bicyclist Brewery
Dead Guy Ale (inspired by the German Maibock style of lager) -- Tomer Corem, Bicyclist Brewery. 
Porter -- Tzion Sofer, Nail Brewery
India Pale Ale -- Yaron Rachamim and Zeev Stein, Lynx Brewery.
American Amber -- Ephraim Greenblatt, Bounteous Brewing.
Freestyle -- Imperial Stout, Yaron Rachamim and Zeev Stein, Lynx Brewery.  
Best in Show -- Imperial Stout, Yaron Rachamim and Zeev Stein, Lynx Brewery.   

Zeev Stein (left) and Yaron Rachamim
of Lynx Brewery, receive their
B'tsisa award at an earlier ceremony.
Yaron Rachamim of Lynx Brewery was definitely the star of the show.  His beers had won four prizes.  Yaron immediately called his partner Zeev Stein, who was sick at home, to tell him the good news.  Afterwards, Zeev told me that he and Yaron are both electrical engineers working in hi-tech companies.  "In fact, we were both working together in the same company a few years back after I had recruited him and was his boss," added Zeev.  

They have been brewing together for about two years, sometimes in Zeev's home in Holon and sometimes in Yaron's in Kfar Saba.  As soon as they started brewing, they entered their beers in the B'tsisa competition, winning a third place two years ago for their American Pale Ale, and a first place last year for their White (Wheat) IPA.  "This year, our Best-in-Show Imperial Stout is a strong 12% alcohol, made with two types of coffee and whisky-steeped vanilla beans, and aged for one year in the bottle," said Zeev.  Until I can get over to Zeev or Yaron, I'll just have to imagine the taste.

In spite of the overwhelming adulation of their peers, Zeev and Yaron have no plans to give up their day jobs and become commercial brewers.  "We enjoy experimenting with different beers and trying out new styles and ingredients," Zeev avers.  "No one is more critical of our beers than we ourselves, and we want just to maintain that high level and continue to enjoy our beer with family and friends."              
So, in the end, attending the B'tsisa ceremony was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, to taste some delicious beers and to re-connect with some old acquaintances.  Sadly, other than Shmoo-Shmoo's Golden Pekko and Baron's Hazelnut Brown Ale, I didn't get a chance to taste any of the prize-winning beers, since they weren't available.  I hope to be able to track some down in the future and to tell you about them.

Thanks to Beer & Beyond and Protary Craft Beers for thinking beyond today and for giving a boost to some of the best of our home-brewers.     

1 comment:

Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!