June 21, 2017

Winners of the LongShot and Golden Beer competitions

Last week the winners were announced of two prestigious brewing competitions in Israel:
The Samuel Adams LongShot competition for home-brewers and the
Golden Beer 2017 for commercial craft brewers.

13th Annual Samuel Adams LongShot

Sergei Lekach (center) is awarded
Best in Show at the
Samuel Adams LongShot competition.
The Samuel Adams LongShot contest is the oldest in Israel for home-brewers and it has given impetus to several of them to take their brewing to the next level -- whatever that may be.  It's sponsored by Samuel Adams Beer in Boston and Tempo Beer Industries in Israel, and is under the professional direction of the Beer-D center in Tel Aviv.

I'll just list the winners here because 1) they haven't been announced in English yet, and 2) I haven't tasted any of them. 

Best in Show
Coffee Oatmeal Stout -- Sergei Lekach

Pale Ale
First:  American Pale Ale -- Yair Livne, Yair's Beer
Second:  Sweet Blond -- Sagi Schonewald, Opi's Brewery 
Third:  Oceanside -- EzRa

Dark Ale
First:  Coffee Oatmeal Stout -- Sergei Lekach
Second:  Red Red -- Amir Shalev
Third:  Dab-Lin -- Emanuel Zeidman and Avi Riji

First:  Czech Pilsner -- Boaz Lanner
Second:  Black Bavaria -- Emanuel (Mano) Peled
Third:  Smoked Lager -- Nachum Haver

First:  Beet Beer -- Nachum Haver
Second:  Ad Hoc -- Nimrod Rotem
Third:  My First Berliner Weisse -- Motti Tzukerman

Golden Beer 2017

From the eldest to the youngest: The first Golden Beer competition awarded 26 prizes to 97 beers that took part.  (That's better than a one-in-four chance of winning something.)  These had to be commercial beers, that is, produced by brewers with a legal production license.  The organizer was the Ben Ami Studio, the same agency which produces the annual BEERS Exhibit in Tel Aviv.  

Cynics would say that the organizers were getting in on the wave of beer competitions which seem to be springing up all over the place.  I'm not (much of) a cynic, but I naturally recoil from calling the winners, as the competition's PR did, "the best beers in Israel."  A little humility is in order, as is a little space for beer lovers to decide for themselves.

That being said, the winners are still to be congratulated for being judged by a jury of their peers and succeeding.    

Here, then, are the winners of the Golden Beer 2017 competition:

Light Lager
First:  Pils -- Jem's
Second:  Pils -- Sheeta
Third:  Pils -- Buster's

Amber / Dark Lager
First:  Double Bock -- Bazelet (Golan Brewery)
Second: Dark Lager --Jem's

Pale Ale
First:  Patriot -- Dancing Camel
Second:  Pale Ale -- Shapiro
Third:  Pale Ale -- Mosco

First: Gorgeous New England -- Joya
Second:  IPA -- Sheeta
Third:  Pressure Drop -- HaShachen

First:  Wheat -- Mosco
Second:  Wheat -- Shapiro
Third:  Wheat -- Sheeta

Belgian Style
First:  Red Belgian Ale -- Barzel
Second:  Belgian Tripel -- Emek Ha'ela

Porter / Stout
First:  Dark Beer -- Malka
Second:  Midnight Stout -- Dancing Camel
Third:  Oatmeal Stout -- Shapiro
Third:  Porter Alon -- Negev
Third: Stout -- Jem's

Flavored Beer
First:  Smoked Beer -- Mosco
Second:  Gordon Beach Blond -- Dancing Camel
Third: Jack's Winter Ale -- Shapiro
Third:  Olde Papa -- Dancing Camel

First:  Sweet Cider -- Buster's

Sheeta goes commercial with 3 new beers

A familiar scene: Neta and Jean Torgovitsky
presenting their beers at a local beer festival.
People who have been attending local beer festivals in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the past seven years or so probably have met Jean and Neta Torgovitsky.  This home-brewing couple from Beersheva have been pouring their excellent beers under the Sheeta ("Acacia Tree") label.

I've had a chance to meet them a few times and was impressed by their mastery of a range of different beer styles.  Their fellow brewers have been no less enthusiastic.

So it was with great expectations that I greeted the announcement six months ago that Jean and Neta had opened up their own commercial-size brewery in Arad.  "We thought we were doing something right," Jean explains.  "Our beers were winning prizes and getting very good reviews, so we decided to take the step into full-time commercial brewing."

Jean mixes beer into the cement
while he works on the new
Sheeta Brewery in Arad
before its opening.
This is an old Belgian tradition
which is believed to strengthen
the construction! 
They chose Arad because they were able to get facilities in the Industrial Park and also within the Artists' Quarter.  "It's a beautiful place to be in," adds Jean.  "We just had a graffiti festival where street artists drew beautiful pictures on our outside walls.  Later this month, we plan to open a beer garden in our courtyard."

The first three commercial Sheeta beers can be found in beer specialty stores and many liquor stores carrying Israeli craft beers, in addition to pubs in Tel Aviv, Beersheva and Arad.  They also brewed up a batch of Pilsner which won second place in the Light Lager category in the recently announced Golden Beer 2017 competition, but this has been sold out.

(In the same contest, their new IPA won second place in the IPA category, and the Weissbier took third prize in the Wheat Beer category.  I'll write more about the Golden Beer competition in a future post.)  

The Sheeta Weissbier is a 4.8% alcohol German wheat beer.  It pours out a very cloudy dark-pale color with a creamy white head.  The aroma is very typical for wheat beers, with notes of clove and banana, but you also get some yeast bread and refreshing new-cut grass.  The taste is very strong on citrus fruits, peach and banana candy, with a long finish of bitter lemon.

This is a wonderfully refreshing beer for the summer, even if you are not, like me, a big fan of wheat beers.  It goes well with most light foods such as salads, vegetable dishes, hummus, mild cheeses and fruit desserts.

The three new Sheeta beers:
Weissbier, Oak Aged Dry Stout and IPA.
The Sheeta India Pale Ale (IPA) avoids the extreme hoppy flavors and bitterness which have become the hallmarks of this style.  This makes it the perfect beer for those who are just beginning to try IPAs.  The light copper color is a little hazy, with a creamy off-white head.  The aroma is subdued; no aggression from the hops, but grapefruit and caramel.  The taste is only mildly bitter with some banana and caramel, with citrus, tropical fruits and yeast in the background.  With a light body and a very refreshing and dry finish, you want to take another gulp, and another.  And with the alcoholic content at 5.8%, you can let yourself have a second bottle and still get up from the chair.

Pair this IPA with stronger and spicy foods like chilies and curries.  Also excellent with pizza. 

Continuing with moderation and balance is the Sheeta Oak Aged Dry Stout.  The color is almost black, with a miniscule tan head.  Dark chocolate, coffee and roasted malts are the immediate aromas, and they do go very well together.  The taste is medium sweet, with more cocoa, coffee and roasted malt.  The beer is really a dry stout in the Irish tradition (4.3% alcohol), with a medium body, very little carbonation and a very dry, astringent finish.  As the name says, this beer is aged with oak chips, but it's beyond my pay scale to fathom how this affects the beer.

Dry stout is perfect for balancing the sweetness of grilled vegetables like onions and mushrooms, and for cheddar cheese and rich desserts.

The debut of Sheeta beers on the Israeli market demonstrates again that the public's thirst for craft beers hasn't been quenched.  If you brew it right, they will drink.

June 13, 2017

Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair -- Part Two: The Home-Brewers

[See Part One: The Commercial Brewers here.]

The next morning there were eight home-brewers who had come to serve their beers.  These and many more had entered their beers in the first Beerateinu home-brewers competition and they were hoping to bring home a prize.

To our fortune, two of the brewers there won first prizes, including Best-in-Show, so I was able to taste some winning beers.

Winners should go first, so I'll begin with those who won in each category.

Best-in-Show and
American & Strong Ales

Yoav Tal with his three awards, including
Best-in-Show for his Pale Ale. 

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Yoav Tal from Ein Karem near Jerusalem, won for his Pale Ale, which he calls Zahav Parvayim ("Fine Gold" in Hebrew).  Yoav has been home-brewing for about three years and has dedicated the last year to experimenting with pale ales, which are his favorite.  He prefers these to some of the ultra-hoppy IPAs, whose taste he compares to "eating hop pellets."  Zahav Parvayim is the result of this work, and he's delighted that his efforts earned him Best-in-Show.  Yoav has a Ph.D. in Computational Neuroscience from Hebrew University and is doing research in that area.  Don't ask me to tell you what it is.    

Zahav Parvayim pours a light gold color and packs a delicious punch of hop aromas.  The flavor, however, is lighter on the hops and stronger with malt, offering fruits (possibly raisins), citrus and caramel.  It has a crisp and bitter finish, perfect for this pale ale.  Yoav estimates the alcoholic volume to be 6% to 6.5%.  Even though this is a winning recipe, Yoav says he will continue to experiment and tweak it to achieve even better results.          

By the way, Yoav also submitted a Saison-style beer which won second prize in the Classic European category.  It was brewed with carrot and fennel, which sounds interesting, but I must admit that I found the taste to be more like a classic wheat ale than a saison.

British Ales

Daniel Strauss of Jerusalem took first place in both of these categories, with his Oatmeal Stout and his Irish Red (I'm not sure how the Irish would like being included in the British Ales category!).  He has only been home-brewing for about six months.

Daniel Strauss, winner of two first prizes,
introduces the old blogger to his beers.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Daniel told me that his Oatmeal Stout was based on a basic recipe he received from Shmuel Naky, co-owner of Beerateinu, with the addition of "some old malt extract that I found lying around my place.  That makes it kind of hard to repeat."

Since I didn't have a chance to taste the original winner, it means I probably never will.  Daniel says, however, that he is trying to replicate it as close as possible to the original in order to brew it regularly.  About his Irish Red, I may still get a chance to taste it, since he does brew it on a regular basis because "it's in demand by family and friends."

No one is more surprised than Daniel that his only two entries in this competition won first prizes.  "For me," he says, "the main thing was getting together with other people who love to brew beer, drinking some good beers with them, and getting some very helpful feedback from the judges."

The two other first prize winners who were not there were Yisrael Atlow (Safhal Brewery) whose Lager won in the Classic European category, and Aleksey Radionov whose Pinocchio (a blend of Imperial stout and Saison styles) took home the gold in the Freestyle category.

Among the other brewers on display were:

Bashir Assad's three beers on display.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Bashir Assad (yes, that's his name!) of Jerusalem, calls his home-brewery Hops & Stones.  He was serving his English Bitter Ale, Ginger Ale, and an amazing Arabic Coffee Stout, brewed with cardamon and Arabic coffee. He shoulda been a contender.

Dor Chen of Jerusalem, who had a surprising smoky beer made with Lapsang Souchong tea and molasses.  It was a stroke of genius, I thought, as the naturally smoky tea added just enough acidity and smoky flavor to the beer.  Another "shoulda-been," as far as I'm concerned.

Yedidya Revach (right) and girlfriend Shai
with the award for their Smoked Stout.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Yedidya Revach and his girlfriend Shai, calling themselves the Yedid ("Friend") Brewery.  Yedidya is from Mitzpe Netofa in the Lower Galilee, and has been home-brewing for 5 1/2 years.  They were serving a gluten-free beer, where the gluten was chemically removed from the barley, a Smoked Stout (which won second prize in the Freestyle category) and a Smoked Light Stout.

Sarel Rich from Moshav Ora near Jerusalem has a home meadery he calls Sar-Ale.  He makes several kinds of mead (honey-based liquors) and was serving two: One included kumquats and the other in which he he used hops for the first time.  An interesting innovation,

Comrades Dimitry and Sergei (maybe that's why
they're dressed in red!) and Josh Golbert
pouring their home-brews.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The Comrades Brewery (Dimitry and Sergei of Jerusalem) were next, with their Gold Ale which won second prize in the British Ales category.  It was not very hoppy and on the sweetish side.

Last up was the team of Josh Golbert (originally from LA, now from Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem) and Arnon Turner (from Kfar Bin Nun in the Ayalon Valley).  They were offering a Pale Ale, a Milk Stout, an Abbey Wheat with apple cider, and a Belgian Blond Ale.

By choosing to exhibit at the Fair, these home-brewers have taken a brave step which opens themselves up to criticism, while bringing their beers to the public.  We wish them all success -- and congratulations to the winners.    

June 4, 2017

Two more June festivals

Here we go again!  Beer festivals are continuing to pop up all over the country.  They're not even waiting for the summer.  Here are two more for this month.

The Israel Beer Festival
June 6-7

In just another few days, another beer festival will open at the Train Station (Hatachana) in the Neveh Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv.  Despite its rather overarching name, this is the first attempt at a beer festival by the event production team of Arnon Sofer and Sagi Epstein of Gold Productions.  

I asked Arnon why he thought Tel Aviv needed another beer festival just a few months before the huge annual BEERS Exhibit opens in the same location.

"They have beers from Israel and from all over the world," Arnon explained.  "We will only have Israeli craft beers on display.  We will give Israeli beers the respect that is due to them."

Okay, fair enough.  But I wonder if that is a big enough difference to get the crowds that they need to be successful.  We'll know in a few days.

The Israeli Beer Festival will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, June 7 and 8, opening at 7:00 p.m. each night.  Tickets cost 70 shekels at the box office, which includes five beer tastings.  If you order the tickets ahead of time online, the price drops to 53 shekels (order at https://www.baligam.co.il/search or www.tixwise.co.il/israbeer-fest).  If you have a digital Tel Aviv Residents card, the price is only 47 shekels.  Any questions about tickets, etc., can be directed to Arnon at 052-620-7297.    

The Israel Beer Festival is under the patronage of Bazelet Beer (Golan Brewery).  As of now, the following breweries will be displaying:

Srigim (Ronen and Emek Ha'ela)   
The Dictator
HeChatzer (Back Yard Beer)
More information at: https://www.facebook.com/beerfestisrael/

Hod HaSharon Beer Park Festival
June 28-29

The first beer festival in Hod HaSharon will be held Wednesday and Thursday, June 28 and 29, at the Four Seasons Park.  The festival opens each day at 6:00 p.m.and entrance is free.  The organizers, BarDan Productions, promise over 40 kinds of beer from Israel and abroad, booths for street food and other items for sale, and live music.  It is being billed as a festival for students, families, and all those to whom beer gives a smile!

If you like beer and live in or around Hod HaSharon, this festival is meant for you.  

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/drinkbeersavewater2/  

I'll end with a few suggestions about beer festivals: Don't try to attend every festival that pops up.  There will be a lot of them this season; a lot more than last summer.  Have fun, but pace yourself.  Make arrangements with friends for getting together and getting home safely with a designated driver or public transportation.  Here are some links to articles which give you advice on how to get the most enjoyment out of beer festivals. 

June 1, 2017

20 hours at the Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair -- Part 1: The Commercial Brewers

Whew!  If it wasn't for the beer, it would be overkill.  I spent 20 hours at the Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair at the First Station  -- well, pausing only to go home to get some sleep.  Beginning at 6:00 p.m., I made the rounds of the commercial micro-brewers, tasting seven of their new beers.  Then, the following morning. I was back to sample the wares of home-brewers who had entered the Beerateinu home-brewing competition, staying until around 2:00 p.m.  Like I said, 20 hours.

The Fair and the brewing competition were both organized by the dynamic and knowledgeable co-owners of Beerateinu, Shmuel Naky and Leon Shvartz.

The Commercial Brewers

For the evening sessions, Shmuel and Leon asked the exhibiting brewers to bring something "new" for the Fair.  A great idea.  Otherwise, returning attendees merely get to taste the same beers they had at the previous Fair.  (Of course, for new visitors, particularly those being introduced to craft beer for the first time, this is not a problem.)

Joined by photographer Mike Horton and Esteemed Judge Bob Faber, I began my promenade.

The first smiling face we encountered was Yotam Baras, serving his Dictator beers.  In addition to his core beers (English Bitter, Pale Ale, Irish Red and Porter), Yotam was offering Experience 01, an "experimental" bottled beer that blended the Belgian Double and IPA styles.  What can I say?  It was certainly a successful experiment, in fact, the best new beer I tasted that evening.  It was complex and rich, malty, sweet and bitter -- in suitable proportions.

Made with Chinook, Amarillo and Willamette hops, the 6.5% ABV beer poured a very dark brown and had an aroma of caramel and some fruit, possibly cherries.  The taste was on the sweet side, spicy and alcoholic -- definitely more Double than IPA.  Though there was no taste of hops or yeast that I could detect, there was a gentle chocolate malt that I found yummy.  The finish was bitter and dry.

Bottom line: a new and different beer that is definitely worth trying, and as I said, is available in bottles at most beer specialty stores.

One stand away was another experimental beer on tap, from the Fass Brewhouse on the Golan Heights, served by Hagai Fass, one of the brother-partners.  This beer was named Shaike, a 3.8% ABV light lager in the Pilsner style.  It was indeed light and refreshing, with a neutral taste that would go well with many foods, or with none.

Hagai told me that he and his brother Orr have been brewing beers that they themselves like -- something you hear from many other brewers.  Shaike, on the other hand, Hagai said, "may not be to our taste, but it's a beer that other people love."  And, I suppose, light lagers will never go out of style, but in my opinion, it's the stronger and more complex tasting beers that are firing the craft beer renaissance in Israel and elsewhere.

Next door was the booth of the Glen Whisky Bar, a Jerusalem establishment owned by Leon Shvartz, who is also the Beerateinu guy.  His partner in Beerateinu, Shmuel Naky, is quite a beer conoisseur and a talented brewer in his own right.  Shmuel was offering anew beer he just made, on sale at the Glen Whisky Bar, called Glengili.  It was a dunkelweizen, a dark wheat beer, made with caramel malt and 60% wheat malt.  Shmuel never ceases to amaze me.  Glengili is a rich, complex beer with bready aroma and a taste that reminded me of chocolate French toast -- even though I never had chocolate French toast!  

The new Barzel Ruby Wheat.
Yair Alon of Barzel Beer (contract brewed at the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach) greeted us next.  You can find Barzel now in plenty of beer and liquor stores.  The original beer is a Belgian-style strong ale which is constantly being tweaked by Yair and his co-brewers, Ori Granot and Idan Talyas, and, it seems to me, just keeps getting better.

The current version is a 6% ABV Belgian Red Ale, reflected in its dark red amber color with almost no head.  The aroma is a promising fruity and yeasty, and indeed the taste is creamy sweet with spices and cooked fruit, reminding me almost of those winter holiday ales with pumpkin pie spices.  The finish, however, turns bitter and lasts long, with a very smooth texture and thick body.  I call this a delicious beer, though my drinking partner Moshe thought that it "tried to do too much in one beer."

The new beer being unveiled this night by Barzel, however, was a Ruby Wheat, which is now available where Barzel is sold.  As its name says, Ruby Wheat has a hint of a reddish hue, a result of red caramel malt.  Yair said that the malt also adds sweetness to the beer, but I was hard pressed to find that.  What I tasted was a classic German wheat beer, 5.5% ABV -- with a little color added to its cheeks.

It pours a very cloudy burnt orange color, and has a fresh wheat beer aroma -- cloves and banana -- but also some caramel and grass.  You get more caramel and yeast in the taste, along with some berry and sharp spice.  Moshe thought there were some notes of oatmeal in there as well.  The finish is mid-bitter, very dry and refreshing.  Since I am not a fan of wheat beers to begin with, I was not very impressed with this beer.  The Barzel original is much more to my taste!

Hophead -- the new
American IPA from
HeChatzer Brewery
(Back Yard Beer).
Next in line was HeChatzer Brewery (Back Yard Beer), manned by Yochai Maytal, one of the three partners.  HeChatzer currently markets only one other beer on a regular basis: Kruso, an American pale ale brewed with mango at the Srigim Brewery.

Their new beer tonight was Hophead, a 6.8% American IPA, now on sale in beer stores.  It's a "limited edition" -- they only made one batch, so when the bottles run out, that's it.  The HeChatzer brewers started making IPA as a home-brew years ago.  It even won first place in the IPA category of the B'tsisa competition in 2013, before I began writing this blog.  But Yochai assured me that this early version was very different from today's Hophead.

In Yochai's opinion, Hophead avoids the extreme bitterness that is so popular in IPAs today.  "It's much more for first-timers whom we don't want to frighten away," he says.  "People who haven't tried IPA yet."

Unfortunately, that was not my tasting experience.        

Hophead pours out the color and clarity of ginger ale.  You're hit immediately by the powerful citrus and pine aromas from the hops (Citra and Cascade), nuanced with grapefruit and grassy notes.  There's also juicy citrus fruits and mango in the taste, but these have to compete too hard with the bitterness.  This seems a pity, because you can definitely sense that these could be very enjoyable flavors -- if they could just get out from under the bitter blanket.  The dry and bitter finish, however, is refreshing and appreciated.  

Yochai gave me one more "scoop" -- HeChatzer is bringing out Israel's first commercial gose (say it goes-uh) beer in July.  This is a German-style sour beer, tart and fruity and just right for a refreshing summer drink.  While growing in popularity around the globe, gose has yet to be found in Israel.  It may take a while to develop a taste for sour beer, but the same was true for the bitterness of IPAs.  We are waiting with great hopes!

Roi Krispin from the Rechavya Brewery
was serving HaDubim beers, filling in
for brothers Rotem and Dagan Bar Ilan.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
From HaDubim (The Bears) Brewery of brothers Rotem and Dagan Bar Ilan, comes an experimental American pale ale, apparently for this Fair only, called Experiment 123 (makes sense to me).  This was a tasty APA, strong as it should be, but with a very noticeable malt sweetness and a whiff of jasmine flowers.  I would like to see it bottled, but for the meantime, HaDubim are only marketing their two core beers: Phoenix IPA and The Doctor, an American pale ale.  

Omer Basha and Dvir Flom introducing
La Bacon wicked tasting lager.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

Omer Basha and Dvir Flom from the Basha-Flom Brewery were there with a new smoked lager called La Bacon -- and, damn, that's exactly what I remember bacon tastes like.  Well, what you really taste is the smokiness, not the meat itself, and this comes from the 96% smoked malt which is used in the brewing process.  La Bacon is then lagered for one-and-a-half months.  The result is a smooth, flavorful beer that takes your beer appreciation in a new direction, something that Basha-Flom does with surprising regularity.    

I understand there are several craft beers made over there in the U.S. with real bacon, but Basha-Flom have captured the taste without killing any pigs.  La Bacon will not be bottled, so don't look for it in stores.  I just wanted you to know about it.

Alona and David Zibell offering their
Golan Heights whisky and arak.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
The last stand at the Fair wasn't beer at all, but whisky from the Golan Heights Distillery in Katzrin.  "Why not?," said owner David Zibell.  "Beer drinkers also like distilled spirits."  David and his wife Alona were serving two whiskies and two araks -- a Gold Label Arak made with star anise (from Egypt or Turkey) and aged for six months, and a Green Arak, made only with anise seeds.  Both are excellent.

The Single Cask Whisky, a Scotch-type, will be available in September of this year.  They are also making an American-style Bourbon Whisky which is 60% corn, 30% rye and 10% barley in the grain mash.  This is still being aged until 2018, when it might be most opportune to try an Israeli-made Bourbon.

 Still to come -- Part Two: The home-brewers and competition winners at the Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair.  Stay with us.          

May 17, 2017

Five early beer events!

Two signs that craft beers are really gaining traction in our fair land: Beer festivals and events are starting earlier in the season (some are even going on year round!), and they are popping up at more and more non-central locations.

So, for example, five events have recently come to my attention that I hasten to share with you, my readers.  By all means, try to attend one of them near you and enjoy the experience of comradery and socializing with people who share your taste and passion for good beer.

Gaash BeerFest 2017
May 19-20

The first one is only two days away -- the BeerFest on Kibbutz Gaash on the coastal plain.  This is over two days, Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20.  The hours are between noon and 2:00 a.m. or so, and entrance is free.  The beer on sale is Barzel, whose partners are also kibbutz guys.  As with most of such festivals, there will be music and food, including hand-made Bavarian sausage.

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/640792636121137/

Beer 7 Fest
May 26

This local Beersheva beer festival (held at 33 Hechalutz Street) has always been a favorite of mine, a chance to meet smaller brewers and taste their often-wonderful beers.  This time, the fifth such Beer 7 Fest, there will be nine of them, so it's conceivable that you should be able to taste all of their wares -- if you don't have to drive home.

Doors open at noon on Friday, May 26.  Admission is 30 shekels, though you can buy your ticket early for only 25 shekels and get your first taste free.  Tastes are 5 shekels each, and third-of-a-liter glass of beer is only 15 shekels.  All attendees get to take home a branded tasting glass.

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1995181037384548/

Beer in the Corridor
May 30

On the day before the Shavuot holiday, Tuesday, May 30, the Beer & Beyond store at 159 Igal Alon Street in Tel Aviv will turn the corridor in the building into a mini beer festival, with stands offering free beer tasting and special prices for beer packages.  From 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.     

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/679074332277662/?active_tab=about

Festi-Bira Givatayim
June 7-8

Billed as the first beer festival in the city of Givatayim (adjacent to Tel Aviv), the Festi-Bira is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, June 7-8, from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m. each day.  As joint sponsors, the Municipality of Givatayim and the Azrieli Mall (53 Yitzhak Rabin Road) seem to be going all out to make this a big success.  It should be drawing participants from the entire Greater Tel Aviv region.

Over 40 brands of local Israeli craft and imported beer will be on sale, with discounts for soldiers and students over 18.  There will be stands for food and places for sitting and eating, with musical entertainment throughout.  Admission is free, as is parking for the first two hours.

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1496458873758037/

Beer in the Heart of the Desert 
June 22

For those who live in the south, here's another beer festival for you, this time in Arad.  Held at the Tzim Center (9 Shamir Street), the event will take place on Thursday, June 22, from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m.  Beer will be available from southern brewers, as well as more well-known brands.  And, of course, it wouldn't be a beer festival without food stands and live music.  Admission is free.         

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1927760314169373/

April 22, 2017

Machane Yehuda bar map

As I promised (here), below is your free, handy map of the famous Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, with the names, locations and photographs of the bars serving Israeli craft beers on tap.  It's a jpeg version which you can open, save and print at any size you want.  Use it when you visit the market to find out where you can go to enjoy excellent Israeli craft beer.

Please tell the bartender you read about them on Israel Brews and Views.  Don't be taken aback when s/he looks you straight in the eye and says, "What's that?"  Just show them the map.  And have a good time.  Thanks.

These bars are also on an illustrated pub crawl video which you can access on the Wish Trip application.  Here is the link:  

(Map created by: Mike Horton)

April 20, 2017

Still with the dark beers

The season for darker beers is ending -- or is it?  As we get deeper into spring, it doesn't appear that Israeli beer drinkers are abandoning their taste for stouts, porters, and black IPAs.  Israeli brewers are still coming out with new versions of these dark ales.

Here is one that's available in many beer and liquor stores, one that's only available in a few bars and pubs, and one home-brew that you're never going to taste.

Dictator Porter

The newest addition to the Dictator line of beers, brewed by Yotam Baras, Tomer Goren, and Nir Gilat at the Mivshelet Ha'aretz (Beer Bazaar Brewery) in Kiryat Gat, is the Dictator Porter.  Keeping with tradition, there's a caricature of an infamous dictator on the label, in this case the nefarious Idi Amin.

This 6.4% alcohol porter pours out a very dark brown with a tan head.  You get the aroma of roasty chocolate from the dark malt.  There is almost no hop aroma.

There's more chocolate in the taste, bitter and very dry, with note of chocolate liqueur.  Very carbonated for a porter beer, but why not?  The finish is dry, even a bit astringent.  The overall impression is that this is a strong porter, rich in flavor and alcohol-powerful, but very refreshing.  A welcome addition to the Dictator line.

Jem's Winter Special

Winter Special in the vat:
The old blogger stirs up the cauldron with
Jem's brewer Leiby Chapler.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
First a disclosure: This is beer I was with at its birth, stirring the mash and channeling the wort.  I was invited to the Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva just for this purpose.  [Read about it here.]

It took a while for the fermentation and maturation, but when it was ready, owner and brewmaster Jeremy Welfeld sent photographer Mike Horton and me each a growler of this first-rate beer.

It was originally called Black Beauty and then Winter Ale, but what's in a name?  We're talking about a black IPA that straddles the worlds of stout/porter and IPA.

This beer is not exactly black, more like a very dark brown.  The aroma is of yeast and very citrusy hops.  It's when you taste it that you find the balance between the citrus and the roasted barley, a light burnt taste with caramel and other fruits, tapering to a dry finish.

This is definitely a beer that I would want to drink again, but I don't know if there's any left.  If you find yourself at any on of Jem's restaurants, by all means ask for it, even though winter is officially over.  If I had known it was going to be so good, I would have made more!

Touching Darkness
by Ben Ben Tal Home-Brewers

Friends from their army days:
Liran Bartental (left)
and Itai Benvenisti 
Another disclosure: One of the brewers of Touching Darkness is Itai Benvenisti, the advertising manager of one of the newspapers where I work as an agent.  A really wonderful fellow.  I can't say it enough.  His brewing partner is Liran Bartental of Re'ut.  Together, they home-brew under the Ben Ben Tal label.

The two have been experimenting with brewing strong stout beers; at first not too successfully.  An earlier version was strong on the chocolate aroma and taste, but with a very thin body that could have used more malt.

Touching Darkness has solved this problem.  The body is full; you can even call it chewy.  The color is dark reddish brown, with a thin tan head.  Although the aroma is rather nondescript, the flavor is full and complex.  We tasted Israeli instant coffee, milk chocolate and prune juice.  The finish was creamy.

I had Touching Darkness with my drinking partner Moshe, over a dish of garlic-roasted kale, and the beer more than stood up to the strong, pungent flavor of the kale.  Moshe pronounced that it was "an interesting beer -- not a regular stout."

It's a shame you can't go out a buy a bottle.  There are a few fine Israeli stouts out there, but nothing quite like Touching Darkness.                

April 8, 2017

Old dark and new light

New beers are constantly soft-landing on my table (although some of them are just new to me).  And that's a good thing.  The local craft beer fellowship has reached a maturity where new beers are appearing quite regularly.  I try to taste them and report to you in a timely manner, but sometimes I am unavoidably delayed.  Here are two more or less recent.

Lynx Imperial Stout

This beer won the Best-in-Show award in the B'tsisa home-brewers competition almost a year ago.  I wrote then [read it here] that I would try to get a bottle and report back to my readers.  I wasn't sure how I was going to do this.

Zeev Stein (left) and Yaron Rachamim
of Lynx Brewery, receive their
B'tsisa award last year.
Then, at last summer's Tel Aviv Beer Festival, I bumped into Lynx brewers Zeev Stein and Yaron Rachamim.  "Wait right here," said Zeev.  "I want to bring you a bottle of our Imperial Stout."  One of the great perks of being a beer blogger!  Zeev actually ran out to his car and came back with a precious bottle of the dark liquid.  I promised I would drink it and report back.    

It strikes me that Lynx Imperial Stout is sui generis.  (Thanks to Mr. Hugh O'Donnell, my high school Latin teacher.)  It's made with two types of coffee and whisky-steeped vanilla beans, and aged for one year in the bottle.      

The result is a 12% ABV beer the color of dark brown ink with a thin foam.  My drinking partner Moshe pulled back his head when he took his first whiff.  What an intense aroma of burnt espresso coffee, perhaps some carob and, of course, the alcohol.    

The taste was a very enjoyable bitterness from the roasted malt, rather than from hops.  Also some summer fruits.  The powerful alcohol was also in the taste, but was not intrusive like a stranger.  Rather, it blended in very nicely with the malt.

The distinctive stout taste was much more weighted to coffee than to chocolate, prompting Moshe to exclaim, "It's almost like drinking a coffee liqueur!"

I agreed with Moshe.  This is an extreme stout, but in a good way.  You can't so much drink this beer as sip it.  It's a beautiful tasting experience, and I can understand why the B'tsisa judges thought so highly of it.

But I couldn't help thinking that this Imperial Stout was brewed for other beer brewers, or connoisseurs, or beer geeks, or whatever you want to call the "in crowd."  The taste is too extreme for the general beer-drinking public, and since this was a very limited home-brew, it will never reach the public anyway.  But I'm sure that the talented brewing duo of Zeev and Yaron can make excellent beers more attuned to popular tastes, and we should all be hoping that these eventually become commercially available to all of us.

Buster's Pils

Going from dark to light, I also tasted the new Buster's Pils, the second commercial beer from the Buster's Beverage Company in Beit Shemesh.  (The first was their Oak-Aged Stout, which was reviewed here.)  The beer is contract brewed at the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer.

Pilsner was originally brewed in Plzen in what is today the Czech Republic, and we even know the exact year -- 1842, the year gold was discovered in California!  Pilsner quickly became one of the most popular beer styles in the world, and it still is.  It's the "universal donor" of beer styles: it goes well with almost any food.

Pilsner is a clean and simple beer with simple ingredients: light malted barley, Noble hops (imparting more aroma and flavor than bitterness), lager yeast and soft water.  Brewing skill, however, is the one extra ingredient needed to achieve an excellent Pilsner.

Master brewer Denny Neilson displays this skill with his light (4.8% ABV) Pils lager.  Denny revealed that this Pilsner is the only Israeli beer made with 20% corn in the grain bill.  Now, of course, corn has a very bad press as an "adjunct" used by mega-brewers in their pale lagers.  Craft beer aficionados have been known to turn up their noses to any beer made with adjuncts such as corn or rice.  Yet, when used correctly, corn can actually lighten up the color and body of a beer, and maybe add a smooth sweetness, without changing its flavor much.  This is what Denny tries to do with his Pils.      

Buster's Pils pours out the color of ginger ale, pale as straw and a little hazy.  The aroma is floral hops, some fresh grain and grass.  The taste has a satisfying balance between the bitter and sweet, with some hop spice, fruit and citrus.  The beer's finish -- the taste that hangs on your tongue after you swallow -- is dry, bitter and refreshing.  That's what makes you want to continue drinking, and why Pilsner is so good with almost any cheese, as well as dishes light, fried or spicy.

Denny says that he hopes that Israeli beer drinkers will now be able to enjoy Pilsner beer without having to buy it from Europe.  I concur.  Buster's Pils is a credit to the style, and an excellent way to introduce yourself to Pilsner beer.                  

March 30, 2017

Kosher for Passover beer to America

We've been following Bryan Meadan for a few years.  First, as a home-brewer and contract brewer of gluten-free beer (please see here); then as a commercial brewer of Israel's only kosher-for-Passover beer (here).

Well, this year, Bryan took another giant step -- across a continent, an ocean, and another continent.

He's exporting to California and giving American Jews their first taste of kosher-for-Passover beer. "This year is only a test," Bryan acknowledged.  "We sent only 60 cases (1,440 bottles) of Bitter Date Ale and 60 cases of Amber Date Ale.  They'll be sold in select stores in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas."

These ales are not new to Meadan Brewery, which was opened in 2015 in Carmiel.  They are both based on date honey (silan), meaning they are gluten-free and legume-free, making them kosher-for-Passover for all Jewish ethnic groups and communities.

"The Bitter Date Ale has more hops than the Amber Date," Bryan revealed, "but other than that, they are basically very similar.

The first shipment of
Meadan kosher-for-Passover beer
arrives in California!
"We hope that American Jews will be so excited about kosher-for-Passover beer that they will make it a holiday tradition."

In addition to the kosher-for-Passover customers, the beer will also be marketed to people who keep gluten-free diets (such as celiac patients), and as a unique date ale beverage in itself.  Each store will decide how best to market the beer.

Meadan Brewery hasn't forgotten the local market.  This year, 125,000 bottles of the kosher-for-Passover beer have been brewed for sale in Israel before and during the holiday.  "I doubt if that will be enough to meet the demand," Bryan concludes.  "Last year we produced  45,000 bottles, but stores and restaurants ran out during Passover."

If Meadan's kosher-for-Passover beers find a successful market in America, these numbers will seem like drops in the beer barrel.

March 20, 2017

Craft beers on tap in Machane Yehuda

Just two years ago, it wasn't easy to find Israeli craft beers in bars and pubs.  And I'm talking about bottles -- much less on tap!

What a difference 24 months make!

Your intrepid old blogger, accompanied by photographer extraordinaire Mike Horton, took several cold night strolls through Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market -- rapidly becoming the city's new center for night life -- looking for Israeli craft beers on draft (or draught, as Mike would write).  We found them in no less than 17 bars and restaurants.
The numbers on this map of the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem
refer to the bars and restaurants listed below.
(Map created by Mike Horton.) 
Tour Guide Fun Joel Haber (http://funjoelsisrael.com/) was fantastic in helping us find the qualifying establishments, though a few might have fallen through our dragnet.  If you know of any that we missed, please let me know.

Here then are the photos of the craft beer taps, the name and address of the bar/restaurant, and the name of the barperson who was there to greet us.  In most cases, you can click on the name of the establishment and go to its Facebook page, where you can learn more about each one.

Like all eating establishments in Machane Yehuda, these places are kosher, although with different certifications.  Some are full-blown restaurants; others serve pub grub, or only alcohol.  This is mentioned in the names below each photograph.

Since the market is a maze of streets, lanes and alleyways making it almost impossible to list the locations in any logical geographical order, we decided to use the English alphabet instead.

The map above shows all locations with their identifying number.  You can save this map on your computer and then print it out for easy use.  In the near future, we also hope to bring you a more detailed and interactive map which you can download directly to your smartphone.

We hope this helps get you out into the Machane Yehuda market and into enjoying Israeli craft beers in their natural setting.

Agrippas Bar and Grill
56 Etz Chaim
Kineret pumping Dictator Irish Red Ale
(four Jem's beers are also on tap.)

Number 1 on the map.

Bardak Pizza
4 Beit Yakov
Tal behind the all-Israeli-craft taps.

Number 2.

Beer Bazaar (pub and restaurant)
3 Etz Chaim
You can hardly see Shiri behind the Israeli craft taps.

Number 3.

Crave Gourmet Street Food
1 Hashikma
Naomi with Alexander Blazer and Beer Bazaar Bhindi.
They also have a very flavorful light pilsner on tap
made by Alexander Brewery exclusively for Crave.
They call it "Pure Love" -- 5.2% alcohol and highly recommended!

Number 4.

Hachapuria -- Georgian Bakery
5 Hashikma
Two Shapiro beers on tap.

Number 5.
Hashechena -- Dairy Restaurant
11 Beit Yakov
Ana'el is hiding behind Alexander, Shapiro and Herzl.

Number 6.

Ishtabach Middle Eastern restaurant
1 Hashikma
Hila pumping Mosco beer.

Number 7.

La Cornerie bar and coffee shop
40 Etz Chaim
Shira serving Madam Cornerie,
a private label beer from the Srigim Brewery.

Number 8.

Meorav Yerushalmi mixed grill
14 Ha'egoz
Assaf behind the Bazelet taps.

Number 9.

Michmoret Fish Restaurant
7 Hatoot
Adi is the bartender; Bazelet on tap.

Number 10.

O'Connell in the Shuk (pub and restaurant)
63 Etz Chaim
Sivan behind the Herzl 6% Kapara tap.

Number 11.
Que Pasa Tapas Bar
9 Ha'egoz
Yaniv behind the taps of all the beers from the Srigim Brewery:
Ronen and Emek Ha'ela.

Number 12.

Roasters Coffee Bar
20 Afarsek
Omri pumping two Shapiro beers.

Number 13.

Shuka Bar
17 Ha'egoz
Dhyan and his dreadlocks behind the Shapiro beer taps.

Number 14.

Steam Kitchen and Bar
26 Ha'egoz
Nati with four Mosco beer taps.

Number 15.

Sushiyuda sushi restaurant
69 Etz Chaim
Timor pumps a Bazelet pale ale.

Number 16.

Time Bar & Coffee
8 Etz Chaim
Shlomi behind the Alexander and Shapiro taps.

Number 17.