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.