July 22, 2017

Kfar Saba Beer Festival this week

This Monday and Tuesday, July 24 and 25, Kfar Saba will be in the spotlight with the third annual Kfar Saba Beer Festival.  Held in the Courtyard of the shuk (market), the festival will begin each day at 7:00 p.m. and will include food stands and live music, featuring the Mercedes Band on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.

Over 20 Israeli craft beers will be served from the following breweries: Buster's, Malka, Ronen, Emek Ha'ela, Barzel, Alexander, Jem's, and HeChatzer.  Shoshana, an "Israeli" wheat beer brewed with mint in Belgium, will also be on sale.

Entrance is free, and only to those 18 or older.  If you live in the area of Kfar Saba, this one's for you. 

July 19, 2017

B'tsisa 2017 -- Tasting some of the winners

Way back in April, the winners were announced to the B'tsisa home-brewing competition, another one of Israel's growing list of beer contests.  B'tsisa (which means "In Fermentation"), however, is no johnny-come-lately, but one of the more prestigious competitions for home-brewers in Israel.  (Read about last year's contest and ceremony here.)

Sponsored by the Beer & Beyond store and activity center in Tel Aviv, the exhibit and ceremony this year was held at the Weihenstephan Biergarten in the Tel Aviv port.  I didn't attend, but I was able to hustle, make contact with some of the winners, and taste their beers.  That's why this is s-o-o-o late.  

First, a list of the winners by category:  

Best in Show
Omer Laser -- Belgian Strong Dark Ale 

Special Bitter
First:  Liran Gesua
Second:  Yonatan Bendett 
Third:  Yarden Dror 

First:  Asaf Murkes 
Second:  Elchanan Hopper-Hornman 
Third:  Natan Feidrob 

Session IPA
First:  Elad Talbi 
Second:  Dotan Kalmer 
Third:  Mark Markish

First:  Tamir Bunny
Second:  Roi Fuchs 
Third:  Gil Bronstein 
Fruit Beers
First:  Noam Shalev
Second:  Dennis Pravdaev
Third:  Ran Dach
Honorable Mention: Alex Putchin and Alon Rotem

Belgian Strong Dark Ale
First:  Omer Laser
Second: Yaron Rachamim and Zeev Stein (Lynx Brewery)
Third:  Vladislav Sakorik 

Of these, I was able to find and taste Omer Laser's Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Asaf Murkes' Weizenbock, Elad Talbi's IPA, and Noam Shalev's Fruit Beer (Peach Lambic).  I'm going to tell you about them because they're winners all -- but you're not going to have a chance to taste them because they're all non-commercial home-brews.  Sorry.

Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Omer Laser

Omer Laser with the B'tsisa
Best-in-Show award for his
Belgian Strong Dark Ale. 
This is one powerful beer, although at 9%+ alcohol by volume (Omer doesn't remember if it's 9.2 or 9.7), it's actually in the mid-range for this style.  It pours into your glass an opaque dark brown topped by a thick and foamy tan head.  The aromas are burnt caramel, dark chocolate and toasted malt.  At first taste, you're hit with an almost undecipherable mix of flavors: raisin, caramel, carob and figs.  Of course, it's sweet, but nicely balanced by hops in the background. 

You feel the high alcohol content rather than taste it; a positive attribute.  The body is full, almost I would say syrupy, much like a home-made fruit wine or liqueur.  This is a beer which will perhaps go well with salty and other strong cheese, and grilled and roasted vegetables.  It would easily overpower most other food.

Omer has tackled a very complex beer style and came out on top.  I don't think the Belgians themselves could do it any better.       

Session IPA
Elad Talbi

The old blogger is honored to meet
Elad Talbi, first prize winner in the
Session IPA category.
Thirty-year-old Elad Talbi from Tel Aviv took the IPA gold for his beer, which he calls, "between a blond and a session IPA."  At 5.25% ABV, it's a little high for a session beer ("when you're having more than one"), but close enough.  Elad has been home-brewing for a year and this is his first competitive entry.

His Session IPA pours a clear amber color with a very creamy head and full carbonation.  There's a wonderful aroma of pineapple and pine, which are also in the taste, along with perhaps some apricot.  The taste begins sweet and ends dry and bitter.  Very interesting how that happens, and of course, it's that kind of finish that make you want more. 

Although this bitterness is very pronounced, it does not interfere with the hop and yeast flavors.  Another winning beer, all around.

Asaf Murkes

Asaf Murkes, first-prize
winner for his
excellent Weizenbock
strong wheat beer.

Home-brewer Asaf Murkes from Modi'in entered a perfectly brewed Weizenbock (a strong wheat beer) in that category and won.  The others might have also been great, but we only tasted Asaf's.

Although Weizenbocks can be dark in color, this one is pale and clear, with very creamy foam.  The aromas are spicy cloves from the wheat ale yeast, but also apple cider and some vanilla.  Almost no hops are detected.  The flavors are pretty complex but almost all in the spicy range.  The heavy carbonation gives the glass a look of sparkling white wine.  The body is full, rounded out by the malt-sweet backbone.  Alcohol by volume is a hefty 6.7%.  

Asaf, in our opinion (mine and drinking partner Moshe's), has nailed the Weizenbock style as good as any I have tasted.  Someday, an Israeli-brewed Weizenbock this good will be available commercially.  Until then, I'll just have to remember how Asaf's winning beer tasted -- and you'll have to believe me.         

Fruit Beer
Noam Shalev

Nothing on this blog has been more difficult for me than giving an opinion on Noam Shalev's Peach Lambic beer, which won first place in the Fruit Beer category.  I do not have the tools or the taste for doing justice to this style of sour Belgian beers.  I still can't get beyond my initial reaction to the sourness, but I am aiming to overcome this. 

So let's do this:  This report on the B'tsisa winners is late enough.  I'll stop here and post what I've written until now.  Then I'll devote some time to Noam's Peach Lambic and write about it in a future post.  Not too long in the future, I promise.  We all should know more about sour beers.    

July 3, 2017

Ketta TropicAle: Fresh fruits in the glass

Rookie commercial brewer
Yuval Katz with his
TropicAle NEPA.
One of the most pleasurable new beers I've had recently is called TropicAle and is contract brewed by Yuval Katz at the Beer Bazaar Brewery (Mivshelet Ha'aretz) in Kiryat Gat.  His beer label is named Ketta, a Hebrew word meaning portion or section or paragraph.  It's a word widely used in Israel and Yuval says "it just seems to fit."  So be it.

Yuval is from Herzliya and has been home-brewing since 2010.  In fact, in 2012 (before I started this blog) an early version of TropicAle won Best-in-Show in the prestigious Samuel Adams LongShot home-brewing competition.  A few months ago, Yuval girded his loins and began to brew commercially.  "It seemed the next logical step," he says, "sharing my passion for beer with the world."  Yuval is, however, keeping his day job as content editor at HT Zone, an online consumer club in Kfar Saba for high-tech employees.  

Yuval calls TropicAle a "New England pale ale," [NEPA] which is not exactly a recognized beer style ("New England IPA" is), but is being widely used.  It signifies a pale ale that is full of fresh fruit flavors, hoppy but not overly bitter, and unfiltered.  This suits TropicAle to a T.  The alcohol by volume is 5%.

TropicAle pours out a hazy, bright orange color, with a strong hop aroma, redolent with citrus, tropical fruits and grass.  But it's the taste you're really waiting for.  In addition to the citrus, my drinking partner Moshe and I detected passion fruit, mango, pineapple and banana.  A little imagination goes a long way, of course, but I don't think anyone would miss the powerful "fruit shake" character of this beer.  The finish is long and bitter, which has you wanting to take another gulp.

Yuval says that he was aiming to achieve a hoppy and fruity beer "that doesn't compromise on taste."

I would say that he definitely succeeded -- and so, it seems, does the beer drinking public.  "I was blown away by the sales at the Beer Bazaar," Yuval marvels.  "To me, it shows that Jerusalem beer drinkers are more open to trying something different.  In Tel Aviv, everybody chases the latest trend.  In Jerusalem, if they like it, they drink it!"              

Yuval Katz tells the old blogger his brew-story.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Yuval plans on bringing additional beers to market under the Ketta brand.  These include an English porter, saison, and Belgian quadrupel.

If Yuval can maintain the quality standard of TropicAle, these are beers you should be looking out for!

July 2, 2017

Three more beer festivals for July

I hope you're all in the mood for more beer festivals because they're still comin' at us.  Here are three which have come to my attention.  Pick the one sort of near you and consider going. 

Israel Beer Festival at Kibbutz Ein Shemer
July 5-6

There's not too much publicity about this one, except that it's taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, July 5-6, at the Alon Ein Shemer Fashion Mall at the Karkom Intersection.  6:00 p.m. to midnight, and admission is free.  There will be stands for Israeli craft beers and imported beers, food and live music.  The Harley-Davidson Club in Israel is also taking part, but I'm not sure what that means.  

The Israeli brewers who are scheduled to appear include: Fass, Buster's, Nazareth Beer, BlinderWeiss, Ottobira, Jem's, Srigim, and The Dictator.

Mateh Yehuda Beer Festival
July 12-13 

The Mateh Yehuda Beer Festival has always been one of my favorites.  It captured just the right evening atmosphere, music, food and local beers.  Then it stopped happening for a few years.  So I'm really happy to learn that it's come back this year.

It's being held at the Mini-Israel Park near Latrun on Wednesday and Thursday, July 12-13, beginning at 8:30 in the evening.  Admission is 38 shekels, which includes a tasting glass which you keep and the first two tastings.  Six local brewers will be selling their beers (Pepo, Srigim, Shapiro, HaShachar, Mosco, and Buster's), plus a number of other brewers from different parts of the country.  Food and live music?  Of course.      

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/144944752743727/?active_tab=about

Beer in the City (Netanya)
July 12-13

On the same two days, July 12 and 13, the second annual Beer in the City Festival will be taking place at Kikar Ha'atzmaut (Independence Square) in Netanya.  Technically, you can go to the Mateh Yehuda Festival on one night, and to the Netanya Festival on the other.  I'm sure you'll enjoy them both, but quite a few of the beers will probably be the same.  We are a little country, after all.

Anyway, the Beer in the City organizers promise 40 different kinds of beers (Israeli craft and foreign), live performances and stands for street food.  Entrance is free and the doors open at six o'clock each evening (and close at 1:00 a.m.)             
More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/247612875727038/?active_tab=about

June 27, 2017

Make your own beer maps with WishTrip

My earlier post on pubs and restaurants in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market (see here) included a link to the WishTrip app which played a video of the actual pub crawl.  (Here it is again:  https://wishtrip.com/web/trek/10250000010086)   Several readers have told me how much they appreciated this feature.  

Well, now as a public service to my readers (and as a way to thank the WishTrip people), I'd like to announce that everyone can use the app for their own use.    

WishTrip is a real time mapping app which enables users to visualize and share outdoor or urban travel activities using geolocation, digital images and text, as well as communicate with other users.

You can make your own WishTrip map, or discover, plan and share your trips live.  You can share on Facebook and Instagram, and write up recommendation for the next traveler.  And it's so easy that even old bloggers can understand it.

Get started with WishTrip right now by clicking on this link:


June 26, 2017

Shapiro's new "pop-up pub"

The accessible entrance to
the Shapira BaSira pub
in Jerusalem. 
The four Shapiro brothers -- Itzik, Daniel, Zvi and Avi -- and sister Tamar, have opened a pub in Jerusalem to showcase their beers.  It's called Shapira BaSira ("Shapiro in the Boat"), a play on words since it's at 1 Ben-Sira Street.  It's also a pup-up pub, meaning it's temporary, popping up only for the summer's beer-drinking months.  Around the time of the Jewish fall holidays (September-October), it will go into hibernation, being replaced by a coffee shop.  Will it pop up again next summer?  We can only hope.  

Shapira BaSira is open every day (except Friday night and Saturday during the day --  the Jewish Sabbath) from 4:00 p.m.  Until 9:00 p.m. there are Happy Hour rules, with the second beer being free.

All of the Shapiro beers are available on tap: Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Wheat, Lager, Jack's Winter Ale and the just issued 2017 IPA with Simcoe hops (more on this new beer in a future post).  A glass of 400 cc's (14 ounces) costs 27 shekels (29 for the IPA), and 200 cc's (7 ounces) cost 15 shekels (17 for the IPA).  A flight of five 200 cc glasses costs 70 shekels.

The Shapira BaSira pub bar.  To the right is
the restaurant room with tables and chairs.
Kosher food is also served; not much but good for a pub.  For example: Sour pickle (5 shekels), vegetable plate (12), bagel with za'atar dip (14), chicken sandwich (30), sausage (24), "Ashkenazi fries" -- potato pancakes (22).

Itzik Shapiro told me that during the day (before the pub opens) the room is being used for special events, such as a brewing workshop for tourists and guides, brewing demonstrations, and tastings for groups.  For the latter, you have to book ahead of time for a minimum of seven participants.  For a fee of 50 shekels, you get explanations of all Shapiro beers and six tastings of 100 cc's.  Call 02-561-2622.

This Friday (June 30) at about one o'clock, there will be a brewing demonstration at the pub by Itay Marom of the HaShachen ("The Neighbor") Brewery from Netanya.

Shapiro Beer in Casks

I paid a visit to the very comfortable and cozy pub shortly after it opened.  Not coincidently, Benny Kriger of Benny's Cask Ale Pub in Kfar Saba was there tapping open three casks of Shapiro beer: Pale Ale, Stout, and the new 2017 IPA.

Tasting Shapiro beer straight from Benny's casks:
(from left) Benny Kriger, Zvi Shapiro,
the old blogger, and Itzik Shapiro.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
After he tapped the casks and gave us a chance to taste the same beer 1) from a cask and 2) from a regular keg, Benny was kind enough to sit with me and explain what casking is all about.  The first thing I noticed was Israeli-born Benny's surprising Scottish accent, the result of his frequent trips to Glasgow when he was younger to cheer on the Celtic soccer team!

"I go to breweries," he began, "and I put the beer right from the fermenter into my casks.  The first thing you notice is that the beers from my casks are less carbonated.  This is because no COgas is added.

"Second, they are served a little warmer, usually 10-14 degrees centigrade (50-57 Fahrenheit) instead of the usual 4-6 degrees centigrade (39-43 Fahrenheit).

Benny Kriger taps open his casks at the
Shapira BaSira pub in Jerusalem.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

"What this does is increase the strength of the beer's flavors.  Now, in order for this to work well, the beer has to be good in the first place.  We tried casking Goldstar, for example, and it came out horrible."

We tasted the casked versions and the kegged versions of Shapiro's IPA, Pale Ale and Stout -- and I can definitely attest that the flavor profiles are much  more intense from the cask.  I can understand why beer enthusiasts travel from all over to Kfar Saba to drink at Benny's.

By now the casks in Shapira BaSira are empty, but the kegs are still full of wonderful Shapiro beer.  If you're in Jerusalem, stop in and have a good time -- while it's still the "pop-up season."

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
Second:  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