September 19, 2021

Three from Birateinu: Apple Molly Graf ● Scapegoat (Se'ir La'Azazel) Smoked Bock ● Aluma Wheat Wine

Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, owned and operated by Leon Shvartz and Shmuel ("Shmulz") Naky, continues to produce its own "way-out" beers.  (I've been calling them "Baroque" beers, and you can read about some earlier ones here and here.)

Apple Molly from Birateinu:
Israel's first graf.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
It seems they've been brewing larger quantities since the beers remain on sale for a longer time.  The three I'm going to talk about here can still be purchased at the Birateinu store or ordered online.

Apple Molly is called a graf, a kind of cider-beer hybrid.  In this case, apple concentrate was added to the wort and the two fermented together with ale yeast.  The apple accounts for 5% of the total wort.  Readers will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the first time a graf has been produced in Israel.  Apple Molly was brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.

The beer historians say that graf-making goes way back, when people began to brew beer with fruits and other flavorful additions.  There are no rules for the proportions of apple and malt which should be used, so grafs that are largely apple will be more like cider, while those heavy on the malt will taste like a fruit beer.

Shmulz alerted me that the base of Apple Molly is an Irish Red Ale, using the apple concentrate as a gimmick.  "But this gimmick leads to a better tasting beer.  It's like eating an Irish apple cake."   

Not really knowing what an Irish apple cake tastes like, my drinking partner Daniël Boerstra and I set out to try an Apple Molly.

Easier to find the apples in the tree 
than in Apple Molly.
It poured out a semi-hazy, ruby reddish brown color with an off-white head above constantly rising bubbles.  We smelled cinnamon, some other quieter spices, slight apple, and the malt and caramel aromas of Belgian strong ale.  Daniël sensed some dark chocolate in there as well.  The taste was also that of a Belgian ale, with added chocolate and butterscotch.  Try as we might, we couldn't find the apples.

The beer tastes and feels very strong (it is 6.7% alcohol), but the finish is drier than a Belgian ale, more like a cider.

Our verdict was that the apples used in this graf added fermentable sugars, which boost the alcoholic strength and full mouthfeel, but do not add much flavor.  Still, if you haven't tasted a graf, this Israeli original should be your first.

Also pushing the envelope is Se'ir La'Azazel ("Scapegoat" in English), a smoky Bock lager.  Bock beer is a stronger and darker version of the European light lagers which are so popular all over the world.  They get their color from the roasted malt (usually Munich or Vienna malt) which is used in the brewing.    

Peaty and meaty:
The smoky scapegoat on the Se'ir La'Azazel label.

To get the smokiness in there too, 80% of the malt that Shmulz used was smoked over peat.  Alcohol by volume is 7.4%.  Se'ir La'Azazel is brewed at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.    

Se'ir La'Azazel is dark reddish-brown, smack on the Bock color scale.  The smoky aromas hit your nose even before it gets close to the glass.  Malt and caramel are also present.  "Smoked meat" is what my drinking partner Moshe shouted out, bringing back distant memories to me.  "Smoked Scotch whisky" is what I thought of.  The taste is quite smoky as well, dominating any other flavors.  

Aluma (left), a strong
Wheat Wine made with 
all-wheat malt.
Se'ir La'Azazel (right),
a smoky Bock lager made
with roasted and 
peat-smoked malt.

(Photo: Mike Horton)  

It's a little on the sweet side, with a light body.  Moshe was jarred by the contrast between the strong taste and the light body.  But we both agreed that it was another one of Shmulz's successful ventures.  By the way, he suggests that this beer can be beneficially aged for some time, which may mellow out the strong flavors a bit.  

It's too wild for a dessert beer, but would go well with foods that could do with a smoky addition -- like vegetable stews, some quiches, soups and salads, mac & cheese, or even eggs.  

Several Israeli brewers have cooked up Barley Wine, most noticeably Alexander, which makes an annual version.  This is one of the strongest beer styles, normally clocking in at 11-12% alcohol by volume.

Aluma, I can state with some certainty, is Israel's first commercial Wheat Wine, using 100% malted wheat instead of barley.  Its ABV is 12% and it's brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.

Shmulz and other brewers have told me that brewing with wheat malt is umpteen times more difficult than brewing with barley.  The lack of husks in wheat, plus the higher protein, makes the grain mash, well, very mushy, almost like a bread dough.  The fact that the brewers were able to produce a fermentable wort is a tribute to their skills.      

This sheaf of wheat gives Aluma Wheat Wine its name.
Cloudy and carbonated, Aluma (which means "sheaf" in Hebrew) is golden orange.  The aroma is very fresh with hay and malt -- and there's no mistaking the alcohol.  The taste is alcoholic and bitter (which is what you're looking for in this kind of beer), but with sweet notes of brown sugar and caramel. 

The mouthfeel reveals a full body and some real alcoholic heat.  Aluma is the counterpoint of a summertime beer.  It has the characteristics of a wine, but is a heavier drink.  I'm told that Aluma is also a good beer to age.      

While not as "Baroque" as some of the earlier beers from Birateinu, these three additions are definitely in the category of "pushing the box" or "outside the envelope" or whichever other metaphor you want to use.  They are all available now at Birateinu in Jerusalem, or can be ordered online at this link (in Hebrew).

September 1, 2021

The best time to be a beer lover in Israel

Israeli craft breweries have been around since 2006, but only last month two events came along to show that the industry has reached a new level of maturity.

Best sellers from the 
Tempo Beer Industries in Netanya.

Both of Israel's industrial brewers – Tempo Beer Industries in Netanya and Israel Beer Breweries Ltd. (IBBL) in Ashkelon – have reached out to embrace craft brewing.  Although some may call it a "bear hug" rather than an embrace, it's a clear indication that big beer wants to become a part of the craft phenomenon.

Tempo, brewers of the popular Goldstar, Maccabee and Heineken brands, has purchased a controlling share in the Shapiro Brewery, a family-owned business in Beit Shemesh.  According to Itzik Shapiro, president of the brewery and one of the four siblings who founded and manage it, the acquisition "will let us continue to do what we have until now, but we are now able to realize our plans and our new projects sooner than we could have imagined." 

Elad Horesh, VP Marketing for IBBL, stated that the company opted to build its own craft brewery rather than acquire an existing one, because, "we have the brewmasters with the most knowledge, we have the most advanced laboratory equipment in the country, and also the operational experience.  It was also important to let our brewmasters, who for years had dreamed of and played with different recipes, be the ones to make their dreams come true." 

The first three Shikma beers:
Amber Ale, Märzen Lager and IPA.
(Photo: Firma Studio)

Shikma has come out with three beer styles: IPA (India Pale Ale), Amber Ale and Märzen Lager.  IBBL's Chief Technologist and Head Brewer Avichai Grinberg, said that these styles were chosen after "we had an internal taste competition, and these three recipes came up as the best."   

Internationally, craft beer has been a growing phenomenon since the 1970s.  People are still debating the terminology and the definition, but basically we're talking about beer from smaller breweries which can give more hands-on attention to the beers they brew, make a number of different style beers, and make them in smaller quantities.

David Cohen, founder and owner of the
Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv,
Israel's first craft brewery. 

The origin of Israeli craft breweries goes back to 2006, when Brooklyn-born brewer David Cohen fought bureaucrats, skeptics and neighbors to build the Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv's Montifiore neighborhood.

Cohen had made Aliya in 2003 after working as a volunteer in a New Jersey brewery.  He ditched any thoughts about continuing to work as an accountant, and began making plans for opening up a brewpub in Tel Aviv.

"The Israeli bureaucrats involved in new businesses had no idea what I was talking about," he revealed.  "We had to educate them about what we wanted every step of the way.  Their attitudes varied from mild entertainment to abrasive and adversarial."

The old blogger enjoys a hearty meal 
after touring the Malka Brewery at its
new location in the Tefen Industrial Park.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Cohen's success broke the ice for other brewers in Israel to follow suit.  In short order, micro-breweries were opening in other places: Bazelet on the Golan Heights, Malka on Kibbutz Yechiam, Shapiro and Mosco in Beit Shemesh, Negev in Kiryat Gat, Alexander in Emek Hefer, Srigim in the community village of Srigim (Li'on), Herzl in Jerusalem, and others.           

Today, Israel can boast of about 25-30 craft brewers who are selling beer commercially – although around ten dominate this market with quantity and distribution.

Even with our hot, dry summers,
Israeli per capita beer consumption
is near the bottom of the list.

Now here's the other side of the coin: All of these wonderful craft breweries account for under 10% of all beer sales in Israel.  The rest of the beer is coming from those two huge industrial breweries mentioned above, and of course, from imports.

Another fact holding back the growth of all beer sales in Israel – craft and mega – is our embarrassingly low consumption rate.  The world champions, who as you may expect are the Central and East Europeans, Irish and British, drink from 70 to 100 liters of beer a year per capita!  (The Czechs reach about 150!) 

Near the bottom of the list is Israel.  Even with our hot, dry summers, we drink no more than 20 liters of beer per capita.  Clearly there is room for growth.  Although there are some Israelis who warn against the dangers of increased imbibing, Judaism has never spawned a teetotaling culture.

Alexander Brewery CEO Ori Sagy (center)
is joined by 
operations manager 
Eran Weisman (second from left), 

and brewer Elad Gassner (second from right)
as they receive three awards at the
European Beer Star Competition in Munich.

More and more, our meager drinking habits cannot be explained by inferior beer.  In recent years, there is no doubt that Israeli beers have improved in quality.  Taste, of course, is personal and individual, but enough high marks are given by professionals and consumers alike to make the upward trend unmistakable.  The various "beer-ranking" websites also reflect this. 

About two years ago, Newsweek magazine named the Dancing Camel as one of the nine breweries in the world worth traveling for!  Before the COVID struck, Oliver Wesseloh, the world champion beer sommelier from Germany, visited five craft breweries in Israel in a project designed to increase "beer tourism" from Germany and, indeed, all of Europe.  These are tourists who will travel anywhere just to drink a glass of good beer.  We still hope they get here – as soon as Europeans feel the skies are friendly again.

If more Israeli craft brewers entered
international competitions, Israeli beers 
might be winning more medals.

Internationally, Israeli beers have not won much recognition, but this could be because Israeli brewers have been so hesitant to enter competitions.  Ori Sagy, CEO of the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer, is one who has been bold enough to buck this timidity – with excellent results.  His beers have won eight medals over the years in the prestigious European Beer Star contest.  Most have been won by Alexander Black, a seasonal Porter-style beer readily available in Israel.  It also took home the Gold a few years ago in the U.S.-based World Beer Cup.

Likewise, Beertzinut Brewery on Kibbutz Ketura won three medals in last year's European Beer Challenge, which is judged by professionals in the beverage and restaurant industries.

Along with a general improvement in quality, Israeli breweries now offer choices of beer styles that once were available only as imports.  There are easily 100 recognized beer styles in the world, plus many which are hybrids or blur the lines between styles.  Most craft breweries, not only in Israel, produce the most popular styles: a light lager, a Pale Ale, an IPA, a Stout, a Wheat Beer, maybe a Belgian Ale or two. 

One of the way-out beers brewed in Israel:
Opokhmel, a pickle brine beer from Birateinu,
made with cucumber, dill, garlic and salt.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

But Israeli craft breweries are now producing styles much more esoteric.  For example, have you ever heard of the following: Pilsner, Helles, Märzen, Saison, Bock (all cold-fermented lagers), Sour (or Wild) beers, Milkshake beers made with lactose, New England and Brown IPAs, smoked lager, beer-wine hybrids, fruited wheat beers, and even Kosher-for-Passover beers.

Not only that.  A few Israeli breweries are taking the lead in producing some of the most way-out beers in the world.  We're talking about beers made with halva, Hot Chili Stout, Imperial Pastry Stout brewed with blueberries or oreos and coffee or jelly donuts, beers made with rare lemons, pickle brine beer, kettle-soured apricot beer, double bock lager aged in whisky barrels, Bloody Mary beer with tomatoes, celery and tabasco sauce, and a Steinbier (involving glowing hot stones dropped into the liquid) brewed with mushrooms.      

If these lists get your taste buds quivering, you're a craft beer fan (even if you don't know it), and you couldn’t be living in Israel at a better time.      

[This article originally appeared in 
The Jerusalem Report magazine,
dated August 30, 2021.] 

August 26, 2021

Shikma: The new micro-brewery built by industrial beer

Just recently, Israel's two industrial breweries have reached out to embrace craft brewing.  Although some may call it a "bear hug" rather than an embrace, it's a clear indication that big beer wants to become a part of the craft phenomenon.

We already wrote about Tempo Beer Industries in Netanya purchasing a controlling share in the Shapiro Brewery, a family-owned business in Beit Shemesh.  [You can read that article here.]  Tempo brews the popular Goldstar, Maccabee and Heineken brands.  

The first three Shikma beers:
Amber Ale, 
Märzen Lager, IPA.
(Photo: Amir Yakoby) 

Within a week after that announcement, the other brewing giant, Israel Beer Breweries Ltd. (IBBL) in Ashkelon, began to market its own craft beer, named Shikma, which was made in a new brewery built for this purpose near the IBBL facility.  IBBL has brewed Tuborg and Carlsberg beers under contract in Israel since the 1990s.  

Shikma (which means "sycamore" in Hebrew) was chosen as the brand name because the tree is very prevalent in the south, where the brewery is located.  Shikma is also the name of the natural reservoir where the water for the beer comes from. 

Shikma means "sycamore tree" in Hebrew.
(Photo: Firma Studio)

What we have here are two models of how "big beer" can move into the craft market.  The first paradigm is acquisition, represented by the Tempo-Shapiro deal.  Here, the big guy simply buys an existing, functioning brewery which has a known brand, a quality reputation and a ready market.  The purchaser gets to add overnight a recognized craft beer to its list of products.  The purchasee gets a strong backbone with deep pockets to help finance expansion plans, new product development, distribution and marketing.                      

In the second model, which is what IBBL chose, the big brewery develops its own craft beer brand and sells it through its existing channels.  IBBL went a step further to distance its regular beers from its craft brand by actually building a new and separate brewery for the craft beers.

I asked Elad Horesh, VP Marketing for IBBL, why they opted to build their own craft brewery rather than acquire an existing one?   "Because," he answered, "we have the brewmasters with the most knowledge, we have the most advanced laboratory equipment in the country, and also the operational experience.  It was also important to let our brewmasters, who for years had dreamed of and played with different recipes, be the ones to make their dreams come true." 

The Shikma Stream and 
natural reservoir flows close to the 
Shikma Brewery and provides water for the beer.

Horesh also explained that IBBL has always felt "a responsibility to help develop the beer culture in Israel."  For example, IBBL held a craft brewing competition as far back as 2010 to encourage home brewing and micro-breweries.  The Carlsberg Challenge in 2010-2013 brought the knowledge of different new beer styles to Israeli consumers.

I asked Horesh why IBBL waited until now, 15 years after the first Israeli micro-brewery opened, to build a subsidiary craft brewery?  "Good things take time to ripen," he philosophized.  "We felt that only in the last three-five years has there really been a change in the openness of consumers to try and get to know new craft beers."  

Cheers! for the new Shikma beers.
(Photo: Firma Studio)

The first three Shikma beers are an IPA (India Pale Ale), Amber Ale and Märzen Lager.  IBBL's Chief Technologist and Head Brewer Avichai Grinberg, said that these styles were chosen after "we had an internal taste competition, and these three recipes came up as the best."  

The Shikma beers are brewed in small batches of 2,000 liters.  By comparison, the major IBBL brewery regularly produces "batches" for its flagship beers of 60,000 liters! 

Grinberg also explained that the IBBL brewery maintains the industry's highest standards for food safety and quality control, something where size really does matter.  "Shikma benefits from these high safety and quality standards," he maintained.       

As to what kind of beers we can expect from Shikma in the future, Grinberg said that, "it's too early to say.  We started with relatively familiar styles, but later on there will also be more surprising, bolder flavors."

Shikma Beer: "It was important to let our
brewmasters . . . be the ones to make their
dreams come true."

(Photo: Amir Yakoby) 

According to Grinberg, the ultimate aim of the new Shikma Brewery is very ambitious: To make the term "Israeli craft beer" more than just a geographic title, but to be a meaningful appellation, respected all over the world. 

So what do we have to say about the first three Shikma beers?

The India Pale Ale (IPA) is more in the tradition of the British version than the more hoppy American style.  It's a semi-hazy golden orange color, with fresh aromas of grass, earth and citrus.  The taste is bitter up-front and at the finish, with flavors in between of lemon, citrus and pine.  The mouthfeel has some warmth from the alcohol (which is 5.2% ABV), astringency, mid-body and mid-carbonation.  I had the feeling this is a well balanced beer, brewed with an eye for precision. 

A case of Shikma Amber Ale 
heads out to the thirsty public.
(Photo: Amir Yakoby) 

The Amber Ale is also true to its style.  On the lighter end of the amber color spectrum, it's slightly hazy with a thin, bubbly head.  The aromas have lots of yeast, bready malt and caramel.  The taste is basically sweet, with flavors of caramel, malt, zesty hops, and sourdough bread.  (That was either my discerning tongue or my vivid imagination.)  The finish is mid-bitter and acerbic.  Alcohol by volume is 5.5%.

The third beer is a Märzen Lager, probably the first of its kind in Israel.  The name means March (as an adjective) in German, and these beers were traditionally brewed at the end of the winter for drinking during the summer.  In time, Märzens became the beer style associated with the Oktoberfest, the giant beer festival held in September.                          

The Shikma Märzen pours out a golden amber with a creamy white head that bubbles away rather quickly.  Like with other lagers, you get scents of yeast and malt against a sweet background.  The taste is full and rich with caramel, sweet from toasted malt, but balanced by the hops.  The body is medium and the carbonation is low.  It's a smooth and refreshing beer, 5.7% ABV, brewed successfully as a summertime lager.                   

These first three beers from Shikma are neither extreme nor innovative, but they are solid examples of craft styles which should attract the wider beer-drinking public.  If that's what the Shikma planners and brewers aimed to do, I believe they will be successful.         

August 5, 2021

Herzl Embargo Nitro Robust Porter: Israel's first nitrogen beer

Embargo Nitro Robust Porter
from Herzl Beer:
Israel's first nitrogen beer.

Israel's first nitrogen beer is Embargo Nitro from Herzl Beer.  It is brewed in the Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Park in the Galilee.

As with quite a few other trends in the craft beer world, nitrogen (or nitro) beers have been brewed for years in the U.S. and elsewhere, long before Embargo Nitro debuted in Israel.  The concept is simple, though not easy to execute.  Instead of being carbonated with CO(carbon dioxide), the beer is mixed with nitrogen, a gas which is not absorbed in the liquid.  Nitrogen bubbles are smaller and more profuse than carbon dioxide bubbles.  This gives the beer a very creamy mouthfeel which is appreciated and loved by many, though not all, beer drinkers.           

Most nitro beers are made for kegs or cans, where the gas is easier to handle, but not in bottles.  Since the Malka Brewery does not have a canning line (no Israeli micro-brewery does!), Maor Helfman, the founder of Herzl Beer, accepted the challenge to put his Embargo Nitro in bottles.  (Today Maor is the Brands Manager for Israeli Beers for Hacarem Spirits Ltd., Malka's parent company.)

"For me, it's a big issue to be a pioneer, the first to do something," Maor told me.  "The most fun of being involved in craft beer is learning.  The Embargo Nitro is the same recipe as Herzl's very popular Embargo Porter, which is brewed with tobacco leaves.  We tried the tobacco with the nitro, but it didn't work."

Nitrogen bubbles give nitro beers 
a smooth and creamy mouthfeel.

Maor explained that all of the nitrogen gas is in the neck of the bottle, above the beer.  "Before you open the bottle, you  have to give it three or four quick shakes to mix in the gas.  Then open it and quickly pour it very aggressively into the glass.  You'll be able to see the layers of nitrogen bubbles in the beer."              

Well, let's try Israel's first nitro beer.

My drinking partner Daniël Boestra and I shook up our bottles of Embargo Nitro quite vigorously and poured them out completely quite aggressively.  I used Herzl's own pint glass.  And there were the mini-bubbles, kind of floating in layers in the very dark brown, opaque beer.  The head we got was thin and not very foamy.  

Human beings are not the only animals
who like to chew on wood. 

There were aromas of oak, coffee and caramel in a sugary envelope.  (Where does the oak come from, I wonder?)  Daniël, ever the Dutchman, smelled some soft licorice.  It tasted like oak, cold coffee and some chocolate.  Daniël said it took him back to his childhood, when he chewed on wood.       

The nitrogen bubbles made their presence known in the mouthfeel: It was especially smooth and creamy.  We didn't feel the carbonation, just the creaminess.  In fact, if a feel could be called "bland," this was it.  The finish was sweet.

I think for the both of us, it was an interesting tasting and a noteworthy event -- but probably not a beer we would go out of our way to drink again.

August 4, 2021

Changes at Oak & Ash Brewery: New partners, new beers, new ideas

Changes have been apace at the Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh (Sorek Industrial Park).  

Three partners of the Oak & Ash Brewery
celebrate their new beers and beverages:
(from left) Asher Zimble, Leiby Chapler
and Moti Horovits.

(Photo:Mike Horton)

A new partner has come on board, Amit Zeev, CEO of the Dor Alon chain of gasoline (petrol) stations, and with him, Moti Horovits, who is now working at the brewery in business development and marketing.  The brewing stays in the capable hands of Asher Zimble and Leiby Chapler. 

At the initiative of the new partners, a new beer brand called "A beer" is being brewed and marketed.

The Oak & Ash brand has been divided into two: Ash, which will be the regular line of beers, and Oak, beers and other beverages which are aged in oak barrels.

Oak Barrel Aged Cider:
The first product in the new Oak line
of barrel aged beverages.

The first Oak product is Oak Barrel Aged Cider, 9.2% alcohol, aged for six months in oak barrels which previously held whisky and red wine.  

And now for the details.

Amit Zeev recently announced that he will be leaving his position at Dor Alon at the end of the year to take up "new challenges" in the field of retailing.  It may be that one of these challenges is marketing the new "A beer" line and other beverages for Oak & Ash.  Certainly, Zeev has excellent contacts in the retailing world; the Dor Alon chain included the popular AM:PM convenience stores and the Alonit food stores at the gas stations.  

The four "A beer" beers
were conceived by 
Amit Zeev, a new partner
in the Oak & Ash Brewery:
"A beer" means "knight"
in Hebrew.

(Photo:Mike Horton)

Although Zeev conceived the "A beer" line of beers, it was Zimble and Chapler who transformed the idea into actual beverages.  The labels, which are entirely in English, are the brainchild of Zeev -- from the name "A beer" (which means "knight" in Hebrew) to the design of knightly armor and heraldry, and even to the wording.  The beer is called a "Product of Buldigania," which has a secret meaning known only to Zeev.  "Est. 1977" -- because that's when Zeev was born.  Even the bottle cap has has an "A" (for Amit) and the silhouette of a wolf ("zeev" in Hebrew). 

The descriptions of each beer are whimsical fantasies.  I can't resist quoting two of them here.  From the bottle of Dark Lager:

The only beer mentioned in the dark prophecies is the infamous A beer from the hills of Buldigania Island.  A mix of 42 ingredients, including Octiron, Spice Melange, Dust, Energon, Aether and Mithril.  Concocted during the gathering of Kal-Turak, Lessa, Haplo and Moses the Insulator on Juram's name day.  With a tang of Bupu's charm and a whiff like a Balrog's whip.  One does not merely drink the A beer but quaffs the unholy substance as cold as a Delta Vega midwinter day.

For it was foretold -- A beer favors the brave! 

From the bottle of IPA:

Something new is brewing at Oak & Ash.
(Photo:Mike Horton)

A beer is the mind-killer.  A beer is the little death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my A beer.  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.  Where the A beer has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.

For is it not written -- A beer favors the brave!  

Innovative marketing aside, the four "A beer" beers are worth trying.

Once a journalist, . . .:
The old blogger interviews Moti Horovits (left)
and Asher Zimble at the Oak & Ash Brewery. 

(Photo:Mike Horton)

The Lager is 5% alcohol, pale and clear.  You don't see the carbonation, but you feel it.  Stick your nose in the glass (not in the beer!) and you'll get some smells of lager yeast, grass and wheat cookies.  The taste is lemony, with a mid-bitter, crisp and dry finish.  

The Red Lager is indeed a clear reddish brown, also 5% alcohol.  With the aroma, you get strong malt and caramel: On the mark for a red lager.  The taste is mildly bitter, with more malt, caramel and toastiness.  The mouthfeel is astringent with fine, tingly carbonation.     

Also being produced at the Oak & Ash Brewery:
Arak cocktails (lemonade and red grapefruit)
and Buster's Hard Lemonade.

(Photo:Mike Horton)
The Dark Lager is a translucent, very dark brown with a thin and creamy beige head.  There's an aroma of malt, caramel, chocolate and yeast.  The  flavor is a bit sweet, with roasted malt, dark bread, and caramel.  Actually, a very nice combination.  It's medium-bodied (5% alcohol) and you finish with a nice dry astringency.   

The IPA is a clear, mid-amber color with light carbonation.  The aromas brought some malt, and pine from the hops.  The taste was bitter, full of piney hoppiness and citrus.  No other distinguishable fruits that I could get, but if you're looking for a bitter pine IPA, this is for you.  Alcohol by volume is 6%.   

A panoramic view of the Oak & Ash Brewery
in Beit Shemesh (Sorek Industrial Park).

(Photo:Mike Horton)
As mentioned, the first product in the Oak line of barrel-aged beers is actually an apple cider.  But calling it a cider isn't fair.  Aging it in ex-whiskey, ex-red wine charred barrels for six months gives it aromas and flavors closer to wine: Oak, vanilla, whiskey, caramel and of course apples.  It really is an exquisite drinking experience, and should be enjoyed more like a white wine.  Be aware, though, that the aging process adds to the price.  A single bottle of 330 ml sells for 60 shekels.

In the Ash line of regular beers, there are five new beers which have just been released.  When I visited the brewery, the beers were not yet bottled, but I was able to taste them direct from the tank.

The five new Ash beers from Oak & Ash Brewery: 
(from left) Belgian Strong Ale, Cherry Sour,
Amber Ale, New England IPA, and Salty Caramel Porter.
(Photo: Yochai Maytal at the 
Beer Israel Facebook Group.)

Cherry Sour (5% alcohol) -- "Kriek with a twist" is what brewer Asher Zimble called this beer, referring to the famous Belgian tart cherry beers. Cherries and malt are noticeable here, ending very dry.

Amber Ale (5%) -- Nicely balanced with malt sweetness and hop bitter fruit.

Belgian Strong Ale (9.5%) -- Like a Belgian Trippel; dark amber, fruity esters from the yeast, and alcoholic.

New England IPA (6%) -- Hazy orange, tastes of pineapple, pine and fresh hops. Creamy and juicy enough to qualify as a real NEIPA.

Salty Caramel Porter (6%) -- Really dark brown, aromas of caramel and roasted malt, flavors of chocolate, caramel and salt (what else?).  A successful combination of sweet and salty.

To sum up, there are lots of good things going on at Oak & Ash: New blood, new ideas, new beers.  It pays to be paying attention.

July 25, 2021

Six more beer festivals heard from: Sderot ● Hod Hasharon ● Orr Yehuda ● Be'er Yakov ● Herliya Park ● Givat Shmuel

Six more local beer festivals over the coming weeks have come to my attention.  If I understand it right, Herzliya is getting a second.  The first one was in the Marina last week, and the second, August 11-12, is in Herzliya Park.  Who said life was fair?  Anyway, see if one of these is close to you and go have a good time.

The First Sderot Beer Festival

Tuesday, July 27, and Wednesday, July 28 (opening at 6:00 p.m.) 

Azrieli Park

Entrance fee: 50 shekels for one day; 75 shekels for both.

Hod Hasharon Beer Festival

Wednesday, August 4, and Thursday, August 5 (opening at 5:00 p.m.) 

Four Seasons Park

Free admission

Facebook link:

Orr Yehuda Beer Festival

Thursday, August 5 (6:00 - 11:00 p.m.) 

Avi and Aviv Street

Free admission

Facebook link:

Be'er Yakov Beer Festival

Thursday, August 12 (6:00 - 11:00 p.m.) 

Lichtenstein Park

Free admission

Facebook link:

Herzliya Park Beer Festival

Wednesday, August 11, and Thursday, August 12 (6:00 - 11:00 p.m.) 

Herzliya Park

Free admission

Facebook link:

Givat Shmuel Beer Festival

Thursday, August 19 (7:00 - 11:00 p.m.) 

Events Park  (פארק האירועים)

Free admission

Facebook link:

July 24, 2021

Kedem: New beers from 'days of old'

We tasted three Kedem beers:
IPA, Strong Wheat and Stout.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

I just found out about a beer label that has been around for a while: Kedem.  The word means something like "yore" or "days of old," which is a nice name for a pretty new beer.  The brewers are now trying to bring the beer to the wider public by using social media.  You won't find it on the shelves yet.  You have to order it directly from the brewers.

Still, a "new" beer brand is what gets the old blogger's juices flowing, so off I went to find out what this was all about.  Accompanying me was IBAV photographer extraordinaire Mike Horton.   

"The both us of live in Nokdim, a community south of Bethlehem, and the both of us love beer and love to cook.  So a few years ago we began to brew beer at home."  

The owners and brewers of Kedem Beer:
Eitan Mann (left) and Elroi Kapach.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

The speaker is Eitan Mann, 39, who works in Israel's hi-tech sector.  The other one he was talking about is Elroi Kapach, 35, a construction manager.  The two neighbors perfected their brewing skills under the guidance of Shmuel ("Shmulz") Naky, one of the owners of Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, who brews some of the most unusual beers in the country.  [Read about some of them here and here.]  

Eitan and Elroi live near Tekoa, a community which hosts a famous home-brew festival every summer.  A few years back, they decided to exhibit their beers at the festival.

"The reactions of the visitors were amazing," Elroi continues.  "We made and sold more beer every year at the festival, but it remained a hobby until recently, when we made it a business.

"It's still a sideline, though.  We're keeping our day jobs!"

Kedem beers are now contract brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.  [Read about that place here.]  

The Hebrew word kedem appears
in this Jewish prayer:
"Renew our days as of old."

We tried three Kedem beers.

The India Pale Ale (5.1% alcohol) has citrus aromas and flavors, though not very distinct fruits.  It is mildly bitter with a medium body.  Israelis have been weaned to appreciate American-style IPAs with more extreme flavors and bitterness, but this one is less so.

The Strong Wheat (5.7%) is in the style of a Belgian witbier, brewed with orange peel.  When I asked Eitan why this was not listed in the ingredients, he said that it doesn't have to be.  Very curious.  It's a very pale color, with fruity aromas and orange taste in the background.  Very much in the ballpark for this style. 

The Stout (4.8%) was Mike's and my favorite.  Dark brown, bordering on black, with a creamy tan head, the dominant aroma and flavor is roasted coffee.  This is not surprising, since it is brewed with coffee essence, though this too is not listed on the label.  The mouthfeel is quite creamy with a medium body.  I am not a stout fan, but I found this to be a very enjoyable beer.  

Eitan and Elroi told us that they also brew a Porter but there was none available at the time for us to taste.  It is a lighter color and less roasty than the Stout.

Kedem beers are currently available only by ordering from the brewers.  Call Eitan at 052-644-4331, or Elroi at 054-741-1490.