October 5, 2016

The 2016 Jerusalem Beer Festival: Fun, but not much new

It's always good to make new friends
at the Jerusalem Beer Festival.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
I should really write about the 2016 Jerusalem Beer Festival, which took place this year as August met September.  After all, it is on my home turf.  Impresario Eli Giladi and his team of organizers are efficient, courteous, welcoming, and treat me like semi-royalty.  I run into a lot of friends and neighbors, and the ambiance is redolent with beer and good times.

Yes, for the average beer drinker who is hopefully taking his or her first steps towards appreciating craft beer, this is a great event.  Even though Big Beer, both Israeli-brewed and imported, is conspicuously represented, there are also many stands of local micro-brewers where you can get generous tastes and patient explanations on what craft beer is all about.

With the very sane Reuben Beiser,
co-owner of the wonderful Mike's Place
restaurant and bar in Jerusalem.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
But for your somewhat jaded old blogger, there was almost nothing new.  Most of the major craft breweries that I -- and hopefully also you -- know and love were there, serving there regular line of beers.  It's always a pleasure for me to meet the brewers and take a picture with them -- but is that something I should be writing about?  

With my 20/20 (or 6/6) hindsight, I can see now that what the brewers did was wait a few weeks and unveil their new beers at the BEERS 2016 Exhibit in Tel Aviv -- of which you'll read more about at a later date.

Sharing a laugh with Gilad Ne-Eman
of HeChalutz Brewery.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
But getting back to Jerusalem, there were a few new, or renewed, beers that I was able to find.  For example, Almost 10, a strong, dark Belgian-style ale from Gilad Ne-Eman of the HeChalutz ("The Pioneer") Brewery in Beersheva (which I already wrote about here).  Don't look for Almost 10 in your favorite liquor store.  It was made for this festival, and I guess for other such events as well.

Yochai Maytal of HeChatzer Brewery ("Back Yard Beer") in Ra'anana was serving his re-issued Kruzo, an American pale ale made with barley and wheat malts and mango puree.  The beer is named after Robinson Crusoe (who presumably ate mangoes on his deserted island), but the brewers chose to spell the English name differently.  HeChatzer uses the facilities of the Srigim Brewery to make this beer in commercial quantities.

Head-to-head with Yochai Maytal,
partner in the HeChatzer Brewery.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Kruzo hasn't been on the shelves for about two years, and it's return is welcomed back.  I love the taste of mango, but to tell the truth, I couldn't find it in this beer, nor could my astute drinking companion Moshe.  What we did get were grassy and tropical fruit aromas.  The fruits are also in the taste, dominated by guava.  Quite flavorful, but not really the mango I was looking for.  Perhaps it's the mango that adds a sweet counter-balance to the plentiful amounts of Citra and Magnum hops which are used in this beer.

Herzl Beer partner Maor Helfman served me
a glass of his amazing Embargo Porter,
brewed with Cuban tobacco leaves.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
Even without a strong mango presence, this is a delicious beer, light and refreshing (5.3% alcohol), perfect for a summer's day, by itself or with food.  Any spicy dishes, or light desserts which would go well with some added fruit flavor -- like pancakes, cheesecake and mild cheeses -- would be nicely complemented (and complimented) by Kruzo.

Another newcomer was a Rye IPA from the Golan Brewery in Katzrin.  This beer was also made only for festivals, but Golan Brewery head Moti Bar told me that it may be made available to the public at a later date under their specialty Og label.  

Chatting with the always amiable Eli Bechar
of Lela Brewery of Maccabim.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
This Rye IPA pours out a dark amber color with aromas of spice and caramel.  You can taste the spicy rye, which I appreciate, along with pine and sweet malt, but I wonder why they call this an IPA.  It simply does not have the hop presence and bitterness associated with this style.  Still in all, an enjoyable drink. There are not too many Israeli beers made with rye malt. 

I'm sorry you have to look at the old blogger in every one of the photos here, but I think you can tell that I was having a good time.  Maybe at the next Jerusalem Beer Festival, some of the brewers will choose to unveil their new beers.          

September 25, 2016

Four more Oktoberfests. Enough!

Okay, this is it.  My last mention of "Oktoberfests" in Israel.  For years, we were having our own beer festivals without having to copy the name and the style of the German prototype, however attractive it may be.  And, by the way, for several years, the native M├╝nchner and the tourists have been complaining that the Munich Oktoberfest, which is now underway, has become horribly overcrowded, ridiculously expensive, and marred by drunken loutish behavior. 

Jerusalem Beer Garden Oktoberfest

Having said this, the Beer Garden in Jerusalem (first mentioned here) is holding its own week-long Oktoberfest from September 25 to October 1, opening every day at 3:00 p.m.  It's a natural setting, since Oktoberfests have traditionally been held in beer gardens, or under big tents anyway.  This one is located in the First Station, the refurbished old Ottoman-era train station. 

Although the Beer Garden will have all of its regular beers on tap, the Oktoberfest is sponsored by the three Bavarian brewers of Lowenbrau, Erdinger and Spaten.  Whoever buys three 400 ml. glasses of these beers will get an (empty) one liter glass as a gift.  Other beer glassware will also be on sale. 

In addition to the pub grub available at the Beer Garden, there will be free snacks on every table.  Admission is free.

Oktoberfest at Tel Aviv's Eastern Fairgrounds

The Eastern Fairgrounds (Yareed HaMizrach) near the Tel Aviv Port will be the site of another Oktoberfest on Tuesday, September 27, and Wednesday, September 28.  This one is sponsored by Weihenstephan, the giant Bavarian state-owned brewery, reportedly the oldest still-operating brewery in the world!  This is certainly impressive, but it also means that you shouldn't expect to drink any craft beers at this party.  There will be the usual Bavarian delicacies and live music.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and admission is free.         

Israel Oktoberfest in Herzliya Pituach

The Herliya Pituach Oktoberfest will be held October 5 and 6 on the rooftop of the Business Park (Azrieli Outlet Center) at 85 Medinat Hayehudim Street. 

This one seems to be organized by the same company that organized last week's Rehovot Oktoberfest, since the logo and all the features are the same: An alcohol area with German beers and Bavarian food (restricted to those over 18) and a gaming and activities area for the whole family.  Live German music, which I guess means the polka, will also fill the air.  
Admission is free and open to the public until 8:30 p.m.; after that, only to those over 18.

Here again, don't expect any craft beers, since the event is sponsored by the giant Paulaner Brewery in Munich.

Alexanderfest in Emek Hefer

Something a little different will take place on Thursday, October 20, at the Alexander Brewery in the Emek Hefer Industrial Area, 19 Zvi Hanachal Street.  

They're calling this the "Alexanderfest" and the entire street in front of the brewery will be closed off and turned into a giant beer garden at 5:00 p.m.  The regular line of Alexander Beers will be served, priced at 35 shekels for a half-liter -- and you get to keep the glass.  Refills are only 15 shekels.  Bottles of Alexander Beer for bringing home will be sold at special prices.  There will be stands for hot dogs and other food, as well as performances of live music, Israeli not German. 

Entrance is free to children under 12 accompanies by their parents.  But if you're older than that, you have to pay 40 shekels.  Since the number of places is limited, Alexander founder and owner Ori Sagy suggests you buy tickets online at a special Headstart site.  For details, go to https://www.headstart.co.il/project.aspx?id=15997&lan=he-IL  (It's in Hebrew.)  

At least the Alexanderfest has Israeli craft beer as its main attraction, rather than foreign imports.  Nevertheless, even the several imported Oktoberfests that are taking place around the country offer a pleasant day or evening out with beer, food, music and Gem├╝tlichkeit.  Maybe we can even keep them more attractive and less vulgar than the original. 

September 18, 2016

Discount coupon to this week's BEERS 2016 Exhibit in Tel Aviv

The monumental BEERS 2016 Exhibit takes place this week, Tuesday, September 20, to Thursday, September 22, at the Train Station (HaTachana) in Tel Aviv's Neve Tzedek neighborhood.  It opens every day at 6:00 p.m.

It's by far the biggest celebration of beer in Israel.  Over 200 beers will be available, including a slew of new beers from Israeli micro-brewers and new imported beers.  Of course, there's food and entertainment -- but beer is definitely on center stage here.  To tease our senses, the organizers are promising a cannabis beer, an Israeli-Danish collaboration beer, a beer made with Scotch whisky, Palestinian beer, beers made just for this exhibit, micro-breweries displaying their wares for the first time, and a whopping number of new India pale ales -- apparently now becoming the most popular beer style in Israel, as it is in many other countries.

You get the picture.  If you're anywhere in Israel and you love beer, it's probably worth the trip to Tel Aviv.          

Regular admission is 70 shekels, but you can get a discount coupon which will get you in for only 50 shekels.  You have to act by the end of tomorrow, Monday, September 19, to you get your discount coupon.  Here's what you have to do:  Go to the BEERS Facebook page at


and share the coupon (that's what it looks like above) with your Facebook friends.  When you get to the BEERS ticket office, show them your shared post on your smartphone.  (Yeah, I'm afraid you have to have one of those.  If you don't, maybe you can use a friend's, but it should be on your Facebook page.)  That should work to get you the 20 shekel discount.

I'm going on Tuesday, the 20th.  If you see me, please step up and say hello.  I love it when a plan comes together.      

September 17, 2016

55 taps of beer on the wall

Probably the only place in Jerusalem with
55 taps of cold, fresh beer. 
As far as names of bars go, this one says exactly what it wants to say: 55.  That's it: 55.  What it means is that there are 55 taps of beer right there behind the bar.

55 Beers, Food and Beers is a chain of three restaurants -- in Rishon LeZion, Kfar Saba and Jerusalem -- and they all have 55 beers on tap.  That was the only reason I wanted to learn more about them, and since the Jerusalem branch was relatively new, I went.  With friends.  Twice.

55 is located on the second floor of the Yes Planet movie complex on Naomi Street just off of Hebron Road.  This makes the entrance very pleasant, passing through the spacious mall, with silent "coming attractions" flashing on all sides.

We were welcomed by a friendly host and hostess, and by Leane Rowe, the very young shift manager.

For beer lovers, the lineup of 55 sparkling taps is most impressive, as is the well-stocked bar.  Leane explained that the tap openings are much wider than average, enabling the beer to get from pipeline to glass faster.  "This means that you get beer that is colder and more carbonated than if it had to squeeze through a narrower nozzle," she said.  I'm not completely convinced that most human beings would be able to tell the difference, but it's nice to make the effort.

Leane also showed me the refrigeration room behind the taps where all the kegs are kept.  Fifty-five separate and criss-crossing tubes all bringing beer to its proper tap.  Before the glasses are filled, they are rinsed with chilled water -- another small step that tries to do right by the beer.

All of the 55 beers on tap are printed on a really big menu, along with photos of glasses of the beer so you can see the color.  Twelve of these are Israeli craft beers from the following brewers: Dancing Camel, Shapiro, Malka, Negev, Golan (Bazelet), and Alexander.  Quite a nice selection.  The 43 imported beers are listed according to types: Ales, Lagers, Wheats.  Most of them of course are European, but the U.S. and Japan are also represented.

The friendly staff at 55 Beers, Food and Beers
in Jerusalem:  Shift manager Leane Rowe
is to the left of the old blogger.

The food menu is really heavily meat, but there are also salads, veggie sandwiches, and a vegan hamburger that's excellent.  Like many other Israeli bars and restaurants that stay open on Shabbat (Saturday), 55 in Jerusalem does not have kashrut certification, but there are no non-kosher meats on the menu, and dairy products are only used in certain desserts.

Drinkers and diners can choose to sit at the beautiful bar, at comfortable inside tables, or out on a porch overlooking one of the most fantastic views of the earthly Jerusalem.  My companions and I enjoyed our visits to 55 immensely.  Taking advantage of the 1+1 Happy Hour (which is Sunday to Thursday between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.), I had one Israeli craft beer and one import -- although maybe I shouldn't be writing this!      

September 10, 2016

Three more beer events heard from

A few more notices about beer events and festivals have crossed my desk, and I hasten to share them with you all.  I am quite exhilarated to learn of all the local events, something which was simply not happening even two or three years ago.  Now, beer lovers in different parts of the country have the opportunity to be with others of their kind in an atmosphere of booze, victuals, music and frivolity.  Somethings do get better, if only for a short while.     

Sarona Oktoberfest

Taking place in the beautiful Sarona Market shopping mall in Tel Aviv, this yet-another-namesake of the famous German Oktoberfest will beheld September 14-15, Wednesday and Thursday, 7:00 to 11:00 pm, and Friday, September 16, noon until the start of Shabbat.  

The organizers promise a real Bavarian beer party, with wooden benches and tables, beer served in giant mugs, traditional Bavarian delicacies and, best of all, waitresses in their dirndls.  Background music with a beat will complete the scene.  Entrance is free.       

Israel Oktoberfest in Rehovot

It's a good thing no one can put a copyright on the word "Oktoberfest," because yet another one is coming to the city of Rehovot, Wednesday, September 21 and Thursday, September 22.  It will take place in the Science Park - Pakaris parking lot.  Admission is free and open to the public from 6:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.  After that, you have to be over 18.

All of the beer will be imported from the famous Paulaner Brewery in Germany, and will be served along with traditional Bavarian dishes.  In addition. there will be live music and entertainment, and an area for games and activities.  Don't expect Israeli craft beers. 

                                           Emek Hefer Beer Valley Festival

If you can wait until the Sukkot holiday, there's going to be a more Israeli beer festival at the Emek Hefer Industrial Park, October 17-19 (Monday-Wednesday), in Hangar 09.  The doors open every evening at 5:00 p.m.  Admission is free, but you have to be over 18.      

Along with the customary food and entertainment, the organizers promise a "large number" of craft beers from Israel and abroad.  Now that's more like it.   

September 7, 2016

Premiers at the Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair

The first Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair opened the capital's summer beer season in mid-July.  This was a private venture by Leon Shvartz and Shmuel Naky, the partners of Beerateinu, the "Jerusalem Beer Center."  They wanted to give micro-breweries a chance to bring their beers to the public space in a sociable setting, undisturbed by Israel's industrial beer duopoly and ear-splitting music.
Beerateinu partners Shmuel Naky (left)
and Leon Shvartz: Impresarios of the
first Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Leon and Shmuel did their job well.  If anything, it was too small: One could easily have visited the dozen or so brewers in 20-25 minutes.  However, the First Station venue did have other things to do -- shops, stalls, restaurants, and the evening I was there, a folk-music concert.

Entrance was free to the Beer Fair, a friendly touch appreciated by the public and guaranteed to draw-in the maximum crowds.  You only paid when you bought beer: a modest 8 shekels for a 100 cc taste, and 15 shekels for a third of a liter.

Almost all of the breweries represented were serving their regular repertoire of beers.  While I enjoyed re-connecting with the brewers and enjoying old favorites, I had really come to seek out the new.  Of these, there were just a few.


From Kibbutz Revadim in the Negev had come Dror Orpaz, a newcomer who had moved from home-brewer to commercial brewer faster than anyone else I know.

"I'm a typical entrepreneurial type," Dror told me.  "I've been starting new media businesses all my life.  Some succeeded, other failed.  For the past 13 years, I've been doing search engine optimization for digital marketers."
The old blogger pumping Socrates beer
with Dror Orpaz.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Dror was introduced to home-brewing with Ohad Boxerman, whose HaTeirutz beer I had at the Beer7 Festival earlier this summer.  [Read about that adventure here.]  

Within a very short time, they had come up with a spiced wheat beer which they thought was "fantastic," as did everyone else who drank it, as did Dror's mother-n-law who never liked beer.

"I went to the big Tel Aviv Beer Festival last summer and I tasted all of the beers there," says Dror, maybe exaggerating a bit.  "I said to myself: 'If these are the best, I have nothing to be ashamed of.'" 

After these positive reactions, Dror decided that brewing would be his new business, and he moved his brewing operation to the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach.  "After just three tweaks, we had commercial quantities of the same beer we brewed at home."
A twilight scene at the first
Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 

Dror decided to name his beer Socrates, "because he was a natural trouble-maker, just like me." 

Socrates is a spiced wheat beer, but it doesn't taste like other wheats.  Dror refuses to reveal what spices are used in the brewing. 

It pours a cloudy copper color, darker than the average pale wheat ales.  The aroma I got was spice and green apples.  Along with the taste of cloves, which characterizes many wheat beers, there were also the pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger), Indian spice, and malt.  Alcohol by volume is 5%.  My drinking companion termed it "a winter holiday ale in a wheat beer."

For all those who enjoy wheat beers, this is a variation you should certainly try.  But what it has to do with old Socrates, I have no idea.

The Dictator

Those who remember The Dictator beers (especially Laphroaig Irish Red, made with single malt Scotch whisky) brewed by Yotam Baras a few years back, may have been wondering what happened to them.  

Well, Yotam was busy trying out a new career as marketing manager for the Protary Craft Beers import agency.  He left that a few months ago and returned to brewing, introducing three new Dictator beers at the Craft Beer Fair.  He uses the brewing facility of Mivshelet Ha'aretz ("The Land Brewery") in Kiryat Gat, originally used by Negev Beer.

It was good to see Yotam back in his natural element, pumping his beers and talking about them with the thirsty public.  Yotam has also given emphasis to branding and marketing his beers, with stickers, banners, and unique labels with each beer featuring a different "dictator."        

Dictator brewer Yotam Baras greets
the old blogger at the Craft Beer Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The English Bitter (with a Guy Fawkes mask on the label) is an Israeli interpretation of this popular British-style beer.  It's toned down for our summer heat, at only 3.8% alcohol.  Not really "bitter" by today's standards, I found its grassy aroma and light body very refreshing. 

The Irish Red (graced with Lenin), a little stronger at 4.7%, is close to the amber ale category with its reddish hue.  I found it to be a very classic Irish Red, with an aroma of hops and chocolate/caramel, a moderately bitter taste and a malty finish. 

The Dictator Pale Ale (with the late Saddam Hussein on the label), at 5.5%, is in the American pale ale category.  Though it boasts a strong aroma of citrusy and piney hops, the taste is balanced by the malt.  The hops are definitely not over powering, as you may expect in an India pale ale.

You feel the strong bitterness of this hazy orange/amber beer at first sip, but it then mellows to a pleasant spice and chocolate.  When I had a bottle at home with a rather bland okra and tofu curry, the beer added a very welcome spicyness to the meal.      

So, the best of luck to Yotam on his return to brewing.  The Dictator's slogan is: "He just wants what's best for you."  And maybe he does. 


An interesting new beer was also unveiled by the talented brewing team of Omer Basha and Dvir Flom, their first commercial venture, brewed 
at the Srigim Brewery facilities.    It's a saison, not a beer commonly produced in Israel.  The only other versions that I know of made in Israel are Galil Brewery's Saison, Alexander M, and to some extent, Malka Blonde.   

Omer Basha (left) and
Dvir Flom at the Craft Beer Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Saison, also know as farmhouse ale, is a style of beer that began in northern France and Belgium when farmer's brewed their beers in the winter months for drinking in the spring and summer.  The farmers traditionally used whatever malts, herbs and spices were available at the time, a fact that made their beers vary greatly in strength, flavor and bitterness one year to the next. 

Today, saison ales can be tart, fruity, herbal or spicy, but all tend to end with a very refreshing dry, bitter finish. 

The Basha-Flom saison is named Pushkin.  Omer Basha tried explaining to me why they chose that name.  Something about a story by that famous Russian writer involving a whale, which is on the label.  Not being up on my Russian literature, I just didn't get it.  I would have called the beer "Scarborough Fair" or "Mrs. Robinson."

Why?, you ask.  It's a highly spiced saison, made with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Aha!

Pushkin pours the palest of amber color with a finger-width of foam.  The aroma is hoppy
Omer Basha with bottles of his new
Pushkin saison beer.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
and spicy, with lemon, resin, and rosemary detectable.  The taste remains full of spices, predominantly sage and rosemary, but also black pepper, grapefruit and a hint of brown sugar.  In the hops-malt equation, the malts definitely win, with hops in the background.  Alcohol content is a hearty 6.7%.

Nevertheless, this is a refreshing beer, finishing dry and bitter.  And how much I enjoyed it with my soy shnitzel and french fries! 

(Some time later, Omer and Dvir told me that they had recalibrated the Pushkin recipe by bringing down the level of all the spices, particularly the sage and rosemary, which they thought were too conspicuous.  I tasted a new bottle and I must say that the spices are still there, and beautifully so.  In my opinion, rosemary and thyme are dominant and there is no reason why they shouldn't be.  Enjoy this beer with not-very-strong cheeses, salads and veggie curries.)   

 HeChalutz ("The Pioneer") and HaDag HaLavan ("Whitefish")

Fellow Negev-ites Gilad Ne-Eman of HeChalutz ("The Pioneer") Brewery and Tomer Ronen, who brews the HaDag HaLavan ("Whitefish") label, told me that they will eventually join forces and bring out a new brand of beer.  This is big news, since these two are very talented and experienced brewers.  (Tomer was the chief brewer for Negev Beers and now works as a free-lance brewer in the Mivshelet Ha'aretz in Kiryat Gat and at Srigim Brewery on Kibbutz Srigim.)
Tomer Ronen (left) and Gilad Ne-Eman (right):
Joining forces for new beer.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

In the meantime, they have collaborated on two beers that I tasted, which are more in the realm of experimental beers than new beers on the market.

One is called Basilica (6% ABV), which is made with Chinook hops and basil.  It's not the first basil beer I've tried but it has the most complex flavors.  The basil makes a strong presence and if you like that aroma/flavor, what more can I say?  The other aroma is pine, while there are tastes of caramel and honey.   

The other beer is named Almost 10, a strong (9%), dark Belgian ale, brewed with Abbey Ale yeast.  I've never had a beer quite like this.  Pouring very dark maroon-brown, the aroma is spice and citrus with a little fruitcake in the mix.  It is also one of the sweetest beers I've ever tasted, with flavors of dark fruit, caramel and orange peel.  It's a delicious beer, but I could never drink a lot of it at one time.  The tasting quantity was just right.

The first Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair was an excellent opportunity to enjoy good beer in a simple, relatively quiet setting.  You could actually talk with the brewers and your friends, while discovering new beers and some you might have missed.  Leon and Shmuel should try to make it a permanent fixture on Jerusalem's event calendar.  The city will be better off for it.

August 30, 2016

Valley Beer Fair this weekend on Kibbutz Beit Alfa

New festivals are multiplying faster than lager yeast at 20°C (68°F).  In the interest of time, I just want to report about one more which is taking place this weekend, September 2-3 on Kibbutz Beit Alfa in the Gilboa region.

This one's called the Valley Beer Fair and the exact location is the Lalos Event Park right on the kibbutz.  You have to be over 18 to get in, and entrance is free.  On Friday, the Fair will be open noon until 1:00 a.m., and on Saturday (Shabbat) noon until 10:00 p.m.

There will be beer, food and music -- the staples of all beer festivals it seems.  From the logos on the poster, the following beers will be on sale: Ralph (a brewery on Kibbutz Gal'ed which I'm hearing about for the first time), The Dictator, Shepherds (from Bir Zeit in the West Bank), Bazelet (Golan Brewery), Vilde Chaye, Fass Brewhouse, and Barzel.

If you go, tell them Israel Brews and Views sent you.  And if they say "Who?", ask them, "How is it that you don't know?"