November 21, 2023

Two Festbeers ➯ BeerBazaar Shtutzer and Shevet Oktoberfest

Shtutzer Festbeer from the
BeerBazaar Brewery:  
Sweetish, with malty aromas 
and flavors.
Even though it's November, I'm writing about two new beers which celebrate the Oktoberfest, which is held in September (in Munich).  Both beers are seasonal and limited editions.    

These are Festbeers, pale German-style lagers which highlight strong, malty flavors with low to moderate hop flavors and bitterness.  Festbeers are usually in the Märzen family of German lagers. 

From BeerBazaar Brewery in Kfar Daniel comes Shtutzer Festbeer.  A shtutzer, the label informs us, is the little tube at the bottom of the fermentation tank which is used for maturing lager beer.  Alex, BeerBazaar's Brewmaster, brought a shtutzer with him from Germany when he came to inaugurate the new brewery in Kfar Daniel.

At any rate, Shtutzer pours out a clear golden orange color.  You get very malty aromas of white bread, plus yeast.  The taste is on the sweet side, once again from the malt, with a mineral background.  My fellow IBAV Taster Bat Sheva noted that alcohol was also in the flavor, adding to the perceived sweetness and body.  Shtutzer, she thought, was a little too sweet to fit in the Festbeer category.  And at 6.2% alcohol by volume, it is at the upper limit for a Festbeer.

The Oktoberfest Beer from the
Shevet Brewstillery:
Balanced bitterness, flavors of
malt, toast and caramel.

The Oktoberfest Beer from the Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna is 5.5% ABV, putting it on the lower limit for this style.  It's color and clarity are practically identical to Shtutzer, but the malty aroma is weaker.  The taste is dry with balanced bitterness, enhanced with flavors of malt, toast and caramel.  Bat Sheva also picked up on citrus notes.  The hops contributed very mild floral and earthy aromas and flavors.

As a fan of Oktoberfest beers, I welcome these two additions to the Israeli craft repertoire.  I wish they could be available all year round, but I am happy to accept them in the fall festival season.  Something for this old blogger to look forward to!                            

October 16, 2023

Schnitt Brewing Co. collaborates with Thornbridge on Mandatory Glory

Mandatory Glory: 
A collaboration IPL between
Schnitt Brewing Co. in Israel and
Thornbridge Brewery in the UK.

The Schnitt Brewing Company and Restaurant in Tel Aviv has collaborated with a British brewery, Thornbridge, to produce Mandatory Glory, an India Pale Lager.  

Like Schnitt's earlier collaboration with the Lervig Brewery in Norway, the beer was brewed in Europe and shipped to Israel in cans.  Read about the Schnitt-Lervig collab, How's It Hanging?, here

At the Mandatory Glory launch in Schnitt, Thornbridge export manager, James Buchanan, introduced himself to the old blogger.  "You may not remember," he told me, "but we exchanged e-mails back in 2016.  I asked you to help me find an Israeli beer importer who might be interested in bringing Thornbridge beers to Israel."  My memory was faint, so Buchanan continued: "You were kind enough to send me a list of four importers, and one of them was Protary Marketing Ltd.  I contacted them, and they eventually brought Thornbridge beers to Israel.

"So in a way, you are responsible for this collaboration happening." 

Well, imagine that!

James Buchanan (right),
Thornbridge Export
Manager, was at the
Mandatory Glory launch
with Alon Schwartz (center),
Schnitt Brewmaster, and
Ronnie (Nika) Lipkin,
a Schnitt brewer.

So what happened is that Schnitt Brewmaster Alon Schwartz and Thornbridge Production Manager Dominic Driscoll put their heads together (long-distance) and decided to brew a light and clear lager with a strong citrus presence.  They used three hops known for their citrus aroma: Centennial, Citra and Mandarina Bavaria.  For extra measure, they added coarse orange peel!  For malt, they used Pilsner, Caramalt and Wheat, and the yeast was a Bavarian bock lager strain.

So this is all mixed together, and let's see what comes out. 

Well, it's crystal clear and very pale.  The initial aroma is a lot of malt, yeasty -- but to get the citrus, you have to use some imagination.  When you taste it, though, the full citrus comes out.  "More from the hops," said my fellow IBAV Taster Bat Sheva, "than from the orange peel."  We got orange, a little lemon and even grapefruit.  It's mid-bitter, and the mouthfeel is acerbic on the tongue with a light body.  Nothing interferes with Mandatory Glory being very clean and refreshing.

We thought it was a good beer, brewed for the summer, but no less drinkable as we get into the fall.  Schnitt seems to be on a foreign collaboration kick, and we wonder what interesting and delicious beverages are in the pipeline.    





October 9, 2023

Smoky Ale from the Shikma Brewery

Smoky Ale from the Shikma Brewery:
Not overly smoked; dry and refreshing.
Shikma, the craft brewery in Ashkelon owned by Israel Beer Breweries Ltd. (one of Israel's two mega-brewers), has released a limited edition of a new beer, Smoky Ale.  The beer was introduced on tap last winter at the Tel Aviv Craft Beer Festival, but only just now released commercially in bottles.  

Shikma brewer Rafael Agaev reminded me that smoked beers (known as rauchbier in German) are not very popular in Israel.  He thinks it's because of our climate and our diet.  "We developed this beer to appeal not only to beer geeks, but also to ordinary beer lovers.  During brewing we changed the amount of smoked malt several times, increasing or decreasing the degree of 'smoky flavor' of the beer. Finally, we found the golden mean."

Well, let's see.

Smoking the malt is what makes
smoked beer smoky. 
Smoky Ale is a very clear reddish copper color, with a bubbly off-white head and active carbonation.  The aroma is strongly smoked meat (or what I remember smoked meat to smell like) and malt.  When you taste it, the smokiness comes down and the meatiness disappears.  That's a good thing.  It's mid-bitter and nicely acidic on the tongue, dry and refreshing.  There is no hop presence.  The smoky flavor lingers a while.  The ABV is 5.1%, but there's no alcoholic burn.

I found it a "drinking experience," well constructed, smoked to my taste, but not my first choice in a beer.  As to food pairing, as with any smoked beer, choose dishes which would benefit from a smoky taste (though not smoked dishes themselves).  Things like grilled or stuffed vegetables, grilled veggie burger, pizza, hard cheeses, chili, and spicy curry.  Bon Appetite!             



      

October 4, 2023

Alexander and Shapiro at Borefts Beer Festival in Holland

The Alexander and the Shapiro Breweries
were exhibiting side-by-side at the 
Borefts Craft Beer Festival in Holland.

For the first time, Israeli craft beer was represented at the famous Borefts Beer Festival in Bodegraven, Holland.  

Not one, but two Israeli craft breweries participated: Alexander from Emek Hefer and Shapiro from Beit Shemesh.  The only other breweries (24) were European: Holland, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Latvia, Norway, France, Portugal, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Romania and Estonia.  

Borefts is an annual event since 2011, sponsored by and held at the De Molen Brewery.  It attracts thousands of visitors over a two-day period (this year September 22-23), and harnesses plenty of media and professional attention.  

I asked Dani Shapiro, Assistant CEO of his eponymous brewery, why he chose to exhibit at Borefts.  

"Actually, they invited us," he answered.  "They wanted to diversify the exhibiting breweries with something new, and I guess they had heard of Israel's craft beer scene.

"I think we represented Israeli craft beer very honorably."

The Shapiro Brewery stand at the 
Borefts Craft Beer Festival in Holland:
Brothers Itzik and Dani Shapiro. 
Dani was very impressed with the festival's planning and organization.  "They contacted us way back in March to make sure that everything would be ready in time.  All of our beer and equipment was shipped to Holland early  and when we got there, all we had to do was hook up the kegs and start to pour.  They put us up for three nights in a hotel."

Dani went with his brother Itzik, CEO of the brewery.

"The European visitors," he continued, "appreciated our special beers, like Jack's Winter Ale, made with whisky, and Barrista beer, brewed with added coffee.  But they also liked our regular line of beer: Pale Ale, IPA and Strong Sour.

"I got the impression that European craft brewers are finding it difficult to reach a balance between extreme beers and the classical styles.  This has led to some European craft breweries closing.  In Israel, we are more conservative and have achieved that balance.  We also have a stronger survival instinct!"

Alexander brewers Gili Tavory and 
Lior Balmas with a happy visitor
at the Borefts Craft Beer Festival.
Ori Sagy, CEO of the Alexander Brewery was also at the Borefts Festival.  "It was a good opportunity to hear the thoughts of beer lovers outside of Israel," he told me.  "We got a fantastic response and compliments from the attendees.  The De Molen Brewery treated us like honored guests.

"I also think it is important to have a presence at overseas festivals to spread the knowledge that Israel is not just guns and camels, but also fine craft beer." 

September 30, 2023

"Cryo-Blasters" ➯ Four experimental beers from Oak & Ash

The four "experimental" Cryo-Blasters
from the Oak & Ash Brewery:
The bottles are only numbered and
the carton describes each beer.
The glass mosaic trivet was a gift
from IBAV Taster Batya
(who also took the photographs). 

The Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh has issued its third set of four "experimental" beers, under the guiding hands of partner-brewers Asher Zimble and Leiby Chapler.    

The first four beers, you may remember, were IPAs.  The second set were "Dark and Heavy."  I was able to write about only five of them, which you can read here:

IPAs

No. 1:  "Leiby Dreams of Peaches"       

No. 2:  "Fruit Salad"

No. 3:  "Matcha Doing Later"

No. 4:  "Blackcurrants"

Dark and Heavy

No. 1:  "Bock Me All Night Long"

No. 2:  "Creamy Cinnamon Buns"

No. 3:  "Roast Me"

No. 4:  "Hard Wood Excites Me"

Cryo-Burn is bitter with intense and fruity
hop aromas and flavors.
The third set is called Cryo-Blasters, because they  are all brewed with cryo-hops.  These are hop pellets whose oils and alpha acids have been concentrated, allowing the brewer to get intense hop aromas and flavors while using less of the vegetative part of the plant.

To avoid the mistake of the past, I had all four of the beers with IBAV Tasters Oded, Bet Sheva and Batya, with help from my son Ami.  

Bottle No. 1 (numbers are all you see on the labels) was Cryo-Burn, brewed with Cryo-Citra, Cryo-Mosaic and Nectaron hops, with an adjunct of oatmeal.  Alcohol by volume is 6.5%.

Cryo-Burn is a juicy-looking opaque yellow color.  The hop aromas and flavors were indeed intense.  Between all the Tasters, we picked up guava, papaya, pineapple and red grapefruit  all within a very bitter envelope.  For Bat Sheva, it was too bitter.  "It blots out the flavors," she said.  Oded and I begged to differ.

The oatmeal added to the textured mouthfeel and the haze, as Oded pointed out.  "I love the haze," Bat Sheva insisted, "but the bitterness passes the line."  The cryo-hops give your throat a little burn on the way down, but nothing to get excited about.     

Raspberry Clouds: A Milkshake IPA brewed
with raspberries, oatmeal and vanilla.

Batya proclaimed the beer to be a crisp and refreshing summer drink.  "It reminds me of crispy lettuce," she said.

We gave Cryo-Burn mid to high marks.

Beer No. 2 is Raspberry Clouds, called a Milkshake IPA and brewed with Cryo-Citra and Barbe Rouge hops, a huge amount of raspberries, oatmeal and natural vanilla extract.  Instead of lactose (milk sugar), which is normally used for Milkshake IPAs, the Oak & Ash brewers used maltodextrin, a carbohydrate processed from vegetable sources which is used as a replacement for sugar.  5.1% is the ABV.

This beer pours out a dark and hazy pink, a color you can't ignore.  Bat Sheva smelled some milk(!), while the rest of us got the expected blackberry (or was it raspberry?) scent.  As a flavor, the berries were very strong, "overpowering the hops," according to Oded, though he appreciated the drink as a raspberry cider.  Bat Sheva thought it lacked direction: "Neither a beer nor a cider."  Batya found it difficult to drink.

Raspberry Clouds was the cryo-hopped beer we were least happy with.

Next up (No. 3) was Mango Spacewalk, another Milkshake IPA, this time brewed with mangoes, oatmeal, vanilla extract, and maltodextrin.  The hops used were Cryo-Mosaic and Harlequin.  ABV is 5.2%.

Another opaque orange-yellow beer, looking to all the world like mango juice, with a light yellow head.  We got a mild mango aroma with some hoppiness and yeast.  The taste is very bitter, pushing the mango into the background.  Ami, who is not a fan of bitter beers, said that the fruit flavor made the beer palatable.  I can handle mango flavor in beers, but I had to search too hard for this one.

Crash Landing: A Rice IPA with aromas and flavors
of apricot, mango and peach.

The name of beer No. 4 is Crash Landing, called a Rice IPA because it contains, well, rice.  This is an adjunct which normally lightens a beer's color and flavor, helping to produce a dry, clean taste.  The beer is hopped with Cryo-Idaho 7, Cryo-Simcoe and Cascade.  White sugar is also added, no doubt helping to reach an ABV of 7%.

Unlike the other Cryo-Blasters, Crash Landing pours out semi-clear and golden, with low carbonation.  The hop aromas are apricot and mango  with peach and honey getting on board when you taste it.  Oded said that the taste reminds him of bottled apricot-flavored tea.  Bat Sheva thought that the aroma was promising but the taste disappointing.  We all found the beer "drinkable," but not on the top of our list.  

I reminded all of the Tasters that not every experiment is successful, but if you never experiment, then nothing new will ever emerge.  Kudos to Asher and Leiby for their creativity and, yes, courage.  

Four-packs of the Dark and Heavy beers and the Cryo-Blasters can be ordered from the Oak & Ash online store (Hebrew):  https://oaa.co.il/oakash-shop/

September 24, 2023

The old blogger on The Jewish Drinking Show: Contemporary Beer Trends in Israel

I was very excited to be interviewed by Rabbi Drew Kaplan for his Jewish Drinking Show podcast.  We spoke about Contemporary Beer Trends in Israel (very broadly!) right in the middle of Jerusalem's Machaneh Yehuda market.

This is what Rabbi Drew wrote in his introduction:

Having previously sat down with The Jerusalem Post's wine writer to discuss contemporary trends in wine in Israel, the newest episode of The Jewish Drinking Show features The Jerusalem Post's beer writer. As part of the Toast to Israel at 75 mini-series, Doug Greener and Rabbi Drew Kaplan get together over beers in the Macḥaneh Yehuda Market in Jerusalem to discuss contemporary beer trends in Israel.


Guest


Born in New York City, Greener made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 1971. Married for 54 years, Greener has three sons and five grandkids. Having worked in journalism, advertising, and public relations, he began writing regularly about beer in Israel a decade ago on his Israel Brews and Views blog in 2013 and has been the beer writer for The Jerusalem Post.


Topics


Amongst other topics we discussed, we discussed the Israel Museum's 2023 exhibit on drinking parties, the first commercially-available beer made from 3,000-year old yeast (which we drank), and more. You can also check out Greener's article that came out around the time of our recording regarding new spring and summer beers in Israel.


Support the show. Thank you for listening!


If you have any questions, suggestions, or more, feel free to reach out at Drew@JewishDrinking.com


l'chaim!


Please click on the link below to view the interview on Youtube:

https://youtu.be/-suLrj5wPC8

The following link will bring you the Jewish Drinking site where you can also choose to hear the interview as an Apple or Spotify podcast, "or wherever else you prefer listening to podcasts."

http://jewishdrinking.com/israelbeertrends/


September 6, 2023

New Ziland Red ➯ A memorial ale from Chalutz Chadash

New Ziland Red, an English Bitter-style ale
from the Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer") Brewery:
Malty aroma and flavor with a dry, bitter finish.


The Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer") Brewery in Beersheva has issued New Ziland Red, a Memorial Ale honoring the New Zealand troops who fought in the battle of Ayun Kara (today near the city of Rishon LeZion in Israel) against the Ottoman army on November 14, 1917.

This isn't the first time that Chalutz Chadash owner Gilad Ne-Eman has honored the ANZAC forces who fought here in World War I.  A few years back, he brewed Bill the Bastard, an Australian Pale Ale named after one of the cavalry horses that took part in the battle of Beersheva.  Here too, Australian and New Zealand troops attacked and defeated the Ottoman army.

(Read about Bill the Bastard here.)  

The beer honors the New Zealand soldiers and 
Mounted Rifle cavalrymen who fought
in the Holy Land in World War I.

New Ziland Red is called an English Bitter on the label.  It pours out a brownish red or dark amber.  The aroma is malty and earthy, with my fellow IBAV Taster Oded adding "burnt caramel."  The taste has a similar nutty maltiness along with bread and caramel.  

Taster Bat Sheva said that she would categorize it as a Brown Ale rather than a Bitter.  "The taste is rather flat," she surmised, while Oded found it "watery."

The hop bitterness makes itself felt in the finish, so the English Bitter quality is maintained. 

New Ziland Red was brewed at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad, and alcohol by volume is 5.1%.  It is available in beer specialty stores, and can be ordered from the Chalutz Chadash website (Hebrew).