January 26, 2014

Results of the first Israel Brews and Views Tasting Panel - Israeli IPAs


The results are in for the first Beer Tasting Panel held under the auspices of Israel Brews and Views.  The panel judges tasted and ranked eight India Pale Ales (or near IPAs) made by Israeli craft breweries.  Two sessions were held during the week of January 19-23, 2014.

Before we get to the results, some introductory remarks:

We apologize for the delay in publicizing the results.  The panel was twice delayed because of judges' illnesses. 

Doug and Ira
looking good.

The judges and the results were unscientific and non-professional.  We are just a collection of eight beer lovers who know what we like and can make relatively intelligent comments on it.  Who are we?

Yitzchak from Orr Yehuda, computer programmer
Moshe from Jerusalem, office manager and app designer
Shoshana from Jerusalem, student, former bartender
Ira from Jerusalem, financial advisor
Eitan from Tekoa, tour guide
Mike from Jerusalem, photographer and graphic designer
Andy from Ma'ale Adumim, press officer
Doug from Jerusalem, yours truly

Three of the beers were not officially IPAs.  We simply used them to beef up the number, and the brewers told us they could compete in the IPA category.  One was right.
Andy and Mike
hard at work.

Our tastings were completely blind.  All glasses just had a number on them, corresponding to a beer which only the server knew.  The judges recorded their impressions on a specially prepared page and when they were finished with all eight beers, gave each a ranking.  The best beer received eight points, number two got seven points, and so on.  All the points given to each beer were counted to obtain the final rankings.  
The contenders!

Here then are the results of the first Israel Brews and Views Beer Tasting Panel:

First Place:  
IPA . . . v'Zeh -- The clear winner from the new kid on the block, Herzl Brewery in Jerusalem.  Comments included: "fruity," "good bitterness," "hops to the nose, but not the taste," "refreshing," "good for summer," "excellent IPA."

Tie for Second Place:
Patriot -- From the Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv, this is an American Pale Ale, with less hops and alcohol than an IPA, but the judges felt it could stand up with the best.  Comments: "moderate body, not much hops," "hoppy, light IPA(!)," "flavor difficult to fathom," "excellent, not too shy, not too light."        

Chutzpah -- The hoppy champion from Isra-Ale in Mevasseret Zion.  My guess is that the judges didn't know what to make of all those hops.  Comments: "crazy hops, very bitter, long finish," "startling first impression," "unusual, high alcohol, bittersweet," "smoky, hoppy, flavorful."

Moshe:
A study in concentration.

Tie for Third Place: 
Alexander Green --The judges were more divided on this beer from Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer, but it received some consistent high scores.  Comments: "smooth, creamy," "watery, sweetish," "a refreshing ale," "ordinary," "very tasty, strong finish." 

The Ugly Indian -- The IPA entry from the Ronen division of Srigim Brewery.  This beer won a gold medal in the 2011 Beer International Recognition Awards.  Comments: "full of flavor, drinkable," "malty, slightly sweet," bitter nutty aftertaste, great flavor," "creamy head, hoppy aroma."       

Fourth Place:
Shoshana and Yitzchak:
A labor of love.

Mosco Blond -- From the new Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanoach.  Not a true IPA, but brewer Amir Lev allowed it to compete.  Some comments: "bitter, weird aftertaste," flat, bitter," "good flavor, little weak," "bitter, little hops -- not IPA."

Tie for Last Place:
Eitan IPA -- From Hashahar Brewery in Mevasseret Zion.  Comments: "very fruity, strong aromas," "continually bitter," "very malty, good but not IPA."

Pavo Israeli Pale Ale -- Although "Israeli" instead of "India," it is alphabetically an "IPA," isn't it?  The Pavo Brewery in Zichron Yaakov says that this is an IPA made for the Israeli "palate and climate."  Some comments: "strong, bitter & pleasant hoppy," "thin experience," "flat, undeveloped taste, no fruit," "soapy," "light bitterness." 

Nothing gets by Eitan.
The beers we tasted do not include every Israeli micro-brewed IPA.  They are the ones we could get easily in Jerusalem and Mevasseret Zion.  We hope to have a second IPA panel in the future which will include the other Israeli IPAs.  

I call now on all the Israeli craft breweries to let me know now if you make an IPA.  We will take steps to obtain it, be you in Metulla or Eilat!  Readers should also let me know about other Israeli IPAs. 

I would like to publicly thank Ofer Ronen of Srigim Brewery for donating Ronen's "The Ugly Indian" IPA to our tasting panel and for making an extra effort to deliver the beer to us when it was not available in Jerusalem stores.
Here's to the next Tasting Panel!

Future tasting panels will deal with other categories of Israeli beers, for example, wheat beers, brown ales, porters and stouts, etc. 

Before I close, let me say that it was not our intention to tell our readers which beers to like, or even to drink.  Taste is amazingly individual, as it should be.  I myself would not argue with the old saying: "There are no bad beers; some beers are just better than others."  

Just as food on Shabbat does not taste the same as on a weekday, so is our appreciation of beer influenced by the subjective situation we find ourselves in.       

There is a list of "The Top Five Beers in the World" which I just read on the Blog About Beer.  It is a good way to close our first Beer Tasting Panel.  

1. The Beer That’s In Your Hand

2. The Beer You’re Having Next 

3. The Best Beer You Can Remember 

4. The Beer That’s Free 

5. The Beer You Made

6 comments:

  1. Written from my cellphone. Great article. Great experiece. Thanks for including me. My vote goes to wheat beers for the next test.

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  2. Go dark Doug, go dark!
    Beer blog......I love it!

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  3. Thank you to Doug, truly a beer-soldier and a gentlemen.

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  4. Anonymous1/29/2014

    Ah. Finally. The results. (Love the promo poster!) So much to say now, so little time. First of all, I'm fuming about the rankings -- but we'll get to that in due course. (I'm not really fuming...) Gotta give an enthusiastic thumbs up to the selection. Anon#2 made a valid point that HaDubim's flagship IPA deserved a place alongside the other contenders, but the unfortunate reality is that the Dubim just don't have a presence in the capital, so what can you do. On the other hand, as a loyal disciple of the Ugly Indian, I'm grateful efforts were made to procure it for the tasting panel. I've only ever met Ronen twice, but I consider us profoundly fortunate to have a protege of the West Coast craft brewery scene of his caliber in our midst. Ok, which brings us to the rankings. Before getting down to the actual numbers, I have a small critique about the language, which was rather vague. I realize it's easy to get carried away and come across sounding snotty when reviewing a beer, but the other extreme is commentary that doesn't impart enough useful, practical information to the reader. The inventory of basic descriptions when it comes to IPAs should include style, i.e. East/West Coast; hop profile, e.g. citrus, pine, tropical, etc.; and the rest -- aroma, body, color, head -- you pretty much covered. Now, Ugly Indian at numero tres? In Afghanistan they'd stone you in the public square for that because it's sheer blasphemy I tells you. As for Herzl's IPA, I had a weird experience with that one. Bought it one day at המשמח and drank it room-temperature on a bench in Nahlaot. Half the bottle gushed out, but the other half tasted phenomenal -- pure cat piss. Since then, though, the refrigerated bottles I've had have been consistently disappointing. Hey, in the end this was really enjoyable to read, and hopefully a milestone in the annals of Israeli beer culture as the initiative evolves into a tradition. Outstanding job, Mr. Doug, עלה והצלח!

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    1. A constructive criticism, Anon, and I thank you. As I wrote (sort of), there are no "wrong" or "right" answers in a taste test. We were eight very different people and we all gave the Herzl IPA high marks (well, except one). I do accept what you say about the language used in description, and we will try to do better in future tasting panels -- without being snooty, of course.

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  5. Anonymous1/30/2014

    Very cool article! As a young and developing beer lover I want to thank you for writing this article. I am looking forward to the next article on the next beer tasting! PS the "Words of Wisdom' on the right side of the page is hilarious!

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Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!