September 7, 2014

The 2014 Jerusalem Beer Festival -- and the future of Israeli beer

After a few days of uncertainty if it will be cancelled because of the "security situation," the 2014 Jerusalem Beer Festival opened on August 27, a day after the Gaza ceasefire went into effect.

Hats off to Eli Giladi of Giladi Productions for an impressive and well-organized tenth anniversary festival on the grassy knolls of Independence Park (Gan Ha-Atzmaut).

Meeting with friends to drink good beer, eat a little something and listen to Israeli pop can't be a bad way to spend an evening.

Mosco's Amir and Yaron.
Big Beer was represented at the festival by Tempo Beer Industries (Goldstar, Nesher and Maccabee), Israel Beer Breweries Ltd. (Carlsberg and Tuborg), and the major importers, who had big impressive bars.

But some of the more veteran Israeli craft breweries were also there making a splash.  It was a pleasure renewing acquaintances with Denny Neilson of Isra-Ale (Buster's Cider, Chtuzpa IPA, and Hard Lemonade), Yaron Moscovich and Amir Lev of Mosco Brewery, Maor Helfman and Itai Gutman of Herzl Beer, Mike Giladi of Bazelet (Golan) Brewery, Ofer Ronen of Srigim Brewery (Ronen and Emek Ha'ela), Itzik Shapiro of Shapiro Beer, and Eli Bechar of Lela Beer.  I also met Or Fass from Fass Brewhouse at Kibbutz Geshur on the Golan Heights.  Negev Brewery and Bazelet had the biggest bars.

Bazelet's Mike (behind the bar).
Good people all -- passionate about their beer, yet otherwise quite different one from the other.  I wish them well.  They are the leaders in Israel's craft beer efflorescence.

But I was also attracted to one long table that was just opposite the entrance to the festival grounds.  Along the length of it were some 20 home-brewers who were pouring their wares -- and all the beer was free.  Many of the bottles didn't have labels; most of the brewers had no written literature or even business cards.  But they all had enthusiasm.   

I apologize for not writing down all the names, but a partial list includes:

HeChatzer's Yochai Maytal,
Ariel Chinn and Shachaf Ashkenazi.
Gecko (Kevin Unger: Read more about him on my previous post.) 
HeChatzer--Back Yard Brewery 
Opi's (Sagi Schonewald)
HeChalutz (Gilad Ne-Eman)
Duveen (Idan Duveen)
I & R

Shita's Neta and Jean.

Ruth (Roni Waldman))
Shita (Jean Torgovitsky)
Lanner (Boaz Lanner)
Wiesenfelder (Mano Peled)
Avir (Avi Riji)
Joya (Adam Souriano)
Samson (Leon Solomon)
Nazareth (Amir Elouti)

Many of the beers were simply more of the same; not different from the pale ales, stouts, amber and red ales already made by the veteran craft breweries.

But a few stood out for their originality.  I noted, for example, the Shitake Pale Ale from Opi's, made with shitake mushrooms and German pepper; a Christmas Ale with cinnamon and other spices from Avir; an Amber Wheat from Mami's; and a Triple New Zealand IPA from Joya.
Opi's Sagi and friend Adam.

Lanner's Boaz and Avir's Avi.
If the big bars at the top of the park represent where Israeli beers are today, these home-brewers at the bottom are harbingers of where we are going.

A little later on in the evening, the winners were announced of the Longshot competition for home-brewers, sponsored by Samuel Adams Beer from the U.S.  The best-in-show prize went to HeChalutz Brewery for their Totzeret Ha'aretz ("Made in Israel") Amber Ale, while their American IPA, called HaTalmid ("The Student"), took first place in the pale ale category.  Gecko's Whisky Chips beer and Joya's Triple New Zealand IPA tied for first place in the freestyle category.  The Smoky Chaser from Opi's took first place in the lager category.
Gecko's Kevin and his first prize
for Whisky Chips beer.

I ran into my middle son Aharon and together with other friends, we walked around, drinking and comparing beers and talking with brewers and strangers until it was time for me to go home.  Aharon stayed on to hear Rami Fortis belt out his songs.  I'm an old guy, after all.      


  1. Sounds like fun. Wish I had made it.

  2. This post has been included in  The First Kosher Cooking Carnival of 5775! Please read it and the other posts, comment and share it, thanks.


Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!