September 29, 2015

More Fridays at the Glen Whisky Bar -- Part 1

Bartender Shmuel Naky serves the sleeveless
old blogger (it was the Middle Eastern
summer after all) at the Glen Whisky Bar.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Last summer, the Glen Whisky Bar on Shlomzion Hamalka Street in Jerusalem started to host different home-brewers every Friday morning.  It was a lovely idea and it gave beer-lovers and bar-patrons a chance to try new beers and to meet and speak with the people making them.  I wrote about a few of these ambitious brewers, which you can read here.

I'm happy to report that this summer the Glen Bar has continued the tradition.  These events are organized by owner Leon Schwartz and bartenders Tom Castel and Shmuel Naky.

I wasn't able to be there every week, but I was there enough times to meet the following intrepid home-brewers:

1) Eli Cohen and Gal Amedi

Eli and Gal from Jerusalem don't even have a name or symbol or label for their beers.  However, since Eli once worked at one of the bigger craft breweries (he has since left to study mechanical engineering) and Gal still works at another brewery, they've been able to make their beers at those professional facilities.

They were pouring three of their beers from bottles on the day I was there.
Eli Cohen and Gal Amedi pour their beers
for the Friday morning crowd.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Vanilla Porter -- A very satisfying porter beer which is dry hopped with real vanilla beans.  This means they are steeped in the beer during fermentation.  I appreciate the taste of vanilla in a porter or stout, but in this case, I think the roasty taste of the malt hid too much of the vanilla.  There was also a slight burnt taste, which I liked, and a sour finish.

Spiced Wheat -- A very light beer with the color, sparkle and dryness of champagne.  Orange peel and mint are added to the wheat ale base, and these flavors are quite noticeable.  The mint additive was a first for me, and I believe was very successful.  I also detected a taste of nutmeg.  Though I am not a great wheat beer fancier, I enjoyed this beer a lot.

Summer Ale -- A light-bodied and refreshing beer for the hottest days.  Not especially high on flavor or other distinctions.

I told Eli and Gal to put some thought into choosing a name and a brand.  It will make a difference not only for the drinkers, but also for themselves as brewers.

2) Hechter Beer

Raz Hechter is a home-brewer who's given his name and caricature of red chin whiskers to his beers. He's been brewing for three-and-a-half years in Beersheva, where he's in the home-brewing guild and takes part in local competitions.  

Liron and Raz.
"This is the first time I'm selling my beer to strangers," Raz, 30, tells me on this summer morning.  Standing next to him is his girlfriend Liron Chiki from Kfar Saba. 

Raz began making beer when he got a brewing kit as a birthday present and took a half-day brewing course.  "That's all it took to hook me," he says.  He's now working on his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Ben-Gurion University.

I tasted the three beers Raz was pouring:

Turbulent Ale -- A very hoppy and strong (6.7% alcohol by volume), dark copper beer which Raz admits resulted from a mistake.  "My boiler broke in the middle of my brewing and in order to save the batch, I added a lot more Cascade hops."  Isn't that why you have to love home-brewers?
Raz Hechter's beer and cider menu,
with his distinctive caricature logo.

Instead of a pale ale, Turbulent came out dark and strong, with lots of fruity hops aroma and flavor.  I liked it, and would classify its taste as a spirited, fruity IPA.

Florale Litchi-Hibiscus -- At 5% ABV, this is a light saison-style beer which Raz infuses with Wissotzky Litchi Tea with Hibiscus a few minutes before the end of the boil.  It has a grassy aroma and I found it full-bodied with the taste of apricots and sour fruits.  This was nicely balanced by the malt sweetness.  

However, since I'm really not a litchi eater, I could not detect the taste.  All-in-all, a nice refreshing beer that would probably go well with light sharp cheese or spicy Middle Eastern dishes.

Florale Chamomile -- Similar to Hechter's Litchi-Hibiscus, but infused with chamomile tea.  Also, less flavorful.  5.5% ABV.

Raz says he wants to expand his repertoire of beers and find other outlets for reaching the beer-buying public, which I think are both excellent ideas. 

3) Lanner Beer

Boaz Lanner is no stranger to beer festivals and public gatherings.  This talented home-brewer concentrates on classical beer styles, which he tweaks and adjusts to make them ever better.  

Boaz Lanner (right) hosts the old blogger.
"The sky's the limit."
I asked Boaz if he's going to stay a home-brewer or take it to the next level.  "Well, I'm retiring from my work in high-tech in the middle of 2017," he answered, "and then you never know.  The sky's the limit."

Boaz was serving two beers that morning:

Brown Porter -- With a medium body and strong coffee notes, this is surprisingly dry and crisp, not to be confused with other porters you might have had recently.  Add to this an  ABV of only 4.2% and it's easy to understand why this is the kind of beer I can drink all day long -- but I'll restrain myself.       

Wheat Beer -- Another Lanner classic, this time a hefeweizen-style wheat beer.  I detected a sour grass aroma, along with the expected cloves and banana.  Although wheat beers are not my favorite go-to beers (Have I mentioned this already?), I enjoyed this tart and dry beer with low hop bitterness and low hop flavor.  The alcoholic content is 5.25%.  When I asked Boaz why he measures the alcohol down to a hundredth of a percent, he laughed: "Because I can."     

It was a pleasure to meet up with Boaz Lanner again and drink his beers while he explained about them.  I did the same with other home-brewers at the Glen Bar on Friday mornings, and I will continue with these brief reports in the future. 

September 16, 2015

Israel and the Reinheitsgebot

As I wrote previously (here), I was recently honored to greet two important visitors from Europe and show them around Jerusalem and the Beer Festival.

Drinking beer in Jerusalem with 
Conrad Seidl (left) and Bernhard Purin (right).
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Bernhard Purin, the director of the Jewish Museum in Munich, and Conrad Seidl, the most famous beer writer in Austria, found me through the web log you're reading now.  They asked if I would be kind enough to meet them in Jerusalem, show them some nice craft beer locations, and perhaps accompany them to the Festival.

Oh, and there was also a very interesting project they wanted to discuss with me.

What would you have said?

We met at the Machane Yehuda market.  I had no problem recognizing them.  Conrad, who is known as the Bierpapst (the "Beer Pope"), was wearing a traditional Tyrolean outfit, including lederhosen.   You can read more about him here: http://bierpapst.eu/english-summary/
and see his weekly beer review videos in English here: http://www.beer-weekly.com/

I took them to my favorite "bottle shop" in Jerusalem, Hamisameach on Agrippas Street, where they purchased several bottles of Israeli craft beers.

The "Beer Pope" himself studying Israeli
craft beers in the Hamisameach store.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
As we walked through the market, Bernhard and Conrad couldn't resist stopping at the Que Pasa tapas bar which has all seven beers of Srigim Brewery on tap.  It was a hot day in Jerusalem after all, and one could only walk a few steps before building up a powerful thirst for a cold beer.

We continued on our way and ended up at the Bardak pub, which has five or six Israeli craft beers on tap.

In this perfect setting, Bernhard told me why he and Conrad were in Israel.

"To drink the beer, of course!"

Discussing the finer points of Israeli craft beers.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
And something else. 

Next year, Bernhard informed me, is the 500th anniversary of the famous Reinheitsgebot (the "Purity Decree"), which everyone involved in beer knows was the first law which specified which are the only ingredients that can be used to make beer -- which, in this case was only barley, hops and water.  It was decreed in 1516 by the two dukes of Bavaria, and in some way or other, is still on the law books in Germany.

To honor this anniversary, the Jewish Museum in Munich is having a special exhibit entitled, "Beer is the Wine of this Land: Jewish Brewery Tales" on the history of Jews in the German brewing industry.  It opens in April 2016 and Bernhard has been busy gathering the artifacts, building the displays and generating publicity.        

A 15th century brewer in Nuremberg,
with the six-pointed
"brewers' star" hanging from a pole.

(Photo: Nuremberg Municipal Library) 
The exhibit will focus on such topics as Jews in the hop trade, the six-pointed star as a symbol of both the Jewish community and the German brewers' guild(!), Jews involved in brewing in Bavaria, and the saga of Lowenbrau beer as one of the most popular German imports in the U.S.

The exhibit will conclude with the modern era, including -- what else? -- the flowering of craft brewing in Israel.  Conrad Seidl is serving as an adviser for this section.  He is very enthusiastic about Israeli craft beers and believes that they will generate discussion and interest in Germany.

As to the "interesting project" that I mentioned, Bernhard and Conrad are planning to sell a specialty beer at the exhibit -- a collaborative brewing effort between a Bavarian craft brewer and an Israeli craft brewer.

The German brewery has already been chosen -- the Crew Republic in Munich.  While they were here, Bernhard and Conrad met with several Israeli brewers and will choose the winner in a couple of months.

My gifts from Europe: Two bottles
from the Crew Republic Brewery
in Munich and two bottles from
the Gusswerk Brewhouse
in Salzburg.
"We'll bring the winning brewer to Munich to make the celebration beer at the Crew Republic," Conrad told me.

"You know that according to the current German beer purity law, beer must only be made with grain, hops, yeast and water.  On the other hand, Israeli craft brewers are very innovative in flavoring their beers with local fruits, herbs and spices.  Yet, I'm sure they will be able to work together and brew an anniversary beer we can all be proud of.  I can't wait to taste it!"

As for me, your old blogger, as soon as I hear which Israeli brewer has been chosen to represent Israel, I will publicize it on this blog and on Facebook.  This is a great opportunity to put Israeli craft beer on the map (at least the European map), and I plan to be there when it happens.    

September 2, 2015

The Festival Season

There I was, running around like a crazy man in the dog days of August.

One week -- The BEERS 2015 Festival in Tel Aviv.
One week later -- The Jerusalem Wine Festival.
One week later -- The Jerusalem Beer Festival - Ir HaBira.


I enjoyed them all, but the only one that was 100% kick-back, eat-drink-and-think-about-nothing-else, was the Wine Festival.  I went with my friend Manny Samuels, the book seller and wine connoisseur; followed his lead, refilled my wine glass time and time again with merlots, cabernet-sauvignons, shirazes, blancs and gew├╝rztraminer -- and never for a moment felt I had to take notes or photos.

Not so the beer festivals.  Your trusty old blogger was your eyes and ears, recording what was new, different, noteworthy or ho-hum.  Oh, I enjoyed every minute, but I also had a job to do. 


(Photo: Hanna Kamil)

BEERS 2015 Festival in Tel Aviv


At the BEERS 2015 Festival with
Yitzhak (center) and his daughter Shoshana.

I went to the BEERS 2015 Festival with my friend Yitzhak Miskin and his daughter Shoshana the bartender.  I had promised Yitzhak that I would be a good drinking buddy and spend my time with him -- but he has too much experience to believe me.  Soon enough I was falling behind, speaking with brewers and visitors, while Yitzhak and Shoshana went their own way without me.

As before, several brewers used the BEERS Festival to unveil new beers.  I was able to get some at the event and will write about them separately.  I may be a slow learner, but I finally understand that the hurly-burly of a beer festival is not the best time to seriously write down your impressions of a new beer. 


Itay Marom (right) of
HaShachen Brewery.

I did have a chance to speak to Itay Marom of the new HaShachen ("The Neighbor") Brewery in Netanya.  He currently brews two kinds of India pale ales: a wheat IPA called Americana (5% alcohol by volume), and an "extremely hoppy" IPA called Pressure Drop (6% ABV), made with four kinds of hops.  

"I've decided to brew only IPAs," says Itay, reflecting and reinforcing this growing trend in Israeli craft beers.  Where only a few years ago the number of Israeli breweries making an IPA could be counted on one hand, today almost every brewery makes at least one.

According to Itay, "IPA is a fun beer and we intend to concentrate all of our efforts on this one style."     

I also met Na'ama Ashkenazi from Karkur, even though her Klara Beers have been around since 2011.  Na'ama is the only woman brewer whom I know of in Israel,  Her beers have won prizes in international competition, not a small honor for a beginning home-brewery.  She now makes her three beers at the Mivshelet Ha'am contract brewery in Even Yehuda.  Klara's very attractive and clear labels include scales which indicate the beer's bitterness, sweetness and color, as well as additional useful information.  

The Ace IPA (6% alcohol by volume) is made with Sorachi Ace hops, originally developed in Japan and not very common in Israeli craft beers.  The beer is on the sweet side for an IPA, with citrus hop taste, specifically lemon.
The three beers of Klara.

The Belgian Tripel pours a dark amber color and has the high alcoholic content of this style (8% ABV).  It is fruity and yeasty and very sweet.  The hops are very hard to detect.

The Stout is just on the brown side of being black.  It's a pleasant stout beer, with flavors of roasted malt, strong coffee and dark chocolate.  It's one of the few beers I would call bittersweet. 

For me, the emotional high point of BEERS 2015 was the award ceremony for the winners of the Samuel Adams Longshot competition for home-brewers.  In previous years, the winners were announced at the Jerusalem Beer Festival, but this year the ceremony took place in Tel Aviv.
The families of Jamoos Garage Brewery
proudly display their three first prizes.


The big winner was the Jamoos Garage Brewery on Moshav Yarchiv near Kfar Saba.  The three partners are Ami Prager, Bentzi Alexander and Garry Barak.  Their Pilsner beer won the Best-in-Show and also first prize in the Lager category. But that wasn't all.  The Jamoos brewers were also called on stage to receive first prize in the category of Dark Ale for their Dry Stout.

Home-brewer Ephraim Greenblatt of Jerusalem won first prize in the Pale Ale category for his American Pale Ale.

The first prize in the Wheat Beer category was split between Daniel Alman for his Belgian Wheat and Penta Brewery for its Smoked Wheat.

The Gecko Brewery of Kevin Unger and Betzalel Fialkoff in Beit Shemesh took the gold for their Roasted India Dark Ale in the Freestyle category.

I plan to taste and write about all (or at least most) of these winners in future posts.

(Photo: Netanel Tobias)

The 11th Jerusalem Beer Festival -- Ir HaBira

Wow.  What can I say?  If there were new Israeli craft beers and new people at BEERS 2015 in Tel Aviv, there were none at this year's Jerusalem Beer Festival.  Even the long table of small home-brewers which has graced the first night of the festival for several years, was gone.  The physical aspects -- the layout, lighting, food stands, and music -- were all well organized by impresario Eli Giladi (whom I got to meet for the first time) and his company.  And I really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances on the Israeli craft beer scene.  But there was really nothing new that I can report.

With Eli Giladi: Young impresario of
the Jerusalem Beer Festival.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Almost nothing: I met Gilad Dror, Marketing Director of Norman Premium, a major beer importer which also owns the Negev Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  Gilad informed me that almost all of Negev beers are now made in the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer.  The Kiryat Gat facility still has an active Visitors' Center and brews seasonal beers, which currently is Negev Blazer.

But, as Gilad explained, "our standard line of beers are now being brewed at Alexander.  We simply reached full capacity and were not able to keep up production at the rate we were growing.  It was either investing a lot of time and money on expansion, or moving our production line to a brewery that could accommodate us."

Negev Beer: No longer
brewed in the Negev.
Maybe it makes economic sense, but the Negev Brewery was a gem for the periphery town of Kiryat Gat, and it's a shame that beer is no longer being brewed there.



The old blogger (left) with Bernhard Purin,
number two son Aharon, and
Conrad Seidl in his lederhosen.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The highlight (for me) of the Jerusalem Beer Festival was that I got to show around two VIP visitors from Europe: Bernhard Purin from Munich and Conrad Seidl from Vienna.  Bernhard is the director of the Jewish Museum in Munich, and Conrad, known also as the Bierpapst (the "Beer Pope"), is the most famous beer writer and blogger in Austria.


 You can read more about him here:
http://bierpapst.eu/english-summary/
and see his weekly beer review videos in English here:
http://www.beer-weekly.com/

He cut a striking figure walking around the streets of Jerusalem and the Beer Festival in his traditional lederhosen!

Conrad was in his element at the Jerusalem Beer Festival, tasting and commenting on all the beers he could get his hands on.  He especially appreciated:

Herzl's Embargo and IPA . . v'Zeh
Shapiro's Lager and Oatmeal Stout
Ronen's Ugly Indian IPA
Lela's Wheat

Conrad Seidl in contemplative judgement.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
As the "Beer Pope," Conrad is involved in beer tastings and competitions all over the world.  We got into an interesting discussion when I told him that our own Israel Brews and Views Beer Tasting Panels concentrate on only one style of beer at each session.  How was it possible, I asked Conrad, for tastings to include different styles, pitting IPAs, stouts, pale ales and saisons (for example) against each other.  It would be like a fruit competition, I said, which  includes apples, oranges and grapes.  How can you pick the best?

Conrad answered that he tries to judge each beer by how it is true to itself, to its own style, and not necessarily in relation to other beers.  "Say that I like an IPA in the competition -- as an IPA -- more than I like a stout -- as a stout -- in the same competition.  Well then, the IPA will get more points.  In short, the beers should be tested against themselves rather then against the other beers."

Easier said than done, dear reader.  Maybe someday, we'll be able to try that -- but we still have a few more styles of Israeli craft beers to judge against each other before moving on.      

To close on a dramatic note, let me just say that Bernhard and Conrad were here on a mission, a very exciting and special mission.  But that will have to wait for a future post, hopefully very soon.  

The old blogger with Jeremy Welfeld
of Jem's Beer Factory . . .

(Photo: Mike Horton)
















 . . .  with Amir Lev of Mosco Brewery
(Photo: Mike Horton)













 . . . with Or Fass of Fass Brewhouse
(Photo: Mike Horton)














 . . . and with Leon Solomon of Samson Beer.
(Photo: Mike Horton)