For the past two or three years, some of the established Israeli craft breweries have been unveiling new beers at the annual BEERS Festival in Tel Aviv. This year, three of them did so, and by now you can buy them in most stores wherever the brands are sold.
Two of them are stouts – the dark, heavy, roasty tasting beers made famous by Guinness of Ireland. There are several different stout styles: they can be dry or a little sweet (milk stout), full-bodied or thin, and relatively low in alcohol or high (imperial stout).
Stout beers are popular all over the world (I hear especially in Africa), and here in Israel many of the established craft breweries make this style.
Carobbean Stout from Dancing Camel
in Tel Aviv
Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv has been brewing their Midnight Stout for years. Now, owner-brewer David Cohen has unveiled his new Carobbean Stout – a clever name since this beer is made with carob, not a very common additive in beers.
Many stouts are, however, made with coffee and/or chocolate added to the brewing process to give the beer these rich, dark tastes. So why wouldn't carob work just as well.
It does. This is a strong stout that pours out a luscious dark brown with a tan creamy head. Carob is noticeable even in the aroma, and the flavors include carob, chocolate and caramel sugar. Even though this is a strong stout with 7.2% alcohol by volume, you don't feel the alcohol in the taste.
Choose this stout when you're eating rich and spicy foods, cheddar cheese or even dark chocolate desserts.
Mosco Stout from the Mosco Brewery
on Moshav Zanuach
Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach near Beit Shemesh has come out with its first stout, adding to its regular line of blond, red and wheat ales. According to my humble judgement, this stout is their best beer yet.
It pours out very dark, though has a much lower alcohol level than Carobbean, only 4.8%, closer to the average ABV for stouts. The dominant aroma and flavor here is coffee, roasted coffee to be exact, with some yeast. Moshe, my trusty drinking buddy, called it "an aggressive beer, rough," but it has a dry, bitter finish which I especially liked.
If you're a lover of classical stouts, this is a good one for you.
"M" from the Alexander Brewery
in Emek Hefer
The Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer unveiled their new "M" Beer, a Belgian saison-style. Not too many Israeli breweries are making saisons, a beer traditionally brewed in the rural areas of France and Belgium during the cold months for drinking in the spring and summer seasons – hence its name. Saisons are noted for their intense flavors, whether fruity, yeasty or spicy. They are usually highly carbonated and rather bitter.
Alexander owner Ori Sagi told me at the BEERS Festival that "M" is named for the variety of ancient emmer wheat which is used for brewing this beer. But what really gives saison its distinguishing characteristics is the yeast used. Alexander imports its saison yeast directly from a Belgian brewery.
The smell of spicy hops is apparent in this pale orange-colored ale, as is sour grass. The traditional saison tastes are also there, like spice, citrus and a light sourness. Moshe, with a bit too much exaggeration, compared this beer to a "vegetable shake." I appreciated the dry, fruity finish. Alcoholic content is a comfortable 5.2%.
Saisons are delicious by themselves and also go well with spicy foods like Thai or our own Middle Eastern dishes such as felafel, hummus and tehina. They are also fine with fatty cheeses like brie.
These three beers are welcome additions to Israel's growing craft beer repertoire. Look for them in liquor stores. If they're not there, ask for them.