January 10, 2016

Beer7 Festival

Somehow or other, I never knew about the "First Annual Beersheva Beer Fest," but I couldn't miss the chatter about the second.  I got invitations by e-mail, on Facebook and probably other social media that I don't even know about.

The three judges at the Beer7 Fest in Beersheva.
Organizer Gilad Ne-Eman, owner of the HeChalutz ("The Pioneer") craft brewery, promised me some interesting old and new beers from southern brewers.  Since Beersheva was new to me as an Israeli beer destination, I decided to make the effort and attend the Beer7 Fest.  (Remember that 7 in Hebrew is "sheva.")

So one sort-of-recent Friday morning saw me riding down to the capital of the Negev with my friends and fellow beer judges Mike Horton and Bob Faber.  We were welcomed by Gilad into the courtyard of the Chalutz 33 bar and restaurant -- no connection to Gilad's HeChalutz brewery.

There were eight brewers along the walls of the courtyard.  We decided to go counter-clockwise.

The very light-hearted and
enjoyable Hippopotamus beer.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Eitan Rabinovich and Ran Dach give their home-brewed beers the Hippopotamus label, a heavy animal but a light-hearted name.  

I tried their Senor Mandarin, a pale ale heavy with citrusy spice flavors, as you might guess from the name.  The Pacifas wheat beer was an enjoyable classic wheat.  

I brought home a bottle of their Hyper-Caheh ("Ultra-Dark") Oatmeal Stout, which paired very well with my soya cutlet, French fries and green beans.  It pours out a dark amber brown with a creamy tan head.  The body is somewhat thin, but the flavors of chocolate spice and sweet roasted coffee are robust.  The sharp contrast between salty food and a sweet beer made for a very enjoyable meal.  
Yulia and Aleksey Radionov.
(Photo: Mike Horton)


Aleksey and Yulia Radionov are a home-brewing couple.  I tried their American pale ale, which was full of fruity aromas and tastes.  The Radionovs were also serving a wheat beer and an oatmeal stout.


Alex Fux is a taekwondo martial arts expert who also home-brews.  Or is it the other way around?  In either case, Alex is not a stranger to beer festivals further north, though Beersheva is his home turf.
Alex Fux and Garry Shteinberg
serving their Taekwonbeer.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Alex was pouring four of his very original beers, plus a 10% alcohol Cinnamon Mead.  For a change, I tried his Peanut Butter Stout (or as he calls it, the Drunken Master on peanut butter).  I thought it was a real treat.  Think of Reese's Pieces with dark, bitter chocolate instead of sweet.  Alex was also serving The Great Pretender (a blond stout -- you have to be a virtuoso to pull this off), Field of Hops (an American pale ale), and Fire Storm (a wheat beer made with chilies).  Kudos to Alex Fux for keeping on pushing the envelope.
Maxim Shain and his beers.


Maxim Shain is the eponymous brewer of Maxshain beers.  He was serving bottles of IPA, brown ale and porter.  I tasted his porter, which I found to be mild and sweet.


Next in line was Raz Hechter and his lady friend Liron Chirky, whom I had met in Jerusalem at the Glen Whisky Bar one Friday morning.

Raz was serving different beers from then, including Florale Pomegranate-Hibiscus and Scarborough Fair Saison, made with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  I tried his private recipe Belgian Triple, called Thrice as Special.  He brews it with oats in the malt mixture (mash), and then adds honey and spices.  The result is a strong Belgian ale with a very smooth texture and rich, sweet flavor.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Raz Hechter and Liron Chirky
getting cuddly.

I had to pace myself with drinking beer before the long ride home, so I stopped after this one beer from Hechter and purchased a bottle of his Intercontinental Smash IPA -- single malt (Vienna from Europe) and single hop (Sarachi Ace from Japan) -- to bring home.  A few days later, I popped the bottle and poured out this opaque amber beer with an off-white, ivory head.  The aroma was strongly fruity, and the taste narrowed it down to bitter citrus, notably orange and lime.  The bitterness was very strong, overpowering the fruit, and this continued in the aftertaste.     
Zvi Sharon serving and enjoying
his Desert Brewery beer.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Desert Brewery

Zvi Sharon has been home-brewing for just one year and has chosen the name Desert Brewery for his beers.  He was serving his Double Bee -- which he calls a double Belgian ale -- and Darken, a dark wheat beer, which I tasted.  He uses chocolate malt to achieve the dark color, as well as wheat and Pilsner malts.  


I said shalom to Omer Basha and Dvir Flom, whom I first met at the Brew Party in Tel Aviv earlier this spring.  These are two very innovative and enthusiastic brewers whose beers can be found in specialty shops in major cities.
Dvir Flom and Omer Basha greet
the old blogger.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

They had bottles of their Saison du Boff (a French saison), Nelson (an oxymoronic black India pale ale named after Mandela), and Avi Bitter (an extra special bitter).

The saison and the bitter were excellent, two beer styles not made by many Israeli craft brewers.  The "bitter" ale is not really bitter by today's standards of pumped up IBUs.  It got its name in Britain when at the time of its appearance, it was bitter-er than the pale ales and porters being served.      
Omer told me to be sure and try the Nelson, but by the time I asked it was all sold out.  

It's a pity that the Basha-Flom beers are not available at more locations, and I hope this is soon remedied.  Good beer all around.
Gilad Ne-Eman at the
Beersheva Brew Shop.


At the end of the line was the host -- Gilad Ne-Eman's HeChalutz beers.  Even though there was nothing new from HaChalutz, their regular brews are always welcome by beer-lovers:

Totzeret Ha'aretz ("Made in Israel"), their award-winning American pale ale; HaTafsan ("The Catcher"), a rye beer; and two India pale ales -- Avoda Ivrit ("Hebrew Labor"), an American IPA, and Hodgson Traditional, a British IPA.
Tomer Ronen.

In addition to brewing his beer, Gilad and his partner Tomer Ronen have opened up the Brew Shop to sell brewing equipment and ingredients to home-brewers in the Beersheva and southern region.  You can also shop through their website at: http://www.brewshop.co.il/   They also give courses in home-brewing, and organize beer events and festivals -- including, of course, the Beer7 Fest that I'm so glad I attended.   

It was great to see our southern citizens enjoying craft beer and the togetherness it creates.  In that wonderful crowd of visitors, we saw young and old, Israeli-born and immigrants.  It gave proof the the new craft beer culture is not just for a few cities in central Israel, but for the whole country.       


  1. Actually, way down in the south in the Negev, the biggest and most active home brewers' guild in the country is throbbing in the last two and a half years. Way more then in Tel-Aviv, Modiin or Jerusalem. I think it's time that decision makers in the beer community should start paying more attention to this part of the country, whether if it's in bringing new imported beers here when they come out (and not a month later) and if it's in creating beer events here. After no one did anything we started taking care of ourselves, seems like we are on the right track. Stay tuned for more exciting news about beer in Beer Sheva!

    1. Thanks for the update, Omer. It's good to know that the "beer community" in the Negev is so vibrant. Onwards and upwards!

  2. This post is one of the only 18 in the Shiloh Musings: My "Alternative International Jewish Newspaper," aka HH*

    See what other posts there are. Enjoy, read, comment and share, thanks.

  3. I am glad to know about this beer festival. I also have been to a similar event that was held at best venues Chicago! My brother also attended this celebration with his friends. He was overwhelmed by all the arrangements of this event.


Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!