July 6, 2016

Beer7 Fest 2016 -- Part 1

Gilad Ne-Eman (right) shows the old blogger
the glories of Beersheva brewing.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The owners of the Beersheva Brew Shop, Gilad Ne-Eman and Tomer Ronen, have once again succeeded in organizing a little gem of a beer festival, featuring around nine local home-brewers.

Gilad and Tomer are trying mightily to put Beersheva, the unofficial capital of the Negev region, on the Israeli beer map.  These festivals help, as does the Home-Brewers' Guild of Beersheva, which they also run and which is one of the most active home-brewing organizations in the country.

So a few Fridays ago, I rode down to Beersheva with fellow Israel Brews and Views Tasting Panel judges Bob Faber and Mike Horton (who is also our photographer), for the third (I believe) Beer7 Fest.  I was suffering from a terrible night cough which was preventing me from sleeping, and my family doctor had just prescribed antibiotics.  I told him I would probably be imbibing some alcohol during the day, so he checked to see the counter-indications with this particular antibiotic.

"The alcohol will not affect the antibiotic," he assured me," but the antibiotic will speed up your body's absorption of the alcohol."  Sounded good to me, so southward we went.

The festival was once again held in the courtyard of the HeChalutz 33 restaurant (which is also the address), with the brewers at their tables along the walls.  We began our stroll, humming the Promenade theme from "Pictures at an Exhibition."  I concentrated on the new brewers who were not here at the last festival in October (which you can read about here.)


Four student roommates in Beersheva began brewing beer around a year and a half ago and were quickly caught up in the magic.  They are Matan Ziv, Tal Griffit, Aviv Gruber and Eyal Grossman, the unofficial "brewmaster."   

For a name and a logo, they chose the wolf-like dog that lives with them, Balu.  And they gave their three beers catchy labels and funky names: The Scientist, a 7.8% ABV saison with ginger; The Last Survivor, a 4.7% stout; Patient Zero, a 4.9% Black IPA.  They also make an apple cider called First One to Die!

I tasted the ginger saison and thought it was pretty amazing.  Since the saison style is naturally fruity and spicy, the ginger just accentuates these flavors.  In fact, it works so well as an added ingredient to this type of beer, I wonder why no one thought of it before.  (Although maybe someone has and I just don't know about it.)
Patient Zero Black IPA
by Balu'z.

The Black IPA Pours out the darkest brown (the color of coca-cola) with a large tan head, the result of high carbonation.  There's a medium hop aroma, but not much of what you would expect from the "black" side.  In other words, this is not a combination IPA-porter or IPA-stout, but rather a low-level IPA with complex flavors.  The taste is mild, with some citrus, berries and coffee.  
The Balu'z crew busy pouring.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

Black IPAs are becoming more commonplace, but I try to appreciate them as I would any other beer style, in spite of the obvious oxymoron, "black pale ale."  The Balu'z version is adequate enough, but I would have preferred a nice "neat" IPA or porter.      

Unfortunately, Tal told me that the four roommates are finishing their studies this year and going their separate ways, which will probably mean the end of Balu'z beers.  As they say, it was fun while it lasted, and they were a positive addition to the craft beer scene in Beersheva.   

HaTeirutz (The Excuse)

Another group of four young men, in this case engineers and high-techies, began brewing together around three years ago to save money on the high cost of beer.  They call their brand HaTeirutz (The Excuse) because they had to change their brewing plans a few times during a period of trial-and-error.  Now, however, their repertoire has settled down to a number of very fine beers and ciders. 
Ohad Boxerman (right) and the HaTeirutz crew.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

At the Festival, Yoav Ekshtein, Maor Pallivathikal, Yaron Berger and Ohad Boxerman were pouring It's Alive, a 3.4% American Pale Ale, Lactose Intolerance, a 3.8% sweet milk stout with added lactose (milk sugar), Basil Wheat, a 3.9% German wheat beer with basil, as well as three different flavored hard apple ciders.  I was fortunate enough to try all of the beers.

The milk stout is indeed sweet, a testimony to the fact that yeast cannot metabolize milk sugar.  It is a wonderfully rich-tasting brew with strong coffee flavor.  I found the Basil Wheat beer also a successful integration of flavors.  The basil was unmistakable, and blended well with the regular banana and clove flavors of a weissbier.  Bitterness was very low.  
HaTeirutz beers and ciders.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

When I opened a bottle of the American Pale Ale at home, it poured out a medium cloudy amber with a thin head.  The aroma was strongly citrus hops, which became more focused in the taste as grapefruit, pine, grassy and passion fruit.  The tastes were flat rather than crisp, with a medium bitter aftertaste, but I still found this a very enjoyable beer.  It was an excellent foil to my veggie shwarma.

Ohad told me that the Beer7 Fest was the first opportunity for HaTeirutz to present their beers to the wider public and to get reactions, which were overwhelmingly favorable.  "Now, we'll continue to brew the beers we love to drink," he added, "while from time to time changing the recipes or trying something completely different, to improve the drinking experience."

Sufat HaBar (The Wild Storm)

Bar Mizrachi and his father Sufa from Kibbutz Gevim in the northwestern Negev near the Gaza border, began brewing beer at home two years ago after Bar was wounded in the army.  They put their two names together and came up with a catchy moniker for their beers.  Bar is still a soldier so he doesn't have a lot of time to brew beer.  But what he does make shows promise.
Bar Mizrachi of Sufat HaBar beers greets the old blogger.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

"My father prepares all of the malt we use," explains Bar, "which is quite unusual for home-brewers.  We also use the BIAB (Brewed in a Bag) method, where all of the malt and hops are placed in a large porous bag during the mashing and boiling process, so they can then be lifted out cleanly."

Bar was pouring three beers at the festival: The Volunteer (female), a strong (8.4%) Belgian blond ale; The Leavening, a 7.8% cherry wheat; The Automation, a 4.1% brown ale.  
The Volunteer Belgian blond ale.

The Belgian strong ale had all the beautiful characteristics of that style.  The aroma was very fruity while low in hops.  The mild malt and hop tastes were enough to hide the strong alcoholic content, but my throat sensed it, as did my brain a few minutes later.  The antibiotic was working.  This was one of only two Belgian-style beers at the Fest, and a pleasure to find and drink.

I brought home a bottle of the Cherry Wheat which I enjoyed later with a friend.  This interesting beer reflects a growing trend to brew wheat ale with different fruits.  Cherries are very popular, since they add a fruitiness and tartness that blend well with wheat beer tastes.  It's also the height of the cherry season in Israel.  

The Sufat HaBar Cherry Wheat is the color of Schweppes strawberry soda, with a light pink head.  You get the cherry aroma along with the carbonation, as well as the wheat beer spiciness.  The cherry taste, however, is subdued.  Rather, you get a lot of tart and bitter fruit; almost no hops and malt.  My drinking companion was more enthusiastic about this beer than I was, although he thought it was probably made with cherry concentrate rather than whole fruit.  Nevertheless, I found the beer enjoyable and refreshing enough to hope Sufa and Bar continue their brewing activities.

We continued our Promenade to revisit some of the brewers we met at the Beer7 Fest last year.  I hope to write about them in Part 2.              

1 comment:

Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!