October 19, 2017

Craft beer under down under

Mike Horton, the chief photographer for Israel Brews and Views, visited his sister in Tasmania last month.  For those of you who live elsewhere, Tasmania (home of platypuses, pademelons, wombats and Tasmanian devils) is a nice-sized, triangular-shaped island off the southeast coast of Australia.  This means it's even further down than down under.      

While Mike was there, the beer gods smiled on him.  The Tasmanian Microbrew Fest was taking place.  Yes, craft brewing has even reached Tasmania.  Ever watchful for things beery, Mike packed his tucker bag, got over to the festival, and took some pictures.  

Over to you, Mike.  

Tasmanian Micro Brews 
by Mike Horton

My normal stance at Israeli beer festivals is shooting photographs over Doug Greener’s shoulder. Before spending the month of September in Tasmania where my sister lives, I suggested to Doug that I prepare a short illustrated article on what I could find there. 

As luck would have it, the Tasmanian Microbrew Fest was held the first weekend I was there in a large warehouse hard by the Aurora Australis, the ship that makes trips to Antarctica and which is painted bright orange.
The good ship Aurora Australis (far left)
is docked beside the Tasmania Microbrew venue.

Just inside the entrance was Dan McWilliams of the Taverner's Tasmanian Boutique Brewery, who uses wonderful Tasmanian honey in his ales and porter.  It was still wintry outside but I was left with the impression that these would be perfect on a warm summer evening.

Stephen Brooks goes under the name of Captain Bligh's, and his Colonial Ale had a rich coffee flavor.

The Kick Snare Brewing guys prepare their own malt and were generous with their samples which were excellent. I took a few bottles back but my brother-in-law felt that the pale ale lacked flavor.

A 16-minute drive outside Hobart brings you to the Margate train where the Devils Brewery is housed in one of the carriages. Their Coffee Stout uses the train on its label although the original engine does not have a cow-catcher.  The Tasmanian devil appears on the other labels. Having tasted their beers at the festival, I desisted from re-sampling the beers.

If one looks past the Margate train, Bruny Island lies not far out to sea.  At the festival, the Bruny Island Beer Co. only had their Farm Ale to taste. Their cheese company established by Nick Haddow (not the guy in the photo below) is well known in Australia.

Brendan Parnell of the Hobart Brewing Co. also presented a single beer which gave a smoky after-taste that has an apple core dryness. Tasmania is well known for its apples so it is only natural that they should be used in beer.
On my last day in Tasmania, a friend took me up to Mount Fields and above the snowline. On the way we travelled along the Derwent River, one of the large hop growing areas, passing hop fields although it was too early for the plants to sprout.

Modern hop drying methods are being introduced so many of the old oast houses have been incorporated into hotels.

October 17, 2017

Designer labels for Herzl Beer

If you're a beer shopper in Jerusalem, you've probably noticed some fancy bottle labels on Shesh Achuz (6%) Kapara beer from the Herzl Brewery.  For example, there's a pioneer woman swilling a bottle, a desert island shaped like a bottle cap, a mustachioed face, a buxom bathing beauty, and just figuratively used calligraphy.

All of these labels were designed by students in the Visual Communication Department at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan.  Maor Helfman, a partner at the Herzl Beer Workshop, established contact with Shenkar and suggested that the students present their ideas for labels.

Some of the ideas for Shesh Achuz (6%) Kapara labels on display
at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.
The school agreed and the students went to work, doing research on the brewery and the beer, a British-style mild ale, with a pleasant malt sweetness and low on hop bitterness.  Sixty students participated in the project, and 12 were chosen to have their designs printed and pasted on the bottles -- 200 bottles for each of the winning labels.

A student's sketch of one of the
winning beer label designs. 
I wanted to tell you the students' creative thought behind some of the designs.  I asked the person at
Shenkar who organized the project, and she promised to send me a list of the winners whom I could contact.  But she never did.  Sorry about that. 

The results of the label project, according to Maor, were "fantastic."  People called the brewery and asked where they could find the special bottles.  Sales went extremely well, as beer enthusiasts snatched up the bottles, not only to enjoy the beer but to collect the labels.

Nevertheless, I did notice that up until a few days ago, there were some bottles still on the shelves in beer and liquor stores in Jerusalem; for example, Beer Bazaar, Beerateinu, Hamisameach, Nechemia Brothers, and Aggripas Drinks.  If you hurry, you may be able to find one or two still left.

 This was a great idea from Herzl: good for the brewery, good for publicizing Israeli craft beers, and good for the Shenkar students who got some practical experience in designing for the real world. 

October 3, 2017

Alexander Beer wins 3 awards in European Beer Star

The Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer has taken home three medals from this year's very prestigious European Beer Star competition in Munich.  This is the fourth year in a row that Alexander has won prizes in this contest -- the only Israeli brewery to have done so.  (Read an earlier post about Alexander winning this competiton here.)

Ori Sagy (center), founder and brewmaster of Alexander Beer,
is joined by 
operations manager Eran Weisman (second from left), 
and brewer Elad Gassner (second from right)
as they receive three awards at the
European Beer Star Competition last month in Munich.
"We are proud and excited to receive for the fourth time the approval of the greatest beer experts in the world, and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's best beers," said Ori Sagy, the founder and brewmaster of Alexander Beer.

For the third time, Alexander Black won the gold medal in the Sweet/Milk Stout category.  Alexander Blonde took the silver medal for English Style Golden Ales, while Milk & Honey won the silver in the Baltic Style Porter category.

Pride for Israel:
Alexander's three winning beers are
screened above the stage at the
European Beer Star competition. 
In 2014, Alexander Black was the only Israeli beer to win a medal in the World Beer Cup, the other well-known international beer competition.  It won the gold medal in the Robust Porter category.

I was curious about the European Beer Star and the World Beer Cup, so I asked my friend Conrad Seidl of Vienna, also known as the "Beer Pope."  He told me that the European Beer Star was created about 15 years ago by the small, independent breweries in Germany as a counterweight to the older World Beer Cup.

"The style guidelines at the EBS focus on classic beer styles of European origin," Conrad explained, "while the WBC (organized by the U.S.-based Brewers Association) tends to invent new beer styles every year!  This, of course, works in favor of American micro-breweries and brewpubs.  They win a lot of the WBC awards, while the European brewers get relatively few.

"In fact, many German and Austrian breweries don't even bother entering the WBC, preferring the more conservative EBS."

Thank you, Conrad.  All the more reason why Alexander Beer should be commended for boldly entering these bastions of European and American brewing tradition, and bringing medals of excellence home to Israel.

Shouldn't more Israeli breweries be trying to do the same thing?

October 2, 2017

American breweries tour: Part One -- Florida

Ami cuts up the floor dancing
with his grandma. 
I timed my last trip to America so the weather was bearable in southern Florida and less than frigid in New York City.  I visited my mom who was about a year short of her century mark, my eldest son, my brother and my cousin in Florida, and various friends in NYC.  While there, I tried to make it a vacation, but ended up working.  I visited four craft breweries and one craft distillery.  Thus are the interminable obligations of a beer blogger.

From my mom's home in Deerfield Beach to the Bangin' Banjo Brewing Company in Pompano Beach is just a short ride.  I exploited the driving skills of my visiting son Ami (from Washington, DC) to get us over there.

Waves of migration of northerners fleeing from the winter (but right into the path of hurricanes) have taken southern Florida out of Dixie.  Yet the Bangin' Banjo, which opened in 2014, had a real down-home feel to it.  The taproom was just an extension of the brewery, lacking all but the minimum accouterments for selling cold beer.

I had called the previous evening and introduced myself to the co-founder, Adam Feingold, and arranged my visit.  Adam said that Ami and I would be very welcome at the bar, but that he himself wouldn't be there because of a family event.  He told me that the bartender, Cameron Donisi, would be happy to host us and tell me anything I want to know about the beers.

Bartender Cameron Donisi introduced us
the the day's taplist.
Tattooed, bearded and burly, Cameron was a jolly bartender who'd been pumping beers at the Bangin' Banjo for a few years.  I don't think he'd get sore if I said he was built for the part -- at least I hope not.  But he would shortly be leaving, he said, to become head brewer at the new Prosperity Brewers in Boca Raton, a few miles up Florida's east coast.

To experience a wide range of the Banjo's brews, Cameron suggested that we take the flight of six beers, so we enthusiastically agreed.

Perry's Pineapple Gose is a 4.4% alcohol gose-style sour beer brewed with pineapple juice.  Cameron explained that gose beers and New England IPAs are two rapidly-trending styles in the U.S., and Perry's Pineapple Gose combines the best elements of the two: tangy, salty, refreshing, fruit juicy, and not especially bitter.  Oats and wheat in the malt bill add a creamy finish to this beer.

The Bangin' Banjo's 6-beer flight.
Since this was before I began to take sour and "wild" beers seriously, I didn't enjoy this beer as much as I should have, though Ami thought it was delicious.

Our next beer was Hop Jam: Session No. 1, an American IPA whose bounteous hops (including Azacca and Vic Secret from Australia) were full of non-citrus aromas and flavors, such as quava, apple and mango.  A fine IPA with a 7.1% ABV kick.

Invincibility Potion (Don't you just love the names?) was a Belgian Strong (10.5%) Golden Ale with a clear, light amber color, Belgian yeast aroma and a sweet, crisp finish.

Next in line was an Imperial Red Ale named Studious Judious, 8% ABV, made with copious amounts of red malt, yet maintaining a delicate balance between the hops and the malt.  Looking back after we finished all the beers, this was my favorite of the lot.

Number five was Chocolate Covered Peanut Porter, a black-as-night porter with a delectable aroma of chocolate (from the malt and added cocoa nibs) and peanut butter (from chopped peanuts added to the secondary fermentation).  Vanilla beans were also added to the brew.  4.9% ABV.

Last was Overcast Shadow, a 9% Russian Imperial Stout that gave a strong, sweet finish to our stay at the Banjo.  This beer had luxurious flavors of chocolate and coffee, with chocolate dominating.

The Bangin' Banjo's down-home taproom:
New beers all the time.
The taps at the Bangin' Banjo are constantly changing, so don't expect to find the same beers I had if you get over there.  I think it's safe to say, though, that you'll find the same basic styles.

Ami and I had a delightful father-son experience exchanging our opinions of the beers, and chatting with the other patrons.  One of them was an executive in a company which provides solutions for bringing clean water to villages in the third world, something which Ami was familiar with because of his background in environmental planning.  I suggested that beer would also help solve the problem of having something healthful and clean to drink, but I was voted down by the experts. 

Drinking at the Bangin' Banjo was a great way to enter the world of American craft beer taprooms -- and I still had plenty to look forward to as I headed north.

To be continued . . .

September 28, 2017

Scenes from BEERS 2017

It seems as if the only reason I go to Tel Aviv these days is for beer-related events.  I rode down (Jerusalem is high up in the mountains; Tel Aviv is low down on the coast) for the launch of Mikkeller Green Gold IPA from the Alexander Brewery (read about it here) and for the early bird Israel Beer Festival back in June.

And of course, I couldn't miss last month's BEERS 2017, the most important of the summer festivals -- if not the most enjoyable.  I was trying to cut out the chaff and looking for the new beer stories, and here is what I can report:

(All photos were taken by Mike Horton, photographer supreme of Israel Brews and Views.)

New Collaborative Mint Beer

A great gift from the Dancing Camel's David Cohen:
The new Nana beer, brewed in
collaboration with the Shapiro Brewery.
The big story of the festival is that two of Israel's veteran and major craft breweries -- Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv and Shapiro in Beit Shemesh -- have collaborated to produce a mint-infused beer, which was premiering at BEERS.

Dancing Camel owner David Cohen told me that the new beer, named Nana (which is Hebrew for "mint") brings together Shapiro's famous Pale Ale and Dancing Camel's Gordon Beach Blond, which is flavored with mint and rosemary.

"We left out the rosemary," David said, "but we increased the strength of the mint using the method called 'dry-hopping,' that is, steeping mint in the beer while it is fermenting."  The hops used are Cascade and Citra, and the alcohol by volume is 4.8%.

Nana pours out semi-hazy and very pale yellow, with low carbonation and a thin, fast-dissipating head.  I didn't get any of the typical hop aromatics, but nice mint zest and lemon grass.  There is also mint and sweet spice in the taste, with a strong malty backbone adding some bread flavor.  The finish is very tasty with light bitterness, though not especially long.

Mint makes everything refreshing, and in this Nana beer, it works wonderfully.  Lots of enjoyment in drinking this by itself, with salty snacks, or with dishes which go well with mint, for example, couscous and bean salads, chickpea or other grain salads, or even (if you're really adventurous) vanilla and chocolate ice cream!

With David Shamis, Marketing Director
of Oak & Ash.
Oak & Ash Wheat

New brewery Oak & Ash (using the facilities of Dancing Camel) introduced their new Wheat Beer at the festival.  Like their original Rye Pale Ale, this beer too is aged with oak.  [Read that review here.]

The Oak & Ash logo is thoughtfully bi-lingual, with the "Ash" being spelled in Hebrew, a word that is pronounced aish and means "fire."  You can't brew beer without fire.     

Marketing Director David Shamis calls the Wheat Beer a true "Mediterranean beer," geared for local tastes and preferences.  It is flavored by a whole shelf of different spices -- orange peel, cardamon, anise and saffron.

It's a lovely wheat beer, but the spices were more a faint background noise than clearly defined flavors.  A beautiful foamy white head sits atop this cloudy pale gold beer, in the style of Belgian wheat ("wit") beers.  The aroma is strongly cloves and some orange.  With the first sip, you get lots of little flavor notes, all on the sweet side of the spectrum with a little sourness -- cloves, hyssop, tropical fruits and general spiciness.  We smacked our lips in vain for any malt or oak character, but these were out of our range.  A light-bodied beer (5% ABV), it ends with a short though refreshing finish.  The brewers are even kind enough to recommend foods that would pair well with Oak & Ash Wheat: fettuccine alfredo and roasted vegetables.   

Festival Kegs

The Fass Brewhouse from Kibbutz Geshur on the Golan Heights was serving two new draft beers made just for the BEERS Festival.

Shaike was a 3.6% alcohol Pilsner, mild and flavorful, a good representative of this long-surviving beer style.

Yechezkel was the opposite: a strong (7%) Scottish ale, sweet and alcoholic with strong malt aromas.  I enjoyed experiencing the wide difference between these two beers.

The Fass brothers, Or and Hagai, always seem to bring interesting and different draft beers to beer events, yet their bottled beers available in retail stores have remained unchanged for years: Wheat, Lager, and Porter.  They have the knowledge and the experience to expand their line, and everyone will benefit.

Barzel brewer Yair Alon with bottles of his
original Belgian Ale and Ruby Wheat.
The Barzel Brewery stand was also serving a draft beer prepared for the festival.  (Barzel contract brews at the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach.)  It was a Brown Ale made with dark malted wheat.  You could taste the beginnings of a stout in this beer, but also a very intriguing sourness (which, as my readers know, I am trying to cultivate a taste for).

However, brewer Yair Alon apologized that, as much as I appreciated it, the sour taste was an inadvertent by-product of undue oxidation!  I still liked it.  Sometimes, in small amounts, unplanned by-flavors in beer can be quite acceptable.

Adam Souriano with his
new Gorgeous IPA.
Joya Gorgeous IPA

Another new beer that I met at the festival was Gorgeous IPA, the first commercially brewed beer from the Joya Souriano Brewery in Yahud, brewed at the facilities of the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh.  Brewer Adam Souriano (Joya was the name of his grandmother) took a small stand at the festival, but it usually was surrounded by a large group of people waiting to try his new IPA.

And no wonder.  It's a lovely beer, brewed in the popular style of a New England IPA: very hazy, loaded with hops (Gorgeous has seven varieties!) chosen to impart citrus and tropical "juicy" flavors, and a soft mouthfeel due to the addition of oats.

The label description of the beer is one of the longest I have ever seen.  Adam Souriano promises a "frightening amount" of hops in the beer, and explains that the cloudiness is a product of the suspended "proteins and hop oils which accumulated during the brewing process."  Whatever you do, he jokes, "don't inhale the foam. It will make you wonder why you haven't gone more often to pick lychees, pears, passion fruit, apricots and even grapes."  The label also gives the alcohol by volume (7.2%), International Bitterness Units (30, which is considered moderate), Standard Reference Method for color (5.5), and even the Original Gravity of the wort (1.064), a rough indicator of the amount of alcohol which will be in the finished beer.  I just love labels full of information.  Doesn't everybody?

As to the beer inside the bottle, Gorgeous IPA poured out a cloudy pale-to-orange gold with a thin head.  The aroma from the seven hops was a blend of tropical fruits and pine.  The strong bitterness in the taste departed from the New England IPA style, but there were also plentiful juice flavors: orange, pineapple and with a little stretch, lychee and pears.  The dry and bitter finish was exceedingly refreshing.  The label recommends paring this beer with salty and fatty foods like pizza, French fries and burekas.  That would work for me. 

New Places to Buy Beer    

George Yusopov, owner of the
Beer Station chain,explains his
new concept for selling beer.
Two competing chains were at BEERS for the first time.  Both of them were peddling the same concept: Selling a lot of different beers on tap either by the glass or in take-home bottles or "growlers."

The first was Beer Station, which now has outlets in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva, Ashdod, Holon, and Rishon LeZion.

Owner George Yusopov told me that the idea for what I would call a "beer automat" came originally from Russia.  Twenty-five different beers are on sale at the Beer Stations, and the cost for filling a liter bottle is between 25 and 49 shekels, definitely not exorbitant.  There are Israeli craft beers and foreign beers on the menu.

The competing chain is called Beer Point and has franchises in Ashdod, Bat-Yam, and Rishon LeZion, with another planned to open in Beersheva.

Why the both of them choose to "pass over" Jerusalem I just don't know.  We drink our beer here in nobody's shadow.

Noa and Shira Matosevich:
Smiling representatives of the Raaya Beer
home-brewing workshop in Zichron Yakov.
Learning to Brew

Another newcomer to BEERS was Raaya Beer.  This may sound like a new brewer, but it's not.  It's a home-brewing workshop located in Zichron Yakov, which holds classes Sunday to Friday in all-grain brewing.

The owner and teacher is Aviram Matosevich, but he wasn't at the festival that night.  Instead, his two very personable daughters, Noa and Shira, were handing out literature and explaining the courses.  Raaya Beer only opened in March of this year and already has a sizable number of graduates who have become home-brewers.

Three for the Future    

I also met three brewers for the first time.  They're not new and I had heard of them, but it was only the festival that brought us together.

Tal Bitton (second from left) and his team from
Tavor Brewery meet the old blogger.  
Tal Bitton is the owner of Tavor Brewery on Moshav Shadmot Dvora in the Galilee.  It's named after Mount Tavor, mentioned in the Bible (Judges 4:6) as the place where a battle between the Israelites and Canaanites took place, and today is a very prominent landmark in the area.

I took home four of their beers -- a Belgian Dubbel and Trippel, a Pale Ale and an IPA -- and will review them soon enough.

Nazareth Beer partner Basel Massad was happy
to introduce the old blogger to his American Wheat beer.
I also met Basel Massad, a partner in the Nazareth Brewery in  . . . Nazereth (where else?).  I brought home the one beer that they are now brewing -- an American Wheat.  You will also be hearing about that.  Basel told me that he is also making a Brown Ale which is not yet in bottles.

Michael Blinder was doing a good job
of introducing his Blinderweiss
to Tel Aviv beer enthusiasts. 
Another new brewery that took a booth was Blinderweiss, headed by Michael Blinder from Hadera.  Michael brews his one style of beer at the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach.  It is a free-style weissbier (wheat beer) made according to Michael's very specific recipe and taste.  But more about that later.    

September 8, 2017

Wheat and mango in new beers

I've just had the pleasure of tasting two pretty new beers which are now being sold in beer specialty shops and selected liquor stores.  They are quite different, but both in my opinion are welcome additions to the craft beer panoply in Israel. 

Beer Bazaar Wheatney

The Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat (known in Hebrew as Mivshelet Ha'aretz) has come out with Wheatney, their own version of a German-style wheat beer ("weissbier") for the "Israeli taste."  As I've written before, wheat beers seem to very popular in Israel and every craft brewery wants one in its repertoire.

Lior Weiss (no relation to the beer), a partner and brewer of Beer Bazaar, told me that Wheatney is based on his unique recipe of Pilsner malt, wheat and rye.  The alcohol by volume is 5%, very comfortable if you're having more than one on a hot day.

Wheatney is straw colored, slightly hazy, with active carbonation and a huge frothy head.  The aroma is very typical of this weissbier style: banana and cloves, but with an herbal background from the hops and some toasty malt.  The flavor is also quite marked by the banana and cloves, with the hops adding fruit and spice but very little bitterness.  The finish is sweet and medium lasting.

If you're a wheat beer fan, and apparently many Israelis are, you can't go wrong with Wheatney.

HeChatzer Double Kruzo

(Photo: HeChatzer Brewery)
HeChatzer Brewery ("Back Yard Beer") has introduced another version of their popular mango beer Kruzo, called Double Kruzo because it's made with twice the amount of mango and twice the amount of dry hopping.  (Read about Kruzo at last year's Jerusalem Beer Festival here.)  The beer is brewed in commercial quantities at the Srigim Brewery.

Double Kruzo is at base a pale ale.  The color is hazy pale orange, with an active carbonation that I appreciated.  The aroma was very hoppy, with citrus and tropical fruits being dominant, and some grass.  The bitter mango comes through in the taste, though very understated; in fact, not much more so than the original Kruzo.  Other fruit tastes are also there from the Magnum and Citra hops: citrus, tropical fruits and pineapple.  The mouthfeel is very creamy, and the finish moderately bitter and refreshing.  Alcohol by volume is 5.3%.

HaChatzer partners Yochai Maytal, Ariel Chinn and Shachaf Ashkenazi have demonstrated their talent and innovation on numerous occasions, and Double Kruzo is definitely further proof of that.     

September 4, 2017

September beer festivals

A few more beer festivals are coming up this week and the next.  I have been told that some of these festivals, including those which took place earlier this summer, are basically private affairs, held under the auspices of one brewery or one importer.  "You can't really call these 'beer festivals,' can you?" I was asked.

Well, that may be true, but I've decided to write about all such events and let the readers decide for themselves.  As far as I'm concerned, if it's an event you can go out to, drink some good beer with friends and strangers, and enjoy yourself -- you can't get enough!   

September 8

Already at the end of this week, Friday, September 8, beginning at 10 in the morning until 4:00 p.m., the annual Alexanderfest is being held at the WIN Events Garden, 1 Hatelem Street in the Emek Hefer Industrial Park, very close to the Alexender Brewery.  Entrance is free, and all of the Alexander craft beers will be on sale.  There will also be a lot of food and live music.  Alexanderfest "beerchandise," including shirts, hats and beer mugs, will also be on sale at special prices.

A new Alexander beer, Israeli Golden Ale (IGA), will be unveiled at the festival.  I'm told this is a light pale ale, modeled on the British style, crisp and very thirst quenching.            

The first Modi'in Beer Festival will be held Wednesday and Thursday, September 13 and 14, adjacent to the city's main Azrieli Mall.  Doors open every day at 5:00 p.m. and close at 11:00.  Only those over 18 will be allowed in, and entrance is free.

Over 40 kinds of beer from Israel and abroad will be on sale.   

There's an interesting concept for buying beers:  Tickets will be sold for three, four or five glasses of beer (each glass a quarter of a liter).  The cost for the tickets at the festival are 50 shekels for three glasses, 65 shekels for four glasses, and 80 shekels for five glasses.  Discounts for soldiers and students.       

You can buy discounted tickets ahead of time online (at https://www.eventer.co.il/beerfestmodin) for 47 shekels, 60 shekels, and 70 shekels.

Organizer Alechko Neznansky says that there will be food stands and food trucks, arts and crafts booths, live music, and places to sit down to enjoy the beer, food and atmosphere.

If you have any questions, you can direct them to e-mail: alechkopro@gmail.com

Israel Oktoberfest
Tel Aviv -- September 13-15
Rehovot -- September 13-14
Hod Hasharon -- October 8-10
Herzliya -- October 9-10

These four "Israel Oktoberfests" are modeled after the famous Oktoberfest held every year in Munich, Germany (this year from September 16 to October 4).  The only beers being served at these two festivals are imports from the giant Paulaner Brewery in Munich, which is also sponsoring these events.

The main "Oktoberfest" will be held in the Paulaner Beer Garden adjacent to the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv.  The three-day event will run September 13-15: Wednesday and Thursday beginning at 7:00 p.m., and Friday from noon to 5:00 p.m. 

The second festival is Wednesday and Thursday, September 13 and 14, at the Rehovot Science Park.  

The "Oktoberfest" in Hod Hasharon will be held October 8-10, Sunday to Tuesday (during the Sukkot holiday), beginning at 5:00 p.m. each day, in the Paulaner Beer Garden in the Sharonim Mall.  

Finally, the Herzliya version will take place at the Azrieli Outlet Center, 85 Medinat Hayehudim Street, on October 9 and 10 (Monday and Tuesday), also during Sukkot.    

For these above four "Oktoberfests," there is no information on the Facebook page or the website regarding entrance fee (if any) or cost for the beer, but a phone number is given for inquiries:  052-652-2226.  I left a message for them to call me back, but it hasn't happened (yet).     

All of these festivals include the same elements: Lots of Paulaner beer, an Oktoberfest atmosphere (minus the drunken loutishness which invades Munich, I hope), Bavarian food and entertainment, large wooden tables, costumed waitresses, arts and crafts booths, games and family activities.  The "alcohol area," restricted to those over 18, will be separate from the "family area."     

There won't be any Israeli craft beers at these guys, but it sounds like there might be fun.  Drink moderately.

More information on the Facebook page:      

and on the website:

Another Oktoberfest, this time in the Katzrin Park on the Golan Heights, will take place during Sukkot, October 8-9, in the framework of the third Sounds of Basalt Festival.  On those two evenings, beginning at 8:30, the Katzrin Park will host the Golan Beer Festival, which will include the beers of the Golan Brewery (Bazelet) in Katzrin, food, colorful costumes, and live music. 

August 28, 2017

New beers from Jem's, Alexander, The Dictator, and Oak & Ash

New beers keep coming across my desk -- on the way to my refrigerator -- and I'll try to write about them in the order they arrive, more or less.

Jem's Summer Ale

While it's still summer, let's get a hold of this year's version of Jem's Summer Ale from the Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva.

This is a light in color and in strength (5% ABV) pale ale made for summertime drinking.  For those who have doubts or questions, the name tells you so!

Our bottle poured out the color of clear ginger ale with very little foam.  There was some lemon in the aroma, but very little hop presence.  On the palette, we got more lemon, some dankness, and a touch of apricot.  The overall impression was that of a light lager with a dry, refreshing finish.

I and my drinking partners simultaneously came out with the words, "beach beer," because this is a perfect beer for the lazy days of summer, packed in ice on the beach, or taken from the fridge during or after a long, hot day.

Alexander Wheat

The Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer has brought out its own version of a wheat beer, called an "Israeli wheat."  It seems as if every Israeli craft brewery wants a German-style weissbier (also known as weizenbier or hefeweizen) in its repertoire.  Some brought one out as soon as they opened; for others like Alexander, it's taken longer, but they're all getting there.  The Israeli public has made it clear that they like wheat beer.

In strength, color and aroma, the Alexander Wheat is typical for German-style wheats: 5% ABV, hazy pale, with unmistakable scents of cloves from the wheat ale yeast.  It's taste, though, is spicier that European wheats, with hints of fresh pumpkin pie spices.  Well-balanced; neither overly sweet from the wheat malt nor very bitter.  The finish is mild and refreshingly bitter.  This is a beer that was designed to help us cope with our Israeli summer. 

I was introduced to weissbier in Germany by my friend Chris exactly 50 years ago.  I thought it was a beautifully thirst-quenching beer that we chugged down in heroic quantities.  "The first gulp has to be for as long as you can make it," I remember Chris coaching me.  

My tastes have changed since then, but this Alexander Wheat beer brought me back to those days.
Dictator IPA  

The latest beer from the Dictator Brewery (made at the Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat) is an India Pale Ale, another style that is now becoming a "must" for every craft brewery in Israel.  Brewer Yotam Baras has departed from his tradition of putting human dictators on his beer labels.  The IPA features the Biblical "iron beast," the fourth beast envisioned by the Prophet Daniel in chapter 7, verse 7:  ". . . awesome and dreadful and exceedingly strong, and it had huge iron teeth . . .".   The graphic artist has visualized this monster into a fearsome sight.  

The beer inside, however, is much tamer.  It's a strong (6.2%) IPA that supplies all the bitterness you want.  The color is a hazy orange-copper, and the dominant aromas are citrus (mainly grapefruit and orange) and pine resin.  On the palette is more bitter citrus and yeast, balanced by a gentle malt sweetness -- a very tasty and refreshing combination.        

Bottom line: One more very drinkable Israeli IPA, but not breaking any barriers or pushing any envelopes.  

Oak & Ash Rye Pale Ale

Oak & Ash is a new beer brand being brewed at the Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv.  In fact, the founder, owner and head brewer of Oak & Ash is Asher Zimble, who is the head brewer at Dancing Camel.  He got seized by the entrepreneurial spirit and decided to brew his own beers, reaching an agreement with Dancing Camel owner David Cohen to bring in new equipment for the betterment of the entire brewery.   

As the name more than implies, Oak & Ash has adopted a brewing plan which calls for conditioning its beers with oak wood.  This is a process which I mentioned in the past, noting that I have difficulty discerning the presence of oak aging in beer.

That changed when I tasted Oak & Ash's first beer, a Rye Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV, hazy and golden orange color, and very fruity.  For the first time, I got the wood in the aroma and the taste.  Whether it was oak or maple or mahogany, I couldn't tell you, but it was certainly wood.  "Like the smell after you saw wood," is how my drinking partner Moshe put it.  

We also detected strong hop aromas of citrus and spice.  The taste offered a complexity of bitter fruit and spice, with ripe tangerine and kumquats standing out, but also malt and caramel.  Although "rye" is in the beer's name, we were unable to find any traces of it in the aroma or flavor.  We are always trying to upgrade our olfactory and gustatory radar, but somethings are still out of range.  The body was medium, with a long dry finish.  

A second beer from Oak & Ash, a Wheat Ale, has recently come on the market, and I will write about it in the future.  David Shamis, in charge of sales and marketing, told me that the brewery also plans on introducing a German-style Bock Lager and an Irish Red Ale, both also conditioned with oak.  Something to look forward to.   

August 27, 2017

Hatch taproom opens in Machane Yehuda market

Avrami the restaurant consultant spelled it out for me right away.  "There are two kinds of people who open eateries," he said.  "The business people, who then have to learn about food, and the chefs, who then have to learn about running a business.  I've worked with both, and Ephraim is definitely a chef and a brewer, but he is learning the business amazingly fast."   
Ephraim Greenblatt behind the taps
at his new Hatch taproom in
Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda Market.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Avrami was talking about Ephraim Greenblatt who just opened Hatch in the Machane Yehuda market (26 Ha'egoz Street), where he sells his own beers and home-made sausages on home-baked buns with home-prepared toppings. 

"I make everything on the menu," Greenblatt explains.  "I taught myself how to make wine and brew beer years ago, and more recently to cook and bake."

Greenblatt is that kind of rare autodidact who decides he wants to do something and then goes out and learns how to do it.  An article in The Jerusalem Post in February, for example, reported how Greenblatt and his wife Malka established a Montessori haredi pre-school in their Givat Hamivtar neighborhood because they wanted an educational framework that would provide a more enriching experience for their children.

First they learned all they could about early childhood education, and then they opened up their school, which next month will have close to 40 children.  "What we did is not reasonable," Greenblatt was quoted as saying.  "We invested so much of our time and all our money."

In a similar manner, he has put everything into the opening of Hatch.  To build the bar, he learned how to weld.  To assemble the tapline pipes, he learned how to work with copper tubing.  In fact, for Greenblatt, learning is the ultimate experience, and everything has come together for him with Hatch.

Even the name represents, in his words, "the beginning of the creative process, the moment of creation, when you hatch a plan, hatch an idea."

Around a year-and-a-half ago, Greenblatt began to have open-houses every Thursday night where he received feedback on his home-brews and culinary creations.  These became very popular in his neighborhood, especially among American yeshiva students.

Hatch is already becoming a popular
watering hole for Jerusalemites.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
"I learned then that no matter how good your beer is, people move for food," he says.  "So when I began to think about opening my own taproom, I knew that there would have to be food on the menu, not just alcohol."

The opportunity came along when the space recently held by the Steam Bar in Machane Yehuda became available.  "The shuk is alive and vibrant," explained Greenblatt, using the Hebrew word for market.  "People come here looking for authentic experiences.  They want to eat 'real' food and drink 'real' beer."

Of course, Greenblatt would not sell anything he didn't make himself.  He admits to being "obsessive about the details" of the place; not just the beer and the food, but the appearance, the cleanliness, the placement of items, the arrangement of the kitchen and the beer kegs.

To get ready, he employed Avrami, the professional restaurant consultant, for the first month of building and serving.

Hatch taproom in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market:
Not very big, but serving "real beer and real food."

(Photo: Mike Horton)
"But all my neighbors also stepped forward to help me," he exclaims.  "I have at least three 'fathers' in nearby stores who have taken me under their wings.  'You think you're tired now?' one of them asked me.  'Come back in 52 years, like I've been here, and let's see what you have to say!'"

Since his soft opening a couple of weeks ago, Greenblatt has seen signs of encouragement. 

"First of all, there are people who have come back three or four times, which is great.  This includes my fellow home-brewers and commercial brewers, whose opinions are very valuable to me.

"Then there are the passers-by who stop in, order a glass of beer, and then call their friends to come and join them.  Things like this validate my decision to open here."

Hatch has up to eight of beers on tap at any one time, but the list changes almost every day.  Greenblatt is one of the most perfectionist home-brewers I know, and he is constantly brewing new beers.  When I was there, the list included two American Pale Ales, an Irish Red, Coffee Stout, Amber Ale, Double IPA (very strong with hop bitterness), Berliner Weiss (a style in the sour beer family rarely made in Israel and hardly imported), and a Belgian Single (rarely brewed outside of monasteries, where it is made only for the monks). 
Seven of Ephraim's beers were
on tap that night.

(Photo: Sara Rivka Katsof)
Not only is this one of the most varied taplists I have seen in Israel, but all of the beers attest to Greenblatt's skill, courage and innovation as a brewer.

A third-of-a-liter glass costs NIS 20, but this may go up after the running-in period.

Greenblatt was also serving four of his home-made sausages on buns, each with its own unique relish combination.  There was a weisswurst (made with parsley and lemon zest), The Philly (served with a parve cheesesteak topping of nutritional yeast and cashew nuts), the Po Boy (based on the Sloppy Joe styles of sandwiches created in New Orleans), and a mushroom sausage with shitaki.  A sausage on a bun with "the works" costs NIS 25.

As a vegetarian, I did not taste these, but the other customers seemed to be enjoying every bite, "with relish."  Greenblatt said that he is not ignoring customers who do not eat animals, and is working on a recipe for a veggie sausage.  He also plans on adding unique cocktails to his menu.
Greenblatt sums up his philosophy for Hatch as he does for all of his ventures: "The people who make the better call all the time – meaning who don't cut corners and try to achieve excellence – make the better profit all the time.  Customers will see your commitment and realize how this effects the product – which in my case is beer and sausage!"

If you're looking for excellence in beer, you now have a new place in Machane Yehuda to find it.

Hatch is open every day from 1:00 p.m. until midnight, Fridays from 10:30 a.m. until two hours before Shabbat, and Saturdays from one hour after Shabbat.

            A similar version of this article originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post.