September 23, 2018

"Beer smells like a goat": Opus Brewing and Julian the Apostate

Shortly after the invisible Dr. Scott visited me (read about that episode here), another pilgrim came to Jerusalem to present me with his beer and his story.

The old blogger meets Jason Barnett,
founder, owner and brewmaster of
Opus Brewing.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Jason Barnett, the founder, owner and brewmaster of Opus Brewing, is 30, Kansas-born, eight years in Israel and freshly engaged.  Mazal Tov!

He started home-brewing around five years ago because he loved good beer but found it expensive to buy in stores.  His answer: Make your own at home.  It's better than industrial beers, and costs a fraction of the price of craft beers.

Jason quickly got hooked on the whole "passion for brewing" thing.  So much so, that he left the administrative world of non-profit organizations to take a job as assistant brewer/cleaner/delivery guy at the Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv. 

"Even then," he adds, "I knew that I would have my own brewery some day.  While I was working at the Camel, people asked me if I could tell them more about beer and help them start home-brewing.  So I began to organize brewing workshops in people's homes.  As the demand for these skyrocketed, I decided to leave my day job and do it full-time."

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Jason now runs home-brew workshops, beer tastings and lectures, and other beer events wherever he can.  These are held in private homes, offices or pubic venues: Birthday parties, bachelor parties, office perks, anything.

Jason can organize his own parties when asked, but also works closely with Sipscene, which runs alcoholic-based events in the Tel Aviv area, and with organizations such as Nefesh B'Nefesh and Lone Soldiers.

He named his business Opus Brewing because that is the Latin word for "work."  "That's been my philosophy from the time I started home-brewing.  When you have a problem and you want to change things, put your head down and get to work."

The goat logo comes from a poem written by the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate (330-363).  Wine is the drink of the gods, he wrote, while beer smells like a goat.  I guess Julian never really had any good beer.  At any rate, Jason commemorated the emperor by naming his logo goat Julian.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Jason brews four permanent core beers: Amber Ale, Kolsch, Mosaic IPA, and Bourbon Oak Stout.  He also makes 4-5 seasonal beers, including Farmhouse Ale, Belgian Witbier, Imperial IPA and Ginger Peach Cider.  He graciously gave me three bottles to try at home, so I did.

The Sunset Amber Ale is a dark, semi-clear amber, very carbonated out of the bottle, with a huge long-lasting head.  I got aromas of pineapple, resin (also called "dank") and a little soap.  The taste is bitter fruit, maybe lemon, but then as it warms, some bread and strong alcohol.  I found this to be a refreshing beer, but I would have preferred the alcohol taste to be less aggressive.  This was strange since the beer is only 5.8% alcohol by volume.           

With the Burn the Barn Farmhouse Ale, we returned to the dark amber color and high carbonation, but the aroma was brown sugar and, yes, farmhouse funk.  One of my drinking partners was less polite and compared the funk to "reflux," while another called it a "beautiful beer which waters your tongue," i.e., causes salivation.  At any rate, this beer delivers what a farmhouse ale should, and is a good example of the style.  Alcoholic content is a strong 8.4%.         

The Opus Kölsch also brings this style of beer to the fore.  Originating in Cologne, Germany, in the early 20th century, Kölsch is a light, session (low alcoholic) ale which rivals lagers for balance and crispness.  In fact, traditional Kölsch beers were fermented at warm temperatures with ale yeast, yet lagered (matured) at cold temperatures.

Opus Kölsch pours out a golden amber color with a large frothy head that I called "explosive."  The aroma was similar to a wheat beer, with herbs, spice and aromatic hops.  The taste was of sweet spice, malt and subdued hops.  As we reached the bottom of the bottle, the beer became thicker with an opaque copper color, approaching the taste of a Belgian ale.  The finish was a little sweet and very refreshing.  Alcohol by volume is 5.4%, on the high side for a Kölsch, but just right for me.  

Jason is a home-brewer, so his beers are only available at his own events (lectures, workshops, tastings).  In the longer term, however, he would like to sell his beers commercially and perhaps even open a neighborhood bar.  He has the talent, he has the determination and he certainly is not afraid of hard work.  So I suspect we'll be hearing more of Opus beer in the not-too-distant future. 

[You can read more about Opus Brewing on their website here.]

September 17, 2018

Two "trendy" craft beers: Beer Bazaar Gallagher and Sheeta Special Edition

Just as there are trends in fashion, food, celebrity status and google searches, so are there trends in craft beer.  One such trend now in North America and Europe is getting back to the basics; brewing a beer to achieve a clean, unadulterated taste.   

This trend has reached the Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat (also known as Mivshelet Ha'aretz).  They have brought out a basic lager beer named Gallagher.  Nice touch, that: the name contains the style.

To explain what makes a lager a lager while standing on one leg, let me say this.  Lagers are beers fermented at lower temperatures than ales, and lager yeasts tend to aggregate at the bottom of the tank, while ale yeasts prefer the surface of the liquid.  I have no idea how the little fungi know to do this.

Because of the different yeasts and the cooler fermentation temperatures, lagers are generally more mellowed out than ales.  They also tend to be crisp, smooth and light tasting.  Ales are more robust tasting, fruity, aromatic and bitter.  Almost all of the mass industrial beers brewed in the world today are lagers.  That's what most people like.  A crisp, cold brewski.  Color, aroma and taste are secondary.

The Beer Bazaar in Jerusalem's
Machane Yehuda Market.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The only thing Gallagher shares with these industrial giants is the name.  It's simply called a lager; no adjectives, no hyphens.  When we poured it from the bottle, it was a red amber color with almost no head, but with active carbonation.  It has a full malt aroma, but almost nothing from the hops.  The taste is what sets it apart from the industrial lagers.  There's caramel and peaches, or more generally, cooked summer fruit.  The finish is sweet and slightly fruity. 

Gallagher is a very drinkable beer, meaning you can gulp it down to quench a mighty thirst.  The moderate 5.1% alcohol by volume won't stand in your way.             

Light lagers pair well with bold and spicy dishes which they cool off (stir-fries, pizza and salsas, for example) as well as mild food which they do not overwhelm (such as fruit salads, light appetizers and grain dishes).   

Image result for wine + beerAnother trend seeping into Israel from abroad is beer-grape or beer-wine hybrids.  Actually, since many early beers -- and I really mean ancient -- were flavored with grapes, this is not such a modern idea.

It made its comeback in the U.S. during the last five years or so.  Craft brewers began experimenting with adding grape juice (sometimes including the grape must: skin, pits and stems) to the fermentation stage.  Obviously, the grape juice begins fermenting into wine as the wort (pre-beer liquid made from malted grain) ferments into beer.  The result is a true hybrid, combining taste characteristics of wine and beer.  And, to tell the truth, they go well together, as our ancient ancestors also knew.  Winemakers, too, have gotten caught up in the trend and are adding hops to their wine.  Are the resulting drinks wine that tastes like beer, or beer that tastes like wine?  Does it really matter?

Another phenomenon in America has been the ability of this beer-wine to reach across the aisle, as it were.  Bottles of it are appearing in wine stores and giving condescending wine drinkers a chance to try craft beer.

Israel's entry into this style is from the Sheeta Brewery in Arad, run by the husband and wife team of Jean and Noga Torgovitzky.  They call this their Special Edition Beer, made with grapes from the Midbar Winery in the Negev.

As you would guess, beer-wine hybrids are strong beers, and this one is no exception, at 8% alcohol by volume.  The beer's appearance is a cloudy dark amber.  The aroma is redolent with malt, yeast, caramel and raisins -- hinting at the fulsomeness to come.  The taste is sweet with caramel, dried fruit and alcohol, reminiscent of a fruit liqueur or grandma's thick home-made wine.  [They're talking about someone else's grandma, not mine.]  The full body fills your mouth with bitter-sweet spice.

Sheeta Special Edition is so strong and flavorful that only the most spicy and pungent foods can stand up to it.  It would go well with ratatouille vegetable stew, hot curries, goat cheese and even strong cream cheeses.    

Sheeta Special Edition is the kind of strong, heavy beer best enjoyed during the colder months.  There might be a few more bottles still available now on the shelves of beer specialty stores and bottle shops, but brewer Jean Torgovitzky told me that he plans to brew another batch which will be ready for shipment in the fall.  Look for it.  In Israel, it's sui generis.

August 27, 2018

Givatayim Beer Festival -- August 28-30

This is probably the closing bell for the 2018 beer festival season.  August ends this week with the big Jeruslaem Beer Festival (read about it here), but also the Givatayim Beer Festival (August 28-30) in Givatayim Park.  Doors open every evening at 7:00 to a celebration of dozens of beers from Israel and abroad, food stands, food trucks, and music.  On the first night at 9:00, there will be a performance by the popular band Tislam Rock'n'Roll. 

More information on the Hebrew Facebook page:

August 24, 2018

The Great Jerusalem Beer Festival -- August 29-30

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

The Jerusalem Beer Festival (Ir HaBira in Hebrew) is returning for its 14th year next week on Thursday and Friday, August 29-30.  A huge fenced-in area in Independence Park will once again be devoted to beer, food, music and great vibes for the two nights.

The old blogger with Eli Giladi.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Eli Giladi of Giladi Productions, the organizers of the event, promises that at least 120 different kinds of beer will be on sale.  The headliners will be Israeli craft brewers (some 16 of them), but there will also be impressive stands for the well-known Israeli mass-brewed beers (Tuborg and Carlsberg), as well as imported beers from all over the world.

Two craft breweries will be making their first appearances in Jerusalem:

Hagibor ("The Hero") – A new brand from the Meadan Brewery in Carmiel.  They make a Brown Ale, an IPA (India Pale Ale), an Extra Stout and a Bavarian Wheat. 

(Photo Netanel Tobias)
Talpiot Shuk Brewery – A two-year-old brewery and art gallery in Haifa which serves beer and food.  Owners and brewers Anat Mirkin and Arik Granot are looking forward to introducing their beers to Jerusalemites, but they have no intention of marketing their beers country-wide.  "We're doing it for the fun of it," says Mirkin.  They will be pouring a Lager, an IPA, and a Belgian Dark Ale.  

Two new beers from craft breweries will be introduced at the festival:

From Barzel Beer on Kibbutz Ha'ogen comes Effi, an IPA with citrus and piney flavors.  The beer is made at the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer. 

(Photo Netanel Tobias)
The Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv, Israel's first craft brewery, is introducing The Seven C's, a collaboration with the Freak'N Brewing Co. in Peoria, Arizona.  The beer is a New England-style IPA, known for its fruity sweetness and creamy body, and very popular now in the U.S.  The C's refer to the seven varieties of hops, all beginning with the letter "C," which are used for the brewing of this beer, and which add the fruitiness without much bitterness.

There are some other interesting beers that you should be looking out for at the festival:

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Oak & Ash, which shares facilities with the Dancing Camel, will be serving their limited edition Freedom Imperial IPA, very bitter, fruity and strong (10% alcohol by volume).  Also on tap is their new Braggot, made with honey and hibiscus tea.  It's on the cusp between a beer and a honey mead, with flavors of rosé wine, fruit and honey.   

Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh is also offering an IPA, their 2018 version brewed with Citra hops.  Another great beer being poured by Shapiro is their Imperial Chocolate Barrel-Age Porter, introduced in very limited quantities only a few months ago.  It's a dark, chocolatey, roasty and alcoholic porter, better suited for the cold Jerusalem winters than the warm summer nights – but definitely worth a taste.      
HaDubim ("The Bears") Brewery will be pouring their new Love Ale, with its rainbow colored label as a sign of solidarity with Israel's LGBT community.  It's a mildly bitter amber ale with tastes of caramel, and citrus and tropical fruits.  Brewed at the Beer Bazaar Mivshelet Ha'aretz in Kiryat Gat.

On tap from the Tog Brewery in Beersheva (brewed at the Beer Bazaar Mivshelet Ha'aretz in Kiryat Gat) is Beera Masala, a Belgian wheat beer brewed with the Indian spices used to make masala tea.

(Photo Netanel Tobias)
Music is very much a part of beer festivals, and the Jerusalem Beer Festival goes all out.  Performing on Wednesday night (August 29) are The Giraffes, Mercedes Band and the Full Trunk.  On Thursday night (August 30), Nechi Nech, Sima Noon and the Paz Band will take the stage.   
Entry to the Jerusalem Beer Festival costs NIS 70 on the days of the festival, but you can buy advance tickets online at a discount.  Soldiers and students get a little bigger discount.  Go to: for more information.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
If you live in or around Jerusalem, you love beer and you're over 18, you simply can't miss the Jerusalem Beer Festival.  Even if you're not a great fan of beer (I think I may know a few of these), you should still attend for the other drinks, the food, music and atmosphere – and to discover close-up what great people beer-lovers are.

Here are some tips, based on actual experience:

·        Take public transportation.  It's not easy to find parking, and you don't want to drive home anyway after enjoying a few beers.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
·        Get there shortly after the gates open at 6 p.m. if you want some leisurely time to walk around, drink your beer and speak with the brewers and your friends.  When the music starts at 9:30, the noise can put an end to polite conversation.   
·        Eat some carbs and fatty foods before the festival.  Pizza and pasta, for example, are good choices.  These slow down the absorption of alcohol and let you sample more beers.  Also, drink water between beers and have something to eat during the festival as well.  There will be several food stands. 
·        Reconnoiter before you start drinking.  Make a mental note or a real note of the beers you're interested in, and then go back to taste them.  (Bringing along a pen or pencil is also a good idea since you may want to write down things to remember.) 
·        Try beers you're not familiar with.  This is the perfect place to expand your repertoire.  Don't be ashamed to speak with the brewers and ask questions.  You don't have to be a beer geek to learn more about beer.                
(Photo: Mike Horton)
·        Don't feel you have to try everything or that you have to finish a beer you don't like.  That's what the grass is for.  "Just one more" adds up fast to become "way too much."  Keep it moderate, have a good time, and get home safe.   

             [A similar version of this article appears in In Jerusalem
                the local weekly newspaper of The Jerusalem Post.]

August 14, 2018

Hadera and Givat Shmuel beer festivals next week

I've received complaints that I haven't been giving readers enough lead time for the beer festivals that are coming at us right and left at a crazy pace.  And they're right.  So here are two for next week; time for you to make plans, pick out your wardrobe, water the plants and hire the babysitter.

Hadera Beer Festival
August 22-23

The second annual Hadera Beer Festival is returning to the Piazza pedestrian mall (Herbert Samuel) on Wednesday and Thursday, August 22-23, beginning each night at 7:00.  Entrance is free, and there will be "tens" of different kinds of beer, food stands and live entertainment by HaYehudim and Full Trunk with Sha'anan Streett of HaDag Nachash (though it isn't clear on which nights they are appearing).

More information in Hebrew on the Facebook page:

Givat Shmuel Beer Festival
August 23

Those of you in the Givat Shmuel area finally have a local beer festival -- the first Givat Shmuel Beer Festival, Thursday, August 23, in the new Event Garden on the corner of HaZeitim and HaNassi Streets.  Doors open at 7:00 p.m.

This is being organized by the same Alechko Neznansky who has been doing beer festivals around the country.  The system in all of these is the same.

Entrance is free, but you pay for the beer and the food.  Tickets will be sold for three, four or five glasses of beer, with discounts for soldiers and students.  Gluten-free beer and cider will be available.  

Among the permanent "tips" from the organizers:  

* Come by foot or public transportation
* Come early
* Drink responsibly
* Bring mats and folding chairs

Facebook page in Hebrew is at:     

If you have any questions for further information, send e-mail to:

August 12, 2018

Three beer festivals this week: Afula, Goma Intersection, Modi'in

As the festival season heats up (literally and figuratively), this week is bringing along three kinetic beer festivals:  Afula in the central Galilee (August 14), the Goma Intersection in the Upper Galilee (August 14-15), and Modi'in in the center of the country (August 16). 
       Afula Beer and Food Trucks Festival
      August 14

Named the Afula Beer and Food Trucks Festival, this one opens on Tuesday night, August 14, at 6:00 p.m. in the Afula train station.  Admission is free.  Musical entertainment will be provided by Moti Taka and Chanan Ben Ari.    

Over 45 brands of Israeli and foreign beers will be on sale.  What seems to be the emerging pattern, you can buy vouchers for three, four or five glasses of beer, and there will be discounts for soldiers and students.  The organizers went out of their way to ensure vegetarians and vegans that they will not go hungry at the festival.  Gluten-free beer will also be available.    

Children are welcome to the station area if accompanied by a parent, but you must be over 18 to enter the beer stands.  Participants are reminded to come early, take public transportation and drink responsibly.

For additional information in Hebrew, see the Facebook page:

Or e-mail to:

   The First Beerzia at the Goma Intersection
August 14-15

The first Beerzia, the Israel Beer Festival in the Galilee, will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, August 14-15, at the Goma Intersection south of Kiryat Shmona in the Upper Galilee.  The gates open each evening at 5:00, and entrance and parking is free.  There is no announcement of how many different beers will be poured, but the usual "good beer, good food and good music" are promised.  

More information in Hebrew on the Facebook page:

 Modi'in Beer Festival
August 16

The Modi'in Beer Festival is returning again this year on Thursday, August 16, in the courtyard of the Azriel Mall.  I really enjoyed myself there last year.

Mr. and Mrs. Old Blogger with
Bob and Chana Faber at last year's
Modi'in Beer Festival.
The same Alechko organization which is running the Afula Festival (above) is also doing the Modi'in Festival.  The announcement was in identical language, including the typos!

Six p.m. is when the doors open; free admission; 45 different brands of beers, food stands, music, etc.  Even the coupons for buying three, four or five glasses of beer are the same.  You can buy the coupons ahead of time and save a little money at:  

More information in Hebrew on the Facebook page:

August 10, 2018

Petach Tikva Beer Festival -- Saturday night, August 11

Tomorrow night, August 11, beginning at 8:30 (after Shabbat), the Petach Tikva Beer Festival is opening in the Shacham parking lot.  If you're in the area, I can't think of a nicer way to spend Saturday night.  Forty brands of beer -- 40 -- from Israel and abroad will be on sale.  Food stands, of course, and  places to sit down and enjoy the beer and the food -- and the music.  Live performances by Ivri Lider and the Mercedes Band. 

Entrance is free.  If you click here (, you can buy tickets which will get you three glasses of a third-of-a liter of beer for 69 shekels, or five glasses for 99 shekels.  If you buy the tickets at the Festival, it will cost you more.  If you're from Petach Tikva, and you have a residence card to prove it, a glass of beer costs only 15 shekels. 

More information here:     

August 5, 2018

Netanya Beer Festival -- August 8-9

The next beer festival this week is in Netanya, Wednesday and Thursday, August 8-9, at the Kikar Ha'atzmaut (Independence Square).

The organizers, Beer in the City, promise craft beers from Israel and abroad, live performances and stands for street food.  Entrance is free and the doors open at six o'clock each evening.  The popular rap group Hadag Nachash will be performing, but it's not clear which of the days.  

More information at:

BEERS 2019 Exhibition scheduled for Tel Aviv, April 29-30

The organizers of the BEERS Exhibition, the Ben Ami Agency, have announced that it will take place April 29-30, 2019, in the Heichal Tarbut (Charles Bronfman Auditorium) in Tel Aviv.  As I reported to you here, this year's BEERS festival, originally scheduled for August 7-9, 2018, was canceled. 

In their announcement, the Ben Ami Agency first praised beer festivals for the enjoyment they bring to so many people and for their importance in building a beer culture in Israel.  However, the announcement continued, this decision by the organizers to hold an "exhibition" instead of a "festival" will take it to a "much higher place."  The event will "meet the professional needs of the restaurant and bar industry in Israel (before the start of the 2019 beer season), along with a very high level beer experience for the general public."  More information will be provided as it becomes available.

From the comments I have seen on social media, opinions seem pretty evenly divided between those who welcome the change to an indoor exhibition in the spring, and those who would prefer the enjoyment of an outdoor festival in the summer.             

July 30, 2018

Golden Beer 2018: Winners and unanswered questions

The Golden Beer competition in Israel was started last year by the Ben Ami Studio, the same agency which produces the BEERS Exhibit in Tel Aviv.  It is open only to commercial beers, that is, brewers with a legal production license. 

Last year, 26 prizes were awarded in nine categories, and they were all Israeli craft brewers.  [Read about that competition here.]   

This year, seven beers won prizes in only two categories (Pale Ale and India Pale Ale), and they included two imported beers from Scotland!  

Here are the winners of the Golden Beer 2018 competition:

Pale Ale
First:  Typhoon -- HaDubim (The Bears)
Second:  Vagabond -- BrewDog (Scotland)
Third:  Dead Pony -- BrewDog (Scotland)

First: Dark Matter -- HaShachen (The Neighbor)
Second:  IPA -- Shapiro
Third:  Pressure Drop -- HaShachen (The Neighbor)
Honorable Mention:  The Ugly Beer -- Ronen  

After seeing these results, I had questions about the numbers and the participation of foreign beers.  So, calling on my rapidly receding background as a journalist, I thought I might ask a few questions. 
I first spoke with Rotem Bar Ilan, partner-brother of HaDubim (The Bears) Brewery, whose Typhoon Pale Ale took first place in that category.  He opined that limiting the competition to only two categories provided the event with greater focus and made it easier on the judging.  Concerning the imported beers, Rotem said that he heard that the organizers believed that Israeli craft beers have now reached a level where they can compete with foreign breweries.  

No automatic alt text available.
HaShachen Brewery won
first and third prizes in the
IPA category.
According to Itay Marom of HaShachen (The Neighbor) Brewery, whose Dark Matter and Pressure Drop won first and third prizes in the IPA category, the organizers of the Golden Beer contest are to be congratulated for holding Israel's only competition for commercial brewers.  He suggests that the reason there were only two categories is that there are enough Israeli brewers making Pale Ale and IPA to make this a real competition.  Most other styles do not have this critical mass.            

I'm not convinced.  If that were the case, why was it necessary to allow foreign beers to compete?  And how can you explain that only nine beers were entered in the Pale Ale category, which had three winners (two of which were foreign beers!), and 14 were entered in the IPA category, which had four winners.  I think by anybody's count, the number of winners vis-a-vis the number of entries were too small to give the results of the competition any relevance.

Others mentioned that it is not beyond feasibility that the import agency had the necessary clout to get its beers into the competition, even though the original intention was just for Israeli beers.       

Not that this takes anything away from the accomplishments of the winners.  Gadi Deviri, one of Israel's most respected beer judges and a member of the Golden Beer judging panel, said that all of the entries were judged blindly and the best beers were chosen as winners.  There was no way to distinguish between the Israeli beers and the foreign beers.                 

Gadi also told me that he remembers that last year's Golden Beer also included foreign entries.  If that's so, I asked him, how does he explain that all of the 26 prizes went to Israeli beers?  That was "weird," he admitted. 

I continued searching and found a multilogue on Facebook involving Gal Granov, who blogs at Whisky Israel (, one of the top 40 whisky blogs in the world.  Gal was also asking why there were foreign entries in what was heralded as an Israeli competition, and which beers these were.  No answers were forthcoming.

When I spoke with Gal, he told me to take these beer (and other beverage) competitions with a "grain of salt."  "I have seen whisky contests where they make categories so that everyone is a winner.  You have a right to be suspicious of them all."

As I said, the winners deserve our congratulations.  There's no denying that.  But there are still unanswered questions regarding the background to the competition itself, the categories chosen and the beers entered.  

If you would like to join this conversation, your comments are cordially invited.             

July 28, 2018

Kfar Saba Beer Festival -- July 29-30

Breaking with tradition to hold beer festivals towards the weekend, the fourth annual Kfar Saba Beer Festival is taking place this Sunday and Monday, July 29 and 30.  Held in the Courtyard of the shuk (market), the festival will begin each day at 7:00 p.m. and will include food stands and live music, featuring Erez Lev Ari on Sunday, and Guy and Yahel on Monday.  Entrance is free!  

Over 40 Israeli craft beers will be served from the following breweries: Buster's, Malka, Ronen, Emek Ha'ela, Barzel, Jem's, Shapiro, HaGibor, Bazelet, and Dancing Camel.  

More information at:י

July 23, 2018

Jerusalem July Fest -- July 24-26

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I guess the people from the"Paleo Market" who organize these things must be doing okay, because they're having another one.  They're calling it the July Fest Beer & Meat Festival.  I call these "meat festivals with beer on the side."  The next one is being held Tuesday, July 24, to Thursday, July 26, at the First Station compound in Jerusalem.  Doors open at 5:00 p.m. every night and entrance is free. 

On the positive side, there should be a comfortable number of Israeli craft brewers pouring their beers, and a very relaxed and festive atmosphere.  There's also live music every night.  I might show up with a few friends to enjoy the scene and drink some beer together.  I'll avoid the stands charring mammals and check out the several excellent dairy and vegetarian restaurants at the First Station.      

July 22, 2018

Dr. Scott's home-brews

Via my blog, I recently met a serious, push-the-envelope home-brewer from suburban Washington, DC.  For several reasons, he prefers to be known simply as Dr. Scott.  He came to Jerusalem from suburban Washington, DC, to bring me three of his beers.

Well, to tell the truth, he does have a son living in Israel and has lots of other things to do while he visits here.  But he did take the trouble to meet with me and share his beers.

Dr. Scott began brewing beer several years ago in a local home-brew supply store.  His first beers were named after baked goods, like "Pumpernickel" (stout with rye and caraway seeds), "Date Nut" brown ale, and "Fruitcake" imperial stout. 

"Since then, my philosophy has been to make interesting, somewhat unusual beers that you can't find in the store," Dr. Scott continues.  "This has included a lime zest/candied ginger wit, an orange blossom water infused Pilsner, and about six more recipes.  We've won a few awards in local American Homebrewers Association sanctioned competitions but have never gotten past the first round in the U.S. National Homebrew Competition, although some of my beers have received scores in the mid 30's out of a possible 50."

I met Dr. Scott at Beerateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, where we were joined by partner Shmuel (Schmulz) Naky, himself a talented practitioner of the fermenting arts.

The first beer we tasted was I Am Gruit, Dr. Scott's excursion to pre-hop days when people flavored and bittered beer with almost anything that grew out of the ground -- fruits, herbs, mosses, weeds, roots, leaves, flowers, fungus and barks.  The mix of this vegetation was called "gruit," and it was gradually replaced by hops across Europe by the 14th and 15th centuries.  Gruit varied in different locations, of course, but some common ingredients included sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, ground ivy, horehound, Calluna heather, juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, aniseed, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Sounds delicious.

I Am Gruit contains cinchona bark, kaffir lime leaves and juniper berries for the flavoring, along with wheat and rye malt, and honey.  The lime leaves are enough to give the beer a powerful sour citrus flavor.  Alcohol by volume is 5.64 %.  I found it very refreshing, but after 60+ years of beer drinking, I'm a little hooked on hops.  It was interesting to go back in time, but in the case of beer, I prefer the present.

The second beer, Red Rose, is a Flanders red ale, a barrel-aged sour beer, with the addition of rose hips.  Dr. Scott uses five different kinds of malt (Munich, Vienna, Caramel, Pilsner and Carapils) plus flaked wheat in the mash; Glacier hops are used to give aroma.  (Dr. Scott grows his own Glacier and Centennial hops in his garden.)

"After fermentation, the beer is aged for five months in an oak barrel that held a previous sour beer," says Dr. Scott.  "Then I put rose hips into the barrel five days before kegging and carbonation."

The result is a reddish amber beer, acidic but not extremely so, with no hop bitterness that I could detect.  There were underlying flavors of raisins and sour citrus.

The last beer we shared was Peat MacHeather, a Scotch Wee Heavy style ale.  The malt is smoked with peat, like a Scotch whisky, and heather honey is added to the fermentation.  Peat MacHeather is strong (9.8% ABV), very dark amber colored and smoky, with additional aromas of sweet malt and caramel.

Chocolate and alcohol are the dominant tastes.  In this case, without any hop presence, the alcohol provides a nice balance to the big malt character.  I enjoyed tasting this beer in dainty sips (since we shared the bottle three ways).  It's not a beer for chugging down on a hot day.

Sharing these unfamiliar beers with Dr. Scott was a very pleasant and original diversion from my regular "job" of drinking mostly mainline Israeli craft beers.

However, Dr. Scott's beers, as well as he himself, are on their way to becoming Israeli.  He's making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) quite soon and of course will continue to home-brew here, "using uniquely Israeli ingredients to make new beers."

That's good news for everybody, especially me.  I'll get to taste a lot more of Dr. Scott's brews, and he won't have to bring them all the way from America for me.