June 20, 2018

Winners of the B'tsisa Home-Brew Competition

No automatic alt text available.As my readers know, the B'tsisa (Hebrew for "In Fermentation") home-brewing competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious in Israel.  Each year, dozens of dedicated home-brewers submit their beers to be judged by a panel of the most experienced beer judges in the country.

B'tsisa is organized by the Beer & Beyond beer super-store in Tel Aviv.  Every year there is a different sponsor, and this year it was the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer.

Winners were chosen in six different categories, plus the Best in Show.  So without further ado, here is the list of winners, I believe for the first time in English: 

Best in Show
Yonatan Bendett -- Doppelbock

Bavarian Wheat
First:  Tom Arad
Second:  Murat Nepesov
Third:  Aleksey Radionov

English IPA
First:  Jason Barnett 
Second:  Bentzi Alexander, Garry Barak and Ami Prager
Third:  Chen Shlita

Belgian Strong Pale Ale
First:  Constantine Katkov
Second:  Elchanan Hopper Hornman
Third:  Jason Barnett

American Stout
First:  Yonatan Bendett
Second:  Natan Shochat and Yuval Guterman 
Third:  Elchanan Hopper Hornman 
First:  Yonatan Bendett
Second:  Gal Valency
Third:  Roi Fuchs

Smoked Beer
First:  Alex Filimonov
Second: Lior Digabli
Third: Constantine Katkov

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Home-brewer Yonatan Bendett, with his
two first-prize and Best in Show awards
at the B'tsisa Home-Brewing Competition.
The big winner this year was undoubtedly Yonatan Bendett, who took the gold for his American Stout and Doppelbock (Double Bock), as well as the Best in Show for the Doppelbock.  Twenty-six year old Yonatan is from Ramat Gan, and I was fortunate enough to catch up with him and taste his winning beers.  (I wish I could have tasted the other winners, but I don't move as fast as I once did!)

The American Stout style is the new kid on the block, making its appearance with the American craft beer revolution.  It is generally more alcoholic, malt roasty and hop bitter than its British and Irish counterparts which have existed for centuries.  

"For this style," explained Yonatan, "the greatest challenge is to get the hop bitterness stronger than the sweet finish."  He added modestly: "I don't think I was successful enough in achieving this."

I understood what Yonatan meant when I drank this beer (together with fellow taster Moshe).  It pours out a very dark brown with a tan head.  Roasted malt is the dominating aroma, and it activates your taste buds.  But then there's a let-down as you try to find the expected chocolate or coffee flavors.  They were just whispers in the bottle we tasted.  The finish, however, was as it should be: very refreshing -- dry and bitter.  Alcohol by volume is 7%. 

We also tasted Yonatan's Doppelbock, the Best in Show.  Since this style of lager beer is German bred and nurtured, Yonatan used German malt, hops and yeast.  (At least the water was Israeli!)  "I was aiming for a strong beer, full-bodied, moderately sweet, and malt-dominant," he said.
We have no doubt that he succeeded.  The beer is a hazy, dark amber-to-brown color with a thin head.  Not very carbonated.  You can smell the rich malt and toasty caramel even as the beer splashes in the glass.  The taste is complex, as doppelbocks should be: notes of grapes, prunes, malt, alcohol  and liqueur -- ending with a sweet and lasting aftertaste.  The sweetness is not cloying, but is well balanced by the strength of the other tastes.  Alcohol by volume is a hefty 7.5%.  This is what I call a winter beer -- warms the body and the soul.  

There's no doubt that Yonatan Bendett is a talented brewer.  It's a shame you can only read about his beers and not drink them.  Maybe someday Yonatan will have a chance to brew his prize-winning beers commercially, and Israelis will have a chance to taste them.   
Read about previous B'tsisa winners here and here and here.   

Coming soon:  More home-brew champions in the 
premier Isra-Brew competition.                   

June 18, 2018

Two festivals on Friday, June 22: The 7th in Beersheva and the 1st in Givat Ada.

Two beer festivals are coming up at the end of this week, Friday, June 22.  Unfortunately, you can't attend both -- unless you're up to driving "under the influence" from the Haifa District to Beersheva, or vice versa.  Not recommended.

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Seventh Beer7 Fest
Beersheva, June 22

It's the seventh time the Beer7 Fest is being held, and I know it well.  You get to taste the beers of enthusiastic home-brewers from the south of Israel.  Some of them have been pouring their beers since the start of the Beer7 Fests, but I understand that some will be new.

Doors open at noon at the Baraka Club in Beersheva's Old City, 70 Shloshet Bnei Ein Harod Street (that's a mouthful of a street name).  Over 40 different beers will be available at 5 shekels for a taste, and 15 shekels for a third of a liter.  There is an entrance fee of 30 shekels, but you get a branded glass to take home.  

The spark plug behind the Beer7 Fest is Gilad Ne-Eman, head of the Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva, and partner (with Tomer Ronen) of the Brew Shop in Beersheva, and of Tog Brewery.  

As I said, I have always enjoyed the Beer7 events and I plan to be at this one as well.  Always a wonderful atmosphere, friendly and ebullient brewers, and plenty of fine and unusual beers.  See you there!

More information here, including how to buy tickets online:  https://www.facebook.com/events/243254739744258/?active_tab=about                        

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First Beer Brewers Festival
Givat Ada, June 22

  • Also opening at noon at Ada's Beer & Friends Pub is the first Beer Brewers Festival in Givat Ada, south of Haifa.  Alongside of industrial beers from Israel and abroad, there will be beers from several local home-brewers.  That's where it get interesting.

    If you're not a member of the Ada's Beer & Friends cooperative, admission is 25 shekels (credit card only).  A glass and a taste of beer and a portion of smoked meat costs 15 shekels.  A third of a liter of Tuborg is only 8 shekels, while the same amount of Hoegaarden, Stella Artois or Weihenstephan is 10 shekels.  A hot dog on a roll is 12 shekels, and an "extra large" slice of pizza is 10 shekels. 

    There are also other food stands and music.  Sounds like it could be fun.   

  • More information here:  https://goo.gl/ZSSb1i

June 13, 2018

First Netivot Beer Festival -- June 14

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It's billed as the First Netivot Beer Festival for Youth -- but anyone over 18 is welcome.  Doors open tomorrow night (Thursday, June 14) at 8:00 p.m. at the Sportek grounds in the Negev city of Netivot, between Beersheva and Gaza. 

Craft beer at "subsidized prices" from the "best of the southern breweries" will be available.  There will also be food stands, places to sit down, and live music.

Entrance costs 20 shekels, and you can already buy a ticket online at this site: https://goo.gl/AJAcHt

This is continuing with the trend for even the smaller towns and cities on Israel's periphery to have their own beer festivals.  This is something that should be encouraged, so if you're in the area, go and have a good time!