October 10, 2019

Four beers for the record

I've recently tasted four beers which are not exactly new (anymore), but which have managed to fall under my radar.  Here are a few words about each. 

Image may contain: drink and textThe Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer, one of Israel's largest micro-breweries, has introduced a new Saison beer, with a label reflecting Rene Magritte's famous Son of Man painting, but with a hop cone instead of a green apple obstructing the man's face.

Saison means "season" in French, and this style of beer might have first been brewed in Belgium during the "brewing season," November to March, in home and small breweries for drinking during the summer months.

Regardless of its origins, the Saison style has come to mean a beer with fruity and spicy aromas and flavors, not very bitter, with a very dry finish.  The beer's uniqueness comes from the special Saison yeast.  A few Israeli brewers have introduced Saison-style beers, even if all of them weren't called by that name.

The Alexander Saison is made with unmalted wheat, in addition to the regular malted barley.  It pours out crystal clear, the color of ginger ale, with a small but foamy head.  The aromas are yeast, sweet malt and black pepper.  The taste is sweeter than what you would expect from a Saison, along with yeast, spice and some fruitiness.  Alcohol is 7%.  It's a very refreshing and enjoyable beer, perfect for hot days and a variety of cheeses and light dishes.


Neta and Jean Torgovitsky,
owners of the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.
The Sheeta Brewery in Arad has introduced a new SMASH Pilsner, brewed with noble Saaz hops from Europe.  These hops are traditionally used in brewing Pilsner lager, giving the beer its distinctive spicy aroma and taste.  Originating in the Czech town of Plzen in 1842, Pilsners have become the most popular and widely imitated beer style in the world.  Purists say that nothing compares to the taste of fresh Pilsner beer, straight from the fermentation tank in Plzen.

The Sheeta SMASH may not have that pedigree, but it has a wonderful fresh lemony aroma coming off of the foamy, long-lasting head.  The taste is bitter fruit (maybe red grapefruit), very refreshing, with a peppery finish.  In fact, I felt the heat on my tongue as the beer washed down my bite of hummus.  Sheeta SMASH has a dry Pilsner finish that makes you want to keep drinking.  With only 5% alcohol, you can go right ahead and do that. 
                    

Oak & Ash is a gypsy brewery that started out under the auspices of Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv, but has recently moved to the Hagibor Brewery in Carmiel because it needs larger facilities.  Owner and brewer Asher Zimble chose the name because his first beers were aged with oak.  His two recent offerings, however, are not.

The Oak & Ash NEIPA (New England IPA) is an attempt to replicate this popular American beer style – characterized by a very hazy to opaque color, massive fruit aroma and flavors from the hops (tropical fruits are favorites), juicy, creamy mouthfeel and low bitterness.

This Oak & Ash version is not as opaque as the American NEIPAs I've seen (it's only semi-hazy) nor as strong (only 4.5% ABV), but it is full of the juicy goodness you expect.  I detected flavors of grapefruit, passion fruit, mango, and some guava.  It tastes like a tropical fruit cocktail, creamier and much less bitter than a regular IPA.

If you're an admirer of the NEIPA style, this beer's for you.  And if you've never tried it, this is your chance.  Tasting new styles is one of the true pleasures of drinking craft beer.

Also from Oak & Ash is the new Coco Porter – a Porter-style dark and roasty beer brewed with desiccated shredded coconut.  (Zimble, quite rightly, will not reveal at which stage the coconut is added.)

In the glass, Coco Porter looks like Coca Cola: the same color and the same fizz.  The aromas are rather subdued – brown sugar, toffee and slight coconut.  But the tastes are what bring the beer alive: rich coconut and dark chocolate, semi-sweet, with some dried fruits in the background. 

Since I'm a fan of coconut, and especially coconut with chocolate, I found this to be a delicious beer, but one to be savored, not gulped down on a hot day!         

1 comment:

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