August 6, 2020

Good Stuff Brewing debuts with four beers; opens Jerusalem publet

The new owners of the Buster's Brewery in Beit Shemesh (Noham Industrial Area) have added a new brand to their line of beverages: Good Stuff Brewing.  This is in addition to the Buster's brand of hard ciders and lemonades, Oak & Ash barrel-aged beers, and Free Spirits strong alcoholic drinks.

"Our four new beers are not only 'good stuff ' to drink," says partner and brewer Asher Zimble, "but we also do 'good stuff ' with a portion of all the sales.  We contribute to causes which are active in the fields of health, education, clean beaches, and social needs."

More about this later.

The Good Stuff Pub & People in
Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
At the same time, Asher and his partner Leiby Chapler have opened a mini-pub in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market, called Good Stuff Pub & People (3 HeCharuv Street).  "We have a taproom at the Buster's Brewery," continues Asher, "but we wanted a place which was centrally located where more people can experience our products.  We negotiated with the owners of the Beer Market, which was at this location.  In the end, we reached a collaboration agreement, with one of the partners of the Beer Market, Alex Lobanov, joining us.  He agreed that we could change the name to Good Stuff Pub & People."
Good Stuff Brewing partner Asher Zimble
with bottles of Free Spirits liquor.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

On tap at the pub are the Good Stuff beers as well as Buster's ciders and/or lemonades.  There is also a rotating tap that will have occasional beers from other breweries.  You can drink the beers at the bar or take them home in sealed liter bottles (49 shekels).  There are also kegged cocktails on tap, including lemon arak, pink lemonade and gin, and chili lime and vodka.  Take-home liters of these cost 95 shekels.  There are also at least 10 different bottles of spirits on sale.

Getting back to giving back, Asher explains that each of the first four beers is linked to a different good cause.  

Let's begin with the pale and move into the dark:

Education is a clear, pale liquid with a foamy white head.  I'm a sucker for aromatic hops, and when you combine this with real fruit, my knees buckle.  A nice mango smell, sweet tropical fruits, with plenty of citrus.  The pineapple is revealed in the taste, along with the strong bitterness, sourdough bread and pine resin.  The active carbonation dominates the mouthfeel.  A good summer beer; not to be chugged down but to be enjoyed.       

Clean Beach Blonde, as the name implies, encourages the cleaning up of Israeli beaches.  For the first project, Good Stuff ran a Facebook campaign asking readers to grab a garbage bag, go and collect trash on the beach, and send in a photo.  One of these was picked to win a case of Clean Beach Blonde.  You can keep up with new projects by following the Facebook page:

The winning team of
beach cleaners:
The prize was a carton of
Clean Beach Blonde.
Clean Beach Blonde pours out a very hazy yellow color (I'd even call it "dirty blonde") with a compact white head.  The aroma has sour notes, but more dominant are yeast, grass, and cereal grains.  Really not much from the hops.  The taste envelope is mildly bitter, holding flavors of citrus fruit, green apples, dried apricot and yeast.  The body is light, easy drinking at 5% alcohol.  A good beer to take to the beach -- but be sure to bring back the empty bottles.

A portion of the profits from the sale of First Aid Amber Ale will go to medical first reponders.  In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, they play an even more crucial role, putting themselves in danger on a daily basis.  The first project sponsored by the beer was the distribution of 500 masks to hospitals.

A delivery of face masks,
purchased from the sales of
First Aid Amber,
arrives at an Israeli hospital. 
First Aid Amber is a hazy mid-brown color with an off-white head.  It's on the more balanced side of the amber ale range, with aromas of both malt and hops, bread, yeast and some floral.  The taste brings more malt and grain, and light citrus.  This may not sound very exciting, but it's fine for a tasty amber ale.  The body is mid-full and smooth.  Alcohol by volume: 5%.     

Warmth is a hefty Imperial Stout, 9.2% alcohol, brewed with additions of oats and brown sugar.  The warmth it refers to is not global warming, as I first thought, but providing people with emotional warmth, as Asher says, "giving people what they lack."  The first project was in support of Leket, an organization which fights food insecurity by "rescuing" surplus food from fields and restaurants, and distributing it to those in need.

As you would expect, Warmth is very dark brown, topped with a bubbly beige head that holds for few minutes.  Aromas assaulted my nose fast and furious: Roasted malt, coffee and chocolate, molasses, licorice, dark fruits and whiffs of alcohol.  Same thing with the tastes -- not easy to keep track: Chocolate liqueur, caramel, coffee and raisins.  This imperial stout was not very bitter, indicating a nice balance between the hops and malt.  As to mouthfeel, there was a pleasant alcoholic warmth, but the body was thin for this style of beer.

In general, I was impressed with the first four Good Stuff beers.  This is not the first time Israeli craft brewers have designated a portion of their sales for a good cause.  (Off hand, I can think of the Shapiro Brewery, next door neighbors to Good Stuff, which has an excellent record of helping different charities.)  But it's the first time that an entire brand has been built on this concept.

How nice to be able to put good beer in your belly while giving your conscience some nutrition as well.  It doesn't happen very often.

[The Good Stuff website is at: ]

July 27, 2020

A visit to the Sparrow Brewery

The Sparrow Brewery beer park on
Moshav Magshimim:
Wonderful beer and hummus
every Friday morning.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Perhaps the most pleasant side effect of the Israeli craft beer efflorescence is the growth of taprooms or beer gardens adjacent to breweries.  Besides bringing direct, single-tier income to the breweries, they are great places to hang out with friends, enjoy good food and drink some of the best beer in Israel.

There are big beer gardens that can accommodate hundreds of visitors, and there are smaller ones that have tables and chairs for a few dozen.  

IBAV Taster Yitzchak Miskin (right)
and the old blogger build up a beer thirst
while hiking around the Crusader fortress
of Mirabel, known in Hebrew as
Migdal Tsedek or Migdal Afek.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
On one Friday morning before the corona struck, I drove up with Israel Brews and Views Tasters Yitzchak Miskin and Mike Horton to the cozy beer park of the Sparrow Brewery on Moshav Magshimim near Petach Tikva.  I went again just a few weeks ago under very different conditions.

Before we arrived at the moshav we took short hikes in the area, carefully planned by Yitzchak, an experienced and enthusiastic hiker.  Sure they were fun, but the underlying reason was to get us even thirstier for the beer!

Excellent hummus and cold beer (also excellent),
served by Dror Sapir (right) and his mom and dad
at the Sparrow Brewery beer park on
Moshav Magshimim.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Owner and brewer Dror Sapir (whose first name means "sparrow" in Hebrew) has kept his beer park open through most of the shut-down period since the tables and chairs are all outdoors and well-spaced from each other.  He's open most every Friday morning (except when it's extremely hot or extremely cold), and the menu is simple: Besides Dror's own excellent beers, there is home-made hummus and malabi (milk pudding with rice and rose syrup).  The beer park is a family affair, with Dror's parents and wife pitching in.

The beers on the menu alternate depending on what Dror is brewing at the time.  My favorite is his Zythos Wheat IPA.  In fact, when I first had it several years ago, it became my favorite Israeli craft beer.  Since then, quite a few others have competed for this position, but I still recommend it highly.  [Read that early review here.]

Dror Sapir gets serious while talking
about his beer with the old blogger.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Sparrow's other standard beers include a Summer Wheat (an easy drinking hefeweizen), a classic IPA (aromatic and fruity), Sparrowheat (a strong wheat at 6.2% alcohol), and a dry-hopped West Coast IPA.

As we feasted on his beer and hummus, Dror explained that he opened his beer park on Sapir family property on Magshimim around four years ago.

"I've been brewing Sparrow beers since 2013," he added.  "I was gypsy brewing and bringing my beers to stores and restaurants by myself.  Besides the low profit margins, I was unhappy that I didn't get to see and hear the customers' reactions to my beer.

Dror Sapir stays serious about the coronavirus
while serving his beer on a recent Friday morning
at the Sparrow Brewery beer park
on Moshav Magshimim.
"Here in the beer park, I cut out the middleman and sell directly to the public, and I love to get their reactions when they drink my beer."

You can occasionally find bottles of Sparrow beer at the Beer Bazaar pubs, depending on the quantity that Dror brews!

People travel to Sparrow for the Friday morning beer and hummus from miles away --Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Rehovot -- though Dror says that 70% of his regular customers are from the moshav.  These are lucky people.  If I lived closer I would probably make the Sparrow beer park my regular Friday morning routine. 

July 20, 2020

Sun Blaze: the new Super Heroine from Six-Pack Brewery

Sun Blaze: The new beer
and Super Heroine from the
Six-Pack Brewery.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Six-Pack Brewery, makers of the popular Super Hero beers, have introduced their first Super Heroine.  Her name is Sun Blaze, and she is a strong (7% alcohol by volume) "summer ale," enhanced with Canadian maple syrup.

Meidad Ram (left) and Eyal Noam,
brother/partners of the Six-Pack Brewery,
share the first bottle of Sun Blaze
with the old blogger.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Six-Pack was founded over two years ago by brothers Meidad Ram and Eyal Noam (yes, I know, they have different last names, but that's another story).  The other beers they brew now (at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat) are SMASH, a single malt and single hop IPA, and Ultimus Amber Ale.

(Six-Pack beers were mentioned in earlier articles here and here.)  

At the Jerusalem launch of Sun Blaze at Beerateinu, they told me that they had all but ceased brewing after their father had open-heart surgery last year and was in a coma for two months.  After he recovered, the brothers were meeting in their parents' home and discussing a new beer to begin their brewing once again. 

"We mentioned a few ingredients that we could use," said Meidad, "but other Israeli brewers were doing the same thing.  Then we saw the answer on the plate in front of us: maple cookies."

They began experimenting with maple syrup, trying different recipes for their beer.  The final product was Sun Blaze, an ale containing 25 liters of Canadian maple syrup in every 1,000 liter batch, and a mix of Hüll Melon hops (also known as Hallertau Melon) from Europe and Sabro hops from Washington State.  Both hop strains are aroma hops, with Hüll Melon adding honeydew melon, strawberry and apricot characteristics, and Sabro (a very new variety) known for tangerine and coconut flavors.

Eyal continued:  "You can achieve a 7% ABV from any fermentable sugars.  But the sugars from maple syrup will give you a lighter body than the sugars from malted grain.  And that's what we wanted: a strong beer with a light body."

So after all that explanation, let's see how this works out.

Sun Blaze pours out of the bottle a hazy dark amber color.  At least that's what it was in the dim light of Beerateinu.  I was joined by two other tasters, and between us we got aromas of tropical fruit, caramel, coconut, hazelnut and some wood.  The tastes were a delicious blend of these in a  mild bitter envelope.  The mouthfeel was mid-field -- in the body, the carbonation and the alcohol "warmth."

Yet we felt that something was missing.  Oh yes, the maple.  I know.  It's not called a maple beer, and the syrup itself was used to add sugars rather than as a flavor.  But we all were hoping for at least a hint of maple.  

It's a good thing we didn't give up.  As the beer diminished and warmed up in our glass, the maple aroma rose up.  Just a little bit, but enough to make itself felt.  

Even without the maple, we thought that Sun Blaze is a tasty, well crafted brew.  Perhaps not a light summer beer, but a heroine nevertheless who packs a rich, flavorful punch. 

July 14, 2020

Shevet's 3rd Small Batch: Double Bock

The third beer from the Shevet Brewstillery (in Pardes Hanna) in its Small Batch series is a Double Bock.  Also known by its German appellation doppelbock, this style of beer is a strong lager whose origins are in 17th century Munich.  Monks had it as "liquid bread" over Lent (usually February or March to April), when they fasted from food but not from drink.

The religious origins of the double bock (which is the stronger sister of the regular bock lager) led to an early version being named Salvator.  The suffix -ator was later applied to other double bock beers, so we have through history names like Resonator, Celebrator, Optimator, Maximator, Terminator.  (Only joking about the last one!)  The only other commercially brewed double bock in Israel is from the Bazelet Brewery on the Golan.    
On a visit to the Shevet Brewstilley
in Pardes Hanna, the old blogger
met the partners:
Brewmaster Lior Balmas (center)
and chief distiller Neil Wasserman.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

(You can read about the Shevet Brewstillery here and the other Shevet Small Batch beers here and here.) 

On the bottle, you read that Shevet Double Bock is made with Carapils and Munich malts (hinting at a fuller mouthfeel and some malty, nutty notes) and two "Noble" hops: Hallertau Mittelfruh and Saphir (bringing something sweet and spicy into the mix).  Let's see how this works in reality.  

The beer pours a clear copper color, with a lively effervescence that produces a small, yellow-white head.  The dominant aroma is sweet malt, very appetizing, followed by bread, caramel and dark molasses.  The taste is sweet and heavy and full of complexities.  My drinking partner Moshe and I got notes of malt, wood, caramel, toffee and chestnuts.  Despite all the sweet notes, the finish is dry and bitter.   

We enjoyed every drop: very creamy, balanced and rich tasting.  The 8% alcohol is felt in the warm mouthfeel but not in the taste.

"This is not a summer beach beer," Moshe said.  And he was right.  This is a drink-alone beer for a cool evening.  But if you are having your double bock with food, enjoy it with only the most rich, roasty foods or with any chocolate candy or cake.

The Small Batch beers from Shevet continue to maintain their high level of innovation and quality.  Most of their beers, in fact, are the only examples of a style brewed in Israel.  That's what makes it so exciting to see what new beers will be coming next from Shevet.  Any guesses?    

July 5, 2020

A beer for every season: Eli Ale Winter Forest

Winter Forest
Oak & Hazel
nut Porter
from Eli Ale.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Under the banner of "new brewers and new beers," the Israeli craft scene welcomes Louis (Eli) Jay, 31, formerly from Owings Mills, Maryland, who is brewing and selling beer behind the Eli Ale label.  Louis brews his beers at the Oak & Ash (Good Stuff) Brewery in the Noham industrial area near Beit Shemesh.

It was especially appropriate that Louis presented me with his Winter Forest Oak & Hazelnut Porter on the last wintry day in Jerusalem.  After we sought shelter, he outlined his plans for Eli Ale.  

"I want to introduce a new beer for every season," he explained.  "This summer, for example, we're bringing back our Summer Breeze, a light Belgian Witbier, 4% alcohol, made with orange peel and coriander seeds.  For the fall, we'd like to have an Irish Red, and then a Maibock for the spring."

Louis, who began as a home-brewer in 2012, keeps his equipment at the Oak & Ash Brewery, but insists on doing his own brewing.  "I need to be on top of all the stages: the mashing, the boiling, adding the ingredients, etc.  It's a very delicate dance that I don't want others to do for me."
Louis (Eli) Jay (left), owner of Eli Ale,
presents bottles of Winter Forest
to the old blogger on winter's last day. 

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Of special importance to him is achieving consistency with every batch.  "Before I started brewing commercially," he added, "the biggest obstacle was consistency.  I aimed at getting ten consistent batches before I took a beer to the commercial level."

Winter Forest is based on a recipe from Louis' home-brew days.  "We were brewing the porter at 6% ABV, but one day by mistake hit 8%.  It was so good we decided to keep it."

Winter forest is brewed with hazelnuts and aged with oak chips.  It pours out a dark opaque brown with lacy tan foam.  There's no missing the tantalizing aromas: roasted malt, dark chocolate, yeast and a little coffee.  With the taste, you get oak, nuts and chocolate in a sweet and dry package.  

The mouthfeel is medium bodied, creamy, light alcohol warmth, and a little tingly from the carbonation.  Moshe, my tasting partner (we were sharing the beer via Zoom) found an "oatmeal" quality to the mouthfeel.  

We both agreed that this was a carefully made, delicious beer.  Have it with chocolate candy, cakes or desserts to kick the flavor intensity up a few notches, or with chargrilled veggies or rich, nutty cheeses.

Winter Forest is on sale in various beer stores in Israel, and final details are being worked out for exporting several cases to the state of Maryland. 

I missed Eli Ale's Summer Breeze last year, but based on the Winter Forest, I'm looking forward to trying it as soon as it appears later this year.

June 22, 2020

Lodestone debuts with a Tropical IPA and a Peach Blonde

We first met Jason Barnett a-year-and-a-half ago when he was brewing and selling his beers under the Opus label, and giving workshops on home-brewing and beer tastings.  [Read about it here.] 

Since then, Jason has continued with all of these activities, most recently giving his Beer Lab seminars for the BeerBazaar chain of pubs (before they were closed down on orders of General Corona).  

"But I continued brewing in my spare time," Jason recently told me in a telephone interview, "building up different beer recipes around local ingredients." 

A little while ago, Jason received an e-mail from an Israeli lawyer informing him that the name "Opus" had been registered in Israel in the 1990s as a name for wine and beer by the Opus 1 Winery in California.  He warned Jason that he would be sued if he continued using the name.  

Lodestone partners
Malcha Miller and
Jason Barnett.
"We saw that as an opportunity to rebrand and find a new name which expressed our principles," Jason explained.  He and his new partner Malcha Miller, who has a background in sales and marketing, decided on the name Lodestone.

"It's elemental," according to Jason, "giving us a new direction and placing us between traditional brewing and using local ingredients."  A lodestone is a naturally magnetized mineral, and by extension, anything that's a focus of attention or attraction.  So it does seem to fit.

Lodestone's first beer is a Tropical IPA, contract brewed at Buster's Brewery (Oak & Ash) in the Noham industrial area near Beit Shemesh.  It's made with Israeli mango and Saison yeast, so we can expect a (tropical) fruity character with a dry, perhaps peppery finish.

Let's see how this plays out:

The beer pours out a slightly hazy light amber color with a big frothy head and very active carbonation.  The aroma is certainly IPA, though not very aggressive: some tropical fruit, yeast, grapefruit, lemon and spiciness.  The taste is quite bitter, with spice phenols from the yeast, and hints of lemon zest, green apple and fruit popsicle.  
There is also a fruit sourness which led my drinking partner Daniël Boerstra to call this beer, "an IPA mixed with a sour."  We also thought that the high alcoholic volume (7%) makes itself felt in the taste and the "warmth" of the mouthfeel.

While we both agreed that Tropical IPA is a pleasant beer to have on a warm summer's day (which we did), we were disappointed with not detecting any mango.

To tell the truth, I've had that same reaction with a number of new beers I tasted recently.  They were brewed with fruit or other natural additives -- but there was nary a hint of these flavors in the beers.  I'm not saying that these should all be "fruit beers" which taste like fruit juice with a little bit of hops.  We certainly have enough of those, mostly imported.  But if a beer is made with a certain flavor additive, you ought to be able to know it's there.  If not, why use it?  Am I wrong?           

A perfect example of what I mean is Lodestone's second beer -- Peach Tree Blonde -- described by Jason Barnett as a balance between an American blonde ale and a peach cider.  Here the peach is unmistakable as soon as you pour.  The haze, color and carbonation were similar to the Tropical IPA, but the whiffs from the glass were completely different.  We perceived peach preserves, butterscotch, and fresh yeasty bread.  

On the tongue (as they say), there is white peach and an alcoholic peach liqueur (ABV is 6.5%), which stay with you.  The mouthfeel sensations are medium-body, some alcoholic warmth and a honey smoothness.  Peach Tree Blonde is a complex, multi-dimensional beer, yet very refreshing and made for such a summer's day.  Jason says that this beer, in fact, "captures the feeling that summer's coming in Israel," by choosing a summer fruit and keeping the malts and hops in tune with a light, semi-dry beer.              
Lodestone's first two beers are promising, and we look forward to more of them which will keep the brewery's mission statement (presented here only partially):

Striving to create unique beer by constantly challenging ourselves and our community


Being for what's right, not who's right.


Solving problems through collaboration and out-of-the-box solutions


Incorporating the legacy of pioneer brewers by tapping into our history of beer and brewing


Building an institution and Israeli legacy in order to cultivate and promote Israeli pride.


Utilizing foresight within our team to courageously solve problems by re-assessing and adapting to changing situations


Using Israeli ingredients sourced locally and sustainably.


Empowering the public and next generation of brewers through education


Lodestone Tropical IPA is available these days in stores in the Tel Aviv region, Ramat Gan and Jerusalem.  Malcha and Jason themselves have been making the deliveries.  Malcha lives in Jerusalem, and has been actively promoting the beer to stores throughout the city.  As the lockdown conditions ease, the distribution area will grow, including pubs and restaurants.

May 14, 2020

Hop Hop + Honey Time from BeerBazaar

Two new beers from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat helped us greet the spring -- and then promptly sold out.  I was informed they should be back in less than a month on store shelves and on the BeerBazaar's own online ordering site.

Hop Hop is a New England IPA (NEIPA), an American craft beer style that has probably already peaked in popularity, especially in these days when so many American micro-breweries are fighting for survival.

New England IPA is characterized by a very hazy to opaque color, massive fruit aroma and flavors from the hops (tropical fruits are favorites), juicy, smooth mouthfeel and low bitterness.

By my count, this is the fifth commercial Israeli NEIPA (although not all of them are still around): Alexander's Holy Fruit (read about it here), Oak & Ash NEIPA (here), Joya Gorgeous IPA (here) and Dancing Camel's The Seven C's.

Hop Hop was brewed in collaboration with the Solo Brewery on the Greek island of Crete.  According to its website, Solo. "rather than brewing for the sake of profit, . . . comes into existence
through people, togetherness, friendship and sharing of ideas, emotions and everything that makes our moments worth living for."

Solo has a history of collaboration with brewers in Greece and other countries, including the Wuhan No. 18 Brewing Co. in China.  Just pointing that out.

New England: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Conneticut & Rhode Island ... yes, all in one long trip :)
Ancestral homeland of
the elusive NEIPA.
Getting back to Hop Hop, it pours out a very cloudy orange color -- not surprising for an NEIPA.  Immediately there are wonderful fresh hop aromas of pineapple, grapefruit and pine; maybe some lychee fruit.  We could not detect any malt aromas, such as bready, caramel or roasted.

From what I know about NEIPAs, they should not be as bitter as this one.  Hidden behind Hop Hop's bitterness is more pine, grapefruit, tropical fruits and grass.

The mouthfeel is pleasant and well constructed: Smooth, medium-body, active carbonation and low alcohol warmth (alcohol by volume is 6.2%).  The finish is bitter pine, and it stays with you for a while.

Hop Hop is a beer that demands your attention.  You can't drink it and be thinking of something else.  Even though it defies some characteristics of an NEIPA, it's a juice bomb of a beer.  You can certainly understand why this style has become so popular.

Coming out along with Hop Hop is Honey Time, an Amber Ale brewed with Israeli honey.  Like other honey beers, the honey doesn't add much sweetness, since the yeast eat most of it, but it does make itself known in the aromas, flavors and body -- as well as a sweet note.

In the case of Honey Time, the color is mid-amber, clear but not sparkling, with a thin white head.  The aromas are faint.  Hops are not at all forward in this beer; malt and yeast do the job.  There are scents of sweet spice, honey, melon and some grass.  The taste is on the bitter side, with honey dominating but blanketed with a phenolic spice.  The mouthfeel is smooth, a little astringent, and prickly from the carbonation.  The ABV is 5.8% which is not felt at all.

I found Honey Time enjoyable and delicious.  As an amber ale with a honey taste and a dry finish, it should pair well with a wide range of foods, spicy dishes, tangy cheeses and fruity cakes and desserts.

Like I wrote earlier, Hop Hop and Honey Time are not currently available, but I'm assured by the BeerBazaar people that they will be back shortly.  Two unordinary beers from one of Israel's most innovative and market-forward breweries.