April 7, 2021

Beerateinu Opokhmel -- Pickle beer when you're pickled

Opokhmel gose-style beer from Beerateinu:
Brewed with cucumbers, garlic, dill and salt.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

"This isn't a gimmick; it's a real beer," I keep telling myself.  

Another offering from Beerateinu -- the  Jerusalem Beer Center -- is called Opokhmel, the Russian word for a hangover cure.  Since a traditional Russian cure for hangovers is drinking pickle brine, Beerateinu partner and brewing maestro Shmuel (Shmultz) Naky has fashioned this beer with barley and rye malts, puffed wheat, cucumbers, garlic, dill and salt.  You can't make this stuff up. 

Shmultz's recipe produces a gose-style beer (a lightly sour and salty wheat beer pronounced go-seh) with hardly any bitterness (only 3 International Bitterness Units) or hop character (a small amount of Magnum hops are used) and only 3.5% alcohol.  The beer is brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem. 

Pickle brine beer has been around for about five years in the U.S.  From what I've read, most people hearing about it for the first time react with an "Ugh!" -- but then are happily surprised when they taste it. 

Opokhmel is a hangover cure in Russian,
meant for following scenes like the one
depicted on the label!  

Will I be the same?

Appearance-wise, Opokhmel is a slightly hazy pale amber color with lively carbonation but a thin head.  The aroma of pickles in brine was certainly there, but also some fresh cucumber, a very gentle scent but still recognizable.  The taste is lightly sour with flavors of cucumber, garlic and pickle spice.  No bitterness, no sweetness, but a little salty.  The mouthfeel is crisp and fizzy, slightly astringent.  

The way we bought pickles
back in the Bronx!
Growing up in the Bronx, where we picked our pickles from a big pickle barrel on East 174th Street, I think I know my pickles.  The taste of Opokhmel that came to my mind was what we called "half-sours," where the cucumbers are not fully pickled.  

As for the salty pickle brine in the beer, I had my usual disagreement with IBAV photographer and fellow taster Mike Horton.  Mike, who prefers his beer without extraneous flavors, stated: "I give it full marks for the incredible process where the cucumbers and the beer fermented together.  But I wasn't able to drink it!"

I say, if we enjoy eating salty snacks with beer (because the flavors complement each other), why can't the salt flavor already be in the beer?  Maybe this is the secret behind pickle beer's popularity.

Whether it will cure your hangover, how should I know?     

March 30, 2021

The Hero and the Super Hero ► HaGibor Black Magic Stout ● Six-Pack Brute IPA

Sometimes you just have to listen and a headline writes itself.  The dream of every copywriter and blogger. 

And so we have two new beers from HaGibor ("The Hero") Brewery and from Six-Pack Brewery, also known as Super Heroes Beer.  Like I said.

From The Hero we get Black Magic Stout, a traditional stout, though on the sweeter side of the street, at 6.6% alcohol.  Right off the top, let me say how much I enjoyed this beer, as I do several of the brews from HaGibor.  The brewery is located in Carmiel. 

Eran Grunwald, owner of the
HaGibor Brewery in Carmiel,
gifts the old blogger with
some of his fine beers.  
Black Magic very dark opaque brown, almost black, with a beige head.  The aromas brought to mind sweet spice like nutmeg, a little smokiness, and yeast.  The taste has stout roastiness, brown sugar sweetness, some coffee, chocolate and fruit, and that spicy background.  I've started to use the word "drinkable" to describe beers, meaning if I would buy more -- and the answer is yes.

It's a medium- to full-bodied beer with a roasty finish.  Stout is not my favorite beer style, but Black Magic does the best with what it has, and that works for me.

From the Super Heroes comes their fourth beer, Brute IPA.  It's a play on names, since Brut India Pale Ale (which itself is named after Brut Champagne) is a four-year-old beer style, born in San Francisco, with a very dry finish.  This is Israel's first Brut-style IPA.  It is made, like the other Super Heroes beers, at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat. 

Eyal Noam, a brother-partner of Six-Pack Brewery, told me that Brute IPA is brewed with the enzyme amyloglucosidase (lucky me that I just have to write it and not say it), which is an ingredient in all Brut-style IPAs. 

"This enzyme," he explains, "breaks down complex sugars in the malt into simple sugars which can then be more easily fermented by the yeast. This results is a less sweet -- or more dry -- beer. We add this enzyme in the mash, when the malted grain is mixed with hot water. We replaced some of the malt with flaked corn, which makes the beer even drier and crispier. The hops we used in Brute IPA are Citra and Nelson Souvin.

"Of all of our beers, we have gotten the best feedback from Brute IPA."

Eyal and his brother Meidad Ram are (as you might have guessed) big fans of super hero comics, which is why all of their four beers have their own super hero on the label.  He adds: "But Brute is the first one who is a villain, an anti-hero.  Notice that the symbol on his chest is upside down.  He's up to no good."

Although Brute IPA is the first commercial beer of its style in Israel, Eyal acknowledges that his friend Nir Croudo earlier home-brewed a Brut-style IPA and helped him to translate the recipe into commercial proportions.

Super Hero brother/brewers
Meidad Ram (left) and Eyal Noam (second from left)
test their strength against the old blogger.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
So let's pour a glass of the Brute.  I would put its color at one shade darker than pale, very slightly hazy, with a foamy white head.  Lovely hop aromas greet your nose: citrus, pine, pineapple, as well as yeast.  The taste is bitter -- bitter fruit -- pineapple, lemon and guava.  The mouthfeel is tangy, with a dry and bitter finish.  Even though the alcohol is a sturdy 7.3%, there's no sensing it in the taste or the mouthfeel.  That comes when you stand up.

I must admit that I've never had an American Brut IPA, but the Six-Pack Brute IPA seems to have all the characteristics of the style.  It's aromatic, bitter and dry.  I thought it was delicious.  It's not the first time that an anti-hero did something right.

[Read more about HaGibor Brewery and beers here, and the Six-Pack Super-Hero beers here.]      

March 25, 2021

Halevala from Beerateinu: Finnish folklore and halva

It doesn't pay too think too much about the rather bizarre beers that are being produced by Beerateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center.  I call them "Baroque beers."   

Halevala Rye Beer with halva
from Beerateinu.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

For example, a recent one is Halevala -- a made-up name which combines the word halva (a Middle Eastern sweet made with sesame seeds) and Kalevala, the Finnish national folk epic written in the middle of the 19th century.

Say what?

It actually makes perfect sense when you get into the mind of Shmuel (Shmultz) Naky, a partner of Beerateinu (along with Leon Shvartz) and chief innovator of the beers.  You just have to understand that Beerateinu beers combine his tastes and his interests -- in this case, halva and Finnish folklore.

"The label shows scenes from the Kalevala," explains Shmultz.  "You can see Väinämöinen, the ancient Finnish Zeus figure, creating the world by singing and playing his kantele, a traditional Finnish zither, which he made from the jawbone of a fish.  You can also see him pulling Aino out of the water, a young girl who chose to drown herself rather than marry the old Väinämöinen, and was changed into a fish."

Inspiring story, I'm sure.  But what about the beer?

Halevala is made with halva, barley and rye malt, puffed wheat, Magnum hops and Belgian wheat beer yeast.  Alcohol by volume is 4.5%.  It is brewed for Beerateinu at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.  

Old Väinämöinen creates the world
by playing on his kantele.

Unlike every other beer I have seen, Halevala has a white plug of sesame oil in the neck of every bottle.  You give the bottle a little shake to loosen it and then you pour.  In the glass, the color is a cloudy light orange, fizzy but without any real head.  The aromas included citrus fruit, yeast and grassy notes, with halva in the background.  It could just as well have been tahina, since this is the main ingredient of halva.        

From the first sip, I felt like I was drinking a wheat beer, with  the addition of a little spice from the rye and a little sweetness from the halva.  The halva, by the way, is very understated; it doesn't get in the way of the malt and hops -- elements that make a beer beer.  The finish is actually astringent, bitter and dry.  (The Finnish is on the label but not in the beer.)  

But the most unusual thing about Halevala is the grease it leaves on your glass and on your lips.  Photographer and IBAV Taster Mike Horton opined that, "the sesame leaves a fine patina of oil on the lips as if one has been recently kissed."

But let that not be the reason you buy this beer.  It's interesting, it's enjoyable and it's Israeli.  And it's still available at Beerateinu -- after Passover.  As the Schweppes people would say about Halevala: "Drink Different!"        

March 17, 2021

Kosher for Passover Date Ale from Meadan

Readers of this blog should be familiar with the name Bryan Meadan.  I've written about Bryan and his gluten-free and Kosher-for-Passover beers quite a few times.  And it's been a very popular subject, if you go by the number of page-views for these articles.

Bryan "officially" retired from brewing in 2019, but he has kept his hand in just enough to produce a Kosher-for-Passover beer this year, brewed at the Oak & Ash (Good Stuff) Brewery in Beit Shemesh.

Kosher-for-Passover for those who eat kitniyot (legumes).

It's his famous Date Ale, which has been a best-seller on Passovers past.  "We tweaked the brewing process to make it even better," Bryan told me.  "I brewed 1,000 liters, and two-thirds are already sold."

You can still buy the Date Ale in time for Passover (which begins this year on Saturday night, March 27).  In Jerusalem, it is available at the Pyup liquor super-store in Ramat Eshkol, Gluless, and Sushiyuda in the Machane Yehuda market.  Other locations include the Pinuk Kitchen in Nes Tziona, and Bernstein in Netanya (Poleg).

For more information and to order the beer directly, call or message Bryan at 054-779-1116.  Home-delivery is available if you order a case of the beer, and there are pick-up locations for smaller orders.

Ordering is also possible from the website:  https://meadan.co.il    

Meadan is also producing a Hummus (Chickpea) Beer which is gluten-free but not Kosher-for-Passover this year.  "It's the best beer I ever made," says Bryan with all due modesty.

[To read past articles on the Meadan Brewery, do a search of this blog in the little window on the upper right.  You can also start here and link back in time.]    

March 3, 2021

Apricot Wheat Ale from Lodestone

One of Israel's youngest commercial breweries is Lodestone, owned by partners Jason Barnett and Malcha Miller, both American-born Israelis. Jason is the brewer; Malcha does the marketing, distribution and just about everything else. They contract brew their beers at the Oak & Ash (Good Stuff) Brewery in Beit Shemesh. 

As an aside, though an important one, Jason is devoting most of his time this year to getting certified as a Master Brewer (online) from the Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin. A free translation would be the Experimental and Educational Institute for Brewing. Jason's courses include Barley, Water, Hops, Chemistry, Brewery Arithmetic, Microbiology, Energy, Quality Analysis, and Supply Chain Logistics. Good luck to him. 
Apricots are a fine fruit to add to beers.

Which brings us to the third beer from Jason and Malcha: Apricot Wheat Ale. (Their first two beers are a Tropical IPA and a Peach Blonde.  You can read about them, and the start of Lodestone, here.)

I have written about three other Israeli apricot beers, all in the not too distant past: BeerBazaar Mishmesh (also a wheat ale), Beertzinut Apricot Fields (a Berliner Weiss), and Beerateinu Bukra fil Mishmish (kettle-soured).

The Lodestone Apricot Wheat is a very pale hay color, with just a touch of haze. Alcohol by volume is 5%. My drinking partner Moshe and I got aromas of grass, a touch of sour, wheat beer yeast, and very faint apricots. The taste is slightly sweet with sour fruit, though we couldn't really identify it as apricot. Still, it gives the beer a pleasant tartness and fruitiness, which only makes it more drinkable and refreshing. Moshe called it, "a great beer to come home to on a hot day." As the beer warmed up, the apricot taste got more noticeable -- a phenomenon we've experienced with quite a few other flavor-added beers. 
Malcha Miller and Jason Barnett deliver
Lodestone beer during the days of
our pandemic.  (May they soon be over!)

We await more interesting beers from Lodestone, especially as Jason Barnett brings his newly acquired knowledge to the brewing process.

February 28, 2021

BeerBazaar Mango Sunrise + The Coal Miner

This time there are two more beers from the BeerBazaar Brewery (Kiryat Gat) which continues its frenetic pace of turning out new beers.  As I wrote before, they are not on the shelves (or in this case, available in the online store) for very long, but they have been known to make come-backs, especially if they are popular.  I'm guessing these two might be. 

Mango Sunrise:
A flavored saison from
the BeerBazaar Brewery,
with mango you can really taste.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

Mango Sunrise is a saison-style beer, 5.8% alcohol, with the addition of mango.  Saison beers are often flavored not only with fruit, but also all kinds of herbs, vegetables and spices, coffee, chocolate, nuts and vanilla.  Still, the saison quality should always come through: Refreshing, moderately bitter, dry, and a little spicy from the yeast.    

By my count, there have been six other Israeli craft beers brewed with mango, and they are: Kruso and Double Kruso (pale ales from the now defunct HeChatzer Brewery), Freedom IPA (from Oak & Ash), Education IPA (from Good Stuff), Tropical IPA (a saison from Lodestone), and Mexico 70 (a wheat ale from Herzl).      

Of course, many other beers in Israel and abroad have mango flavors, but these are usually from the variety of hops used, and not from the addition of fruit.

Mango Sunrise pours out a cloudy orange juice color with a thin head.  A first whiff brings mango juice, sweet spice (maybe cinnamon?) and a sour note.  The flavor begins with sweet mango, followed by a little bitterness, beery malt and yeast esters.  The body is medium-full and the finish is semi-sweet and juicy. 

You can definitely taste the fruit in Mango sunrise -- unlike some of the other mango beers.  And since I like mango, I appreciated this.  My drinking partner, photographer Mike Horton, also likes mango -- but he "would prefer to have my mango juice separately and my beer separately."  To each his own.

The Coal Miner from the
BeerBazaar Brewery:
A mildly smoked lager.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

BeerBazaar's second new beer is The Coal Miner (HaKoreh in Hebrew), with 5.2% alcohol by volume.  It is a smoked lager, a beer style with ardent followers in Europe and elsewhere.  Here in Israel, I counted at least 10 local smoked beers over the years.

These beers get their smoky character from the specialty malt, which is exposed to different kinds of wood or peat smoke.  When the malt is used in the brewing, it imparts the smoky aromas and tastes to the beer.  Even a small percentage of smoked malts will have an effect on the beer.

The Coal Miner uses malt smoked over beech wood.  This gives the beer a mild smoky aroma, with some charcoal in the background.  The taste is not very bitter, with some malt sweetness and mildly smoked meat (as I remember it to be).  But my drinking partner Mike compared it to being in front of a charcoal fire before the meat is put on.  The body is medium and the smoky aftertaste stays with you for a while.  

I enjoy smoky beers (and smoky whiskies) if the smoke is not overwhelming, so The Coal Miner was just right for me.  The only thing I do question is the choice of the name and image, since coal has nothing to do with preparing smoked beers.  Ah well, what's in a name?  Enjoy the beer when it comes back.  

February 23, 2021

Malka Strong Ale for the winter

Malka Strong Ale:
Belgian-style, 9% alcohol, winter-warmer.

It's always a pleasure to find a new beer that's made to fit the season.  So I was happy to find out about, and get a bottle of, the new Strong Ale from the Malka Brewery in the Migdal Tefen Industrial Park, just as our winter seemed to be reaching its peak.  This is a limited edition, seasonal beer.  It's in the family of strong Belgian ales, and could probably qualify as either a Strong Pale (or Golden) Ale, or a Belgian Tripel.  The dividing line between these two styles is quite ambiguous.  Certainly the 9% alcohol by volume fits the bill for both. 

Wherever you place it, the Malka Strong Ale is strong, flavorful and warming.  I would call the color a ruby-amber, since there are red highlights in the sunlight.  It is clear and well carbonated.  I got aromas of yeast, malt, some dark bread and even anise.  The taste is sweet with pepper spice, and very alcoholic.  The alcohol warmth dominates the mouthfeel, along with a full, smooth body and a dry, bitter finish.  Maybe there's even some pine resin in the finish.

In short, a good, Belgian-style strong beer for the winter.  Sip it; no chugging.  Enjoy it at warmer temperatures (around 8°- 12° C) to experience all the flavors and nuances.  These kinds of beer go well with spicy foods, strong cheeses and many (non-chocolate) desserts and cakes. 

A panoramic view of the Malka Brewery
in the Migdal Tefen Industrial Park.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 

One other point: Several brewers who have taken part in beer festivals (before the plague) have told me that Israelis' first question is the alcoholic content of the beer.  If the answer is too low, they say "thank you" and move on.  They're looking for high-alcohol beers that will get them more shicker for their shekel.  [Translation: More inebriated for their buck!]   

If that's the case, then Malka Strong Ale should be very popular with the locals.  Not only do you get the alcohol, but you taste it and you feel it going down.  What could be better in these colder months?