October 14, 2018

Home-brews for the Ramot Forest: Thursday, October 18

One of the wooded areas within Jerusalem, this one in the Ramot neighborhood, is threatened by
urban development.  Now, being against all building within the city is silly and hypocritical.  But we should expect the authorities to seek a balance between the needs of a growing city and the touches of nature within it. 

Ramot for the Environment, a citizens' committee, an NGO, has been fighting to preserve a portion of the Ramot Forest known as Mitzpe Naftoach, which is full of beautiful plants and wildlife.  They hold events which bring people to the forest where they can appreciate and learn about its unique contribution to Jerusalem.

Someone on the committee had an idea, perhaps to attract a younger crowd, to include home-brewers and beer at the next event.  They asked the old blogger if he could help out -- and thus was born a planned evening of Home-Brewers and Poets on Thursday, October 18, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

As the name says, alongside the beer there will be a poetry slam with the following witty wordsmiths (in Hebrew): Tchelet Zohar, Yael Chetz, Iftach Leibowitz and Ido Nitzan.  Food and music are also part of the program.

Entrance is 30 shekels and that includes your first cup (250 ml) of beer.  Additional beers are 10 shekels each.  All proceeds go towards promoting and preserving the Ramot Forest (Mitzpe Naftoach), home to over 1,000 plant species, Jerusalem's largest gazelle population and many other wild animals.

If you're coming by car, put
דרך החורש 90
in your WAZE apparatus.  Park your car when you get there and walk right in through Gan HaKipod.

If you're coming by bus, take line 31, 32 or 72 to Tzondek/Aliyat Hanoar.  Walk down to the nearest traffic circle and take a right turn on Even Shmuel Street. Walk to Maale Oranim Street and turn left.  Walk down the entire street, then take a right onto Derech HaChoresh until you reach a small shopping center on your right (90 Derech HaChoresh). Across the street, on your left, is a park called Gan HaKipod. Guides and signs will be waiting for you there!  

The walk shouldn't take any longer than 10 minutes.  Here is a map which shows you the way:  https://goo.gl/maps/i577awVcSgC2

For further information, visit their Facebook page: Save the Jerusalem Forest, or call 052-646-5464.

So come out and have a good time while you're doing some good.  I'll be there to (try to) answer any questions about Israeli craft beer, to say hello and to join you in selfies.  Remember: This Thursday, October 18, starting at 6:00 p.m.             

October 11, 2018

Six beers to try from Alexander, Six-Pack and HaDubim

Yet another trend from the U.S. is a new beer style: New England IPA. Israel's entry into this field is Holy Fruit, brewed collaboratively by Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer and Mikkeller in Denmark.

(Actually, Mikkeller is not a brick-and-mortar brewery at all. The owner, Mikkel Borg, makes collaborative beers with brewers all over the world. This is the second beer he's brewed in collaboration with Alexander.  Read about the first one, Milk & Honey, here.)

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, creamy mouthfeel and low bitterness.

Since Holy Fruit calls itself a New England Double IPA, it can allow itself to be even more hopped than the regular style. If this sounds good to you, then Holy Fruit is a great beer.

Its color is a cloudy grey orange, and the aromas hit you as soon as it's poured: grapefruit, tropical fruit shake, mango and grass. You can't miss the peach in the taste, along with bitter citrus fruit, herbs and onion. The long bitter finish is very citrusy. Alcohol by volume is a hefty 8%.

Alexander and Mikkeller deserve our thanks for introducing New England IPA into Israel – and for doing it with such a delicious version.

This is not the only collaborative beer that we got this summer from Alexander. Brewery owner Ori Sagy loves these joint ventures. At the same time that Holy Fruit was coming to market, he introduced 70, brewed in collaboration with the Faust Brewery in Miltenberg, Germany, to mark Israel's 70th anniversary. The idea was initiated and supported by the German Embassy in Israel.

70 is a German-style festbier, a lager style made popular by being served at the Munich Oktoberfest, the world's loudest and glitziest beer festival.

Festbiers are unapologetically malty, with very little hop flavors or bitterness. For this collaboration, says Ori Sagy, a basic German festbier was augmented with Israeli wheat, not a usual ingredient in this style of beer.

70 is a good, solid example of the festbier style, with no surprises. The color is mid-amber under a small head. The aroma is solidly malt with some banana and vanilla. A medium and smooth body and mild bitterness complete 70's simple yet stylish profile. Alcohol by volume is 5.7%.

Super Hero meets the old blogger.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Also new this summer on the Israeli scene is Six Pack Brewing, owned by Eyal Noam, a former barman and writer on alcoholic beverages.

Around three years ago, Noam came up with the idea to combine his love of beer and super hero comics. He began home-brewing with several friends and developed beer recipes and brands based on super heroes. More recently, he took the decision to go commercial by contract brewing at the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach.

"We are working now to expand our distribution to more stores and pubs," says Noam, "and to brew additional beer styles." Today, Six Pack has two beers on the market:

Ultimus is an amber ale, 5% alcohol by volume, which pours out a lovely copper amber color, semi-hazy.  The dominant aroma is fruity hops, specifically
(Photo: Yonatan Argov)
pineapple, and yeast. In the taste, you get less citrus, but several sweet flavors – caramel and butterscotch candy – ending with a refreshing dry finish. Ultimus is well balanced between bitter and sweet, and is just fun to drink.

The second beer from Six Pack is named Heavy Hitter Strong Beer, a 7% alcohol "Belgian trippel."  Although roasty and sweet malt aromas were prevalent, and there was some malt in the taste (along with vegetables and caramel), I felt the malt presence wasn't strong enough for the Belgian trippel style.  The body was also quite thin.

What was powerful was the aroma and taste of the yeast. Like some other Belgian trippels, there was a lot of yeast waiting at the bottom of the bottle. You're allowed to gently roll the bottle and mix in this yeast. This will add bitterness to the beer, but since it is very sweet to begin with, that's not a bad thing.

And finally, two new beers have been launched by HaDubim ("The Bears), the brewing team of brothers Rotem and Dagan Bar Ilan. They use the facilities of the Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat. Rotem and Dagan brew some of the most interesting and sophisticated beers in Israel, and beer lovers eagerly await their new creations.

Introduced during the recent LGBT demonstration and parade is HaDubim's Love Ale, which began as a pilot project between a pale ale and an amber ale. "We express ourselves through making beer," Rotem told me. "That's how we talk. We wanted to make a statement in support of the LGBT community, so we dedicated this beer to them. We just made one batch. When it's gone, it's gone."

Love Ale, with its distinctive rainbow colored label, is still available in beer specialty shops and some liquor stores. It pours out a hazy red-amber color with a large white head and active carbonation. Take a sniff and you get citrus and pine from the Citra and Cascade hops, and some caramel and toasted malt. The first tastes are sweet fruit, mostly peach, citrus and caramel, but as you drink more, the bitterness increases. The second pour is much cloudier, and leads to a bitter, refreshing finish. Alcoholic strength is 5.5%. Leave politics and religion aside and just enjoy this tasty and satisfying beer.

Taking a walk on the much wilder side is HaDubim's Grizzly Double IPA (2018), a hop-bomb that assaults your nose and tongue with sensations from every direction. Clear yellow-gold in color, the grapefruit aroma is powerful enough to start your saliva flowing. There are also whiffs of tropical fruits and caramel. The tastes we conjured were bitter chocolate-covered grapefruit, toffee, juicy fruit, malt and some bazooka bubble gum. The mouthfeel is full and the finish is bitter and tasty.

Although the alcoholic content is 9%, you don't really feel it. And although the International Bitterness Units are measured at a whopping 100, the tastes are not overwhelmed by the bitterness. HaDubim has brewed at least three other versions of Grizzly IPA in the past, and this one maintains and even raises the standard of their excellence. It's not a beer for everybody, but if you are a fan of India Pale Ale, don't miss this one.

[A similar version of this article is appearing in 
The Jerusalem Post Friday Magazine.]

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 public 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 Neta Torgovitsky.  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: https://www.facebook.com/events/685240831837073/

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: www.jerusalembeer.com 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: https://www.facebook.com/events/2025008244236724/

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: https://www.facebook.com/events/2166199673659750/     

If you have any questions for further information, send e-mail to: alechkopro@gmail.com