January 22, 2020

New from BeerBazaar: Cannabrew ● Free home deliveries ● OMG (2020)

News is a-poppin' at the BeerBazaar Brewery (Kiryat Gat) and chain of pubs.  Two new beers have been released, and a home-delivery project is in the beta stage.

Cannabrew -- Israel's first cannabis-based beer

You can smell it; you can taste it -- but you can't get high on it.

In mid-January, the BeerBazaar Brewery launched Cannabrew -- Israel's first beer made with cannabis isolates.

"In Israel, it is not yet legal to use cannaboids, the psychoactive components of cannabis," explained Avi Moskowitz, CEO of BeerBazaar, "but the use of terpenes, the organic compounds which plants use for defense and communication, is legal."

BeerBazaar worked with a laboratory which succeeded in identifying the genetic profile of the Sativa cannabis plant and isolating those terpenes which had the qualities they were looking for.  Avi continued:  "We were able to replicate the exact components that contribute to energy and focus in the Sativa plant and from other non-cannabis plants.  Cannabrew is our first 'functional beer,' and we expect to continue to make other functional drinks leveraging this unique technology." 

But there was another challenge that had to be met as well: How to get the oil-based and insoluble terpenes to blend with the beer?

Avi Moskowitz, CEO of BeerBazaar,
in the Jerusalem Machane Yehuda branch.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
"To overcome this," Avi explained, "we partnered with an Israeli start-up company that specializes in
cannabis and terpene emulsification.  Their patent-pending technology allows the terpenes in the beer to be combined into a uniform beverage.  There are no sediments; the different elements are fused into one.  You can actually smell and taste the terpenes in the brew."

I'm a beer blogger, not a chemical engineer (like my youngest son), but I was able to follow Avi's explanation and understand how very difficult this process was -- to produce a beer which has the aroma, taste and beneficial effects of the Sativa cannabis plant, and is legally permitted.

Bottles of Cannabrew will soon be available online on the new BeerBazaar website (see below).  When it goes on sale at the BeerBazaar stores sometime later, it will come in a cylinder gift package, including a special edition poster, magnet and "other goodies."   

BeerBazaar plans to introduce other "functional beers" during the course of the year.  This is a new and exciting dimension in the world of craft beer, and we can hardly wait to hear more about it.

Beer from the Beer Bazaar direct to your home -- the same day!

My home delivered package from BeerBazaar
arrived safe and sound with eight
assorted beers (four different beers),
including the new Cannabrew.
Very shortly, you'll be able to buy Cannabrew through the new BeerBazaar home-delivery website.  The site is still taking its first steps, so not every function may be working, but in principle you should soon be able to surf over to www.beerbazaar.co.il and order Cannabrew as part of an 8-pack or 12-pack bundle.

You can already use the site to purchase other BeerBazaar beers (an 8-pack for 99 shekels; a 12-pack for 129 shekels), choosing from either pre-assorted packs or make up your own.  Currently, the site is only in Hebrew.

And here's the kicker -- delivery is free and if you order before noon, your beer arrives the same day!  BeerBazaar invested time and money in setting up a logistical network that gets the beer to you on the same day that you order.  This could be a game changer -- if all goes well.

2020 version of OMG (Oh My Goodness) is a barrel-aged Imperial Stout 

No photo description available.For the third year in a row, BeerBazaar has brought out a new version of its winter super-beer, OMG.  [You can read about last year's version of OMG here.]

The year, the style is an Imperial Stout, 8.5% alcohol, aged for five months in barrels which held whisky and rum from the Golan Heights Distillery.  Only 500 numbered bottles were produced.  They are available only at the BeerBazaar pubs, where you can also buy the beer on tap. 

Bottles cost 79 shekels for 750 milliliters.  Gift packages that include a cardboard cylinder, a special edition poster and a magnet sell for 104 shekels.  This is a very limited edition, so I suggest you get over to your nearest BeerBazaar as soon as possible if you want to buy a bottle or taste it from the tap.

I haven't tasted this beer yet, but I can say that it is pitch black and, according to the label, full-bodied and rich with flavors of roast and dried fruits.  It's recommended to pair with smoked cheeses or chocolate desserts. 

OMG is a perfect beer for aging.  The brewers say that you can put your bottle away for up to five years and the beer will just get better.  Of course, there are those of us who can't or won't wait that long.   

Stay tuned for my up and coming review of Cannabrew and this year's OMG.

January 15, 2020

Beers brewed in ancient Israel to be produced commercially

"If you promise them beer, they will come":
The crowd at the Bible Lands Museum
in Jerusalem hears about the project
to brew beers made with
ancient yeast and original ingredients.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Last year, a team of Israeli archaeologists, microbiologists and brewers announced that they had successfully isolated and cultivated yeast cells found in the pores of ancient clay vessels, excavated in Israel, which were believed to have held beer. 

They then used one of the strains of this yeast (dating back the Philistine period of about 850 BCE) to successfully brew a tasty beer.  This event was announced at a well attended press conference at Beerateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, which you can read about here.

Prototype bottles of "Ishtar," a mead
made from ancient yeast dating back to the
Persian period, about 500 BCE.

(Photo: Mike Horton)   
Two months ago, a honey mead was introduced to the public which was made with another strain of this ancient yeast -- this one dating back to the Persian period, about 500 BCE.  

It was made public during an event at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.  Mead is made from honey, water and yeast – and this one has a delicious sweet, nutty flavor, with a higher alcoholic content than beer.

At that event, Dr. Michael Klutstein of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, revealed that his laboratory, along with Hebrew University's Yissum Research Development Co., plan to bring three of these ancient beverages to the commercial market: the Philistine beer ("Goliath"), the Persian mead ("Ishtar") and an Egyptian beer made from yeast dating back to about 3100 BCE (tentatively to be called "Narmer," the first pharaoh). 

Dr. Michael Klutstein, a microbiologist at the
Hebrew University - Hadassah
School of Dental Medicine,
announces the project to commercially brew
beers from ancient yeast found in Israel.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
"In the past," Dr. Klutstein told me, "reconstructed ancient beers have been made with what people thought were original ingredients, and modern yeast.  We have made our drinks so far with ancient yeast and modern ingredients.

"But the ancient beverages we brew will have both original yeast and other original ingredients.  This is a first, and this is what we are really excited about."

The importance of this project cannot be underestimated.

Dr. Yitzchak Paz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that this experiment was a real "breakthrough."  "This is the first time we succeeded in producing ancient alcohol from ancient yeast.  In other words, from the original substances from which alcohol was produced.  This has never been done before."

And Prof. Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, the head archaeologist of the team, summed it up by proclaiming, "Make no mistake about it.  This is a fantastic find!" 

Dr. Klutstein's team is looking for investors to move this project forward, so if any of you, dear readers, are interested or know someone who might be, please contact me. 

January 14, 2020

Sales & Mergers: Oak & Ash buys Buster's; Herzl joins Malka

We may not be talking about earth-shaking exits, sales and mergers, but two recent events have tongues wagging in the Israeli craft beer industry.

Buster's Beverages sold to Oak & Ash

(From left): Asher Zimble, Leiby Chapler
and Denny Neilson toast the sale of
Buster's to Oak & Ash.
The Buster's Beverage Company, founded by Denny Neilson, has been purchased by Oak & Ash, a craft brewery known for its innovative beers, including several aged with oak (hence its name).
Oak & Ash partners Asher Zimble and Leiby Chapler have been contract brewing their beers in different locations since they started in 2017. With the purchase of Buster's in the Noham (Sorek) Industrial Area near Beit Shemesh, they now have a permanent home. In addition, they have acquired the Buster's brand name, which includes three styles of apple cider, two flavors of hard lemonade, a line of craft beers, and spirits under the Pioneer label.
Pam and Denny Neilson: 
More time to be grandma and grandpa.

Denny Neilson -- winemaker, brewer, teacher, pioneer in the Israeli craft beverage movement, and founder of the Buster's Beverage Company -- first put out feelers to find a buyer several months ago.

 "I have been working non-stop for the last 55 years, most of that time working two jobs," he told me.  "I've loved every minute of every year, but the time has come for me to be solely a husband, father, and saba (grandfather)."

His son Matt, who is heavily involved in the company's sales and marketing, would have been a natural for taking over the reins of Buster's.  But Matt has other plans for his future.

Matt and Denny Neilson
with Buster's flagship hard apple cider.
"This was a perfect opportunity for anyone interested in entering the craft beverage industry," says Denny.  "Oak & Ash were able to produce beverages and generate income from day one!  Starting from scratch would have taken 10-14 months, minimum, for anyone to reach the production level of a facility like Buster's."

Denny was looking for a buyer who was passionate about craft beverages and would make every effort to maintain the quality of the brand.  "I found this with Asher and Leiby," he asserts.

Asher says that he will continue to produce the full line of Buster's Beverages, while also expanding
the production of Oak & Ash's well-known beers.  "In fact, we just brewed 600 liters of our popular New England IPA," he continues.  "We have plans for new beers, some oak aged.  Since we are also a distillery, we have barrels which formerly held whisky that can be used for aging beer, creating, for example, bourbon barrel barley wine and stout.

"I advise you to keep your eyes open for our new beers and new liquors."           

Last year, Denny exported his kosher-for Passover hard lemonade to the New York / New Jersey area.  [Read about that here.]  Asher revealed that he is now working on an order for 20,000 bottles which will be shipped to the same New York importer in time for Passover.

There is no doubt that the purchase of Buster's by Oak & Ash produces a synergy which will bring us very interesting and innovative beverages.  This perhaps is some compensation for the retirement of Denny Neilson, whose laid-back manner, friendliness and boundless knowledge of brewing helped make the Israeli craft beer industry what it is today.

Herzl Beer now being brewed (temporarily) at the Malka Brewery

Herzl owner/brewer Maor Helfman (right) greets
 the Austrian "Beer Pope" Conrad Seidl and
Bernhard Purin, Director of the
Munich Jewish Museum,
at the Jerusalem Beer Festival.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Maor Helfman, owner of the Herzl Brewery in Jerusalem, has announced that his beer will now be brewed at the new Malka Brewery in Tefen, and distributed by Hacarem Spirits Ltd., which is a partner in the Malka Brewery. 

"This arrangement is temporary until we find a new and bigger facility for Herzl in Jerusalem," says Maor. "Our problems have always been 1) having the capacity to brew enough beer to meet the demand, and 2) having the distribution resources to get our beer to markets all around Israel.  Brewing at the huge, modern Malka facility will enable Herzl to increase its output many times, and our distribution will be handled by the Hacarem network, which reaches all over the country."
Maor Helfman and the old blogger.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
During the time of this arrangement, Maor will serve as Beer Brands Manager within the HaCarem organization, replacing Gilad Dror, who becomes Director of the Malka Brewery.

"For me, It's like a homecoming," continues Maor.  "I worked for the Hacarem agency for four years before I opened the Herzl Brewery.  They are a very professional staff, and we have plans for new beers and logistical improvements for this year.  They also know about my chutzpa and knowledge of 'guerrilla marketing' which I hope will benefit everybody."          

January 11, 2020

Hagibor Brewery: A short introduction

Image may contain: cloud, sky and outdoorEran Grunwald has been brewing beer since 2012 -- not a very long time in home-brewers' years.  Yet he was sure enough of himself and his beers to start brewing commercially about two years ago.

"We brought in our new equipment to the Meadan Brewery in Carmiel and started to brew our beers there.  Meadan recently ceased operations and the brewery is now used solely for our brand -- HaGibor."

That means "The Hero" in Hebrew and I asked Eran whom that refers to.

"That's my van, whose drawing is on all of our labels," he laughs.  "When we started brewing, it really was our hero, bringing in supplies and delivering beer non-stop."

Today, HaGibor Brewmaster Yoni Batash produces around 25,000 liters a month, including beer which is contract brewed for others.

"We have 14 fermenters of 2,000 liters each," Eran explains, "plus we have a cooling system for lagering beer.  This is not very common in Israel and several other brewers also use this facility."

The brewery recently opened a Visitors' Center and Beer Garden that is a popular venue for locals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

HaGibor brews five core beers:

A section of the HaGibor Brewery in Carmiel.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Blondie -- A Blond Ale (5.6% alcohol by volume), brewed with spices, yeasty and spicy with orange the most recognizable aroma and flavor.

Bavarian Wheat -- A classic weissbier (5.2% ABV), with aromas of wheat, sweet spice, cloves and citrus.

Brown Ale -- Yeasty and toasty, with bitterness and flavors not associated with brown ale. 5.3% ABV.

Extra Stout -- On the drier side of the stouts scale (5.5% ABV), with roasted malt, chocolate and coffee aromas and flavors.
IPA -- One of my favorite Israeli IPAs. Very well balanced with citrusy hops, malt, and yeast flavors. 7.3% ABV.
Eran says that the Bavarian Wheat is the best seller, followed by the IPA.

Eran Grunwald (the big guy), owner of the
HaGibor Brewery, "donates" some of
his beers to the old blogger.
In addition, HaGibor has just introduced its first seasonal beer -- a Winter Ale, a high-spiced, high-alcohol (9.7%) beer in the style of the many "Holiday" or "Christmas" ales brewed in other countries.  It's amber colored and spiced with orange peel, cinnamon, star anise, and "other good things."

The Winter Ale is still not available in Jerusalem (our eternal capital) so I haven't had a chance to taste it.  But I'm working on it and will certainly give you my report as soon as the beer and I can get together.

December 29, 2019

Three-beer catch-up: Malka Hoppy Wheat, Alexander Barley Wine 2019, Shevet Small Batch ESB

It's always fun to catch up on some new Israeli craft beers.  First of all, I enjoy encountering new tastes and giving credit where it's due to the breweries that have invested talent, time and money to bring a new product to the market.

I also never forget that just a few years ago the idea of finding and reporting on new Israeli beers would have been in the realm of pulp fiction.

The first new, or rather, newly formulated, beer is Hoppy Wheat from the Malka Brewery in Tefen in the northern Galilee.  There will be those of you who quickly point out that Malka has had a wheat beer since about 2012, and you would be right.  But they have recently redesigned the recipe from a Bavarian-style hefeweizen to an American wheat.

Look for the words
"Hoppy Wheat" for
Malka's new
American Wheat beer.
"Israel has enough German-style wheat beers, both local and imported from Germany," says Gilad Dror, Beer Brands Manager at Hacarem Spirits Ltd., a partner in the Malka Brewery.  "We brought an American-style wheat beer to the market -- more hop character than hefeweizens, with none of the typical spicy and fruity flavors such as banana and cloves."

And in fact, our Tasters confirm that Hoppy Wheat has hop strength somewhere between a German-style wheat (low) and an American Pale Ale (high).  We detected or imagined strong hop aromas of  citrus (lemon, grapefruit, orange peel), while the taste was basically a pale ale.  It's a very refreshing and thirst-quenching beer, going well with a wide variety of foods.  The color is a semi-hazy pale straw with a lasting white head.  Alcohol by volume is 5%.

Something completely different comes from the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer -- the 2019 version of their Barley Wine, with a powerful 11.2% alcohol.  A traditional winter drink, barley wines are among the strongest beer styles, taking their names from the alcohol content which is similar to wine.  [Read about Alexander's first Barley Wine here.]

This year's version was aged for six months in oak barrels which previously held American bourbon whisky (my favorite).  This period of "maturation" was designed to impart complex flavors of the bourbon and the oak barrel to the beer.  Let's see how it worked out. 

Image may contain: drinkThe beer pours out a clear copper color, with a quickly disappearing head.  Carbonation is low.  We got aromas of sweet malt, vanilla, coconut, some smoke, and oak wood.  The taste is sweet, rich and flavorful, assaulting your tongue with caramel, toffee, honey, vanilla, some chocolate, and alcohol (whisky).  My drinking partner Daniel also picked up some hints of maple syrup.  Hmm.  "Usually I am overwhelmed by the alcohol in barley wines," he commented, "but this one is amazingly balanced."

The finish, as expected, is long and semi-sweet, with the complex flavors staying with you.  I do not recommend drinking this beer with food; it simply is too overpowering.  Some have suggested, however, that it can be accompanied by sharp cheeses and even some sweet and rich desserts.

This is not a beer you should be having ice cold. Take it out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you drink it.  Alexander recommends that it should be around 
12˚ Centigrade (53˚ Fahrenheit).  This gives all the flavors a chance to come out of hibernation and fully develop.

One further word of caution: If you are not familiar with strong beers (strong in flavor and/or strong in alcohol), it may take a while to get used to Alexander Barley Wine.  Sip it slowly and keep an open mind.  That's how you can fully appreciate the aromas, flavors and mouthfeel of this superior beverage.  This is also a beer that you can set aside for six months, a year or more, and expect interesting things to happen to the network of flavors.   

Alexander Barley Wine is a limited, seasonal edition from the brewery.  Only 2,050 bottles were issued, and each bottle is numbered.  If you still haven't tried it, go out and buy a bottle or two now, while they are still available.

Related imageBeer number three in the catch-up is an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) from the Shevet Brewery in Pardes Hanna, the first of their Small Batch series.  Until now it is available only on tap at the brewery and a few other locations, though I have heard that it is also be coming out in bottles.  We tasted it at Beerateinu in Jerusalem.

The ESB style is not very bitter, at least by today's standard of hopped and über-hopped beers.  It's in the family of English pale ales, but was originally served from a cask rather than a pressurized keg.  It's probably called "bitter" because at the time, it was bitterer than the other beers being served.  In fact, it should be quite balanced between the hop bitterness and the malt sweetness.       

The Shevet Small Batch ESB is a clear golden color and is lightly carbonated.  The dominant aromas are bread and yeast.  The mid-bitter taste brings with it more yeast and cereal grains.  The body is thin and the finish is dry.  Alcohol by volume measures 6.2%.  It's an easy-drinking beer, and we felt it could easily pass for a lager.           

With this ESB, Shevet's brewmaster Lior Balmas is continuing to introduce beer styles which are not made by other Israeli craft breweries.  Shevet's first two beers are a Helles lager (The Ice Mann) and a Scottish ale (Wee Laddie).  I look forward to the new beers that they have planned for the future.  [Read more about the Shevet "Brewstillery" here.]     

December 4, 2019

Juha Väänänen: Finland, Israel and beer

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, mountain, outdoor and nature
Juha in Israel for the sixth time:
"Brewmaster - Journalist - Ukulele Guru" 
Like most encounters these days, I first met Juha Väänänen on the internet.  He was acquainted with my blog, Israel Brews and Views, and asked if I could help him prepare an article on Israeli craft beer he had undertaken for a prominent beer magazine in Finland, which is where Juha lives.  Of course I agreed and I gave him some background information on the subject, while directing him towards micro-breweries and other locations of interest.

In fact, if you're one of the fortunate few who understand Finnish, you can read the article
 in Olutposti (2/19) and also in Hakehila (3/19), the journal of the Finnish Jewish community.

Juha and I kept up our contact and he told me how very rare it is for a Finnish publication to write anything positive about Israel.  The Palestinian and Arab narratives have been accepted across the board, along with good old indigenous anti-semitism. 

Juha himself is a proud and vocal supporter of Israel (which often gets him in hot water) who had visited Israel five times.

On his sixth trip, two weeks ago, we met.

His business card says that he is a "Brewmaster - Journalist - Ukulele Guru."  He worked for several breweries in Finland and still does consulting work for some.

Image may contain: 3 people, including Doug Greener and Juha Väänänen, people smiling, people sitting, drink, indoor and food
Juha gifts the old blogger with
Grönbacka craft beer from Finland.
I met Juha in the Beer Bazaar in the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.  Though it was a cold November night, Juha was wearing sandals, short pants and short-sleeve shirt.  "In Finland, this is springtime weather," he declared.  We toasted his safe arrival (with his wife and Wilma, his 14-year-old daughter) and our good fortune with some of the new Malka Oktoberfest beer.  Two thumbs up! 

He gave me three bottles of Finnish craft beer from the Grönbacka Brewery in Nurmijärvi, (which is also where Juha lives, some 20 miles north of Helsinki) and a copy of the memoirs of his father, a former Finnish politician.  I promised to finish them all (pun intended). 

Gronbacka craft beer
from Finland:
Orange Wheat,
Cascadian Dark Ale and
Grönbacka is a very new brewery (established 2018) and run entirely by a father, mother and two sons.  It produced about 50,000 liters of ten different beers in its first year.  They are available only locally.  Grönbacka is an ecologically minded brewery, using wind energy exclusively.

Juha gave me the Golden Wheat, Lager, and Cascadian Dark Ale (which is a better way of saying Black IPA), which I will soon be tasting. 

Since we both are vegetarians, I suggested that we walk over to Beerateinu, where they were holding a month-long campaign to choose a vegan burger for their menu.  You're served five different vegan mini-burgers prepared by chef Levi Laine, and then you vote for your favorite.  At the end of the month, the burger with the most votes won.

Five vegan burgers at Beerateinu, Jerusalem.
Juha and I took notes and exchanged comments as if we were judging beer.  

We disagreed on which burger was the best, but we did agree that the beer we had with the burgers was excellent: Shevet Brewery's Wee Laddie Scottish Ale and Ice Mann Helles Lager.

Juha and I parted as long-lost buddies, even though we had just met a couple of hours earlier.  After they left Jerusalem, Juha and his family continued to tour Israel from Eilat to the Galilee and Haifa, and flew back to Finland a few days ago.  He is a true lover of Israel and of good beer -- and that's a powerful combination. 

November 25, 2019

An Israeli in the wonderland of American beer

Image result for American beer"First of all, I'm very happy with the variety of craft beers we have in Israel: our locally brewed beers, supplemented by some very fine imports.  What's available in Jerusalem stores, pubs and restaurants can keep me satisfied till the end of my days (whenever that is).

But on a recent trip to the U.S., I was awed by two visits with family members to a neighborhood beer hall and a brewery taproom, chosen completely arbitrarily, seeking no special or seasonal brews that get beer geeks traveling hundreds of miles.  No, that's not for me.  It was enough just to go local to experience some of the combinations and permutations of beer styles that is now the American craft beer scene.  Maybe the pessimists are right that it's ephemeral and unsustainable, but for now America is a Garden of Delights for the beer-loving visitor.

Ami and Trudy join me for four Floridian craft beers
in the World of Beer.
Let me give you two examples:

Our first stop was southern Florida to visit my mom and brother.  My son Ami from Washington, DC, joined us for a few days, and together with Trudy we visited the World of Beer in Coconut Creek.  WOB is a chain of 53 craft beer restaurants across the U.S., 15 or so in Florida alone.  We've been there before and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  [You can read about a previous visit here.] 

Our attentive waiter (who also knew a thing or two about selling beer) offered us a flight of four beers.  Since we like to drink local whenever possible, we chose Florida breweries.             

First up was Neon White IPA from the MIA Beer Company in Doral, Florida.  This is brewed with Pilsner malt and wheat, and hopped exclusively with Citra.  Alcohol by volume is 7.5%.  In our glass it was very hazy, orange juice colored, with a lovely white head.  The aroma is grapefruit and pineapple, with Ami also detecting some mango.  The strong bitterness was just right for me, but too much for Ami, who prefers his beers with lower level IBUs (International Bittering Units).

So he preferred our second glass: Bell Cow Milk Chocolate Porter from Jdub's Brewing Company in Sarasota.  An opaque dark brown with a tan head, this beer has aromas of chocolate and malt.  The taste reminded me of an old-fashion egg cream, although the lactose sweetness was kept in check by the dark malts.  ABV is 5.6%.

We ventured into different territory with Single in Havana, a Belgian Singel ale (not very commonly brewed outside of monasteries), brewed with pink guava pulp and juice.  The brewery, Barrel of Monks Brewing in Boca Raton, specializes in Belgian-style beers, and they chose this lightest of the style, with an ABV of only 4.2%, because of the Florida weather.  It's a semi-hazy, mid-amber color, and the aroma is sweet fruit and guava.  The sweetness disappears when it hits your tongue, with bitter and slightly sour guava on top.  The finish is very dry and it even left me a little breathless.  Ami was impressed with this light, refreshing and fruity beer.

Our last beer was also an "only in America" hybrid -- a Cucumber Berliner Weiss from the Florida Avenue Brewing Company in Tampa.  This is a traditional Berliner Weiss, a kettle-soured wheat ale, but flavored with a massive amount of fresh cucumbers.  As clear as ginger ale, with an aroma of sour funk, and a mildly sour taste with cucumber and crispy citrus.  This is a wonderful summer beer, and fortunately for us, it was summer in Florida.  Can't get any more summery than that!

A quiet street on a quiet day:
Outside The Bottle House Brewing Company
in Cleveland Heights.
From Florida we traveled north to the cooler climes of Cleveland, Ohio, to visit Trudy's brother Dan and his wife Carole.  Dan, a retired rabbi and psychologist, has been following my blog since its inception and was eager to take Trudy and me to a Cleveland craft brewery, of which there are about 25.  (What we didn't expect was Dan's growing enthusiasm when we began to taste the beers.)   

We chose The Bottle House, a cozy brewery and taproom, because it was 1) conveniently located for Dan, and 2) was open when we wanted to go.

The Bottle House tap list.
The brewer and co-owner, Brian Benchek, wasn't there, but the attendants were knowledgeable and helpful.  We ordered a flight of four beers, choosing them according to different styles.

First in line was Erie Coast IPA, hazy and pale and 6.3% ABV.  At the first sip, we all said "grapefruit and citrus" -- it was so dominant.  But then Dan ventured, "Maybe a little pine, right?"  Well, yeah, very good.  It was dank and very bitter, but without harshness and even a soft finish.  A well made and nicely balanced IPA.

Trudy never liked very bitter beers, but Dan and I agreed that Erie Coast got us off to a good start.

Trudy about to take a four-beer flight. 
Next was La Tentadora, a 9% ABV Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels with cherries and paprika.  (Who thinks of these things?)

Dark as black coffee, it had aromas of espresso and dark chocolate.  "Aren't there also cherries in the aroma?" asked Dan.  I guess so.  "Hey, this is fun.  Is this what you do?"

Well, it isn't all I do.  I do have my advertising work, and my children and grandchildren, and other hobbies.  But, yes, this is the gist of beer tasting and sharing your opinions with other people.

Taking craft beer seriously:
Brothers-in-law Dan and the old blogger.
The taste was rich with cocoa and malt, on the sweet side, and full bodied.  Hard to detect any bourbon or oak, but that was okay.  La Tentadora is a delicious and complex Imperial Stout -- a sipping beer -- we all agreed.     

What followed were two "wild," "spontaneous," or "sour" beers, whatever you want to call them.

Nova Raspberry, named a "Wild Ale," with 6.9% ABV, aged in wine barrels with raspberries and Brettanomyces yeast.  It's a lovely crimson color, like cranberry juice.  We all took dainty whiffs and voiced our associations: "berries," "sour berries," "dankness," "wet cardboard."  (This last one was from Dan, who was really getting into the flow.)  The taste was tart raspberry preserves; sour like yogurt.  Dan noted that the carbonation sharpened the sourness.  We all agreed this beer would go well with crackers and cheese, like goat cheese and mild cheddar.  As we took our final sips, we noticed that the "oomph" was gone; the tastes were not
as prominent.
Welcome to The Bottle House
Brewery and Meadery.

We ended our flight with Duality #1, a spontaneous sour golden ale, 6.8% alcohol.  The aroma was sour and funky with bread from the malts.  There was almost no carbonation.  The taste was less sour than the Nova Raspberry, but devoid of fruit, spice or vegetable flavors.  "Rain forest green," was Dan's contribution, and "flat and not interesting."

The old blogger pumpin' iron
and pluggin' Goldstar:
It's not craft but it is Israeli!

We had gone into The Bottle House a family, and walked out a beer tasting team!  It was a great pleasure for me to see my brother-in-law Dan get turned on to the finer points of craft beer.  He always enjoyed good beer, and I'm sure this experience will make him appreciate it even more.

We thank Dan and Carole for being such wonderful hosts, for showing us around their home city, and for taking me, the old blogger, on their daily visits to the gym.  I used the occasion to show the colors for Israeli beer. 

Trudy and I soon afterwards left Cleveland and returned to Israel.  We both brought back a bunch of new memories and new tastes.