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. 

April 23, 2020

How Israeli breweries are coping with the shutdown

Israeli craft breweries are feeling the effects of the national shutdown like every other business -- but even more so! 

With restaurants, bars and pubs closed to the public, beer sales are being made only through retail outlets like supermarkets and grocery stores.  Although some beer and liquor stores are open or doing home deliveries, foot traffic and sales are way down as customers are confined to their homes.

Ofer Ronen, partner of the Srigim Brewery
in Srigim (Li-On), welcomed
the old blogger to the brewery
in better days.  
"All of our retail customers have shut down their businesses," bemoans Ofer Ronen, founder/partner of Srigim Brewery in Srigim (Li-On), brewers of Ronen and Emek Ha'ela beers.  

"With all of our employees on 'vacation,' we have stopped brewing, of course, and are selling our bottled beer by direct home delivery, even though this is bringing in only about 5% of our regular revenue.  We have upgraded our website and are selling beer in 4-packs, 6-packs, and 24-bottle cartons.

"My partner Ohad Eilon and I do everything alone.  We prepare the shipments and then deliver them.  Sometimes we have to call a customer and ask if we can bring the beer late at night.  No one refuses.  When you bring beer to someone, they always have a smile on their face."

Other Israeli craft breweries have also begun to do home deliveries, just to keep their business in operation.  A partial list includes: Alexander, BeerBazaar, Buster's (Oak & Ash), Jem's, Mosco, Shevet, Dancing Camel, Sheeta, Arava, Barzel, HaGibor, Shapiro and HaDubim.  Beer specialty stores and pubs are also delivering, including Beerateinu, Beer Market, Beer & Beyond, Kishkashta, Beit HaBira, Beer Station, Bira Nekuda, Beer Point, and Beer Shop.  Check their Facebook pages or website for details, including areas of delivery.

Assaf Lavi, brewer and partner 
of the Malka Brewery in Tefen, 
holds some of the malted barley 
used in making beer.  
(Photo: Mike Horton)
One brewery resisting the delivery trend is Malka Beer in the Tefen Industrial Area (where Negev and Herzl beer are also brewed).  Partner and brewer Assaf Lavi explains: "Our distributors and wholesalers cover enough supermarket chains and grocery stores to keep our beer moving, even in these difficult times.  Also, we think it's an ethical problem to be competing, even in a small way, with the retail outlets that are continuing to sell our beer.

"What we do on our new web page is to give a list of the retail outlets that are selling our beers by home delivery.  This seems to be a fair compromise."

Lavi noted that even if the retail sales are continuing (though much less than usual), the sale of Malka Beer in kegs to bars and restaurants accounted for 70% of turnover, and this is completely ended.  This figure appears to be the norm with all other breweries as well.

Image may contain: 4 people, text
The five new bottles which the Malka Brewery
is releasing for Yom Atzmaut. 
Each has the image of a different
Jewish or Israeli leader.
Nevertheless, Lavi is optimistic enough to believe that Israelis will be drinking their usual quantities of beer on this Independence Day (Yom Atzmaut).  For the second year in a row, Malka has prepared its beers in special bottles with caricatures of Jewish and Israeli leaders: Golda Meir, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Chaim Weizmann and Theodore Herzl.

David Cohen, owner of the
Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv,
greets visitors at a local beer festival.  
The Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv (Israel's first micro-brewery) is only delivering to "faithful local customers," according to owner David Cohen.  "We are now scheduling a wider distribution," he adds. 

"The virus hit us at a very critical time.  Before Pesach, retail outlets order a lot less beer because they don't want to get stuck with it over the holiday.  And that's exactly when the shutdown began.  So even the recovery we were expecting after Pesach isn’t going to happen."

Cohen says that government support is now crucial if small breweries are to survive.  "We have some staying power, but it's not unlimited," he appeals.  "There is no plan in place that will save us if this continues even a little while longer.  The government has to adopt a program to help small businesses like us."

Ori Sagy (right), owner of the Alexander Brewery
in Emek Hefer, talks with Octavio Costa,
organizer of the ARTBEERFEST in
Caminha, Portugal, last year. 
Alexander was the first Israeli craft brewery
to participate in this major European beer festival. 
Ori Sagy, the owner of Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer, has developed a policy of free home delivery to anywhere in Israel to keep his brewery in business.

"We advertise on social media," he explains, "asking for a minimum order of 12 bottles.  This costs 130 shekels.  Members of our Customer Club get a 10% discount, but you can join when you order and get the discount immediately."

For Israeli craft beer, this is considered a low price.  It is in line with all other breweries, who have also brought their prices down during this period.    
     
"This is great time to buy Israeli craft beer online," Sagy declares.  "Prices are low and we will keep them low for Yom Atzmaut.  Now is the time for everyone to buy local and drink excellent Israeli beer!"  


A version of this article appeared Friday, April 24, in 
                                 The Jerusalem Post local weekly, In Jerusalem. 

April 4, 2020

Tipple Hop kosher-for-Passover beer now brewed and available in Israel

The search for kosher-for-Passover beer in Israel (and throughout the Jewish world) has gone on for several years.  This year, the leading candidate is called Tipple Hop, a "Belgian Ginger IPA," brewed at the Oak & Ash (Buster's) Brewery in Beit Shemesh.

Jeremy Sulzbacher in Jerusalem,
during less contagious days.
Tipple Hop was developed by Jeremy Sulzbacher, a brewer who live in Antwerp, Belgium, with family and business connections in Israel.  [Read more about Jeremy here.]

"We have been working on the recipes for these beers for five years," Jeremy said.  "Some of Belgium's leading brewers and beer experts have assisted me in making a gluten-zero and kosher-for-Passover beer.

"One of the early challenges was to convince the kashrut authorities to recognize hops as kosher-for-Passover, given their association with the beer industry."

Jeremy was able to do this to everybody's satisfaction, and Tipple Hop has been selling successfully this year in Belgium and London.  It was brewed in Israel later than planned because of the coronavirus, but is now available through the Buster's website and also at Beerateinu in Jerusalem and Beer & Beyond in Tel Aviv.

So what are we talking about?  Tipple Hop is brewed with water, hops (Cascade and Brewers Gold), fresh ginger, sugars, honey, lime juice and yeast.  It's a nice semi-hazy golden color with lively carbonation and a quickly dissipating head.  The dominant aroma and taste comes from the ginger, but you also get some hop citrus and floral notes.  The body is kind of thin, and the finish is very refreshing and satisfying.

Ginger BeerMy problem here is the same I have always had with non-malt "beers."  I put in the quotation marks after I ran back to my old Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1961) from my college days.  Here's what it says about "beer": 
"A fermented liquor brewed . . . from malt or from a mixture of malt and malt substitutes and flavored with hops or other bitter."              
In other words, without the malted grain -- or even a mixture of the grain and something else -- it's not beer.  Note, it doesn't have to contain hops, but it needs the malt.

So, Tipple Hop is a wonderful beverage, and I look forward to drinking it at my two-person Passover Seder on Tuesday and throughout the week-long holiday.  But did I feel that I was drinking a beer?  Very close, but no.

As I said, Tipple Hop is for sale on the Buster's website, and I believe if you order now, you can get your bottles before Passover.

Use this link to order a case of 24 bottles (300 shekels):

https://www.busters.co.il/product-page/24-bottles-ginger-ipa

Or this link for individual bottles (15 shekels each):

https://www.busters.co.il/product-page/ginger-ipa-kfp

The other KfP beer that was available in Israel was Meadan Date Ale.  Though the Meadan Brewery itself ceased operation last year, the beers were brewed at the Oak & Ash (Buster's) Brewery in Beit Shemesh and were sold through the BeerBazaar home-delivery website.  These are now sold out.  [You can read more about that here, with links to earlier articles about Medan beer.]   

April 2, 2020

HaDubim Imperial Paradox ● Strawberry Fields from BeerBazaar

Two recently released beers are giving us some pleasant flavors: In this case, one with coffee, chocolate and fruits, and the other with strawberries.  Unfortunately, they were both brewed in very limited quantities, and one is already sold out until next winter.  But more about that later. 

From HaDubim ("The Bears") Brewery comes Imperial Paradox, a Double Black IPA.  (HaDubim beers are contract brewed at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.)

HaDubim came out with their first Black IPA, called Paradox, about five years ago.  This "Imperial" version has the same IBU strength (63), but is much more alcoholic (8.5% vs. 5.6%).  It's made with Simcoe, Chinook and Cascade hops.  

Black IPA (also known as American Black Ale or Cascadian Dark Ale) is a recognized beer style, combining elements of Stout beer (very dark color, roasted malt aroma and flavor) and IPA (any of the strong hop aromas and flavors).

Imperial Paradox is very dark brown and opaque with a thin tan head.  The stout-IPA combination begins in the aroma, when you get citrusy hops and the roasted malt and coffee.  Goes well together.  The taste is deep and complex:  Very bitter with coffee, chocolate, roasted malt, dried fruits, and IPA-style citrus and pine.  The strong alcohol content is barely felt.  

Getting back to the bitterness, I felt it was exaggerated, to the point of eclipsing some of the other flavors which are in this beer.  This, however, is nit-picking.  Imperial Paradox is a brewing achievement which gives us a chance to taste and appreciate a little-known beer style.  The HaDubim brothers, Rotem and Dagan Bar Ilan, are never satisfied with "just another beer," and Imperial Paradox is anything but.

In these days of isolation and contagion, HaDubim has begun to deliver its beer direct to your home.  In the meantime, they deliver to the area between Ra'anana and Ashdod, but if you live elsewhere, you can leave a message and they will try to get to you.  You can order mixed cases of 24 bottles of their beers -- Imperial Paradox, Yonek Hadvash, Blackout, Typhoon and Phoenix.  The regular price of the case is 300 shekels, but each bottle of Imperial Paradox adds an extra two shekels.  Delivery is free.   

Send a WhatsApp to 054-2884735 or 054-8086565, leave your address and they will get back to you.

Our second flavorful beer is Strawberry Fields, a wheat beer direct from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  The beer is brewed with fresh strawberries and Barbe Rouge hops from France.  

It's the first time I know of that these hops are being used in an Israeli craft beer.  They are kind of experimental and are characterized by imparting the flavor of  . . . fresh strawberries.  So you would think that Barbe Rouge hops together with real strawberries would turn any beer into a strawberry bomb.

But it's not so.  The fruit taste in Strawberry Fields is very subdued.  It pours out a cloudy golden color; thin white head.  The aroma is minimal hops and strawberry in a jelly sort of a way.  

The taste is tart and juicy with sour berries in the background.  Slightly stronger is the sweetness from the malt, which makes this a very well balanced beer.  The finish is refreshing and mellow, with even more strawberries being "felt" on the exhale.  Interesting how that works.  The alcohol by volume is 6.5%, not weak, but hidden very well.

The BeerBazaar also does home delivery and they even have an internet page in English for ordering.

https://beerbazaar.co.il/en/collections/12-%D7%91%D7%A7%D7%91%D7%95%D7%A7%D7%99%D7%9D

Unfortunately, there will be no more deliveries until after Pesach.  And as I said, there is no more Strawberry Fields until next winter.  

March 19, 2020

Beer in the Time of Coronavirus


You probably noticed quite few articles these days with the title, "___ in the Time of ____." 

Journalists are using this because it refers back to an amazing novel from 1985, "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Colombian Nobel prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez.  Written in the style of "magical realism" which he perfected, it's a story of love unrequited and unfulfilled yet eternal.

It ends with the two geriatric lovers quarantined, as it were, on a river boat which sails back and forth between towns infected with cholera, unable to disembark.  They will be doing this, you feel, forever.

Sound familiar?


We hope our strict measures of social distancing and self-quarantine will end before forever, but in the meantime, economies and businesses all over the world are struggling for their survival.  Food stores and pharmacies are still open for business, but all other retail trade, including restaurants and pubs, are not getting any foot traffic. 

Here in Israel, many retail outlets have begun to do home-deliveries in order to stay in business, including those which sell craft beer -- in bottles or by the glass.  I noticed that the same thing is happening in the U.S. and in other countries as well.

So this is an appeal to all my readers and beer lovers to support these stores and restaurants.  While you're home anyway, please order beer and food from the breweries, bottle shops and restaurants who will be only too happy to bring it to your door.  And from what I can read, they almost all are doing it.  You can find out more by searching them out on Facebook or the internet.                   


Times are going to be tough enough anyway.  There's no reason for us to suffer through them without beer.           

March 17, 2020

Two beers from New Pioneer

Gilad Ne-Eman shows the old blogger
around at one of the super-enjoyable
Beer7 Fests in Beersheva.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Gilad Ne-Eman of Beersheva has been brewing commercially since 2009.  He not only brews; he owns and operates the Beer House, a bar and beer garden which also sells bottled beers, and the Brew Shop, which sells ingredients for home-brewing, and offers courses, workshops and tasting sessions.  Gilad also is a founder and leader of the Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva, one of the founders and organizers of the Isra-Brew home-brewing competition, and an organizer of the annual Beer7 Fest for home-brewers.  A very busy and entrepreneurial young man!

Gilad opened his first brewery, HeChalutz ("The Pioneer") in 2009 and introduced some very innovative beers.  In 2017, he joined with Tomer Ronen of HaDag HaLavan ("The White Fish") Brewery to form Tog. When they broke up last year, Gilad continued brewing at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat under the new label, Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer").

Last, summer he brought out his first Chalutz Chadash beer, 4 by 4, a session IPA which is no longer brewed.

Chalutz Chadash now produces two beers which I recently had the pleasure to taste.

Bill the Bastard is called an Australian pale ale, mostly because the hops come from Australia (Galaxy) and New Zealand (Nelson Sauvin).  Gilad told me that the beer was made in cooperation with the Beersheva ANZAC Memorial Center which commemorates the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who defeated the Turks in Beersheva during World War I in 1917.

'Bill' was actually the name of one of the cavalry horses which took part in the battle.  "I give talks and do beer tastings for the center's staff and visitors," said Gilad, "so we thought it would be a good idea to do an Australian-style beer which has a connection with the ANZAC soldiers."   
 
According to my research, Australian pale ales are much like the traditional British varieties.  Compared to American pale ales, they have a maltier flavor and contain less hops.
Image result for anzac beer sheva
The Beersheva ANZAC Memorial Center:
An Australian cavalry horse inspired
Bill the Bastard Australian Pale Ale. 

We found Bill the Bastard to be quite hoppy.  Although the label says it measures 10 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), it tasted more like 30.  It pours out a crystal clear golden color, not much carbonation.  The aroma is very fresh, yeasty, fruity and flowery -- really  conjuring up springtime and summer as we want them to be.  My drinking partner Moshe and I got tastes of citrus fruits, yeast, toasted malt, apricot and fresh cucumber.  The finish is bitter.  At 4.9% alcohol, we felt that this was the "ale" equivalent of a "summer lager."  I would certainly come back to this beer as the days get longer and warmer. 


Chalutz Chadash's second beer is 7 Lev Adom ("Red 7 of Hearts"), in the style of an American red or amber ale.  Many people see this style as midway between the hoppier pale ales and the roasted malty porters or stouts.  It takes brewing skill to get that balance just right, and Gilad has done just that.  

Pouring out a semi-hazy, dark amber color, 7 Lev Adom gives off refreshing aromas of grapefruit, caramel and grass, while carrying over to a dank taste of bitter citrus, malt and yeast, creamy mouthfeel, and bitter finish.  Its flavors are stronger and fuller than a pale ale, and the ABV, at 5.1%, a bit higher.

This is a good beer without novelty, refreshing and pairing well with many foods.  




You can read these earlier posts on Gilad Ne-Eman and his beers:

The Beer7 Fests -- here and here

The Tog Brewery -- here.

The Isra-Brew Competition -- here and here.          

February 10, 2020

Two new beers → Shevet Small Batch IPA, BeerBazaar Cannabrew

Good people of Israel and around the world:  The flood of new Israeli beers has not subsided.  Gives me no rest.  Here are two more you've been waiting for.

Shevet Small Batch IPA

Bottles of Shevet Small Batch
IPA (India Pale Ale) and
ESP (Extra Special Bitter).
Right after coming out with their first "Small Batch" beer ‒ an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) ‒ the Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna has issued the second in the series ‒ an IPA (India Pale Ale).

Small Batch means that "only" 5,500 bottles of the ESP were produced, and 4,500 bottles of the IPA.  [Read my review of the ESB here.]

Starting off slowly on the Israeli craft beer scene, IPAs are now made by almost every major brewery in the country.  This style of beer, which includes a few sub-styles, has been the most popular craft beer in the world.  It is marked by strong hop aromas and flavors (which can be flowery, citrusy, tropical fruity, piney, or any combination in between), higher alcohol content, and moderate to heavy bitterness.

The hops used in the Shevet Small Batch IPA are Amarillo, Nelson and Centennial ‒ leading us to expect notes of citrus and flowers and pine, coming at us all at once.  Alcohol by volume is 6.5%.

The Shevet Small Batch IPA is a slightly hazy, light amber color with very little carbonation.  Sitting with my drinking partner Daniel, we inhaled whiffs of pine needles, bready malt, mango and orange peel.  The taste is quite bitter (the label says 34 IBUs  International Bitterness Units), with recognizable flavors of bread, grass and flowers.  (Even if you've never tasted grass and flowers, this is how you would imagine they taste.)  Daniel also noticed a taste of melon.

We both agreed that this is an IPA suitable for Israeli tastes, more like an English IPA than the more aggressive American style.

BeerBazaar Cannabrew

The BeerBazaar Brewery's
Cannabrew beer, infused
with cannabis terpenes.
This is the beer that has been causing major ripples and rumors among the Israeli craft crowd.  What can we expect from this first Israeli beer infused with cannabis isolates?  You're not going to get high, that's for sure, but the particular "terpene elements" in this beer are said to help you feel more energy and a heightened ability to focus.

At any rate, before you read my tasting review, please take a moment to re-read my background article on Cannabrew here.  Since this beer is not yet on sale at the BeerBazaar stores nor on the shopping website (www.beerbazaar.co.il), my review is probably the first you'll be reading.

Cannabrew is built on a pale ale base (5.1% alcohol), though its hazy, dark amber color is not exactly "pale."  Beginning with the aroma, you get very pleasant floral notes, grapefruit peel and a general fruitiness ‒ but no discernible cannabis.  That comes when you taste it: Noticeable flavors of green plants and citrus are there, especially in the retronasal olfaction, which is a fancy way of saying how we smell and taste something while breathing out.  Behind these flavors is a bitter background which might be from the hops or the cannabis, which, after all, are genetic cousins in the Cannabaceae family.     

Did I get the aroma and taste of the marijuana plant?  I don't think I did, but my drinking partner Daniel positively identified the taste as cannabis.  The vegetal flavor that I did get blended in very nicely with the beer.

The Cannabrew label peels off to reveal
information about the ingredients and
production process of this beer.
Did I feel any increase in energy and focus?  Not really.  But it was kind of an intense morning, and I might have missed it.  I eagerly await what others have to say about the effects of this beer.

One more word about the label:  It's an attractively designed black, tan and green, showing a cannabis plant and hop bines.  The label peels off easily, revealing (in Hebrew and English) further details about the Cannabrew ingredients and production process.  A nice touch, and one more element that makes this special beer even more special.