May 19, 2022

Two from the Nomads: Helle in a Bucket (with cardamon) ● Pale, not Poison (with sumac)

The Nomads brewing team of
Yonah Rubin and Jacob Mogerman:
Different style beers with different spices.

The Nomads are a brewing team of Yonah Rubin and Jacob Mogerman who have chosen (so far) to brew their beers each in a different style and each with a single spice.  So their first two beers were a Saison brewed with za'atar (which I wrote about here) and a Kölsch brewed with sage (which you can read about here).      

They have just come out with two new beers in the same line:  A Brown Ale made with cardamon ("Helle in a Bucket") and an American Pale Ale with sumac ("Pale, not Poison").  These beers were brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem, but Yonah told me that the Nomads are now looking for a place of their own. 

"Helle in a Bucket" Brown Ale from the Nomads:
Brewed with cardamon spice.

Let's begin Helle in a Bucket, brewed with the cardamon (called "hel" in Hebrew -- get it?).  The beer pours out a deep red amber color, semi-hazy, with rocky head that stays around a while as a ring of foam.  The aromas are cardamon and minty spice, with the malt adding some bread and brown sugar.  The flavor also has cardamon, which gives the malt a sweet character, and also some floral, fruit and spice.  

Helle in a Bucket is evenly balanced between the hops and malt, and has a semi-dry finish and long, spicy aftertaste.  I wonder how the cardamon would have fared in a beer style different from Brown Ale. 

"Pale, not Poison" American Pale Ale from the Nomads:
Brewed with sumac spice.
Pale, not Poison is an APA made with sumac, a red to purple colored spice used in the popular za'atar blend.  I do not know the taste of pure sumac, but Yonah Rubin described it to me as fruity, citrusy and a little sour.  "We wanted it to bring some tartness to our beer without using a souring yeast or bacteria."

It's a slightly hazy, light amber color, with a thin white head and slow carbonation.  There are aromas of grass, spice and some light grain.  The flavor brings intense spice (either from the hops or the sumac additive), as well as some lemon and a pleasant tartness and sourness.  The balance is towards sweetness, with the malt contributing weak bread notes and even weaker honey flavor.  The finish is crisp and the aftertaste is mid-length.

Pale, not Poison is a good, innovative beer.  The sumac is probably the cause of the beer's unusual spiciness and tartness.  IMHO it works very well.  I'm interested to see if the Nomads continue with their "different spice" beers, or if they move in a new direction.                               

May 11, 2022

Three from the Shevet Brewstillery: Farm Mama ● Twist & Stout ● Rye or Die IPA

The Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna introduced three new beers at the Tel Aviv craft festival: One in its family of core beers (The Farm Mama) and two in the Small Batch Series (Twist & Stout and Rye or Die IPA).  Shevet's Small Batch beers are produced in limited quantities, and when they're gone, they're gone -- unless Brewmaster Felix Magdziarz decides to make them again. 

The Farm Mama joins the core beers produced by
the Shevet Brewstillery: 
A Belgian Witbier brewed with orange zest,
chamomile, coriander and white pepper.

The Farm Mama is a 5.2% alcohol Belgian Witbier, brewed with wheat malt, oats, orange zest, chamomile, coriander seeds and white pepper.  Very few Belgian Wits have been brewed commercially in Israel.  This style is the Belgian version of the popular wheat beers (Hefeweizen) brewed in central Europe.  Wits are usually made just with additives of orange peels and coriander seeds.

The Farm Mama is a fine Israeli way to introduce you to this style.  It's a clear color of pale straw, not too carbonated with a thin head.  The initial aroma is spicy, grassy and lemony, with the hops contributing floral scents, and the malts faint white bread.           

The taste is low to mid bitter.  You should be able to pick out flavors of lemon, pepper and even farmhouse funk.  The beer is crisp and refreshing (good timing with the hot days upon us), thin bodied, dull effervescence, and a mid to long aftertaste. 

[The four other core beers from Shevet are The Ice Man (Helles Lager), The Wee Laddie (Scottish Ale), The Red Knight (Irish Red Ale) and The Hop Guru (India Pale Ale)]. 

Twist & Stout from the 
Shevet Brewstillery is an
Imperial Stout brewed with
cocoa nibs and vanilla extract.

Twist & Stout, a small batch beer of around 2,000 bottles, is an Imperial Stout (11% alcohol by volume) based on Shevet's earlier Small Batch Imperial Stout from 2020 (which you can read about here).  However, Twist & Stout is brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla extract -- and what a difference they make!

The beer pours out a very dark brown, but clear and translucent, with a tan head of mixed rocky bubbles.

The aromas are from the malt and the additives.  You get delicate chocolate, caramel, faint vanilla and light coffee roast.  The taste is skewed towards the sweet, but with a balancing bitterness.  Flavors of roasted malt and dark chocolate are prevalent.  The strong booze is felt in the taste and the alcoholic warmth.  This beer is thick and flavorful, full in body and effervescence.

Enjoy Twist & Stout by itself -- just sip and let the flavors wash over you.  You might also like it paired with a rich and/or chocolaty pastry, hearty macaroni and cheese, or strong aged cheeses like camembert, brie, gouda and cheddar.  

The other Small Batch beer is Rye or Die IPA, 6.5% ABV, brewed with rye and a hop mixture of Simcoe, Centennial and Magnum.  About 3,000 bottles were issued. 

Rye or Die IPA from the
Shevet Brewstillery is an 
India Pale Ale brewed with rye.
This beer looks different from the start.  It's a opaque deep amber, with a creamy off-white head that begins thick, reduces in time but never really disappears.  The aromas were a mix of grass, pine, light citrus and perhaps peach from the hops, with the malt contributing some dark bread.  The taste is bitter with hop flavors of dark fruits, orange, pine and pepper spice -- but balanced by the malt sweetness.  The finish is semi-dry, with a mid to long aftertaste.

The body is medium thick, and the mid to high carbonation is tingly on the tongue.

The aromatics and taste of Rye or Die IPA were different from other IPAs.  All of the elements blended well to produce a beer that I found surprising and enjoyable. 

Shevet (and the rest of us) is fortunate to have Brewmaster Felix, who continues to put his skill and experience into every new Shevet beer.                

May 10, 2022

Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair -- May 11-12

Up until recently, I've been chasing down every local "beer festival" and reporting on them.  I stopped doing that because it was driving me crazy and almost all of them were not really festivals at all, but "marketing events" organized by some importing agency or another.

However, I continue to seek out and report on real festivals -- and one of them is taking place this Wednesday and Thursday, May 11-12, in Jerusalem's First Station. It's being staged by Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center.  They organized a few of these before the corona era and they were all a lot of fun.  Entrance is free, the venue is comfortable and limited, and you are surrounded by local eateries.  This year, there is also live music on each night.

These are the breweries who will be selling their beers:   

Beertzinut, Meltzer, Fass, Hatch, Chalutz Chadash, Srigim (Ronen and Emek Ha'ela), Super Heroes (Six-Pack), Sheeta, Malkat Ha'emek, and Schnitt Brewpub.  In addition, the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv will also have a table to present their whisky and spirits.

For more detailed information (in Hebrew), please see here.     

April 27, 2022

Three additive rich beers from BeerBazaar: Armon HaMelech ● Ooga Ooga ● Aphrodisiac

Armon HaMelech Chestnut Brown Ale
from the BeerBazaar Brewery:
Brewed with chestnut puree.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
We already expect the BeerBazaar Brewery (in Kiryat Gat) to be producing beers which are flavorful and additive-full; beers that send the Reinheitsgebot for a loop.  Here we have three more, with added ingredients including chestnuts, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, blueberries and currants.  Sounds like it would make a tasty dish even without the beer.

These beers are brewed in limited quantities, so they may not be currently available at the BeerBazaar outlets and online store.  But experience has shown that they probably will be re-issued sooner or later.  

I called together Mike and Manny from the IBAV Tasting Team to give us "the people's voice" about these beers.   

The first up is called Armon HaMelech, a play on Hebrew words which means "Chestnut the King," but when spelled with one letter different means "Palace of the King."  But this is a blog about Israeli beer, not Hebrew syntax.

Ooga Ooga Pastry Sour Wheat
from BeerBazaar:
Ingredients include blueberry
and currant purees, wheat,
and lactose.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Armon HaMelech is called a Chestnut Brown Ale, and indeed it does have the requisites for a Nut Brown Ale.  First of all, the color is really chestnut -- clear red-amber with an off-white head that quickly dissipates.  There are aromas of caramel malt and raisin bread, with a sweet and nutty after-aroma (don't know what else to call it).  The taste is basically sweet, hiding behind pretty distinct flavors of hazelnuts and cream.  If you're looking for chestnuts, you will find them.  The mouthfeel is creamy with a little tingle, and the finish is short and bitter-sweet.  Alcohol by volume is 5.5%.

I enjoyed Armon HaMelech more than most, full of moderate though pleasant sensations.  I feel it would accompany a wide range of food, including spicy and hearty dishes, aged cheeses and pastry desserts.  

Ooga Ooga (which means "cake cake" in Hebrew and is also the start of a popular children's ditty) is called a Pastry Sour Wheat.  At a very sessionable 3.9% ABV, it's made with additions of blueberry and currant purees, wheat, and lactose (milk sugar).            

"Then why does it smell and taste like raspberry?" asked Mike.  Good question.

Aphrodisiac White Stout
from BeerBazaar:
Brewed with coffee, cocoa and
vanilla beans.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
 Even the color is closer to raspberry than blueberry or currant:  A kind of a puce (pink and brown).

"This is a very pleasant drink," said Manny.  "Very refreshing fruit with a light sour aftertaste.  But I ask again: Should it be called beer?" 

Mike also thought it was a delicious drink, but found the name very misleading.  "It has nothing to do with cake or pastry, and it's hardly sour.  If I just had to go by the name, I would never had bought it."

We all gave a big thumbs up for Ooga Ooga -- for the drink it was; not for what it said it was.

Aphrodisiac, on the other hand, got it just right.  It's a 5% ABV White Stout, brewed with coffee beans (from Tamati Coffee in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market), cocoa beans and vanilla beans.  Not a beer style you often find, White Stout surprises you by looking like a hazy Amber Ale but hitting your palate with stout flavors like coffee, chocolate and roast.

The roasted coffee aroma was dominant, while the taste also included healthy amounts of chocolate.  

IBAV Tasting Team members Mike, Manny and
Doug celebrate with the three additive rich beers
from the BeerBazaar Brewery:  
Armon HaMelech, Ooga Ooga and Aphrodisiac.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

"I'm not a big fan of stouts," Manny interjected, "but I love this beer's coffee-chocolate finish."

"I am a fan of stouts," countered Mike, "but this is more of a cocktail than a beer.  Still, they got the taste right, so that's some success.

"But I don't think that this Aphrodisiac would turn on a female friend." 

April 14, 2022

Covid, Passover and new beers

After dodging the sneaky virus for, what, two-and-a-half years, it finally caught up with me at the start of April.  The Shabbat of Amitai's bar mitzvah was ending and I started to sneeze and cough.  Over the next few days, it only got worse.  A sore throat developed along with a nagging wet cough day and night.  I slept for only a few minutes at a time -- in the best case.  A home antigen test and a professional pcr test confirmed what I already knew.      

Most of the worst symptoms are now behind me, but the one that persists is bad news for a beer blogger.  My senses of smell and taste are compromised.  There's been some improvement here as well, but I won't begin doing tastings until I feel that my nose and palate are pushing 100%.   

In the meantime, new Israeli craft beers have been piling up and I apologize for that.  As soon as I can, I will join some of the IBAV Tasting Team members to unblock the logjam to bring you background information and reviews of some recent brews.

In addition, I've been gathering pretty much all of the new Israeli beers that were introduced at last month's festival in Tel Aviv.  The Tasting Team will get to all of these as well.  I'm talking only about those beers which have been bottled and are available to the general public.  These include beers from Nomads, BeerBazaar, Srigim, Shevet, Hatch, Malka, Herzl and HaDubim.  

Another project for after Passover is to finally get to the Schnitt Brewpub in Tel Aviv with photographer Mike Horton and do a proper article on this craft beer mecca that has been causing such a stir.  No problem with Schnitt having new beers since they are always being brewed right on location.

Assuming that my smell and taste are back to where they should be, all this begins right after Passover.

This year, Passover and Easter fall on the same weekend, so the old blogger and all the family have a special opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy holiday and a wonderful springtime to follow!   

חג כשר ושמח לכל בית ישראל

March 21, 2022

Sabro hops for HaDubim's third VMASH edition

VMASH Session IPA with
Sabro hops from 
HaDubim Brewery:
The third in the VMASH series.

Rotem and Dagan Bar-Ilan, the brewer-brothers from HaDubim Brewery, have been running a controlled experiment for a number of years.  It isn't taking place in some shut-off laboratory, but right out in the craft beer marketplace. 

Rotem and Dagan introduced what they called the VMASH series, standing for Vienna Malt And Single Hop.  They brewed a basic Session IPA (4.2% alcohol by volume), using a single malt -- Vienna.  That was the control.  The only item that changed was the single hop.  

This method gives center stage to the hop that is used, since any differences in the aromas and tastes of the beers has to be attributed to the different hops.           

The first in the series was brewed with Mosaic hops, which I found gave strong citrus scents, with flavors more in the tropical fruit and floral categories.  [Read what I wrote about that here.] 

The second used Citra hops.  I must admit I missed this one.  It happens sometimes.  However, other tasters reported powerful hop aromatics and flavors such as citrus fruits (grapefruit, orange and lime), tropical fruits and some spice and pine. 

Sabro hops: They may all look the same,
but each hop variety has its own bittering,
aroma and/or flavor characteristics.

The latest in the series is VMASH with Sabro hops.  Sabro is a pretty recent variety, born in New Mexico and grown in the U.S.  It is an aromatic hop, known to impart fruity and citrus flavors, and aromas conjuring tangerine, coconut, tropical fruit and stone fruit.

I found the citrus aroma very strong, perhaps orangy, and some mint.  The taste is also heavily weighted in favor of the hops: More citrus, with passion fruit and guava bringing in more fruitiness.  There is also an herbal or spicy bite.

The body is medium, with a fizzy mouthfeel and a hint of astringency.  The finish is fittingly dry and bitter.

For me, citrus-heavy IPAs are the most enjoyable, so this third VMASH was right up my alley.  I hope HaDubim have not ended their controlled experiment, and we can expect Vienna malt IPAs with different hops in the future.        

February 27, 2022

Not taking sides: Ukrainian beer vs Russian beer

(Photo: Mike Horton)

One of the many hats I wear is that of chairman of the Kiddush Club in my synagogue.  We are a small but dedicated group of serious drinkers who meet after Sabbath services for some good booze and a light repast.  Since one of my other hats is a reputable beer lover, I sometimes bring along an interesting beer or two to share with my fellows.

This past week, I wanted to express Israel's officially neutral stance regarding the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.  Israel has sensitive relations with both of these countries and simply cannot allow either one to deteriorate.  They say it's like walking between the raindrops.

So I brought a bottle of Andriivskiy Golden Ale from the Radomyshl Brewery in the Ukraine, and a can of Baltika Premium Export Lager from Russia.  

"Drink the beer that suits your taste and your sympathy," I announced to the Kiddush Club members.  

Within a few moments, the Ukrainian beer was drained, and the Russian beer remained untouched until I had to bring it back home with me. 

You should not read too much into this.