August 4, 2022

Two IPAs for just these days: Shapiro Session IPA & HaGibor Summer IPA

The Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh and the HaGibor Brewery in Carmiel chose the recent Jerusalem Beer Festival ("Ir HaBira") as the venue to unveil their new IPAs for the summer.  Both of these beers are tantalizingly fruity, crisp and refreshing.  Although many people think of light lagers as traditional summertime beers, these IPAs are delicious alternatives.     

Summer IPA from HaGibor Brewery:
Citrus and tropical fruit
aromas and tastes.

To do them justice, the abbreviated IBAV Tasting Team convened to give their report especially for you, dear readers.  We chose the Eliyahu Hummus restaurant in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market as the location to drink the beers, eat some wonderful hummus and express our colorful opinions.        

Let's begin with the Summer IPA from HaGibor ("The Hero").  Brewery partner Eran Grunwald told me that it is hopped with Citra, Magnum and Mosaic -- American hops all of which are known for their juicy fruity aromas and flavors.  

Summer IPA pours out a hazy amber color, with a full, foamy head.  The aromas open with strong fruit scents, while allowing some malt sweetness to permeate through.  Mike picked up on pomelo, grapefruit and retsina (pine).  We couldn't wait to drink it.  We all tasted the fruits -- though each tongue perceived them differently.  Mike thought the grapefruit flavor,"startles the palate: I was expecting something softer.  It reminds me of the orchards along the Yarkon River, where I would go and pick the grapefruits."                  

Shapiro Beer's Session IPA:
Strong bitterness, with
grapefruit and tropical fruits.
Manny called attention to the tropical fruit tastes, and also peach and pear.  "I love the dry taste and finish, interacting with the fruit," he said.  "I don't necessarily consider this a summer beer; it's not lite.  [In fact, alcohol by volume is a hearty 5.9%.]  You don't gulp this beer down."

I loved the Summer IPA for its mild bitterness, which let the fruit flavors shine through.  We all enjoyed this beer and gave it a unanimous "thumbs up."  

The beer from Shapiro is called Session IPA, which simply means that the low ABV (4.3%) is going to let you have more than one -- a drinking "session," if you will.  

Right before we tasted it, I asked Dani Shapiro, one of the brewery's partner-brothers, how this beer was different from Shapiro's excellent regular IPA.

"Out regular IPA is darker, sweeter and with a fuller body," he explained.  "The hops we use are citrusy hops.  For our Session IPA, we use only pale malts such as Pilsner, Carahell and wheat.  The hop selection gives aromas of citrus and tropical fruits: Mosaic, Amarillo and Citra."

The abbreviated IBAV Tasting Team,
Manny, Doug and Mike, enjoyed and opined about
HaGibor's Summer IPA and Shapiro's Session IPA. 

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Session IPA is a slightly hazy, pale straw color.  "It's fizzy like a soda," said Mike, though this produced only a thin head.  We got aromas of citrus fruits and melon.  The taste was very bitter, with notes of grapefruit and undefined topical fruits.  

"The bitterness hits you immediately," proffered Manny, "even before you take a swallow."  The body is light and the finish short and bitter.       

If this would have been a head-to-head showdown, we would say that we preferred the HaGibor.  The hop flavors were brighter and stronger, and the beer more balanced.  But since it wasn't, we say that both of these IPAs were thoroughly enjoyable and excellent summer refreshers. 

July 19, 2022

Shapiro Brewery's 2022 Strong Sour

The Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh has issued the fourth annual edition of their Strong Sour.  

It's a "kettle-soured" beer because the souring takes place in the mash kettle before the boil.  For the first edition (2019), Brewmaster Yochai Kudler and Head Brewer Ory Sofer used a wild yeast which they collected from almond blossoms blooming around Jerusalem in the early spring.  

The wild yeast and accompanying microbes are what give the beer its sour taste.  When the wort is boiled, the single-cell organisms die and the souring ceases.  Afterwards, domesticated Saison yeast is added for a second fermentation.

I was at the launch of 2022 Strong Sour at the Shapiro Brewery.  Ory Sofer told us of his great love for sour beers, which he calls "my babies," and explained in great detail how the first Strong Sour was conceived and created.  

He explained that after the first year, a culture of the yeast was kept and used to brew the successive editions.  However, like other living organisms, each new generation of yeast brings changes – and these have made the differences in each year's aroma and taste.

[For my take on the first Strong Sour beer, please click here.]      

At the launch of the 2022 Strong Sour,
held at the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh,
Head Brewer Ory Sofer gave a complete
background history of the beer. 
Sourness in beers is a taste most of us have not yet acquired, but these beers are "wildly" popular in parts of Belgium and France. 

Shapiro's 2022 Strong Sour (7.7% ABV) is a cloudy, mid amber color with dull carbonation.  The aroma is definitely sour: A dank sour with pear cider, green apples and some farmyard aromas in the background.  The taste is vinegary sour rather than yogurt sour.  My drinking partner Moshe and I felt that all other tastes were just overwhelmed by the sourness. 

"It's probably good for a sour beer," said Moshe, "but it's too tough for me."  I myself actually found the sourness "soft," not harsh, and a step in the right direction towards my appreciation of this beer style.

July 15, 2022

Malkat Ha'emek: Two premier beers from the Queen of the Valley

One of the smaller brewers exhibiting at the recent Jerusalem Beer Festival ("Ir Habira") was Malkat Ha'emek ("Queen of the Valley"), owned and operated by Roi Levy.  Roi (pronounced row-ee) was pouring his two beers, Pale Ale and IPA, which he contract brews at the Galil Brewery on Kibbutz Moran. 

"This is my dream come true," Roi announces, "brewing and marketing my own beer.  I started home-brewing around eight years ago in the courtyard of my home in Moshav Ometz [Emek Hefer].  I took a home-brewing course at Beer & Beyond and then learned everything I could about beer.  The feedback from family and friends, and even from strangers, was excellent.

"I discovered that brewing does me good, and does good for the people around me -- family and friends.  They are the ones who encouraged me to take my beer out into the world." 

Roi Levy (right), owner and brewer of
Malkat Ha'emek Beer, raises a tasty toast
with the old blogger.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Roi, 43, wanted to go commercial, but it took the economic dislocation of the corona crisis for him to take the step last October.  "I quit my day job and devoted myself to making and marketing my beer.  I do everything, including delivery."  

Malkat Ha'emek beers are now available in stores in the Emek Hefer area, Netanya, Beer & Beyond in Tel Aviv, Birateinu in Jerusalem, Kishkashta in Rishon LeZion, and other locations. 

The first two beers from
Malkat Ha'emek: 
Pale Ale (left) and IPA.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The Pale Ale (always a popular beer style) is 5.1% alcohol by volume, clear golden color, with a rocky and stable head.  Citrus dominates the aroma, with hints of malt and yeast.  The taste brings sweet citrus to the fore (orange and lemon) as well as slight tropical fruit flavors.  It is very crisp and refreshing, with a long, bitter-sweet finish and tingly carbonation.  

The IPA is in the style of American "West Coast" India Pale Ales, with the hops taking the lead and bringing their wonderful aromas and flavors -- along with the bitterness, of course.  ABV is 5.6%.  The color is very similar to the Pale Ale, but the aromas are stronger and more defined: Grapefruit, pineapple and pine, with some breadiness from the malt.  The flavors are less distinct: Overall bitter fruit, citrus and malt.  The mouthfeel is medium bodied with strong carbonation.  The finish is bitter and dry -- above par for an IPA of this kind.

Roi Levy's first two beers are very drinkable, and I look forward to other styles from Malkat He'emek.  

July 10, 2022

Schnitt: A Tel Aviv brewpub that makes eating and drinking fun

The Schnitt Brewpub in Tel Aviv
is a fine restaurant which also
serves its own beer brewed 
on the premises.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
I got to Schnitt only four months late.  Even before this new brewpub opened in Tel Aviv, I was in touch with the owners about being among the first to visit and write about it.

One delay led to another: Weather, Covid, family, inertia.

I finally got there last month and I can report that all the glowing praise is not exaggerated. 

The place feels like a pub should.  The grub is delicious, portions are generous, and the menu offers exactly what you want with your beer.  Schnitt is a meat restaurant, but there are at least ten vegan items on the menu -- and all delicious.  I get hungry just thinking about the place!

What about the beer?

When I was there with photographer Mike Horton, there were seven in-house brewed beers on tap.

The Schnitt taplist is erasable screens
which are changing all the time.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
"We usually have more," Brewmaster Alon Schwartz told us.  "We try to keep two or three beers permanently on our beer list -- for example, and IPA and a Pale Ale -- but the other beers are constantly coming and going."

Alon has experience working with at least three other micro-breweries in Israel before starting at Schnitt nine or so months ago.  He runs a tight brewery.  Ten fermenters in a minimal space keep the new beers on the assembly line.

"We're a small brewery so we can be flexible," he explains.  "This includes having a constant rotation of new beers, which is what our customers like."

The old blogger met Brewmaster Alon Schwartz
 in his very compact and very efficient brewery.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
These are the seven beers that Mike and I tasted.  (Don't expect to find all of them when you visit.)

Hop Squad NEIPA -- semi-cloudy and mid-bitter with tastes of guava, pineapple and grapefruit. 

Intergalactic SMASH -- single hop and single malt pale ale, with delicate mango and peach flavors.

6 to Route 66 -- a fruity and spicy American Pale Ale.

Guava Island -- added fruit give this beer a taste of sweet guava and mint.

Schnitt partner Amir Neuman (left) took time
to speak with the old blogger about his
beer and business.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
It Is What It Is -- a bready and fruity blond ale.  

End of the West -- an IPA with added orange oils; citrusy and bitter.

Avi Bitter -- an English Bitter with aromas of grass and grain.

Avi Neuman, one of the three partners of Schnitt (the others are Itai Laifer and Yoav Alon), has been in the beer and hospitality business for many years.  The opening of Schnitt, he says, has given the partners, "our own brewery, own brand and own restaurant -- something we are very proud of.

A Schnitt crowler:
You choose your beer and take
it home in a sealed can.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
"Our customers come back because there are always new beers for them to try -- but also because they appreciate the quality of our beers."

Amir is also a partner in the next-door restaurant, Porter & Sons, so there is a kind of interlocking directorate.  "But," he hastens to add, "the two restaurants are completely independent.  Porter & Sons serves very good beers, but the emphasis is on their restaurant food.  At Schnitt, our beer is in the spotlight, and the customers are a younger crowd."

A few months ago, Schnitt introduced Israel's only crowler machine.  A crowler is simply a big can that is filled with draft beer at the bar and then capped and sealed.  There are a few beer bars in Israel where you can have a bottle filled with fresh beer and capped to take home.  But Schnitt is the only place where you can can it.   

"People like the concept," adds Amir, "plus it's more aesthetic and the beer stays draft fresh longer."

The Schnitt sloth represents hand-brewed beer
 and well prepared food, eaten in a 
relaxed atmosphere.
Amir also explained Schnitt's unusual logo-mascot.  It's a sloth, an animal known for moving very slowly.  "This is not a fast-food place," Amir stresses.  "It's where you come to slow down, to enjoy your beer and your food with friends in a relaxed atmosphere.  The sloth is our symbol for that." 

I also learned that Schnitt in German means a "cut," but that it's also used when you want to order one last beer before going home, but you want less than a full glass.  You order, "Ein schnitt, bitte," and the bartender opens up the tap full blast into the bottom of your glass.  You get a lot of foam and less beer, but you also pay a lot less.    

A true feast:  Good beer and good food
-- including many vegan options --
at the Schnitt Brewpub in Tel Aviv. 

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Mike and I, who were guests of the restaurant, enjoyed our flights of beer (which were definitely not "schnitts") with a fantastic spread of pub grub.  Mike had his Alabama crispy chicken sandwich, while I dug into a mouth watering vegan sloppy joe.  All around us were vegan extras: Fried pickles, ranch fries, onion rings, and Mississippi hush puppies.  My god!  You reach a point where food-and-beer pairing becomes almost irrelevant.  Everything went well with everything.  

Speaking of which, for this month (July), Schnitt is having a special menu pairing their beers with Redefine Meat (vegan) specialties: Corn dog with American Pale Ale; Hawaiian hot dog with Blond Ale; Cheeseburger with Session IPA; Minced meat nachos with mango NEIPA; Flank steak with coffee infused White Stout.

I think I have to get back there before the month ends!

The Schnitt crew, as we met them:
Brewmaster Alon Schwartz (left), 
Marketing Director Yarden Peled, and 
partner/owner Amir Neuman.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
We highly recommend Schnitt whenever you are in the area, whenever you are in Tel Aviv, whenever you are going to Tel Aviv.  It's a perfect place for beer, food and friends. 

Schnitt has a kashrut certificate from Tzohar Food Supervision.  The restaurant is open on Shabbat, but all food ingredients are kosher and no dairy products are used.

Schnitt is located at 12 Ha'arba'a Street in Tel Aviv.  Phone number: 03-736-3070.  




July 1, 2022

The Jerusalem Beer Festival ("Ir Habira") opens the capital's summer season

The Jerusalem Beer Festival is coming early this year – July 6-7.  Also known as "Ir Habira" (a Hebrew word play that can mean either "Capital City" or "Beer City"), the festival has usually been held towards the end of the summer holiday.

I asked the organizer, Eli Giladi, why this year was different.


Scene from last year's festival.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

"We wanted the Jerusalem Beer Festival to open the capital's summer events season rather than close it," he explained.  "Also, most of the major brewers release their limited editions at the start of the summer and the festival offers them a venue to reach the public quickly."


This is the 17th year that Giladi has organized the festival.  He promises that this year's will be presenting over 150 different beers – both Israeli-brewed and foreign imports.


Some local beers are being made especially for the festival. For example, the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh will be pouring a new Session IPA, which simply means that it's a light and crisp India Pale Ale with a low level of alcohol by volume (ABV).


Scene from last year's festival.
(Photo: Ido Nitay - Flash)

HaGibor ("The Hero") Brewery in Carmiel is unveiling something similar, which they call a Summer IPA.


At the other end of the scale, look out for an 11% ABV Belgian Triple strong ale from the Srigim Brewery in Srigim (Li-On).  This is not a beer to gulp down on a hot summer's day!


Two Israeli breweries will be making their first appearance at this year's festival.  Brewer Roi Levy will be offering his two Malkat Ha'emek ("Queen of the Valley") beers: Pale Ale and IPA.  Then there's White Star Beer from Aryeh Stern & Co., brewed in Israel but giving the addresses, "Tel Aviv & London."


Other Israeli breweries which will once again be pouring their beers include Hatch (Jerusalem), Jem's (Petach Tikva), Alexander (Emek Hefer), Shevet (Pardes Hanna), Oak & Ash (Beit Shemesh), Reisel Beer (Galilee) and BeerBazaar (Kiryat Gat).  There will also be imported beers from European and other countries.


Kadima Beer will be on sale at the festival.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

While you're strolling amidst the breweries, be sure you stop at Kadima Beer and taste their beers brewed by young adults with cerebral palsy and other severe physical disabilities.  This is a project run by the Adult Day Center of Tsad Kadima (A Step Forward), an organization which provides educational and rehabilitative services to children and adults nationwide.


Once a week or so, the Center in Jerusalem is transformed into a brewery, with the participants making and bottling several styles of beer.  Brewing is an activity which gives these people a feeling of motivation, achievement and accomplishment.  The Jerusalem Beer Festival will give you a chance to meet and support this wonderful project.


The Israel Brews and Views Tasting Team
will be manning the Information Table.

(Photo: Mike Horton)


For the first time as well, there will be an Information Table at the festival, sponsored by the "Israel Brews and Views" blog on Israeli craft beer.  You can stop by to ask where you can find your favorite beers and anything about them, or about the festival.    


Another praiseworthy innovation at next week's festival is the introduction of reusable cups.  At most beer festivals in the past, brewers would serve their beers in throw-away cups, resulting in mounds of plastic trash at the end of the night.  At the Jerusalem Beer Festival, you'll be able to purchase a branded cup made of polycarbonate, stronger than glass and any other plastic, for NIS 9.  Use it as you make the rounds from brewer to brewer, and then take it home as a souvenir.


The cup also comes with clips, so you can attach it to your belt or other clothing while you're dancing to the music or otherwise need your hands free!  


Scene from last year's festival.
(Photo: Ido Nitay - Flash)

Speaking of music, the Jerusalem Beer Festival will continue its tradition of having top bands blast out their music and song.  On Wednesday, July 6, the stage will hold DMZL, Shotei Hanevuah (The Fools of Prophecy), Mercedes Band, Tuna, and DJ Ben Ben from Manhattan.


Thursday night, July 7, will bring the Garden City Movement, Heyehudim, Nunu, Woodstock Jerusalem, and Terra.


Both evenings will be hosted by stand-up artist Gadi Wilcherski.


Here are some tips to make the festival even more enjoyable:


Eat something while you're
drinking -- even pretzels.

● Take public transportation.  You'll avoid parking problems and driving home under the influence of any alcohol.  It's amazing how "just a sip here and just a sip there" can add up.


● Arrive early (the gates open at 6:00 p.m.) so you can leisurely walk around, try different beers and even speak to the brewers.  When the music starts, usually around 8:00 – 8:30, polite conversation becomes impossible.   


● Eat before and while you're drinking beer.  This slows down the absorption of alcohol – and let's you sample more beers!  Drinking water is a good idea too.  As every year, there will be food stands at the festival (including vegan dishes), but you can also bring your own food.  Note: You cannot bring in any cans or bottles.  These will be confiscated.


● The beer festival is a great opportunity to try beers you are not familiar with, but keep it slow and pace yourself.  Most importantly: You do not have to try everything.  Drink moderately, have a good time, and get home safe.  

        

The Jerusalem Beer Festival (Ir Habira) will take place Wednesday and Thursday, July 6 and 7, at Independence Park, beginning at 6 p.m. each night.  The entrance fee is NIS 90 if you buy your ticket online (www.jerusalembeer.com/tickets/en).  For soldiers, National Service members, students and Yerushalmi cardholders, the price is NIS 80.  Expect the price to be even higher if you buy your ticket at the gate.  You have to be at least 18 to enter.


              [A similar version of this article appears in In Jerusalem,

          the local weekly newspaper of The Jerusalem Post.]           

June 21, 2022

Alexander Tropical IPA: A fruit cocktail of aromas and flavors

The Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer is one of Israel's most established craft breweries.  Owner and brewer Ori Sagy concentrates on maintaining the quality of their excellent core beers, but from time to time also issues a seasonal brew.  Such is the new Tropical IPA, an India Pale Ale that lives up to its name.  It's made with enough hops (Galaxy, Mosaic and Citra) to give it a crisp bitterness and a salad of tropical fruit flavors.  It also includes oats (for extra creaminess) and sugar (to give the yeast more food to make more alcohol – it's a strong 7.8%). 

The hop aromas reach you as you pour out the clear, light amber beer – a fruit cocktail of citrus, pineapple, peach and mango.  The flavor also highlights the tropical fruits, but puts them inside an envelope of bitterness.  You feel the full, creamy body of this beer, some alcoholic warmth, and a long finish. 

My drinking partner Moshe opined that Tropical IPA "has the taste of a summer beer, but the heaviness of a winter beer."  At any rate, it is truly delicious. 

June 20, 2022

Srigim Brewery marks 10th anniversary with smoky Amber Ale

Birat Ha'asor ("Beer of the Decade"):
Brewed to mark the 10th anniversary of the
Srigim Brewery.  An Amber Ale with
smoky aromas and tastes.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the Srigim Brewery in Srigim (Li-On) has produced Birat Ha'asor ("Beer of the Decade"), a smoky Amber Ale.  Srigim brews two brands of beer – Ronen and Emek Ha'ela.  Very rarely have they brewed anything other than their core beers, and never have they brewed anything under the Srigim label.

Ofer Ronen, a partner and brewer at the Srigim Brewery, told me that he took this unusual step to spotlight the 10th anniversary of the entire brewery, rather than Ronen or Emek Ha'ela individually.  "My partner Ohad Ayalon and I are fans of the smoked beer style, especially from the Bamberg area of Germany.  Therefore we selected this style for our anniversary beer and used Wayermann smoked malt, which is also from from Bamberg."

Not the most current photo, but Ofer Ronen,
partner of the Srigim Brewery, 
and the old blogger haven't really changed much!

(Photo: Mike Horton)  

Barat Ha'asor is an attractive clear, red-amber color with an off-white head.  You immediately get the smoky scent, but it's not harsh as some beers of this style can be.  My drinking partner Moshe compared it to smoked meat, even "pastrami."  The taste is just like it smells, not very bitter, with the addition of light malt sweetness, toasted bread and some light sourness,   ABV is 6.1%.  (Not to worry: The smoky aroma and taste come from smoked malts, not from meat!)

We both thought that it was a "cool" beer – very tasty and drinkable.  It helps if you're a fan of this style, but even if you're not, this is a good beer to make the introduction.