January 23, 2014

Mom & Pop -- and all the kids

Hashahar Brewery in Mevasseret Zion is a true "mom & pop" business -- and all the kids too, if you count the names of the beers.

The family that brews together . . .
Ronnie and Sharon Calderon
Ronnie and Sharon Calderon make the beer in their house.  They boil the wort in the kitchen; their fermentation barrels and bottling equipment is in the living room; and the storage area is in the basement.

The beers are named after Ronnie's three children (Tamara, Alon and Omer). their little son Naveh, and mother, father, brothers and even brother-in-law.  It's a cute marketing device, and I personally believe that beers should have names.

Sharon explains how she and Ronnie came to home-brewing:

"The both of us come from a food background -- Ronnie is a trained chef and I was the owner of food stores in Jerusalem.  In 2006, when we were going together, I sent Ronnie to a beer-making course as a birthday present.  It not only hooked him, but me as well.

"We started out making three beers -- a stout, a brown ale and a Belgian trippel, and we named them after Ronnie's children.  In 2008, we served the beers at our wedding, and our guests raved about them."

The Calderons began brewing more seriously, adding more beers to their repertoire.  Today, Hashahar makes seven ales:

Naveh smoked ale is too new to
even be in the family portrait.
Tamara --  A strong Belgian trippel (7% alcohol by volume), with the characteristic sweetness and fruitiness of these beers.  Made with barley only, two kinds of hops and fresh Belgian ale yeast.

Alon -- A brown ale (5.5%), made with maximally roasted barley, flavored with French oak chips.

Omer -- A strong stout (6.5%) that I found especially pleasing.  It's less sweet than others of its kind, nicely bitter with traces of coffee and chocolate (a good imagination helps).  Omer won the gold medal for stouts in the 2011 Beer International Recognition Awards.  

Yosef -- A bavarian wheat ale, 6%.

Eitan -- A traditional IPA, with strong hoppiness (it's dry hopped after the initial fermentation) and alcohol (6%).  French oak chips are also added during fermentation.

Mazal -- At 10% ABV, this is a very strong dark ale.  Additional flavorings include cinnamon and cloves.

Naveh -- Their newest, a smoked ale, which I really like.  The addition of sage leaves adds a different twist to the bitterness.  As far as I know this is the only smoked ale made in Israel.  (Readers may correct me.)  Known in German as rauchbier, it gets its smoky flavor from malted barley which is dried over an open flame.  The Schlenkerla smoked beer from Bamberg is (or was) sold in Israel.

Hashahar means
"The Dawn"
Unfortunately, all of these fine Hashahar beers are available only from the Calderon household and at the Mateh Yehuda Beer Festival, but that's only once a year.  Sharon and Ronnie also have tasting parties at their house, along with food that they prepare themselves, including bread made from left-over barley after brewing the beer.  These are mostly on the weekends and you have to reserve places.

"People come from all over the area to buy our beer," says Sharon, "and in the meantime that's enough for us."  Today, Hashahar brews about 120 liters a month.  Sharon and Ronnie love brewing beer, but they are keeping their day jobs -- she runs a day care center and he works in the field of communications.

To expand into a real business would take a considerable investment in facilities and equipment.   Sharon adds: "Of course, we wouldn't mind taking the next step and expanding sales into stores and restaurants.  Perhaps you know of a possible investor . ."             


  1. Anonymous1/24/2014

    What can I say. While I agree craft brews should be given unique names, I'm not a fan of naming 'em after family members. To be completely honest, and maybe this'll get the comment deleted, but I find it rather gay. I'd like to see bold names with some umpf. Seriously, "Alon"? "Eitan"? How about "פצצה מתקתקת" for an IPA or "סיכול ממוקד" for a chili ale, or "המכה השמינית" for an imperial stout. Taekwonbeer down in Beer Sheva' (which I discovered via this blog), they got it goin on at least as far as names go.

  2. we do have some other Israeli smoked beer.
    Gophers - Klobasa
    Salara - Smoked Stout
    Ha'Dubim - Ha'maka ha'rishona (המכה הראשונה)

    1. Alex, you are a real asset. Thank you for pointing that out. If you read this, please press on the "Write to me" link right under my profile on the right-hand side and let me know how we may correspond directly. I may want to "pick your brain" in the future.


Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!