March 10, 2014

Strange partners for new beers

Two major craft breweries have teamed up with some unusual partners to produce new beers.  One you can buy almost anywhere, but the other you can only get in the Negev town of Mitzpe Ramon.

A beer for a men's magazine

Alexander Blazer
The first unlikely brewing partner is Blazer, a Hebrew men's magazine, kind of like Esquire was in its heyday -- a mix of scantily clad young ladies, politics, culture and social commentary.  The editors of Blazer approached the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer with a proposal that they produce a beer which captures the experience of reading Blazer magazine.

They defined this as including articles which can be critical or inspiring ("bitter-sweet" if you will), not overly weighty, approachable and social, but which leave you with a strong taste long after you finish.

Sounds like a beer.

Ori Sagy and his brewing team at Alexander put their heads together and came up with Alexander Blazer, a beer which they call a golden strong ale.  I found it thoroughly enjoyable (with a nice hot lunch).  It's a cloudy beer with a thin head, but the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops are in perfect balance, so that neither really dominates.  I guess you can call this "bitter-sweet," though I've never heard this term used for a beer before.  The 8% alcohol by volume makes itself felt after the second swallow or so, as you enjoy the long, dry finish.  Another flavor I detected in there was, surprisingly, sour.  Now, this is definitely not a "sour beer" -- if there are any available in Israel, they're probably lambics from Belgium.  But I know what I tasted, and I liked it.

Alexander Blazer is sold in stores that carry other Alexander beers, so I recommend you try a bottle the next time you're looking for something new and different.

Think what could happen if this trend continues and other periodicals decide to sponsor new brews.  Maybe Ha'aretz will partner for a new IPA -- an Israel-Palestine Amalgamation.  Or Yediot Achronot will sponsor Bibi's Wicked Ale, a dark doppelbock dumkopf with no redeeming qualities.

A desert hotel brews a beer

Negev Beresheet
The other unusual brewing partner is a hotel -- in this case, the Beresheet Hotel in Mitzpe Ramon, a member of the Isrotel chain.  The hotel administration prides itself on cooperating with local craftsmen and businesses in the Negev.  In conversations with the Negev Brewery in Kiryat Gat, the hotel brought up the idea of a unique beer which would only be served at the hotel.  Of course, the beer's characteristics would have to reflect the ambiance of the hotel and the desert environment.

Beresheet Hotel
Mitzpe Ramon
Sagiv Karlboim, the head of Negev Brewery, told me that his brewers worked together with the hotel management to produce a beer which was suitable for the desert climate, a golden ale, "balanced between a delicate sweetness and bitterness, not heavy, with hops adding a flavor of tropical and citrus fruits."

The result was Negev Beresheet, with 4.7% alcohol.  Since I haven't been to the hotel, I haven't tasted the beer, but it sounds like a good summertime drink.  Even if Negev Brewery cannot sell it in regular stores, maybe they'll be able to serve it at beer festivals where they participate.  The hotel will benefit from the publicity and the name recognition that's generated.

Hey Juniper Boy

While we're on the subject of new beers, I should mention, well, a semi-new beer from Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv -- Hey Ju-Boy.

Yeah, you heard that right.  If this was a beer from a non-Jewish brewer, it certainly wouldn't pass quietly.  But brewmaster David Cohen has no problem with this provocative name.  The "Ju" refers to juniper berries, he told me, which are used in brewing this beer.  Juniper berries are best known for making gin, which they give its unique taste.  In Finland, they make a beer called sahti which is flavored with rye and juniper.

Fresh juniper berries
"Hey Ju-Boy is a light blond ale, at 5.6% ABV" says David.  "We brewed it once before with a higher alcoholic content.  Only ten kegs were brewed of this current batch.  One keg went to the Bodega in Efrat, one to the Beer Market in the Jaffa Port, and the others were served at the Dancing Camel's brewery and our pub in Florentine, Tel Aviv."

By the end of February, they were sold out.  Alas, I had this horrible cold and cough just then, so I missed tasting the Ju-Boy.  I'm going to have to wait until the next batch, whenever.  But by then, I hope we'll have other new Israeli beers to add to our national repertoire -- and I don't care if it takes some strange partners to make them.


  1. Doug, you're making me thirsty, thirsty for beer.

  2. Anonymous3/10/2014

    Sounds like interesting stuff. Negev Brewery's impressed me in the past, particularly their Chariton Abbey Ale. Alexander Black's up there in my top 10 Israeli beers list, too. It's hard to get excited over yet another Golden Ale, what with all the other more crafty styles out there and the fact that practically every brewery has its own Golden Ale. But these I'd have to give the benefit of the doubt, given where they're coming from. Thanks for the heads-up.

  3. Maybe they will give you a weekend at the Mitzpe Ramon hotel.

  4. One more comment...
    Doug, I absolutely, positively, love this blog!


Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!