June 28, 2015

Jerusalem Beer Festival update

It's already summer and the beer festivals cannot be far behind.  Eli Giladi, the energetic producer of the 11th Jerusalem Beer Festival, which will be held August 26-27 in Gan Atzmaut (Independence Park), has given me more details.

Wow!  Aerial view of the 2014 Jerusalem Beer Festival.

There will be over 150 beers to try at this year's festival, craft beers and mega-brewery beers from Israel, and imported beers from around the world.  The entrance fee to the festival is 35 to 45 shekels, which does not include the beer tasting.

The famous Tuborg Bus will be there.
Brewed-in-Israel Tuborg Beer will be a sponsor, and the famous Tuborg Bus will be on hand, with a 2nd-floor bar.  This bus is very expensive to operate; it appears at only very few events around Israel.

On the first evening, Wednesday, August 26, the Sam Adams Longshot home-brewing competition will take place at the festival.  Visitors will have a chance to taste free samples of beer from home-brewers.  This is a very enjoyable event at the festival and I highly recommend that you come on this night (even though I know that Thursday is  more popular because most people can sleep late on Friday).  Try to come early because the home-brewers run out of their beers fairly quickly.  I mean, how long can free beer last?

There will be live musical entertainment by Jerusalem performers, including Hadag Nachash.  There will be a fair of T Market fashion products and accessories at specially discounted prices.

After 11:00 pm, when the festival ends, 25 bars in Jerusalem will offer discounts on drinks and food.  I guess this is so you can continue eating and drinking after you leave the festival.

If you see me, say hello.

June 25, 2015

New beers at Zman Amiti

One fine Friday morning, I braved the perils of the road and traveled to Tel Aviv to the Zman Amiti Beer Festival, co-sponsored by the Beer & Beyond store.  I was joined by my good friend Yitzhak Miskin and his daughter Shoshana -- two enthusiastic beer lovers.

Zman Amiti (which means "real time" in Hebrew) is basically a school for bar-tending, a profession much in demand in Israel.  The venue is compact enough to visit all of the brewers on display in a short time.

Many of the smaller brewers chose this event to unveil their new beers.  That's what got me to make the trip.

Here, then, in no particular order (Did I mention that I was tasting beers?) are some memorable new brews:

Baron's Brewery in Hod Hasharon

Lior Degabli of Baron's Brewery undoubtedly was pouring the largest number of new beers.  I noted:

Lior Degabli and friend
pouring Baron's beer.
         Chocolate Robust Porter
         Cardamon Coffee Stout
         Winter Saison
         Imperial IPA
         Belgian Dark Strong Ale
         Peanut Butter Ale
         Summer Session IPA

While I wouldn't recommend making Peanut Butter Ale your go-to beer, I actually enjoyed the taste of fresh peanuts in the envelope of a hoppy pale ale.  We eat peanuts with beer, don't we?  I think this beer would pair well with any sweet, neutral-flavor dessert.  And of course, if you're ever having a plain grape jelly sandwich on white bread . . .

The Cardamon Coffee Stout was another excellent blending of flavors.  This beer is brewed with ground Turkish coffee and cardamon.  It pours a very dark brown color with strong aromas of the spice and the coffee.  I'm used to cardamon as part of a spice package in winter holiday or Christmas ales, but by itself it adds a beer-friendly sparkle that had me doing a double-take.  In fact, the taste was roasty cardamon, if you can imagine that, but I'm not sure if it comes from the malt or if the spice itself was roasted.

I brought home a bottle of the Chocolate Robust Porter which I enjoyed with a hearty Shabbat lunch.  This is a strong and dark American porter.  The flavor of the chocolate malt is enhanced by the addition of chocolate shavings and vanilla sticks during the fermentation.  Not all foods would go well with such a chocolaty beer, but I actually thought it was surprisingly complementary to our vegetarian shepherd's pie and noodle kugel.

Argamon Brewery in Bat Yam

Tamir Bunny (right) at Zman Amiti.
Home-brewer Tamir Bunny, whose day job is in the Beer & Beyond store in Tel Aviv, was making his debut with the Argamon ("Crimson") Beer label.  On the table were:

       Air Born Saison
       Sludge Factory IPA
       Uberlin (German-American wheat beer)

I tried the Air Borne Saison, a light Belgian saison-style beer, but dry-hopped with Nelson hops.  I found it to be semi-sour, which is just enough for me, and very refreshing.  I took home a bottle of the Sludge Factory for later enjoyment.

Hechalutz Brewery from Beersheva

Best-in-show brewer Gilad Ne-Eman.
Owner Gilad Ne-Eman was still riding on cloud nine following the Best-in-Show award for his Avodah Ivrit ("Hebrew Labor") IPA at the London and South East Brewing Competition.  His prize was unique and exciting: His beer was brewed in England and sold from a cask at the Brewhouse & Kitchen in Islington.

Gilad was proud that "Hebrew beer" was able to make such a strong showing in an international competition.  "Maybe now our craft beer industry will feel free to brew what it wants to," he says, "and not be held back by its fears."  

 Although I don't believe that Israeli brewers have to "prove" themselves to foreign connoisseurs, international recognition does us great honor.  So, way to go, Gilad!

Hechalutz (The Pioneer") IPA
on tap in London.

At the Zman Amiti Festival, I tried the new Hechalutz Belgian Yam Specialty Ale, made with sweet potatoes.  It is also flavored with grains of paradise (African pepper), honey, ginger and coriander.  You would think that this combination would impart a taste of a baked sweet potato pie, but it doesn't.  The yams add to the body of the beer and a sweet, nutty taste.  I thought it was quite successful and would give Gilad another prize.

I brought home two other bottles of Hechalutz beer, the new The Catcher, an American rye ale, and Great White Buffalo, an American brown ale "made with too much espresso."  Still haven't opened them.

Chuck's Brewery in Ra'anana

Chuck's beers and pretzels at Zman Amiti.
The four partners of Chuck's Brewery -- Benny, Rafi, Doron and Lior (Chuck is the name of the dog!) -- were celebrating their first commercial batch of beer.  After home-brewing their beer for about three years, they just brewed their first batch of Irish Red at the Mosco Brewing facility on Moshav Zanoach.

The beer poured out a rich red-amber color and had the aroma of earth and yeast.  The dominant flavor, however, was a caramel malt, what you would expect from an Irish Red ale.

The Chuck boys also had a lemon wheat, an IPA, a blond ale and an amber ale.

Taekwonbeer from Beersheva

Alex Fuks with his Taekwonbeer.
Taekwondo master Alex Fuks combines his passion for the martial arts and beer in the name of his brewery.  I chose to try his Oxford Night, a plum porter which was new to me, even though it's been around for a while.

Alex adds fresh plums to the second fermentation and lets them fizz for three weeks.  The result is a strong chocolate porter with the sourness of plums, if not their flavor. I also detected flavors of prunes or raisins.  I thought it was a delicious alternative to any regular robust porter.

At the end of the day, I had a wonderful time at Zman Amiti, tasting the very different beers of these small breweries.  They are the ones that are experimenting with beer styles and flavor profiles, utilizing different ingredients and combinations, to take beer in new directions.  Most attempts end in failure, but the successes are what all of us are waiting for.

June 7, 2015

Beer festivals this summer: interim info

Early information has been arriving about beer festivals for this summer.  It's still incomplete, but I want to share what I have.

Jerusalem Beer Festival - "Ir Habira" -- Independence Park (Gan Ha'atzmaut) is once again the site for the wild and wonderful Jerusalem Beer Festival, Wednesday, August 26 and Thursday, August 27.  Organizer/Producer Eli Giladi says that this will be the eleventh festival in Jerusalem, and it will be bigger and better than ever.  

Tel Aviv "BEERS 2015" Exhibit -- August 11-13 at the Train Station (HaTachana) in Neve Tzedek.

This is all I know at this point because Studio Ben-Ami in Tel Aviv, the organizer of the BEERS Exhibits, is maintaining its tradition of being largely unresponsive to requests for information.    

Beer City Festival in Haifa -- Uh oh!  This is being held on the same days as the Jerusalem Beer Festival, August 26-27.  So if you want to attend both, you have to be one day here, one day there.  Polina Charnovelsky from the "Cooperation" Office in the Cultural Department of the Haifa Municipality, also told me that the festival will be held on the Agritech Grounds, near the Convention Center.  

As of now, it appears like this festival will once again be sponsored by Tempo Beer Industries, brewers of Goldstar and Maccabee beer, so don't expect any Israeli craft beers to be served.  On the other hand, it's that sponsorship which makes this festival the biggest in Israel, with free admission and first-string musical performers. 

Beersheva Home-Brew Beer Festival -- For the first time, Beersheva is hosting a beer festival, and it's this Friday, June 12.  The festival is being held at Hachalutz 33, and the door opens at noon.

Home-brewers, and some smaller commercial brewers, from Beersheva and the south will be pouring their beers for the guests.  For most, it will be the first time they've appeared at any beer festival.  I'm told there will be many classic style beers, but some will be pushing the envelope.  

If the time and location were more convenient for me, I would certainly be there.            

Mateh Yehuda Rustic Beer Festival -- Chani Ben-Yehuda, who is responsible for festivals and events at the Tzlilei Hakesem company, which organizers these events, told me that there is still no decision made on the date -- or even if there will be a festival this summer.  When I get more information, I will share it with you.