November 24, 2015

The old blogger's beer lecture

I think more people came to taste the beer than to listen to my lecture, but so what?  From the reaction of the crowd (all 30 of them), everybody had a good time, including me.

Drinking beer and listening to the old blogger:
What a treat!

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The lecture was given last week at the Conservative Center in Jerusalem.  (That's Conservative Judaism, not a local branch of the Tea Party.)  The event was a personal triumph for me, your old blogger.  My forte, such as it is, has always been in writing -- printed communication -- not speaking in public.

There's this scene from "Shakespeare in Love," just before the premiere of Romeo & Juliet.  The narrator is a stutterer who can't get a sentence out.

Will Shakespeare says, "We're lost."  The director answers him, "No, it'll work out."  Shakespeare asks, "How?"  The director says, "I don't know, but it always does."

Beer-drinking pharaohs.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Well, it also worked out fine for me.  I quickly traced the origins of beer at the dawn of grain domestication, through the great civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and the Nile.  Beer was a necessity of life in those regions; less so in the Land of Canaan and Israel, where we had bountiful grapes and wine as well.  

I showed that beer ("sheichar" in Hebrew) is mentioned several times in the Bible and the Talmud, where the early rabbis discuss under what conditions it can be imbibed and for which religious ceremonies it can be used.  I then jumped to the modern period, when beer began to be brewed in the British Mandate of Palestine, and the consolidation of two huge industrial breweries in the State of Israel.

Pouring craft beer for the tasting.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
I concluded with the flowering of Israeli micro-breweries only in the last decade.  Although they account for only a minute proportion of all the beer consumed in Israel, they provide Israelis with the impressive range of aromas and tastes of quality craft beers.  And they provide me with all I need for writing this modest web log.

At the end of my lecture (which is why nobody left in the middle), we tasted four beers.  The first was an industrial beer, the Maccabee 7.9%, because I wanted the audience to experience the taste (or non-taste) of the big beers.  Well, they actually liked it!  And, to tell the truth, it is not at all bad, as far as industrial beers go.

Leading the tasting session.
(Photo: Mike Horton) 
We then tasted three very different craft beers, which had been generously donated by the brewers:

Bavarian Wheat from Emek Ha'ela (Srigim Brewery)
IPA . . vaZeh from Herzl Beer
Porter Alon from the Negev Brewery

I encouraged the audience members to shout out their reactions to the aromas and tastes of the new beers.  Many were tasting craft beers for the first time and registered their surprise and delight.  Others, conditioned for years by drinking only industrial lagers, found the flavors too intense.  That's what makes the world go round.    

Iron Age beer drinking jug.
(Slide: Mike Horton)
I would like to thank the esteemed graphic artist and photographer Mike Horton for preparing the 15 slides which accompanied my talk, and my son Aharon the archaeologist for borrowing an authentic early Iron Age Philistine beer jug which I displayed and demonstrated to the audience.  

Thanks also to my friend Bob Faber and my wife Trudy, who poured the cold beer and kept it flowing to the audience.  We gave out printed matter from the breweries, my own blog cards, and malted barley for people to eat so they would know where beer comes from.

Special thanks as well to Rabbi Ed Romm of the Conservative Center for including me in his Monday Evening Forum schedule.  

It was such a high, I may want to do it again. 


  1. Sorry I didn't hear about it. Hope I can catch the next one. Anyway let's get together for a brew sometime.

  2. This post was chosen to be included in the very latest roundup of  Jewish and Israeli Blog Posts, aka Havel Havelim, which now comes out every few weeks. Please visit, comment and share thanks. And you're very welcome to get more involved in the Jewish blogging community.


Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!