December 20, 2015

Moish Rubinstein's new beer: Making a Highland out of a Hill

My friend Moish Rubinstein took the leap from beer blogger, beer reviewer and beer aficionado to beer brewer.  It took guts.  The kind of guts that made America great . . .  wait, that's for a different audience.

Moish writes "the other English blog" on Israeli beer, called Beer Israel (, in which he offers reviews and comments on Israeli craft beers and breweries.  If you don't know it, it's worth checking out.  Moish knows Israeli beers.    

The other night, he launched his own beer, Samuel's Highland, at a party in the Tarlach pub in Petach Tikva.  He calls it a "Zion Pale Ale," which is as good as any other designation.

The beer's name comes from Moish's town of Givat Shmuel, near Ramat Gan and B'nei Brak, which translates accurately as "Samuel's Hill."  The "Highland" part is more of a poetic flourish harking back to Moish's own Scottish heritage.

"My family came from Scotland," he told me, "even though I was born in Liverpool and raised in Manchester."        

Moish Rubinstein and his wife Bat-Chen
at the launch party for his new beer:
Moish should have been wearing the kilt!
Moish is keeping his day job as a consultant to start-up financial broker companies, even as he moves from passive observer and writer to active commercial brewer.  This is worthy of praise and, to tell the truth, is what keeps people young.

Why take this step?, is what I asked Moish.  This was his answer:

"1) Being a blogger made me a believer in the culture of craft beer, and I want to be a part of it.

"2) Grass-roots brewing means that you want others to enjoy your beer, and I can reach more people if I sell it commercially.

"3) Israel is the most natural place in the world to be a beer-brewing entrepreneur.  It was the 'start-up nation' mentality that made me do it.  That mentality is paramount in this country.  It's what makes everything tick -- from the kibbutz to hi-tech to craft breweries.  

"4) In Great Britain, where I grew up, craft beers are very geographical and local, expressing pride in your home area.  Samuel's Highland tries to do that.  The name honors the founder of Givat Shmuel, Samuel Pineles (1843-1928), a great philanthropist and Zionist.  The kumquats which I use in the brewing come from the parks in Givat Shmuel."

Kumquats: Sweet on the
outside, bitter on the inside.
Yes, you read that right.  Samuel's Highland is one of the only beers in the world which is flavored with kumquats, those little yellow oval-shaped fruits with the edible skins.  In fact, according to Moish, it's the skin which imparts a sweetness to the beer, while the inside fruit pulp gives it notes of tangy bitterness.

The beer's base is an American pale ale, to which Moish adds whole kumquats during the boil.  This draws the sweet oils out of the peel.  Then during the cooling process, the kumquats are crushed, allowing the bitter, citrusy juice to enter the recipe.

The kumquats are also used a third time, but Moish is keeping this a secret.

Samuel's Highland beer pours out an opaque copper color with very low carbonation.  The citrus aroma from the hops and the kumquats is delicious (if a smell can be called "delicious").  The first taste is rather mellow, continuing with the fruit theme, but then the sharp bitterness hits.  That's what raises your eyebrows.  The finish is dry and bitter.

For sure, this was an unexpected beer, very different from the styles you find in most craft breweries.
 The kumquats really add a unique set of aromas and flavors.  I go back to Ernest Hemingway who said, in so many words, if you're just going to make a copy of something else, why bother?

Samuel's Highland is nobody's copy.  It's a good beer to have if you want to try something different.  In the meantime, it's available only in shops in Givat Shmuel and environs, and in the beer specialty stores in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  But Moish plans to bring his beer to more and more people, and if anyone can do it, he can.  

December 13, 2015

Beer Bazaar comes to Jerusalem

Jerusalem must have done something right.  A few weeks after the opening of the Beerateinu beer specialty store on Yanai Street, a branch of the Beer Bazaar from Tel Aviv has opened in the Machane Yehuda market.

The new Beer Bazaar in Jerusalem opens right
onto the covered street in the Machane Yehuda market.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Located in the covered Etz Chaim Street, just before the corner of Jaffa Road, the Beer Bazaar offers retail sales of over 70 Israeli craft beers in bottles, 9 taps of Israeli craft beers (on a rotating basis), cold bottles of beer, and a compact kosher meat menu.  There are also two taps for cold brewed coffee by Yoni Alpert.  One is regular, the other is nitrogen carbonated, which make it smooth as silk and hides the caffeine punch.  The other night, the Beer Bazaar was selling a "Red Eye Special," which is half stout beer and half nitro cold brewed coffee, guaranteed to keep you on your toes through the night.         

"We have over 70 beers now, but we're always adding more," said Avi Moskowitz, one of the four partners of the Beer Bazaar.  "We are going to reach 100, representing some 20 Israeli craft breweries."

Jerusalem partner Avi Moskowitz sits by the
draft beer menu and the shelves of
Israel craft bottled beer.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Avi is the only one of the partners who lives in Jerusalem, so he's the one you'll probably see when you visit the Beer Bazaar.  The other partners are Lior Weiss, Gilad Heyman and Eitan Falk.

Avi told me that opening a beer bar in Machane Yehuda was an "old dream come true.  I wanted a place where people of all kinds would sit together, drink beer, eat something and chat. I didn't believe I'd do it, and everyone around me said I was crazy. But for me, the market is the place to try.  There's a lot of movement here, and curious people, and it works." 

I call the Beer Bazaar a "cozy" pub.  In the daytime, there's room for about 10 seats around the bar, where you can have some beer and a light meal.  As night falls, tables are set up in the pedestrian street, and the Beer Bazaar joins the other bars, pubs and restaurants that have made Machane Yehuda a thriving center of Jerusalem night life.  New ones seem to be opening every month.

Beer Bazaar is selling draft beers at 23 shekels for a third of a liter, 29 shekels for a half, and 55 shekels for a whole liter.  Nothing like a liter of beer of beer to keep you warm on a Jerusalem winter's night -- or at least where you don't really care how cold it gets.  Cold bottles of beer are 26 shekels each.  

Avi Moskowitz and the old blogger
sample a "flight" of four different beers.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
For those who want to taste several beers, Beer Bazaar offers "flights" of four 200 ml. (7 ounce) glasses of different beers for 45 shekels.  A nice way to go, if you ask me.

The retail bottles off the shelf are 14 shekels each.  Six-packs are 69 shekels until the end of the year, when they go up to 79.

The menu has around six meat and fish dishes, plus two vegetarian dishes and two desserts.

Avi Moskowitz adds: "I feel like my years of experience in hi-tech and marketing, which I loved, and my experiences and failures, led me to where I am today, that I've found my mission.  My principle is always to keep going no matter what's happening. And the Machane Yehuda market, which always manages to move on after difficult events, is the place that proves it's possible."

The "cozy" Beer Bazaar in Jerusalem.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
It's hard to overestimate what the opening of the Beer Bazaar means to the Jerusalem craft beer scene
-- and to our pub culture in general.  Together with the recently opened Beerateinu, Jerusalemites now have places where craft beer is the main event, where they have a wide choice of beers to enjoy both on- and off-premises.

Two months ago, Jerusalem beer lovers traveled to Tel Aviv to stock up.  Today, they can hop down town.

December 2, 2015

Herzl Brewery chosen to make collaborative beer in Germany

When Bernhard Purin, Director of the Jewish Museum in Munich, and Conrad Seidl, the "Beer Pope" of Austria, visited Israel last summer, they met with several Israeli craft breweries.  Their mission: to choose one which would brew a collaborative beer with a German brewery, in honor of a new exhibition to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, Germany's and perhaps the world's first beer purity law.

(You can refresh your memory here.)

Well, after three months, a winner has been chosen: Herzl Beer of Jerusalem.

Conrad Seidl (left) and Bernhard Purin meet
Maor Helfman at the Herzl Beer booth
last summer at the Jerusalem Beer Festival.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Bernhard and Conrad liked Herzl beers from the start, which they called flavorful and innovative.  They especially appreciated Embargo, a 6.7% ABV porter flavored with Cuban tobacco leaves.  On his "Beer of the Week" blog, Conrad said of the tobacco, "it's better to drink it than to smoke it."  (You can see the video in English here.)

Herzl's other regular beers are:

IPA . . v'Zeh -- A 7% India pale ale.
Shesh Achuz Kapara – A mild, red, British-inspired ale, 6% ABV.
Dolce de Asal – A strong (8%) Scottish style ale made with honey and spice.
Bira Levana (White Beer) -- A 4.9% "steam beer" (California common), made with lager yeast and fermented at ale temperatures.

The old blogger visited Herzl Beer to meet
brewers Itai Gutman (left) and Maor Helfman.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Maor Helfman, one of the founding partners of Herzl Beer, told me:  "We were really excited to learn that our brewery was chosen to represent Israel in this historic project.  The opportunity to work with our counterparts in Germany is amazing and gives us a great source of pride."

Maor and partner Itai Gutman will fly to Munich next year to begin working on this project.

The Israeli-German brew will be introduced in April 2016 at the Munich Jewish Museum at an exhibit called "Beer is the Wine of this Land: Jewish Brewery Tales."  The exhibit will honor the important role Jews played in the beer industry and hop trade, starting in ancient Israel, through the Torah and Talmud, and then dealing with Jewish hop traders, brewers and brewery owners in Munich, and ending with the recent flowering of craft beers in Israel.

The bi-national beer will be on sale at the Museum restaurant and in selected bars and shops in Munich. 

The Bavarian Collaborators:
Mario Hanl and Timm Schnigula
in their new Crew Republic
brewery near Munich.
The German craft brewery chosen for the project is the Crew Republic in Unterschleissheim near Munich.  In only five years, partners Mario Hanl and Timm Schnigula have earned a reputation in Germany for their excellent beers. 

Regarding the collaborative beer, Purin explained that the 500-year-old Reinheitsgebot is still basically the law of the land in Germany.  "This means that beer can only be made with water, grain, hops and yeast.  No other additives of flavorings are permitted.

"This is a special challenge for the Israeli brewers, since Herzl and many other Israeli craft beers use extra ingredients which add flavor and depth.

"It will be a fascinating mission for the two breweries to bring the taste of Israel and the taste of Bavaria into one bottle," said Purin.

To me, it's also very emotional that two young Israelis and two young Germans, born of the same generation, will be working together to make one great beer.  And if you can't get to Munich to taste it, you'll be able to rely on the old blogger's review.  The good Lord willing, I plan to be in Munich for the opening of the exhibit.   

The exhibit, "Beer is the Wine of this Land: Jewish Brewery Tales," will run at the Munich Jewish Museum from April 13, 2016, through January 3, 2017, in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot.