December 10, 2016

New Beers for the Winter

 (Photo: Mike Horton)                                           
With the colder weather closing in around us, it's time to think about beers which bring a warm glow to our hearts and bodies.  Winter beers are darker, fuller bodied, perhaps a bit sweeter and higher in alcohol than the beers we reach for on a hot, summer's day.     

Beer drinkers know that when the wind is howling and the thermometer falling, you might not want to reach for an ice-cold pale ale or a light lager which describes itself as "crisp and refreshing."  Choose instead a hearty bock beer, Belgian trippel or barley wine, a malty porter or stout, a spiced pumpkin, Oktoberfest or holiday ale, or even an alcohol-strong India pale ale (IPA). 

Now don't get me wrong.  You can happily drink any style beer any time of the year.  Pairing a beer with food, for example, doesn't depend on what the weather is doing outside.  But it's only natural that certain styles of beer, as with wine, lend themselves to the different seasons.

Laphroaig single malt Scotch whisky:
In the bottle and in the beer.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
There are a few new beers which are now available in liquor stores and beer specialty shops around the country which are especially suited for the coming winter season.  I suggest you take them out of the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before you drink them.  You certainly don't have to drink them ice cold, and their strong flavors will be enhanced as they warm up. 
Launching The Dictator
Whisky Beer, with two
of the three partners,
Yotam Baras (right) and
Tomer Goren (center).

(Photo: Mike Horton)

The Whisky Beer by The Dictator Brewery (using the facilities of the Mivshelet Ha'aretz in Kiryat Gat) is made with Laphroaig single malt Scotch whisky.  I was at the launch of this "special edition" beer in Tel Aviv, where Yotam Baras, one of The Dictator partners warned that we would "either love or hate" the smokiness which the whisky imparts to this beer.  He refused to reveal how much whisky is added to the Irish Red Ale base, but the final percentage of the beer is 6.9% -- strong but not extreme.

To tell the truth, I neither loved nor hated.  The Whisky Beer pours out a dark reddish-copper color with a thin head.  The aroma is of peaty smoke with some malt.  And of course, the smokiness is very distinct in the flavor, as you would find in a smoky single malt Scotch.  Yet, you don't really taste the whisky, just the smoke.  It's a very balanced and creamy beer; actually quite pleasant.  Like other smoky beers, this one pairs well with grilled food, including vegetables and mushrooms, and would be very interesting with caramel, chocolate or spicy desserts. 

I'm not sure how much longer this beer will be on the shelves, but I hope there will be some bottles left throughout the winter.  Be warned: Because of the added whisky, it costs around twice as much as regular craft beer, but it's worth it just to try. 

Herzl's new roggen weizen:
A Sort of Wheat.
Another beer for winter is aptly named A Sort of Wheat, from the Herzl Beer Workshop, the only commercial brewery in Jerusalem.  This is actually a wheat beer made with the addition of rye, and is known in German as roggen weizen.  The style itself is from the Middle Ages, and today it is very rarely brewed anywhere in the world.  (HeChalutz – "The Pioneer" – Brewery in Beersheva makes a delicious rye beer, but it is not a roggen weizen.  It's called HaTafsan – "The Catcher."  Can you guess why?)

The fancy bottle label was designed by Jerusalem tattoo artist Daniel Bulichev, and includes a hop flower and two stalks of grain -- rye and wheat. 

A Sort of Wheat is dark copper colored, darker than a typical wheat beer, and a bit stronger – 5.6% alcohol.  The aroma gives you some hops and sweet malt, but the flavors are very close to what you would expect from a wheat beer: banana-clove and some caramel.  Where's the rye?  I couldn't detect it in the flavor, but perhaps it makes itself felt in the fuller body, the wee sourness, and the dry finish. 

All-in-all, a good beer for those who want a wheat beer with a different twist.  A proud addition to the craft beers of the Start-Up Nation.   

The 2017 edition of
Jack's Winter Ale from Shapiro.
The newest winter beer is the 2017 version of Jack's Winter Ale from Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh.  This beer gets its special taste and body by being aged with oak chips soaked in bourbon whisky.  This is the sixth year that Shapiro is bringing out its annual Winter Ale, and fans of Israeli craft beers wait for its appearance at the start of every winter.

"Our recipe hasn't changed," says Itzik Shapiro, one of the brewery's partner-brothers.  "But every version has been a little different.  This is a strong beer that can be aged for a few months and it will only get mellower and more mature.  At 8.5% alcohol, it's definitely a sipping beer, not one for long, multiple-beer drinking sessions."

The 2017 Jack's Winter Ale pours out a beautiful red amber color with a thin tan head.  The aroma had roasted malt and some caramel.  The taste is very malty with spices; we detected cloves and pepper and a little bit of the whisky.  The beer is full-bodied and the finish is nicely spiced.
This is a great beer for any winter meal, especially foods with intense or spicy tastes, as well as pizza, aged cheeses, and rich, semi-sweet desserts.  After the meal, it's a beautiful warming dessert by itself.

I can recommend three other new beers for the winter which are available commercially, but I'll just name them here because I wrote about them in earlier posts:

Grizzly -- a double IPA from HaDubim ("The Bears") Brewery [written up here]
Happy Hour in Sodom -- a salty caramel porter from the Dancing Camel Brewery [written up here]
Nelson -- a black IPA from the Basha-Flom Brewery [written up here]

So as you hunker down for the winter, don't forget to stock up on some of these fine beers which will be welcome companions, at least until next spring.

November 30, 2016

2nd Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair

Leon Shvartz and Shmuel Naky, the two organizers of the Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair, took a chance by holding their second Fair in early November.  The first Fair, back in July (see here), was a pleasant success for the brewers, the visitors, and the organizers.  But that was during the warm Jerusalem summer nights, when you could walk around free of excess clothing and when nothing beats drinking cold beer.

Fair organizer Shmuel Naky (right):
"More visitors than we expected."

(Photo: Mike Horton)
But what about November, with cool nights, sweaters and the threat of wind and rain.

Shmuel told me that he and Leon were satisfied with the turnout.  "There were actually more visitors than we expected," he said.  "Israelis generally stay home if there's even a hint of winter in the air, but we saw that their thirst for craft beer was even greater."

Shmuel added that the beer stands were laid out more conveniently than at the first Fair.  Admission was free, the prices for glasses and tastes of the beers was kept low, and brewers were encouraged to introduce versions of "winter beers" for the event.

Two of Israel's best:
Ofer Ronen (left) of Srigim Brewery and
Rotem Bar Ilan of HaDubim.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
As you already know, I truly appreciate reconnecting with brewers and beer-lovers (and meeting new ones) anyplace and anytime.  But my reporter's antennae begin to quiver only when I'm around new beers, such as the winter beers which Shmuel mentioned.

Well, I did taste some beers brewed for the colder months of the year, but the problem is, you probably won't be able to.  Most of them were brewed only for the Fair and will not be going on the market, at least any time soon.

Proud of Nelson:
Basha-Flom Brewery's Omer Basha.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
One of the beers that is already available commercially is Nelson from the Basha-Flom Brewery in Beersheva.  This is a black IPA, a beer style that has been popular for a while in spite of the oxymoronic name.  (How can a beer be "black" and "pale" at the same time?)  It's not an easy beer to brew.  Several Israeli home-brewers have experimented with black IPAs, but the only other commercial version I know is Dark Matter from HaShachen Brewery in Netanya.  (Beertzinut Brewery on Kibbutz Ketura makes Layla, but it is not marketed commercially.)

Omer Basha and Dvir Flom have been brewing Nelson for more than a year, but until now it has only been available at festivals and other events.  It's named after Nelson Mandela, and not only because of its color.  Omer and Dvir have great admiration for the man and wanted to name a beer in his memory.

Omer proudly poured me a tasting cup of Nelson, a very thick, dark brown beer with a creamy tan head.  The aroma and the taste indicate the two characteristics of this beer: Semi-sweet chocolate from the dark roasted de-bittered malts, and citrus and pine from the all-American hops used.  This balance is very well maintained in Nelson.  In fact, it's like having two parallel beers in one, while keeping the separate tastes of each.  The finish is hoppy, bitter and dry.  The alcoholic content is 5.5%, much toned down from the original, non-commercial version which was 9%.

Hagai Fass of the Fass Brewhouse:
Two new beers for the Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The Fass Brewhouse on Kibbutz Geshur in the Golan Heights has been brewing the same three beers for as far as I remember: Lager, Wheat and Porter.  Now at the Fair, Hagai Fass, one of the partner-brothers, introduced me to two new beers they are brewing just for special events and for trying out in the Brewhouse.

The Scotch Ale is a successful attempt at this style; a sweet and strong (7.7% ABV), malty and caramel ale.  It's very warming, and you can feel the alcohol going down your throat.  A good beer for the cold and brawny highlands, including the Golan Heights and Jerusalem!

The Hoppy Beer was less impressive.  It did have hop bitterness, with sour citrus being dominant, but it needed more defined tastes to compete on the India Pale Ale, or even on the Pale Ale, market.  ABV is 6.2%.  Hagai admitted it was a "work in progress."

It was a pleasant surprise to see new Fass beers, and I hope they keep on experimenting and adding the best to their commercial repertoire.

Neil Churgin (left) of Beertzinut Brewery and
his son Perry were serving their beers,
while getting out the message to
"Grab Something Serious!"

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
Another new beer was from Beertzinut Brewery of Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava Valley.  Brewer Neil Churgin was unveiling his Smoked beer, a smoked pilsner with flavors of fruity malt and toned-down smokiness.  I enjoyed it very much, and I am not a big fan of smoked beers.

Neil is also marketing three other permanent beers with the Beertzinut ("Seriously") label which show imagination and nerve.

Cool Medjool -- smoked ale with date honey, made from Medjool dates grown on the kibbutz
Layla -- black IPA
Shlishia -- IPA

Currently, Beertzinut beers are only available in the Arava region, on kibbutzim close to Ketura, and at various beer festivals and events.  In Jerusalem, you can find them at the Beerateinu specialty store.        

Another beer from the Negev, Sderot to be exact, was The Terminator, a 9% weizenbock brewed by Tomer Ronen from HaDag HaLavan ("The White Fish") Brewery.  This is a strong German wheat ale style, with a darker color, stronger tastes and higher alcohol than regular wheat beer.  Weizenbock combines the traditional aromas and tastes of German weissbier (wheat beer) -- banana, cloves, vanilla -- with a strong malt base.  The Terminator also has tastes of sweet caramel and dark fruits.  It is indeed a delicious winter beer, and the most talked-about beer at the Fair, but it was brewed only for this occasion.        

Samuel's Highland's Moish Rubinstein:
Less kumquats.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
I also tasted two beers that were not new, but were "re-formulated," perhaps due to feedback from the beer-drinking public.  After all, why try to fix it if it ain't broken?

Moish Rubinstein was serving his unique Samuel's Highland beer, brewed with kumquats.  The name harks back to Moish's city, Givat Shmuel ("Samuel's Hill"), as well as his Scottish roots.  [Read more about this beer here.]  Although Moish told me that his new recipe includes less kumquats, I could not detect much of a difference.  This is still a good beer to try, with the kumquats adding bitterness and a citrusy aroma and taste.

Barzel's Yair Alon (right):
Different hops and Crystal malt.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Yair Alon, one of the brewers of Barzel Beer (brewed at the Mosco Brewery on Mosahav Zanoah near Beit Shemesh), also has changed his original recipe.  Different hop varieties and Crystal Malt are now being used.  I found that these gave the beer a sweeter and fuller flavor, but in a side-by-side taste-off, I preferred the original version.

In the end, I quite enjoyed trying new beers on this November evening.  I hope Leon Shvartz and Shmuel Naky will maintain their high standards and continue with more Jerusalem Craft Beer Fairs.    

November 14, 2016

Newbies at BEERS 2016 -- Part 2

Continued from Part 1, which you can read here.

Milk & Honey

Continuing my stroll around the stands at the BEERS 2016 Exhibit in Tel Aviv, I reached the Alexander Brewery, where all the buzz was about their new Milk & Honey, a collaborative dark and sweet beer made jointly with the Mikkeller Brewery in Copenhagen.

Alexander Brewery owner Ori Sagy (right)
greets friends at the BEERS 2016 Exhibit.

(Photo: David Silverman)
Mikkeller is actually a "gypsy brewery," which makes its very innovative beers in different breweries around the world.  Founder and owner Mikkel Borg Bjergso visited the Alexander Brewery a few months ago and worked with owner Ori Sagy. 

"We wanted to bring together our two distinct approaches to making beer," says Ori.  "In order to introduce Mikkel to our local colors and flavors, I took him on a tour of the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.  Then the idea hit us – a beer from the land of milk and honey!"   

Milk & Honey is a "milk stout" style beer, made with added lactose (milk sugar), honey and grated orange peel.  Alcohol content is a strong 8.4%.  Since lactose is not fermentable by beer yeast, which means the yeast cannot digest it, it stays sweet in the beer and adds body, creaminess – and calories.  In fact, beginning a hundred years ago, milk stouts were believed to be beneficial to nursing mothers because of their nutritious ingredients.    

Milk & Honey pours out a dark ruby brown with a thin, tan head.  The aroma is divine: burnt caramel, chocolate and coffee.  The taste is very sweet of malt, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and some orange which gives a little bitterness to the finish. 

Milk & Honey may be too sweet to have alongside food, but it would make a lovely "dessert beer," perhaps with a strong cup of coffee, or something to enjoy just by itself. 

Another thing: The label says that this beer is "Dairy" due to the lactose.  However, there are some rabbis who maintain that the production of lactose removes it so far from its milk origins that it is no longer considered dairy.  So, for those who do not eat meat and dairy together, you might want to get your local rabbi's opinion before having this beer with or after a meat meal.

Malka SMaSH

Along with its regular repertoire of beers, Malka Brewery from Kibbutz Yechiam was unveiling their new SMaSH beer -- Single Hop and Single Malt.  I had a chance to talk with Asaf Lavie, who is the owner of the brewery along with his brother Dan.  
Asaf Lavie talks Malka Beer with
the old blogger at the BEERS 2016 Exhibit.  

Asaf told me that the single malt in their SMaSH is Pilsner, and the single hop is Summit.  "We made this beer for the BEERS Exhibit," he said.  "But we will be making other SMaSH beers, each time with a different hop variety.  They probably won't be available in bottles, but only on tap at our own brewpub and elsewhere."  In Jerusalem, Malka SMaSH is now available from the tap at Beerateinu.

The Malka SMaSH I tasted at the Exhibit had plenty of lemon and some grapefruit in the aroma and the flavor.  The balance between the one hop and the one malt was excellent.  It was very carbonated and with medium bitterness.  

Asaf also took the opportunity to tell me that Malka Brewery will be moving into new 1,500 square meter facilities next year, giving them the capacity of brewing 40 hectoliters (4,000 liters) of four different beers at one time.

"In July 2016, we produced the same amount of beer as we did in all of 2011," he added proudly.  "But we still have to reach and educate much higher numbers of beer drinkers about craft beer."

Tzor Beer

Tzor is a home brewery on Moshav Liman (named after the late U.S, Senator Herbert Lehman) in the Western Galilee that has been making beer for six months.  Itai Dahan, the entrepreneur and brewer, told me that he rented a stand at the BEERS Exhibit because he wanted to bring his beers to the public's attention as soon as possible.  "The reactions were excellent," he said.  "It encourages us to continue and to expand."
Tzor Wheat and Pale Ale,
nicely branded,
from Moshav Liman.

In the meantime, however, Itai brews by himself ("with the encouragement of my whole family") and his beers are not yet sold in stores or restaurants, only at festivals, of which there are none in sight at the present time.  He makes two beers on a regular basis -- a Pale Ale and a Wheat -- and was also serving an IPA made only for the BEERS Exhibit.  

The Pale Ale is indeed a very pale color, with a reddish hue.  My drinking partner Moshe remarked that it had "a fresh aroma, like the morning dew."  I wouldn't go that far, but I was happy with the flower and fruit aromas, as well as the citrusy and yeasty tastes.  Unfortunately, I felt the bitterness overpowered those flavors.  Moshe also found the body too thin.  "They should have used less liquid," he commented. 

I didn't try the Wheat Beer, but the IPA had a sweet and fruity aroma from the hops.  The flavor was moderately bitter with notes of citrus and malt.  I noted that I was not too impressed.  I've come to expect more defined and bold flavors in my IPAs.  

So, good luck to Itai and his Tzor Beer.  I congratulate him on his courage to plunge so soon into the world of public beer events, but there is room for learning and improvement.

Home Brews   

At the home-brewers table, I had the chance to taste three beers, and as (my) luck would have it, they all went on to win first place in their categories (one was even Best-in-Show!) in the Sam Adams Longshot home-brewers competition, whose winners were announced on the last night of the BEERS Exhibit.

Yonatan Bendett from Ramat Gan was serving his Stout beer. which won the gold in the Dark Ale category.  It was a good classic stout.

Nearby, newlyweds Shai and Lilach Nutman from Hadera were pouring their home-brew, which they call King's Beer.  I tasted the Wheat Beer, which won first-place in that category.  It was a very fruity wheat with a strong 6.7% alcoholic content.

Next over was Adam Souriano from Yehud, who has been brewing his Joya-labeled beers for around five years.  Adam is also one of the first of a small number of Israelis who are experimenting with growing their own hops.  
Adam Souriano and fiance Bar Birenberg,
holding Joya's awards and award-winning beers.

I tasted the Joya Dragon's Kiss, a big and beautiful Russian imperial stout made with cacao nibs (fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao beans), Ancho chili peppers and fresh coconut.  It is aged one year in oak barrels and has an ABV of 12.8%, very close to wine.  All those flavors are noticeable: The roasted chocolate and coconut are delicious together, and you feel the chilies in your throat on the way down.  Other taste notes include vanilla, dark fruits and a slightly salty finish.  Like other extreme beers, this is not to be quaffed lightly.  Enjoy it in sips as you would a good cordial or liqueur.  If you want to pair it with food, choose only dishes with the strongest flavors, or strong cheeses, or dark chocolate desserts.

Tsar Peter the Great:
Loved his imperial stout.
Some history buffs will tell you that Russian imperial stouts were first brewed in England for shipping to the royal court of the tsar.  They loved this powerful beer in the heart of the Russian winter.  Who wouldn't?  Russian imperial stouts are usually dark red-brown to pitch black, and the malt aromas and tastes are complex, with coffee and dark chocolate often predominating, and perhaps also dark fruits.  The body is very full, with a smooth texture and alcohol warmth. 

Dragon's Kiss won first place in the Free-Style category and overall Best-in-Show -- a well-deserved recognition of the skill and dedication of brewer Adam Souriano.  In addition, his George's IPA took third place in the Pale Ale division.

"We used a Russian recipe for our imperial stout," Adam told me, "including Zurich lager yeast because it can survive in an alcohol environment of up to 14%."  (Most other yeasts are killed by the same alcohol they produce at a much lower percentage, and can therefore not be used to brew high-alcoholic beers like imperial stouts.)

Unfortunately, you can't buy Dragon's Kiss, or any other Joya beer for that matter, anywhere.  Adam only brews his beers for family and friends, and the occasional festival.

"However," he added, "these awards in the Sam Adams Longshot competition encouraged me to think about going commercial.  My heart is close to beer, but my profession now is film-making and, to tell the truth, it includes a work schedule which doesn't sit well with brewing.  I would have to choose.  We'll have to see."

I leave the choice to Adam, but I have no doubt that Joya Beers on the market would be a marvelous addition to the Israeli craft beer scene.

October 31, 2016

2nd Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair -- This week

Proving you can't have too much of a good thing, or if it works, don't fix it, the organizers of the Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair are holding their autumn edition this week, Wednesday, November 2, and Thursday, November 3.  The first Fair was held last July in the same location, the First Station, the old Turkish railroad station on David Remez Street.  You can't beat that for ambiance, convenience, and good restaurants all around you.

The Fair opens at 6:00 p.m. and entrance is free.  The beer will be sold at "discounted" prices for tastes and full glasses.  Brewing lessons and demonstrations will be held throughout the event.  Organizer Shmuel Naky of Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center (which is sponsoring the Fair), says that new winter beers will be unveiled for the first time -- something that has me very interested.

The following craft breweries will be selling their beers:

Emek Ha'ela
Samuel's Highland
The Dictator
HaDag HaLavan

I enjoyed it the first time -- small, intense, and lots of good beers a few steps away from each other -- and I hope this fledging tradition will continue.  Even though the possibility of rain is being predicted for Wednesday night, I plan to be there.  Hope to see you too!    

October 26, 2016

Newbies at BEERS 2016 -- Part 1

Few would dispute that the premier beer event in Israel is the annual BEERS Exhibit in Tel Aviv.  It brings together the mightiest of Israeli and international brewers, Israeli micro-breweries of all sizes, and even home-brewers who care enough to to bring their beers to the public's attention (and can afford to rent space).
(Photo: David Silverman) 

This year was the sixth BEERS Exhibit and it was held at the Train Station (Hatachana) in the Neveh Tzedek neighborhood.  About 200 different beers were available for the visitors.  This year I made a conscious decision not to try them all.  

I was an invited guest, but due to my general inability to time things accurately, I arrived at the Station before the official opening, earlier than the invitees were told to show up.  That actually gave me time to walk around while folks were still setting up, and to begin what I had come for:

     1) To have a good time;
     2) To dig up some news for my curious readers;
     3) To find and taste some new beers which are coming to market.

The Exhibit was well laid out, with all sizes of stands for brewers and importers, food vendors (although more thought should have been given for those beer enthusiasts who do not eat animals), and a stage for musical performances.
(Photo: David Silverman) 

An interesting innovation was a kind of "time-sharing" table for home-brewers.  The table was large enough to hold five of them, and each one rented a place for about two hours.  Thus in the course of each evening, 15 home-brewers poured their beers; 45 over the three days of the Exhibit.

Now, on to the beer!

Writers like to be on the lookout for trends, but to tell the truth, this time I didn't see any.  There were many new beers unveiled at the Exhibit, some headed for general distribution, others only for the event.  But they represented different styles, with no clear advantage going to hop-forwards, malt-forwards, wheats, Belgians, lights or darks.


Rotem Bar-Ilan pumping the first glass of
Grizzly Double IPA for the old blogger
at BEERS 2016.
The first new beer I tried was Grizzly, a re-issued Double IPA from HaDubim ("The Bears") Brewery, which is making a comeback after being closed for about a year.  Brother-owners Rotem and Dagan Bar-Ilan are now brewing their beers at the Mivshelet Ha'aretz ("The Land Brewery") in Kiryat Gat, originally used by Negev Beer and now owned by the Beer Bazaar chain of pubs, which brews its own line of beers there.    

Grizzly is a good name for this aggressive IPA.  Alcohol by volume is a powerful 8.6%, and it is loaded with Simcoe, Summit and Chinook hops which produce a whopping 100 IBU (International Bitterness Units).  Color is a hazy amber-orange with a very thin white head and very light carbonation.  The fruit and spice hop aroma alone will knock your socks off.  Flavors include citrus and tropical fruits, especially mango, and caramel.  We liked the playing off of these sweet fruits with the extreme bitterness of the hops.  The finish is very dry and bitter.  If this is how you like your beers, you should give Grizzly a try. 

Last month, the HaDubim guys introduced their first two new beers since they restarted brewing:

The Doctor is an American pale ale with a grassy and citrusy hop aroma.  This is a very bitter beer, from the start to the finish, but the light body and low alcoholic content (4.8%) make it a refreshing summer beer, even when you're having more than one.

The India pale ale is named Phoenix, in honor, of course, of the brewery's resurrection.  It pours out a lovely reddish-orange color, quite cloudy, and has an aroma of pine, citrus and other fruits.  In the taste, the fruits and citrus take a back seat to the strong bitterness, although Phoenix has a good malt backbone as well.  At 6.3% alcohol, it is a well-balanced IPA, bitter as it should be and with a dry finish.

It's good to have The Bears back on the Israeli craft beer scene.  They have brewed some wonderful beers in the past, and after their auspicious return, we should expect some more in the future. 

Happy Hour in Sodom        

The Dancing Camel's David Cohen (right)
shares a beer with Jeremy Welfeld
of Jem's Beer Factory.

(Photo: David Silverman)
What a name for Dancing Camel's new beer!  Happy Hour in Sodom -- a salty caramel porter.  This is the Israeli version of a collaborative beer that owner David Cohen made with the Schoppe Bräu brewery in Berlin.  In both cases, salt from the Dead Sea is used to balance the chocolate and caramel sweetness of the malt. 

Happy Hour is a very dark brown color with a mild chocolate aroma.  Surprisingly, all of the flavors in this 6% ABV beer are subdued.  It's not like eating a chocolate-covered pretzel that is very sweet and very salty.  Even though the flavors are much more subtle, the balance is maintained.  In fact, I would have preferred to have the flavors more pronounced.  Nevertheless, this is a very enjoyable beer that manages to twist your tastes in different directions.      

Madam Cornerie

Ofer Ronen of Srigim Brewery (makers of Ronen Beer and Emek Ha'ela Beer) introduced me to Madam Cornerie, a private label beer sold only on tap at the La Cornerie coffee bar and pub in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market.  I was ecstatic.  Of all the beer joints in all the towns in all the world, Madam Cornerie walks into the Machane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem!      
Madam Cornerie makes her appearance at the
Srigim Brewery stand at BEERS 2016.

(Photo: David Silverman) 
Madam Cornerie is a cousin of Emek Ha'ela's Belgian Tripel beer, normally brewed at 9.2% ABV, ratcheted up slightly to 9.5% ABV.  When I drank it in its natural environment, the shuk, I had to contend with wafts of cigarette smoke and a competing panorama of fragrances.  Still, the aroma of this Belgian-style beer came through loud and clear: malt and chocolate.  The mouthfeel is smooth and full bodied, with the taste of caramel and alcohol.  

In fact, that's my one little gripe with this beer.  I prefer my alcohol in beer to be felt but not tasted.  Other than that, Madam Cornerie is a fine Belgian tripel.  So if you find yourself in Machane Yehuda and have a hankering for a beer not available anywhere else in the city -- or in the country, for that matter -- stop into La Cornerie (Etz HaChaim Street) and order a "Madam."

To be continued . . .    

October 5, 2016

The 2016 Jerusalem Beer Festival: Fun, but not much new

It's always good to make new friends
at the Jerusalem Beer Festival.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
I should really write about the 2016 Jerusalem Beer Festival, which took place this year as August met September.  After all, it is on my home turf.  Impresario Eli Giladi and his team of organizers are efficient, courteous, welcoming, and treat me like semi-royalty.  I run into a lot of friends and neighbors, and the ambiance is redolent with beer and good times.

Yes, for the average beer drinker who is hopefully taking his or her first steps towards appreciating craft beer, this is a great event.  Even though Big Beer, both Israeli-brewed and imported, is conspicuously represented, there are also many stands of local micro-brewers where you can get generous tastes and patient explanations on what craft beer is all about.

With the very sane Reuben Beiser,
co-owner of the wonderful Mike's Place
restaurant and bar in Jerusalem.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
But for your somewhat jaded old blogger, there was almost nothing new.  Most of the major craft breweries that I -- and hopefully also you -- know and love were there, serving there regular line of beers.  It's always a pleasure for me to meet the brewers and take a picture with them -- but is that something I should be writing about?  

With my 20/20 (or 6/6) hindsight, I can see now that what the brewers did was wait a few weeks and unveil their new beers at the BEERS 2016 Exhibit in Tel Aviv -- of which you'll read more about at a later date.

Sharing a laugh with Gilad Ne-Eman
of HeChalutz Brewery.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
But getting back to Jerusalem, there were a few new, or renewed, beers that I was able to find.  For example, Almost 10, a strong, dark Belgian-style ale from Gilad Ne-Eman of the HeChalutz ("The Pioneer") Brewery in Beersheva (which I already wrote about here).  Don't look for Almost 10 in your favorite liquor store.  It was made for this festival, and I guess for other such events as well.

Yochai Maytal of HeChatzer Brewery ("Back Yard Beer") in Ra'anana was serving his re-issued Kruzo, an American pale ale made with barley and wheat malts and mango puree.  The beer is named after Robinson Crusoe (who presumably ate mangoes on his deserted island), but the brewers chose to spell the English name differently.  HeChatzer uses the facilities of the Srigim Brewery to make this beer in commercial quantities.

Head-to-head with Yochai Maytal,
partner in the HeChatzer Brewery.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Kruzo hasn't been on the shelves for about two years, and it's return is welcomed back.  I love the taste of mango, but to tell the truth, I couldn't find it in this beer, nor could my astute drinking companion Moshe.  What we did get were grassy and tropical fruit aromas.  The fruits are also in the taste, dominated by guava.  Quite flavorful, but not really the mango I was looking for.  Perhaps it's the mango that adds a sweet counter-balance to the plentiful amounts of Citra and Magnum hops which are used in this beer.

Herzl Beer partner Maor Helfman served me
a glass of his amazing Embargo Porter,
brewed with Cuban tobacco leaves.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
Even without a strong mango presence, this is a delicious beer, light and refreshing (5.3% alcohol), perfect for a summer's day, by itself or with food.  Any spicy dishes, or light desserts which would go well with some added fruit flavor -- like pancakes, cheesecake and mild cheeses -- would be nicely complemented (and complimented) by Kruzo.

Another newcomer was a Rye IPA from the Golan Brewery in Katzrin.  This beer was also made only for festivals, but Golan Brewery head Moti Bar told me that it may be made available to the public at a later date under their specialty Og label.  

Chatting with the always amiable Eli Bechar
of Lela Brewery of Maccabim.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
This Rye IPA pours out a dark amber color with aromas of spice and caramel.  You can taste the spicy rye, which I appreciate, along with pine and sweet malt, but I wonder why they call this an IPA.  It simply does not have the hop presence and bitterness associated with this style.  Still in all, an enjoyable drink. There are not too many Israeli beers made with rye malt. 

I'm sorry you have to look at the old blogger in every one of the photos here, but I think you can tell that I was having a good time.  Maybe at the next Jerusalem Beer Festival, some of the brewers will choose to unveil their new beers.          

September 25, 2016

Four more Oktoberfests. Enough!

Okay, this is it.  My last mention of "Oktoberfests" in Israel.  For years, we were having our own beer festivals without having to copy the name and the style of the German prototype, however attractive it may be.  And, by the way, for several years, the native Münchner and the tourists have been complaining that the Munich Oktoberfest, which is now underway, has become horribly overcrowded, ridiculously expensive, and marred by drunken loutish behavior. 

Jerusalem Beer Garden Oktoberfest

Having said this, the Beer Garden in Jerusalem (first mentioned here) is holding its own week-long Oktoberfest from September 25 to October 1, opening every day at 3:00 p.m.  It's a natural setting, since Oktoberfests have traditionally been held in beer gardens, or under big tents anyway.  This one is located in the First Station, the refurbished old Ottoman-era train station. 

Although the Beer Garden will have all of its regular beers on tap, the Oktoberfest is sponsored by the three Bavarian brewers of Lowenbrau, Erdinger and Spaten.  Whoever buys three 400 ml. glasses of these beers will get an (empty) one liter glass as a gift.  Other beer glassware will also be on sale. 

In addition to the pub grub available at the Beer Garden, there will be free snacks on every table.  Admission is free.

Oktoberfest at Tel Aviv's Eastern Fairgrounds

The Eastern Fairgrounds (Yareed HaMizrach) near the Tel Aviv Port will be the site of another Oktoberfest on Tuesday, September 27, and Wednesday, September 28.  This one is sponsored by Weihenstephan, the giant Bavarian state-owned brewery, reportedly the oldest still-operating brewery in the world!  This is certainly impressive, but it also means that you shouldn't expect to drink any craft beers at this party.  There will be the usual Bavarian delicacies and live music.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and admission is free.         

Israel Oktoberfest in Herzliya Pituach

The Herliya Pituach Oktoberfest will be held October 5 and 6 on the rooftop of the Business Park (Azrieli Outlet Center) at 85 Medinat Hayehudim Street. 

This one seems to be organized by the same company that organized last week's Rehovot Oktoberfest, since the logo and all the features are the same: An alcohol area with German beers and Bavarian food (restricted to those over 18) and a gaming and activities area for the whole family.  Live German music, which I guess means the polka, will also fill the air.  
Admission is free and open to the public until 8:30 p.m.; after that, only to those over 18.

Here again, don't expect any craft beers, since the event is sponsored by the giant Paulaner Brewery in Munich.

Alexanderfest in Emek Hefer

Something a little different will take place on Thursday, October 20, at the Alexander Brewery in the Emek Hefer Industrial Area, 19 Zvi Hanachal Street.  

They're calling this the "Alexanderfest" and the entire street in front of the brewery will be closed off and turned into a giant beer garden at 5:00 p.m.  The regular line of Alexander Beers will be served, priced at 35 shekels for a half-liter -- and you get to keep the glass.  Refills are only 15 shekels.  Bottles of Alexander Beer for bringing home will be sold at special prices.  There will be stands for hot dogs and other food, as well as performances of live music, Israeli not German. 

Entrance is free to children under 12 accompanies by their parents.  But if you're older than that, you have to pay 40 shekels.  Since the number of places is limited, Alexander founder and owner Ori Sagy suggests you buy tickets online at a special Headstart site.  For details, go to  (It's in Hebrew.)  

At least the Alexanderfest has Israeli craft beer as its main attraction, rather than foreign imports.  Nevertheless, even the several imported Oktoberfests that are taking place around the country offer a pleasant day or evening out with beer, food, music and Gemütlichkeit.  Maybe we can even keep them more attractive and less vulgar than the original. 

September 18, 2016

Discount coupon to this week's BEERS 2016 Exhibit in Tel Aviv

The monumental BEERS 2016 Exhibit takes place this week, Tuesday, September 20, to Thursday, September 22, at the Train Station (HaTachana) in Tel Aviv's Neve Tzedek neighborhood.  It opens every day at 6:00 p.m.

It's by far the biggest celebration of beer in Israel.  Over 200 beers will be available, including a slew of new beers from Israeli micro-brewers and new imported beers.  Of course, there's food and entertainment -- but beer is definitely on center stage here.  To tease our senses, the organizers are promising a cannabis beer, an Israeli-Danish collaboration beer, a beer made with Scotch whisky, Palestinian beer, beers made just for this exhibit, micro-breweries displaying their wares for the first time, and a whopping number of new India pale ales -- apparently now becoming the most popular beer style in Israel, as it is in many other countries.

You get the picture.  If you're anywhere in Israel and you love beer, it's probably worth the trip to Tel Aviv.          

Regular admission is 70 shekels, but you can get a discount coupon which will get you in for only 50 shekels.  You have to act by the end of tomorrow, Monday, September 19, to you get your discount coupon.  Here's what you have to do:  Go to the BEERS Facebook page at

and share the coupon (that's what it looks like above) with your Facebook friends.  When you get to the BEERS ticket office, show them your shared post on your smartphone.  (Yeah, I'm afraid you have to have one of those.  If you don't, maybe you can use a friend's, but it should be on your Facebook page.)  That should work to get you the 20 shekel discount.

I'm going on Tuesday, the 20th.  If you see me, please step up and say hello.  I love it when a plan comes together.