September 7, 2016

Premiers at the Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair

The first Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair opened the capital's summer beer season in mid-July.  This was a private venture by Leon Shvartz and Shmuel Naky, the partners of Beerateinu, the "Jerusalem Beer Center."  They wanted to give micro-breweries a chance to bring their beers to the public space in a sociable setting, undisturbed by Israel's industrial beer duopoly and ear-splitting music.
Beerateinu partners Shmuel Naky (left)
and Leon Shvartz: Impresarios of the
first Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Leon and Shmuel did their job well.  If anything, it was too small: One could easily have visited the dozen or so brewers in 20-25 minutes.  However, the First Station venue did have other things to do -- shops, stalls, restaurants, and the evening I was there, a folk-music concert.

Entrance was free to the Beer Fair, a friendly touch appreciated by the public and guaranteed to draw-in the maximum crowds.  You only paid when you bought beer: a modest 8 shekels for a 100 cc taste, and 15 shekels for a third of a liter.

Almost all of the breweries represented were serving their regular repertoire of beers.  While I enjoyed re-connecting with the brewers and enjoying old favorites, I had really come to seek out the new.  Of these, there were just a few.


From Kibbutz Revadim in the Negev had come Dror Orpaz, a newcomer who had moved from home-brewer to commercial brewer faster than anyone else I know.

"I'm a typical entrepreneurial type," Dror told me.  "I've been starting new media businesses all my life.  Some succeeded, other failed.  For the past 13 years, I've been doing search engine optimization for digital marketers."
The old blogger pumping Socrates beer
with Dror Orpaz.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Dror was introduced to home-brewing with Ohad Boxerman, whose HaTeirutz beer I had at the Beer7 Festival earlier this summer.  [Read about that adventure here.]  

Within a very short time, they had come up with a spiced wheat beer which they thought was "fantastic," as did everyone else who drank it, as did Dror's mother-n-law who never liked beer.

"I went to the big Tel Aviv Beer Festival last summer and I tasted all of the beers there," says Dror, maybe exaggerating a bit.  "I said to myself: 'If these are the best, I have nothing to be ashamed of.'" 

After these positive reactions, Dror decided that brewing would be his new business, and he moved his brewing operation to the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach.  "After just three tweaks, we had commercial quantities of the same beer we brewed at home."
A twilight scene at the first
Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 

Dror decided to name his beer Socrates, "because he was a natural trouble-maker, just like me." 

Socrates is a spiced wheat beer, but it doesn't taste like other wheats.  Dror refuses to reveal what spices are used in the brewing. 

It pours a cloudy copper color, darker than the average pale wheat ales.  The aroma I got was spice and green apples.  Along with the taste of cloves, which characterizes many wheat beers, there were also the pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger), Indian spice, and malt.  Alcohol by volume is 5%.  My drinking companion termed it "a winter holiday ale in a wheat beer."

For all those who enjoy wheat beers, this is a variation you should certainly try.  But what it has to do with old Socrates, I have no idea.

The Dictator

Those who remember The Dictator beers (especially Laphroaig Irish Red, made with single malt Scotch whisky) brewed by Yotam Baras a few years back, may have been wondering what happened to them.  

Well, Yotam was busy trying out a new career as marketing manager for the Protary Craft Beers import agency.  He left that a few months ago and returned to brewing, introducing three new Dictator beers at the Craft Beer Fair.  He uses the brewing facility of Mivshelet Ha'aretz ("The Land Brewery") in Kiryat Gat, originally used by Negev Beer.

It was good to see Yotam back in his natural element, pumping his beers and talking about them with the thirsty public.  Yotam has also given emphasis to branding and marketing his beers, with stickers, banners, and unique labels with each beer featuring a different "dictator."        

Dictator brewer Yotam Baras greets
the old blogger at the Craft Beer Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
The English Bitter (with a Guy Fawkes mask on the label) is an Israeli interpretation of this popular British-style beer.  It's toned down for our summer heat, at only 3.8% alcohol.  Not really "bitter" by today's standards, I found its grassy aroma and light body very refreshing. 

The Irish Red (graced with Lenin), a little stronger at 4.7%, is close to the amber ale category with its reddish hue.  I found it to be a very classic Irish Red, with an aroma of hops and chocolate/caramel, a moderately bitter taste and a malty finish. 

The Dictator Pale Ale (with the late Saddam Hussein on the label), at 5.5%, is in the American pale ale category.  Though it boasts a strong aroma of citrusy and piney hops, the taste is balanced by the malt.  The hops are definitely not over powering, as you may expect in an India pale ale.

You feel the strong bitterness of this hazy orange/amber beer at first sip, but it then mellows to a pleasant spice and chocolate.  When I had a bottle at home with a rather bland okra and tofu curry, the beer added a very welcome spicyness to the meal.      

So, the best of luck to Yotam on his return to brewing.  The Dictator's slogan is: "He just wants what's best for you."  And maybe he does. 


An interesting new beer was also unveiled by the talented brewing team of Omer Basha and Dvir Flom, their first commercial venture, brewed 
at the Srigim Brewery facilities.    It's a saison, not a beer commonly produced in Israel.  The only other versions that I know of made in Israel are Galil Brewery's Saison, Alexander M, and to some extent, Malka Blonde.   

Omer Basha (left) and
Dvir Flom at the Craft Beer Fair.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Saison, also know as farmhouse ale, is a style of beer that began in northern France and Belgium when farmer's brewed their beers in the winter months for drinking in the spring and summer.  The farmers traditionally used whatever malts, herbs and spices were available at the time, a fact that made their beers vary greatly in strength, flavor and bitterness one year to the next. 

Today, saison ales can be tart, fruity, herbal or spicy, but all tend to end with a very refreshing dry, bitter finish. 

The Basha-Flom saison is named Pushkin.  Omer Basha tried explaining to me why they chose that name.  Something about a story by that famous Russian writer involving a whale, which is on the label.  Not being up on my Russian literature, I just didn't get it.  I would have called the beer "Scarborough Fair" or "Mrs. Robinson."

Why?, you ask.  It's a highly spiced saison, made with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Aha!

Pushkin pours the palest of amber color with a finger-width of foam.  The aroma is hoppy
Omer Basha with bottles of his new
Pushkin saison beer.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
and spicy, with lemon, resin, and rosemary detectable.  The taste remains full of spices, predominantly sage and rosemary, but also black pepper, grapefruit and a hint of brown sugar.  In the hops-malt equation, the malts definitely win, with hops in the background.  Alcohol content is a hearty 6.7%.

Nevertheless, this is a refreshing beer, finishing dry and bitter.  And how much I enjoyed it with my soy shnitzel and french fries! 

(Some time later, Omer and Dvir told me that they had recalibrated the Pushkin recipe by bringing down the level of all the spices, particularly the sage and rosemary, which they thought were too conspicuous.  I tasted a new bottle and I must say that the spices are still there, and beautifully so.  In my opinion, rosemary and thyme are dominant and there is no reason why they shouldn't be.  Enjoy this beer with not-very-strong cheeses, salads and veggie curries.)   

 HeChalutz ("The Pioneer") and HaDag HaLavan ("Whitefish")

Fellow Negev-ites Gilad Ne-Eman of HeChalutz ("The Pioneer") Brewery and Tomer Ronen, who brews the HaDag HaLavan ("Whitefish") label, told me that they will eventually join forces and bring out a new brand of beer.  This is big news, since these two are very talented and experienced brewers.  (Tomer was the chief brewer for Negev Beers and now works as a free-lance brewer in the Mivshelet Ha'aretz in Kiryat Gat and at Srigim Brewery on Kibbutz Srigim.)
Tomer Ronen (left) and Gilad Ne-Eman (right):
Joining forces for new beer.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

In the meantime, they have collaborated on two beers that I tasted, which are more in the realm of experimental beers than new beers on the market.

One is called Basilica (6% ABV), which is made with Chinook hops and basil.  It's not the first basil beer I've tried but it has the most complex flavors.  The basil makes a strong presence and if you like that aroma/flavor, what more can I say?  The other aroma is pine, while there are tastes of caramel and honey.   

The other beer is named Almost 10, a strong (9%), dark Belgian ale, brewed with Abbey Ale yeast.  I've never had a beer quite like this.  Pouring very dark maroon-brown, the aroma is spice and citrus with a little fruitcake in the mix.  It is also one of the sweetest beers I've ever tasted, with flavors of dark fruit, caramel and orange peel.  It's a delicious beer, but I could never drink a lot of it at one time.  The tasting quantity was just right.

The first Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair was an excellent opportunity to enjoy good beer in a simple, relatively quiet setting.  You could actually talk with the brewers and your friends, while discovering new beers and some you might have missed.  Leon and Shmuel should try to make it a permanent fixture on Jerusalem's event calendar.  The city will be better off for it.


  1. Anonymous9/09/2016

    and if you want, you can add the ling to Socrates web site:


  2. Anonymous9/10/2016

    Why are you wearing an apron?

    1. 1) To keep the suds off my duds.
      2) To advertise my blog (not seen in the photo).

    2. Anonymous9/11/2016

      Ok, valid reasons ;)


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