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 Brรคu 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.