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.    

1 comment:

Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!