April 20, 2017

Still with the dark beers

The season for darker beers is ending -- or is it?  As we get deeper into spring, it doesn't appear that Israeli beer drinkers are abandoning their taste for stouts, porters, and black IPAs.  Israeli brewers are still coming out with new versions of these dark ales.

Here is one that's available in many beer and liquor stores, one that's only available in a few bars and pubs, and one home-brew that you're never going to taste.

Dictator Porter

The newest addition to the Dictator line of beers, brewed by Yotam Baras, Tomer Goren, and Nir Gilat at the Mivshelet Ha'aretz (Beer Bazaar Brewery) in Kiryat Gat, is the Dictator Porter.  Keeping with tradition, there's a caricature of an infamous dictator on the label, in this case the nefarious Idi Amin.

This 6.4% alcohol porter pours out a very dark brown with a tan head.  You get the aroma of roasty chocolate from the dark malt.  There is almost no hop aroma.

There's more chocolate in the taste, bitter and very dry, with note of chocolate liqueur.  Very carbonated for a porter beer, but why not?  The finish is dry, even a bit astringent.  The overall impression is that this is a strong porter, rich in flavor and alcohol-powerful, but very refreshing.  A welcome addition to the Dictator line.

Jem's Winter Special

Winter Special in the vat:
The old blogger stirs up the cauldron with
Jem's brewer Leiby Chapler.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
First a disclosure: This is beer I was with at its birth, stirring the mash and channeling the wort.  I was invited to the Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva just for this purpose.  [Read about it here.]

It took a while for the fermentation and maturation, but when it was ready, owner and brewmaster Jeremy Welfeld sent photographer Mike Horton and me each a growler of this first-rate beer.

It was originally called Black Beauty and then Winter Ale, but what's in a name?  We're talking about a black IPA that straddles the worlds of stout/porter and IPA.

This beer is not exactly black, more like a very dark brown.  The aroma is of yeast and very citrusy hops.  It's when you taste it that you find the balance between the citrus and the roasted barley, a light burnt taste with caramel and other fruits, tapering to a dry finish.

This is definitely a beer that I would want to drink again, but I don't know if there's any left.  If you find yourself at any on of Jem's restaurants, by all means ask for it, even though winter is officially over.  If I had known it was going to be so good, I would have made more!

Touching Darkness
by Ben Ben Tal Home-Brewers

Friends from their army days:
Liran Bartental (left)
and Itai Benvenisti 
Another disclosure: One of the brewers of Touching Darkness is Itai Benvenisti, the advertising manager of one of the newspapers where I work as an agent.  A really wonderful fellow.  I can't say it enough.  His brewing partner is Liran Bartental of Re'ut.  Together, they home-brew under the Ben Ben Tal label.

The two have been experimenting with brewing strong stout beers; at first not too successfully.  An earlier version was strong on the chocolate aroma and taste, but with a very thin body that could have used more malt.

Touching Darkness has solved this problem.  The body is full; you can even call it chewy.  The color is dark reddish brown, with a thin tan head.  Although the aroma is rather nondescript, the flavor is full and complex.  We tasted Israeli instant coffee, milk chocolate and prune juice.  The finish was creamy.

I had Touching Darkness with my drinking partner Moshe, over a dish of garlic-roasted kale, and the beer more than stood up to the strong, pungent flavor of the kale.  Moshe pronounced that it was "an interesting beer -- not a regular stout."

It's a shame you can't go out a buy a bottle.  There are a few fine Israeli stouts out there, but nothing quite like Touching Darkness.                

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