September 28, 2017

Scenes from BEERS 2017

It seems as if the only reason I go to Tel Aviv these days is for beer-related events.  I rode down (Jerusalem is high up in the mountains; Tel Aviv is low down on the coast) for the launch of Mikkeller Green Gold IPA from the Alexander Brewery (read about it here) and for the early bird Israel Beer Festival back in June.

And of course, I couldn't miss last month's BEERS 2017, the most important of the summer festivals -- if not the most enjoyable.  I was trying to cut out the chaff and looking for the new beer stories, and here is what I can report:

(All photos were taken by Mike Horton, photographer supreme of Israel Brews and Views.)

New Collaborative Mint Beer

A great gift from the Dancing Camel's David Cohen:
The new Nana beer, brewed in
collaboration with the Shapiro Brewery.
The big story of the festival is that two of Israel's veteran and major craft breweries -- Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv and Shapiro in Beit Shemesh -- have collaborated to produce a mint-infused beer, which was premiering at BEERS.

Dancing Camel owner David Cohen told me that the new beer, named Nana (which is Hebrew for "mint") brings together Shapiro's famous Pale Ale and Dancing Camel's Gordon Beach Blond, which is flavored with mint and rosemary.

"We left out the rosemary," David said, "but we increased the strength of the mint using the method called 'dry-hopping,' that is, steeping mint in the beer while it is fermenting."  The hops used are Cascade and Citra, and the alcohol by volume is 4.8%.

Nana pours out semi-hazy and very pale yellow, with low carbonation and a thin, fast-dissipating head.  I didn't get any of the typical hop aromatics, but nice mint zest and lemon grass.  There is also mint and sweet spice in the taste, with a strong malty backbone adding some bread flavor.  The finish is very tasty with light bitterness, though not especially long.

Mint makes everything refreshing, and in this Nana beer, it works wonderfully.  Lots of enjoyment in drinking this by itself, with salty snacks, or with dishes which go well with mint, for example, couscous and bean salads, chickpea or other grain salads, or even (if you're really adventurous) vanilla and chocolate ice cream!

With David Shamis, Marketing Director
of Oak & Ash.
Oak & Ash Wheat

New brewery Oak & Ash (using the facilities of Dancing Camel) introduced their new Wheat Beer at the festival.  Like their original Rye Pale Ale, this beer too is aged with oak.  [Read that review here.]

The Oak & Ash logo is thoughtfully bi-lingual, with the "Ash" being spelled in Hebrew, a word that is pronounced aish and means "fire."  You can't brew beer without fire.     

Marketing Director David Shamis calls the Wheat Beer a true "Mediterranean beer," geared for local tastes and preferences.  It is flavored by a whole shelf of different spices -- orange peel, cardamon, anise and saffron.

It's a lovely wheat beer, but the spices were more a faint background noise than clearly defined flavors.  A beautiful foamy white head sits atop this cloudy pale gold beer, in the style of Belgian wheat ("wit") beers.  The aroma is strongly cloves and some orange.  With the first sip, you get lots of little flavor notes, all on the sweet side of the spectrum with a little sourness -- cloves, hyssop, tropical fruits and general spiciness.  We smacked our lips in vain for any malt or oak character, but these were out of our range.  A light-bodied beer (5% ABV), it ends with a short though refreshing finish.  The brewers are even kind enough to recommend foods that would pair well with Oak & Ash Wheat: fettuccine alfredo and roasted vegetables.   

Festival Kegs

The Fass Brewhouse from Kibbutz Geshur on the Golan Heights was serving two new draft beers made just for the BEERS Festival.

Shaike was a 3.6% alcohol Pilsner, mild and flavorful, a good representative of this long-surviving beer style.

Yechezkel was the opposite: a strong (7%) Scottish ale, sweet and alcoholic with strong malt aromas.  I enjoyed experiencing the wide difference between these two beers.

The Fass brothers, Or and Hagai, always seem to bring interesting and different draft beers to beer events, yet their bottled beers available in retail stores have remained unchanged for years: Wheat, Lager, and Porter.  They have the knowledge and the experience to expand their line, and everyone will benefit.

Barzel brewer Yair Alon with bottles of his
original Belgian Ale and Ruby Wheat.
The Barzel Brewery stand was also serving a draft beer prepared for the festival.  (Barzel contract brews at the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach.)  It was a Brown Ale made with dark malted wheat.  You could taste the beginnings of a stout in this beer, but also a very intriguing sourness (which, as my readers know, I am trying to cultivate a taste for).

However, brewer Yair Alon apologized that, as much as I appreciated it, the sour taste was an inadvertent by-product of undue oxidation!  I still liked it.  Sometimes, in small amounts, unplanned by-flavors in beer can be quite acceptable.

Adam Souriano with his
new Gorgeous IPA.
Joya Gorgeous IPA

Another new beer that I met at the festival was Gorgeous IPA, the first commercially brewed beer from the Joya Souriano Brewery in Yahud, brewed at the facilities of the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh.  Brewer Adam Souriano (Joya was the name of his grandmother) took a small stand at the festival, but it usually was surrounded by a large group of people waiting to try his new IPA.

And no wonder.  It's a lovely beer, brewed in the popular style of a New England IPA: very hazy, loaded with hops (Gorgeous has seven varieties!) chosen to impart citrus and tropical "juicy" flavors, and a soft mouthfeel due to the addition of oats.

The label description of the beer is one of the longest I have ever seen.  Adam Souriano promises a "frightening amount" of hops in the beer, and explains that the cloudiness is a product of the suspended "proteins and hop oils which accumulated during the brewing process."  Whatever you do, he jokes, "don't inhale the foam. It will make you wonder why you haven't gone more often to pick lychees, pears, passion fruit, apricots and even grapes."  The label also gives the alcohol by volume (7.2%), International Bitterness Units (30, which is considered moderate), Standard Reference Method for color (5.5), and even the Original Gravity of the wort (1.064), a rough indicator of the amount of alcohol which will be in the finished beer.  I just love labels full of information.  Doesn't everybody?

As to the beer inside the bottle, Gorgeous IPA poured out a cloudy pale-to-orange gold with a thin head.  The aroma from the seven hops was a blend of tropical fruits and pine.  The strong bitterness in the taste departed from the New England IPA style, but there were also plentiful juice flavors: orange, pineapple and with a little stretch, lychee and pears.  The dry and bitter finish was exceedingly refreshing.  The label recommends paring this beer with salty and fatty foods like pizza, French fries and burekas.  That would work for me. 

New Places to Buy Beer    

George Yusopov, owner of the
Beer Station chain,explains his
new concept for selling beer.
Two competing chains were at BEERS for the first time.  Both of them were peddling the same concept: Selling a lot of different beers on tap either by the glass or in take-home bottles or "growlers."

The first was Beer Station, which now has outlets in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva, Ashdod, Holon, and Rishon LeZion.

Owner George Yusopov told me that the idea for what I would call a "beer automat" came originally from Russia.  Twenty-five different beers are on sale at the Beer Stations, and the cost for filling a liter bottle is between 25 and 49 shekels, definitely not exorbitant.  There are Israeli craft beers and foreign beers on the menu.

The competing chain is called Beer Point and has franchises in Ashdod, Bat-Yam, and Rishon LeZion, with another planned to open in Beersheva.

Why the both of them choose to "pass over" Jerusalem I just don't know.  We drink our beer here in nobody's shadow.

Noa and Shira Matosevich:
Smiling representatives of the Raaya Beer
home-brewing workshop in Zichron Yakov.
Learning to Brew

Another newcomer to BEERS was Raaya Beer.  This may sound like a new brewer, but it's not.  It's a home-brewing workshop located in Zichron Yakov, which holds classes Sunday to Friday in all-grain brewing.

The owner and teacher is Aviram Matosevich, but he wasn't at the festival that night.  Instead, his two very personable daughters, Noa and Shira, were handing out literature and explaining the courses.  Raaya Beer only opened in March of this year and already has a sizable number of graduates who have become home-brewers.

Three for the Future    

I also met three brewers for the first time.  They're not new and I had heard of them, but it was only the festival that brought us together.

Tal Bitton (second from left) and his team from
Tavor Brewery meet the old blogger.  
Tal Bitton is the owner of Tavor Brewery on Moshav Shadmot Dvora in the Galilee.  It's named after Mount Tavor, mentioned in the Bible (Judges 4:6) as the place where a battle between the Israelites and Canaanites took place, and today is a very prominent landmark in the area.

I took home four of their beers -- a Belgian Dubbel and Trippel, a Pale Ale and an IPA -- and will review them soon enough.

Nazareth Beer partner Basel Massad was happy
to introduce the old blogger to his American Wheat beer.
I also met Basel Massad, a partner in the Nazareth Brewery in  . . . Nazereth (where else?).  I brought home the one beer that they are now brewing -- an American Wheat.  You will also be hearing about that.  Basel told me that he is also making a Brown Ale which is not yet in bottles.

Michael Blinder was doing a good job
of introducing his Blinderweiss
to Tel Aviv beer enthusiasts. 
Another new brewery that took a booth was Blinderweiss, headed by Michael Blinder from Hadera.  Michael brews his one style of beer at the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach.  It is a free-style weissbier (wheat beer) made according to Michael's very specific recipe and taste.  But more about that later.    

September 8, 2017

Wheat and mango in new beers

I've just had the pleasure of tasting two pretty new beers which are now being sold in beer specialty shops and selected liquor stores.  They are quite different, but both in my opinion are welcome additions to the craft beer panoply in Israel. 

Beer Bazaar Wheatney

The Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat (known in Hebrew as Mivshelet Ha'aretz) has come out with Wheatney, their own version of a German-style wheat beer ("weissbier") for the "Israeli taste."  As I've written before, wheat beers seem to very popular in Israel and every craft brewery wants one in its repertoire.

Lior Weiss (no relation to the beer), a partner and brewer of Beer Bazaar, told me that Wheatney is based on his unique recipe of Pilsner malt, wheat and rye.  The alcohol by volume is 5%, very comfortable if you're having more than one on a hot day.

Wheatney is straw colored, slightly hazy, with active carbonation and a huge frothy head.  The aroma is very typical of this weissbier style: banana and cloves, but with an herbal background from the hops and some toasty malt.  The flavor is also quite marked by the banana and cloves, with the hops adding fruit and spice but very little bitterness.  The finish is sweet and medium lasting.

If you're a wheat beer fan, and apparently many Israelis are, you can't go wrong with Wheatney.

HeChatzer Double Kruzo

(Photo: HeChatzer Brewery)
HeChatzer Brewery ("Back Yard Beer") has introduced another version of their popular mango beer Kruzo, called Double Kruzo because it's made with twice the amount of mango and twice the amount of dry hopping.  (Read about Kruzo at last year's Jerusalem Beer Festival here.)  The beer is brewed in commercial quantities at the Srigim Brewery.

Double Kruzo is at base a pale ale.  The color is hazy pale orange, with an active carbonation that I appreciated.  The aroma was very hoppy, with citrus and tropical fruits being dominant, and some grass.  The bitter mango comes through in the taste, though very understated; in fact, not much more so than the original Kruzo.  Other fruit tastes are also there from the Magnum and Citra hops: citrus, tropical fruits and pineapple.  The mouthfeel is very creamy, and the finish moderately bitter and refreshing.  Alcohol by volume is 5.3%.

HaChatzer partners Yochai Maytal, Ariel Chinn and Shachaf Ashkenazi have demonstrated their talent and innovation on numerous occasions, and Double Kruzo is definitely further proof of that.     

September 4, 2017

September beer festivals

A few more beer festivals are coming up this week and the next.  I have been told that some of these festivals, including those which took place earlier this summer, are basically private affairs, held under the auspices of one brewery or one importer.  "You can't really call these 'beer festivals,' can you?" I was asked.

Well, that may be true, but I've decided to write about all such events and let the readers decide for themselves.  As far as I'm concerned, if it's an event you can go out to, drink some good beer with friends and strangers, and enjoy yourself -- you can't get enough!   

September 8

Already at the end of this week, Friday, September 8, beginning at 10 in the morning until 4:00 p.m., the annual Alexanderfest is being held at the WIN Events Garden, 1 Hatelem Street in the Emek Hefer Industrial Park, very close to the Alexender Brewery.  Entrance is free, and all of the Alexander craft beers will be on sale.  There will also be a lot of food and live music.  Alexanderfest "beerchandise," including shirts, hats and beer mugs, will also be on sale at special prices.

A new Alexander beer, Israeli Golden Ale (IGA), will be unveiled at the festival.  I'm told this is a light pale ale, modeled on the British style, crisp and very thirst quenching.            

The first Modi'in Beer Festival will be held Wednesday and Thursday, September 13 and 14, adjacent to the city's main Azrieli Mall.  Doors open every day at 5:00 p.m. and close at 11:00.  Only those over 18 will be allowed in, and entrance is free.

Over 40 kinds of beer from Israel and abroad will be on sale.   

There's an interesting concept for buying beers:  Tickets will be sold for three, four or five glasses of beer (each glass a quarter of a liter).  The cost for the tickets at the festival are 50 shekels for three glasses, 65 shekels for four glasses, and 80 shekels for five glasses.  Discounts for soldiers and students.       

You can buy discounted tickets ahead of time online (at for 47 shekels, 60 shekels, and 70 shekels.

Organizer Alechko Neznansky says that there will be food stands and food trucks, arts and crafts booths, live music, and places to sit down to enjoy the beer, food and atmosphere.

If you have any questions, you can direct them to e-mail:

Israel Oktoberfest
Tel Aviv -- September 13-15
Rehovot -- September 13-14
Hod Hasharon -- October 8-10
Herzliya -- October 9-10

These four "Israel Oktoberfests" are modeled after the famous Oktoberfest held every year in Munich, Germany (this year from September 16 to October 4).  The only beers being served at these two festivals are imports from the giant Paulaner Brewery in Munich, which is also sponsoring these events.

The main "Oktoberfest" will be held in the Paulaner Beer Garden adjacent to the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv.  The three-day event will run September 13-15: Wednesday and Thursday beginning at 7:00 p.m., and Friday from noon to 5:00 p.m. 

The second festival is Wednesday and Thursday, September 13 and 14, at the Rehovot Science Park.  

The "Oktoberfest" in Hod Hasharon will be held October 8-10, Sunday to Tuesday (during the Sukkot holiday), beginning at 5:00 p.m. each day, in the Paulaner Beer Garden in the Sharonim Mall.  

Finally, the Herzliya version will take place at the Azrieli Outlet Center, 85 Medinat Hayehudim Street, on October 9 and 10 (Monday and Tuesday), also during Sukkot.    

For these above four "Oktoberfests," there is no information on the Facebook page or the website regarding entrance fee (if any) or cost for the beer, but a phone number is given for inquiries:  052-652-2226.  I left a message for them to call me back, but it hasn't happened (yet).     

All of these festivals include the same elements: Lots of Paulaner beer, an Oktoberfest atmosphere (minus the drunken loutishness which invades Munich, I hope), Bavarian food and entertainment, large wooden tables, costumed waitresses, arts and crafts booths, games and family activities.  The "alcohol area," restricted to those over 18, will be separate from the "family area."     

There won't be any Israeli craft beers at these guys, but it sounds like there might be fun.  Drink moderately.

More information on the Facebook page:

and on the website:

Another Oktoberfest, this time in the Katzrin Park on the Golan Heights, will take place during Sukkot, October 8-9, in the framework of the third Sounds of Basalt Festival.  On those two evenings, beginning at 8:30, the Katzrin Park will host the Golan Beer Festival, which will include the beers of the Golan Brewery (Bazelet) in Katzrin, food, colorful costumes, and live music.