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.    

1 comment:

  1. We had the Nana beer at the Jerusalem Beer Festival. It was light and refreshing.


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