August 14, 2018

Hadera and Givat Shmuel beer festivals next week

I've received complaints that I haven't been giving readers enough lead time for the beer festivals that are coming at us right and left at a crazy pace.  And they're right.  So here are two for next week; time for you to make plans, pick out your wardrobe, water the plants and hire the babysitter.

Hadera Beer Festival
August 22-23

The second annual Hadera Beer Festival is returning to the Piazza pedestrian mall (Herbert Samuel) on Wednesday and Thursday, August 22-23, beginning each night at 7:00.  Entrance is free, and there will be "tens" of different kinds of beer, food stands and live entertainment by HaYehudim and Full Trunk with Sha'anan Streett of HaDag Nachash (though it isn't clear on which nights they are appearing).

More information in Hebrew on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2025008244236724/


Givat Shmuel Beer Festival
August 23

Those of you in the Givat Shmuel area finally have a local beer festival -- the first Givat Shmuel Beer Festival, Thursday, August 23, in the new Event Garden on the corner of HaZeitim and HaNassi Streets.  Doors open at 7:00 p.m.

This is being organized by the same Alechko Neznansky who has been doing beer festivals around the country.  The system in all of these is the same.

Entrance is free, but you pay for the beer and the food.  Tickets will be sold for three, four or five glasses of beer, with discounts for soldiers and students.  Gluten-free beer and cider will be available.  

Among the permanent "tips" from the organizers:  

* Come by foot or public transportation
* Come early
* Drink responsibly
* Bring mats and folding chairs

Facebook page in Hebrew is at: https://www.facebook.com/events/2166199673659750/     

If you have any questions for further information, send e-mail to: alechkopro@gmail.com

August 12, 2018

Three beer festivals this week: Afula, Goma Intersection, Modi'in


As the festival season heats up (literally and figuratively), this week is bringing along three kinetic beer festivals:  Afula in the central Galilee (August 14), the Goma Intersection in the Upper Galilee (August 14-15), and Modi'in in the center of the country (August 16). 
       Afula Beer and Food Trucks Festival
      August 14

Named the Afula Beer and Food Trucks Festival, this one opens on Tuesday night, August 14, at 6:00 p.m. in the Afula train station.  Admission is free.  Musical entertainment will be provided by Moti Taka and Chanan Ben Ari.    

Over 45 brands of Israeli and foreign beers will be on sale.  What seems to be the emerging pattern, you can buy vouchers for three, four or five glasses of beer, and there will be discounts for soldiers and students.  The organizers went out of their way to ensure vegetarians and vegans that they will not go hungry at the festival.  Gluten-free beer will also be available.    

Children are welcome to the station area if accompanied by a parent, but you must be over 18 to enter the beer stands.  Participants are reminded to come early, take public transportation and drink responsibly.

For additional information in Hebrew, see the Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/210273189677886/

Or e-mail to: alechkopro@gmail.com



   The First Beerzia at the Goma Intersection
August 14-15

The first Beerzia, the Israel Beer Festival in the Galilee, will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, August 14-15, at the Goma Intersection south of Kiryat Shmona in the Upper Galilee.  The gates open each evening at 5:00, and entrance and parking is free.  There is no announcement of how many different beers will be poured, but the usual "good beer, good food and good music" are promised.  

More information in Hebrew on the Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/282994659113905/
  


 Modi'in Beer Festival
August 16

The Modi'in Beer Festival is returning again this year on Thursday, August 16, in the courtyard of the Azriel Mall.  I really enjoyed myself there last year.

Mr. and Mrs. Old Blogger with
Bob and Chana Faber at last year's
Modi'in Beer Festival.
The same Alechko organization which is running the Afula Festival (above) is also doing the Modi'in Festival.  The announcement was in identical language, including the typos!

Six p.m. is when the doors open; free admission; 45 different brands of beers, food stands, music, etc.  Even the coupons for buying three, four or five glasses of beer are the same.  You can buy the coupons ahead of time and save a little money at:  https://www.eventer.co.il/modinbeerfest2  

More information in Hebrew on the Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/2070403793032632/

August 10, 2018

Petach Tikva Beer Festival -- Saturday night, August 11


Tomorrow night, August 11, beginning at 8:30 (after Shabbat), the Petach Tikva Beer Festival is opening in the Shacham parking lot.  If you're in the area, I can't think of a nicer way to spend Saturday night.  Forty brands of beer -- 40 -- from Israel and abroad will be on sale.  Food stands, of course, and  places to sit down and enjoy the beer and the food -- and the music.  Live performances by Ivri Lider and the Mercedes Band. 

Entrance is free.  If you click here (https://www.eventer.co.il/ptk), you can buy tickets which will get you three glasses of a third-of-a liter of beer for 69 shekels, or five glasses for 99 shekels.  If you buy the tickets at the Festival, it will cost you more.  If you're from Petach Tikva, and you have a residence card to prove it, a glass of beer costs only 15 shekels. 

More information here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/199245930914849/?active_tab=about     

August 5, 2018

Netanya Beer Festival -- August 8-9


The next beer festival this week is in Netanya, Wednesday and Thursday, August 8-9, at the Kikar Ha'atzmaut (Independence Square).

The organizers, Beer in the City, promise craft beers from Israel and abroad, live performances and stands for street food.  Entrance is free and the doors open at six o'clock each evening.  The popular rap group Hadag Nachash will be performing, but it's not clear which of the days.  

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/241740263293818/?active_tab=about

BEERS 2019 Exhibition scheduled for Tel Aviv, April 29-30


The organizers of the BEERS Exhibition, the Ben Ami Agency, have announced that it will take place April 29-30, 2019, in the Heichal Tarbut (Charles Bronfman Auditorium) in Tel Aviv.  As I reported to you here, this year's BEERS festival, originally scheduled for August 7-9, 2018, was canceled. 

In their announcement, the Ben Ami Agency first praised beer festivals for the enjoyment they bring to so many people and for their importance in building a beer culture in Israel.  However, the announcement continued, this decision by the organizers to hold an "exhibition" instead of a "festival" will take it to a "much higher place."  The event will "meet the professional needs of the restaurant and bar industry in Israel (before the start of the 2019 beer season), along with a very high level beer experience for the general public."  More information will be provided as it becomes available.

From the comments I have seen on social media, opinions seem pretty evenly divided between those who welcome the change to an indoor exhibition in the spring, and those who would prefer the enjoyment of an outdoor festival in the summer.             

July 30, 2018

Golden Beer 2018: Winners and unanswered questions

The Golden Beer competition in Israel was started last year by the Ben Ami Studio, the same agency which produces the BEERS Exhibit in Tel Aviv.  It is open only to commercial beers, that is, brewers with a legal production license. 

Last year, 26 prizes were awarded in nine categories, and they were all Israeli craft brewers.  [Read about that competition here.]   

This year, seven beers won prizes in only two categories (Pale Ale and India Pale Ale), and they included two imported beers from Scotland!  

Here are the winners of the Golden Beer 2018 competition:


Pale Ale
First:  Typhoon -- HaDubim (The Bears)
Second:  Vagabond -- BrewDog (Scotland)
Third:  Dead Pony -- BrewDog (Scotland)

IPA
First: Dark Matter -- HaShachen (The Neighbor)
Second:  IPA -- Shapiro
Third:  Pressure Drop -- HaShachen (The Neighbor)
Honorable Mention:  The Ugly Beer -- Ronen  

After seeing these results, I had questions about the numbers and the participation of foreign beers.  So, calling on my rapidly receding background as a journalist, I thought I might ask a few questions. 
   
I first spoke with Rotem Bar Ilan, partner-brother of HaDubim (The Bears) Brewery, whose Typhoon Pale Ale took first place in that category.  He opined that limiting the competition to only two categories provided the event with greater focus and made it easier on the judging.  Concerning the imported beers, Rotem said that he heard that the organizers believed that Israeli craft beers have now reached a level where they can compete with foreign breweries.  


No automatic alt text available.
HaShachen Brewery won
first and third prizes in the
IPA category.
According to Itay Marom of HaShachen (The Neighbor) Brewery, whose Dark Matter and Pressure Drop won first and third prizes in the IPA category, the organizers of the Golden Beer contest are to be congratulated for holding Israel's only competition for commercial brewers.  He suggests that the reason there were only two categories is that there are enough Israeli brewers making Pale Ale and IPA to make this a real competition.  Most other styles do not have this critical mass.            

I'm not convinced.  If that were the case, why was it necessary to allow foreign beers to compete?  And how can you explain that only nine beers were entered in the Pale Ale category, which had three winners (two of which were foreign beers!), and 14 were entered in the IPA category, which had four winners.  I think by anybody's count, the number of winners vis-a-vis the number of entries were too small to give the results of the competition any relevance.

Others mentioned that it is not beyond feasibility that the import agency had the necessary clout to get its beers into the competition, even though the original intention was just for Israeli beers.       

Not that this takes anything away from the accomplishments of the winners.  Gadi Deviri, one of Israel's most respected beer judges and a member of the Golden Beer judging panel, said that all of the entries were judged blindly and the best beers were chosen as winners.  There was no way to distinguish between the Israeli beers and the foreign beers.                 

Gadi also told me that he remembers that last year's Golden Beer also included foreign entries.  If that's so, I asked him, how does he explain that all of the 26 prizes went to Israeli beers?  That was "weird," he admitted. 

I continued searching and found a multilogue on Facebook involving Gal Granov, who blogs at Whisky Israel (www.WhiskyIsrael.co.il), one of the top 40 whisky blogs in the world.  Gal was also asking why there were foreign entries in what was heralded as an Israeli competition, and which beers these were.  No answers were forthcoming.

When I spoke with Gal, he told me to take these beer (and other beverage) competitions with a "grain of salt."  "I have seen whisky contests where they make categories so that everyone is a winner.  You have a right to be suspicious of them all."

As I said, the winners deserve our congratulations.  There's no denying that.  But there are still unanswered questions regarding the background to the competition itself, the categories chosen and the beers entered.  

If you would like to join this conversation, your comments are cordially invited.             

July 28, 2018

Kfar Saba Beer Festival -- July 29-30


Breaking with tradition to hold beer festivals towards the weekend, the fourth annual Kfar Saba Beer Festival is taking place this Sunday and Monday, July 29 and 30.  Held in the Courtyard of the shuk (market), the festival will begin each day at 7:00 p.m. and will include food stands and live music, featuring Erez Lev Ari on Sunday, and Guy and Yahel on Monday.  Entrance is free!  

Over 40 Israeli craft beers will be served from the following breweries: Buster's, Malka, Ronen, Emek Ha'ela, Barzel, Jem's, Shapiro, HaGibor, Bazelet, and Dancing Camel.  

More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/209136826598943/?active_tab=aboutי

July 23, 2018

Jerusalem July Fest -- July 24-26




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I guess the people from the"Paleo Market" who organize these things must be doing okay, because they're having another one.  They're calling it the July Fest Beer & Meat Festival.  I call these "meat festivals with beer on the side."  The next one is being held Tuesday, July 24, to Thursday, July 26, at the First Station compound in Jerusalem.  Doors open at 5:00 p.m. every night and entrance is free. 

On the positive side, there should be a comfortable number of Israeli craft brewers pouring their beers, and a very relaxed and festive atmosphere.  There's also live music every night.  I might show up with a few friends to enjoy the scene and drink some beer together.  I'll avoid the stands charring mammals and check out the several excellent dairy and vegetarian restaurants at the First Station.      

July 22, 2018

Dr. Scott's home-brews

Via my blog, I recently met a serious, push-the-envelope home-brewer from suburban Washington, DC.  For several reasons, he prefers to be known simply as Dr. Scott.  He came to Jerusalem from suburban Washington, DC, to bring me three of his beers.

Well, to tell the truth, he does have a son living in Israel and has lots of other things to do while he visits here.  But he did take the trouble to meet with me and share his beers.

Dr. Scott began brewing beer several years ago in a local home-brew supply store.  His first beers were named after baked goods, like "Pumpernickel" (stout with rye and caraway seeds), "Date Nut" brown ale, and "Fruitcake" imperial stout. 

"Since then, my philosophy has been to make interesting, somewhat unusual beers that you can't find in the store," Dr. Scott continues.  "This has included a lime zest/candied ginger wit, an orange blossom water infused Pilsner, and about six more recipes.  We've won a few awards in local American Homebrewers Association sanctioned competitions but have never gotten past the first round in the U.S. National Homebrew Competition, although some of my beers have received scores in the mid 30's out of a possible 50."

I met Dr. Scott at Beerateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, where we were joined by partner Shmuel (Schmulz) Naky, himself a talented practitioner of the fermenting arts.

The first beer we tasted was I Am Gruit, Dr. Scott's excursion to pre-hop days when people flavored and bittered beer with almost anything that grew out of the ground -- fruits, herbs, mosses, weeds, roots, leaves, flowers, fungus and barks.  The mix of this vegetation was called "gruit," and it was gradually replaced by hops across Europe by the 14th and 15th centuries.  Gruit varied in different locations, of course, but some common ingredients included sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, ground ivy, horehound, Calluna heather, juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, aniseed, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Sounds delicious.

I Am Gruit contains cinchona bark, kaffir lime leaves and juniper berries for the flavoring, along with wheat and rye malt, and honey.  The lime leaves are enough to give the beer a powerful sour citrus flavor.  Alcohol by volume is 5.64 %.  I found it very refreshing, but after 60+ years of beer drinking, I'm a little hooked on hops.  It was interesting to go back in time, but in the case of beer, I prefer the present.

The second beer, Red Rose, is a Flanders red ale, a barrel-aged sour beer, with the addition of rose hips.  Dr. Scott uses five different kinds of malt (Munich, Vienna, Caramel, Pilsner and Carapils) plus flaked wheat in the mash; Glacier hops are used to give aroma.  (Dr. Scott grows his own Glacier and Centennial hops in his garden.)

"After fermentation, the beer is aged for five months in an oak barrel that held a previous sour beer," says Dr. Scott.  "Then I put rose hips into the barrel five days before kegging and carbonation."

The result is a reddish amber beer, acidic but not extremely so, with no hop bitterness that I could detect.  There were underlying flavors of raisins and sour citrus.

The last beer we shared was Peat MacHeather, a Scotch Wee Heavy style ale.  The malt is smoked with peat, like a Scotch whisky, and heather honey is added to the fermentation.  Peat MacHeather is strong (9.8% ABV), very dark amber colored and smoky, with additional aromas of sweet malt and caramel.


Chocolate and alcohol are the dominant tastes.  In this case, without any hop presence, the alcohol provides a nice balance to the big malt character.  I enjoyed tasting this beer in dainty sips (since we shared the bottle three ways).  It's not a beer for chugging down on a hot day.

Sharing these unfamiliar beers with Dr. Scott was a very pleasant and original diversion from my regular "job" of drinking mostly mainline Israeli craft beers.

However, Dr. Scott's beers, as well as he himself, are on their way to becoming Israeli.  He's making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) quite soon and of course will continue to home-brew here, "using uniquely Israeli ingredients to make new beers."

That's good news for everybody, especially me.  I'll get to taste a lot more of Dr. Scott's brews, and he won't have to bring them all the way from America for me.                     

July 19, 2018

BEERS postponed until 2019; again to be "exhibition," not "festival"

Image may contain: drink
Not happening!
There will be no BEERS festival in Tel Aviv this summer.  Originally scheduled for August 7-9, Israel's biggest beer event of the year has been postponed until next spring, 2019.

"Israel has enough beer festivals," said Avi Ben Ami, whose company has been organizing the BEERS extravaganza since 2011.  "We're taking it back to before 2014, when it was a beer exhibition for people in the food and beverage professions.  Of course, we will also continue to have days when it is open to the general public.  Everybody wants to know about good beer."

Avi told me that the BEERS Exhibition will be held shortly after the Passover holiday in late March or early April.  The venue will be either the Nokia Arena or the Heichal Tarbut (Charles Bronfman Auditorium), both in Tel Aviv.

I'll let you know as soon as I get more details.  In the meantime, the biggest event this summer is the Jerusalem Beer Festival (Ir HaBira), scheduled for August 29-30.     


July 10, 2018

Two beers from The Bears

Though they no longer have a brewery to call their own, nor even a brew pub, the Bar Ilan brothers (Dagan and Rotem) are still brewing great beer under the HaDubim ("The Bears") label.  They use the facilities of the Beer Bazaar Brewery (Mivshelet Ha'aretz) in Kiryat Gat.

We had a chance to taste two of their recent beers and it was a pleasure all the way down.

Typhoon is named an American pale ale, but no one would be faulted for placing this in the IPA category.  I suspect that as American IPAs raise their bitterness levels to the skies, the beers at the lower end of the spectrum are being redefined as APAs.  Typhoon is measured at 25 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), which when compared with some modern American IPAs, is not very bitter at all. 

Be that as it may, Typhoon is full of fruity hop aromas and flavors.  The color is very pale and hazy, with fragrances of grapefruit, pineapple, citrus and tropical fruits.  The taste, too, has all of those with well-rounded bitterness. 

The body is light and creamy, rich in taste and quite delicious.  One swallow encourages the next, and at a moderate 4.9% alcohol, you can enjoy more than one.

I think Typhoon, because it's a hoppy but not ultra-bitter beer, would go very well with pizza and Mexican food, many grain dishes, tangy cheeses, and salty snacks like popcorn, potato chips and pretzels.  Beers which are very bitter will aggravate the flavors of spice and salt.   

Typhoon recently came in first place in the Pale Ale category of the Golden Beer competition for beers sold in Israel.

The second beer from HaDubim is called HaMaka HaRishona, which in Hebrew means "The First Blow" or "The First Strike."  It's named for the first beer that Dagan and Rotem made when they started home-brewing many years ago.  They tell me that the recipe changed quite a bit, but it's basically the same style of beer. 

It's a "lightly smoked" amber ale, at 4.7% alcohol.  In the glass, it's a mid-amber color.  The aromas from the huge foam head are malt and spice, with some smoke and fruit.  With the taste, you get pepper, fruit and grain, and a very slight smoke -- although my drinking partner Moshe thought the end was "pure barbecue sauce."  The beer has a light body, which is not misplaced, and the finish is worth waiting for: Smooth, tart, with a little smoke and herbal. 

Moshe thought this is a beer for steak or cheese, which I wouldn't know.  Basically I don't think smoked beers go well with smoked food, but rather with dishes which would taste good if they were smoked.  Maka Rishona, for example. would pair excellently with ratatouille or grilled vegetables such as asparagus, mushrooms and tomatoes.

It gets a little boring with HaDubim: winner after winner after winner.  While I'm waiting for their new beers, I'm enjoying their old.  Can't go wrong.

July 9, 2018

What's brewing in the Galilee?

Our destination: Picturesque Carmiel
in the central Galilee.

(All photos my Mike Horton.)
From where I sit in Jerusalem, beer news from other parts of the country are but faint echoes.  It's easy to ignore them, but then I miss out on some of the best stories.  

For example, word reached me about changes in the Meadan Brewery in Carmiel in the central Galilee: a new owner is now producing a new brand of beers there that are not Meadan's traditional gluten-free, kosher-for-Passover beers.  [See background on Meadan's beers here and here.] 

Twelve kilometers north, in the Tefen Industrial Park, Malka Beer opened a new brewery, the biggest craft brewery in Israel, producing 70,000 liters a month.

Clearly, it was time for me to get off my perch and get up to the Galilee.

Bryan Meadan greets the old blogger
at his brewery in Carmiel.
With Mike Horton at my side for capturing digital images, I rode due north to Carmiel, now a bustling town in the Galilee mountains, founded a little more than 50 years ago.  Bryan Meadan chose Carmiel for his brewery partly because it's near his home in Har Halutz. 

"We're located in a hi-tech building that has a brewery," Meadan joked as he greeted us.

Meadan shook up the Jewish world two years ago when he introduced kosher-for-Passover beer, long thought to be an oxymoron.  The gluten-free beer that Meadan was brewing for celiac patients (himself included) was also able to be certified as kosher-for-Passover.  It's brewed without any malted grain, relying on date syrup (silan) and brown sugar to supply the fermentable sugars. 

Gluten intolerance is the only intolerance
Bryan Meadan tolerates.
For this last Passover, Meadan brewed about 40,000 bottles which were sold in Israel and exported to California.  Sales were also made via the Liquorama website.

"This was quite a bit less than last year," explains Meadan.  "We had issues with the distribution.  Things should be much better next year."

The two kosher-for Passover beers are now available year-round as gluten-free
beers.  
Bryan Meadan serving up his gluten-free beers.

These are:

Special Date Ale – Very bitter and tart, 5.3% alcohol by volume, very well carbonated with a thin body and long dry finish.  Flavors of bitter dates, hops and other dried fruits.

Amber Date Ale – Similar to the Special Date, but less hop bitterness and more fruity.  It's moving closer to what you would expect from a cider.

Some gluten-free beers use an enzyme which destroys the gluten in the malted grain.  Meadan has refused to use this method since he spurns the overuse of chemicals.  However, this means that he has chosen to forego on the malt aromas and flavors which many associate with beer.

Hagibor Brown Ale in the fermenter.
Several months ago, Meadan sold a major share of his brewery to an entrepreneur who has begun brewing regular (read "gluten-full") beers under the brand name of Hagibor ("The Hero"). 

These beers will soon be available to the public, primarily in bars and restaurants in the north of the country.  But while I was in the brewery, I had a chance to taste them direct from the fermentation tanks – and I liked what I tasted.
Sharing the new Hagibor Beers
with Bryan Meadan.

These beers are being brewed by Meadan himself.  However, since he is a celiac, he is in the unenviable position of being able to smell the fruits of his labor, but not to taste them.  I compare this to the aging Beethoven, who was not able to hear his divine symphonies.  

Nevertheless, Meadan was very enthusiastic about offering Mike and me tastes of the new Hagibor beers.

The India Pale Ale (7.2% alcohol) was exceptionally smooth, full of fruit esters from the hops, but not overly bitter.

Bryan Meadan:  "We're located in a
hi-tech building that has a brewery."
The Wheat Ale (5.2%) is in the German hefeweizen style, with aromas of cloves and flowers.

For the Brown Ale (5.5%), I would have liked stronger nutty flavors and a body approaching that of a stout.  But it had a nice malty taste, a little tart and thirst quenching.

The Stout, at 5.6% alcohol, shared the same smoothness of the other Hagibor beers.  It was strong and flavorful, with more coffee taste than chocolate.

The Blond Ale was the lightest of the lot with 4.2% alcohol, light bitterness and flavors of malt and yeast.

After we had this tasty and very diverse assortment of beers, Meadan led us over to another fermentation tank where he tapped some pale, quiescent liquid – mead. 

"We made this just with water and honey from Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar.  It's an experimental batch and I'm not sure what we'll do with it."

It was dry, bitter and potent (7% alcohol), and even though mead is growing in popularity worldwide, I wonder if Israeli tastes are ready for this medieval super-drink.   

From what I tasted of the Hagibor beers, I'm looking forward to their introduction, and I hope the brewery finds a way to reach country-wide distribution.

Meadan graciously invited Mike and me to spend the night at his home in Har Halutz.  In the morning, we continued north to Tefen and the new Malka Brewery, opened just a few months ago. 

Malka Beer fresh from the fermenter:
Assaf Lavi welcomes the old blogger.
Partner and brewer Assaf Lavi greeted us and showed us around the still sparkling 2,000 square meter facility.

"We are now the largest Israeli craft brewer," said Lavi matter-of-factly.  "We are currently producing 70,000 liters of beer a month.  I wouldn't have even dreamed of this just a couple of years ago."

The brewery also produces Negev Beer (which for several years has not been brewed in the Negev!).  Both brands are partially owned by the Hacarem Spirits Ltd., one of Israel's leading importers and distributors of alcoholic beverages.   
       
A panoramic view of part of the
new Malka Brewery in Tefen.
The Malka facility is certainly the most modern and automated craft brewery I have seen in Israel.  We joined Lavi for a tour of several of the rooms.

The huge storage room for malted grain includes a mill which can handle a one-ton sack at a time, with conveying tubes to send the milled malt directly to the mash tun.

Malted barley is the base of any good beer.
The Malka miller can handle a one-ton
sack at a time.
A room for the mash tuns, kettles and fermenters with the capacity to brew four batches of 4,000 liters a day – a total of 16,000 liters.

A packing material room for bottles, kegs and cases.

A refrigerator room for storing hops and dry yeast.

A machine room which includes:

          An automated line for sterilizing beer kegs in three steps: caustic soda, acid and water.

Sterilizing, separating, recycling and purifying:
Taking notes in the machine room
at the Malka Brewery.
          A nitrogen separator which extracts nitrogen from the air, which is used to propel the beer and other material through the pipes.  Normally, carbon dioxide is used, but carbon dioxide has to be purchased.

          A recycling machine for steam and condensate.

          A water purifier operated by reverse osmosis.  "The local water is high in calcium," explains Lavi.  "The purifier enables us to achieve the same quality of water we had on Kibbutz Yechiam when we brewed there."

Another piece of equipment was stationed among the fermenters.  "That's out 'hop gun,'" Lavi pointed out.  "It's used mostly for dry hopping.  Instead of putting hops into the fermenters with the beer, the beer is circulated through the hops in the hop gun.  It's much more efficient and gives stronger flavors."

Sterilizing the kegs for Malka Beer.
The hop gun also has another purpose.  One of the Negev beers is an oak-aged porter.  Until now, oak chips were added to the beer during fermentation to give it the distinctive "wood-aged" flavor.  "Now, we put the oak chips in the hop gun and circulate the beer through it," says Lavi. 

I tasted the Negev Oak Porter ("Porter Alon") that was made this way, and I was able to clearly distinguish for the first time, the oak and wood notes in this beer.  For me, a delightful discovery.

After the tour, Lavi explained Malka's rise from home-brewery to Israel's biggest craft brewery, in 12 years.

The "hop gun":
Used for dry hopping and
oak processing.
Assaf and his brother Dan began brewing in 2006 while they were owners of two bars in Tel Aviv.  They named their beer Malka (which means "queen" in Hebrew) because it's a feminine word, as is beer in Hebrew, projects royalty, and is connected to Israel's history. 

They entered the beer in a competition and, although it didn’t win any prizes, the public loved it.  That was enough for Assaf and Dan, and they decided that brewing was what they wanted to do.   

The first Malka Brewery was on Kibbutz Yechiam in Israel's northwest corner near the Lebanese border.  The excellent water was drawn from a well right under the brewery.  The brewpub and restaurant they opened adjacent to the brewery quickly became a popular weekend rendezvous.  [Read a description of the brewpub here.]    

Assaf Lavi inspects a Malka brewing kettle.
Still, the Lavi brothers were aiming higher.  With investment from their shareholders, they were able to open their new brewery in Tefen. 

Today, the brewery produces four core beers, much as it did since the first brewery was opened.

The best seller has always been Malka Blond, a 6.5% ABV Belgian-style blond ale, rich in citrus and other fruit flavors.  Cascade hops are used, and orange peels and coriander seeds are added to the malt before boiling.  The result is a hazy, pale amber beer, with aromas of citrus, malt and spice.  The taste is also citrusy and tart, though not very bitter. 

Negev Beer is also made
at the Malka Brewery.
Here freshly bottled beer is coming off
the assembly line.
Malka Pale Ale (called in Hebrew "Admonit") is a reddish amber British-style pale ale (5.5% alcohol), brewed with coriander seeds.  The aromas I picked up were caramel and tropical fruits, with the flavors of caramel and grapefruit.  The finish is dry and bitter; for me just right.  
   
Though I'm not a big fan of stout beers, the Malka Stout is one of my favorites.  It placed well in our Israel Brews and Views Stout Tasting Panel.  This is an Irish-style stout at 6% alcohol.  Roasty, with light bitterness, and flavors of bitter chocolate and coffee. 

Malka's newest beer is Hindi, an India Pale Ale, 6.2% alcohol.  Hindi is a good "introduction level" IPA, suitable for Israeli tastes, not shockingly bitter like so many American IPAs, but with flavors of citrusy hops and caramel, balanced by the malt. 
  
"You may have noticed that our fifth beer, a Wheat Ale, hasn't been on sale for more than a year," Assaf reminds me.  "We stopped making it because it was just another German-style hefeweizen, the kind that almost every other brewery in Israel is making.  We are now developing a new 'Israeli wheat beer,' better attuned to our local market.  It should be on the shelves pretty soon."

Touring a brewery works up a healthy appetite.
Thanks to Malka Beer for satisfying it!
Over the next several months, the Malka Brewery will concentrate on "stabilizing" the production and sale of these beers in Israel.  But Assaf and Dan are already looking at further horizons.  For a brief time a few years ago, Malka Beer was exported to the U.S.  "We would like to restart sales to the American market," adds Assaf, "and we are also looking at a few European contacts that have shown interest.  In addition, we are now running a pilot project in Russia through a local distributor."

Through private initiative and hard work, the Malka Brewery and the Meadan-Hagibor project are changing the definition of Israeli craft beer.  Modernization, innovation and quality: That's what's brewing in the Galilee.

[A similar version of this article appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine.]