January 15, 2018

Yechiam: the fortress and the brewery

As I've written before, craft breweries are popping up all over Israel -- from the Lebanese border in the north to the southernmost city of Eilat.  So, Trudy and I have been able to combine our tours to different parts of the country with visits to nearby breweries.

The Miskins and the Greeners,
intrepid trekkers all, about to assault
the Yechiam Fortress.
We have done this several times with our friends Yitzchak and Pnina Miskin, he being a member of the Israel Brews and Views Tasting Panel.  [You can read about our trip to the Alexander Stream and the Alexander Brewery here.]

Recently we headed up to Israel's northwest corner on the Lebanese border, to Kibbutz Yechiam, home to a kosher salami factory, a Crusader fortress, and the Malka Beer brewery.  We visited all three, although let's make it clear that the meat factory was for the Miskins, who had forgotten to pack their sausage!

Related image
A beautiful view of the Galilee from
the top of the Yechiam Fortress.
The Yechiam Fortress, as it is known, was our first stop.  Originally built by the Crusaders in the 1240s, it was used to control travel and communication in the area and collect taxes from the local inhabitants.  It was conquered by the Mameluks under Sultan Baibars from Egypt  in 1265 and largely destroyed.  In the 18th century it was rebuilt and used as the palatial home of local leaders, including Mahd el-Hussein and Zahir al-Umar, who called it the Jiddin Castle.

We walked through the rooms and towers and climbed the ancient stairs to the roof, where you have stunning views of all the surrounding hills and countryside.

During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, residents of Kibbutz Yechiam used the ruins as a fortified position to fight off the invading Arab armies.  Signs around the fortress indicate locations where the Jewish forces had firing positions, command bunkers, and shielded areas for evacuating the wounded.

After our tour, we drove to the nearby border city of Ma'alot for a hummus lunch in a restaurant that Yitzchak had recommended.

The old blogger with Yaniv Katz,
the always busy manager of the
Malka Brewpub.
Lunch left us thirsty, so it was definitely time to head back to the kibbutz and the Malka Brewpub.     

A few days earlier, I had called Asaf Lavie, the owner of Malka Brewery, and told him we would like to visit on Friday, speak with him and maybe tour the brewery.

"What time?" he asked.  Around 12:30 to 1:00, I said.  "Oh, that's no problem.  After around 2:30, the place becomes packed and we're all too busy to talk."

Because our schedule was a little delayed, we arrived at the brewery around 2:45.  Every table and chair on the lawn, inside and around back was taken by happy, gregarious beer drinkers.

Restaurant manager Yaniv Katz greeted us and, even though he was being called away every two minutes with a question or emergency, found time to make us up a table and talk with us.

The Friday afternoon packed beer garden
at the Malka Brewpub on Kibbutz Yechiam.
Only 29 years old, Yaniv shoulders the responsibility of keeping the restaurant functioning smoothly.  Around 800 people come to eat and drink at the Malka Brewpub every weekend (Thursday, Friday and Saturday night).  Five hundred liters of Malka's five beers are consumed.

While they may not all be available all the time, Malka's regular beers are:

Pale Ale
Blond Ale
Hindi IPA
Wheat Ale

At the Brewpub, a third of a liter of beer costs 17 shekels, and a half-liter 22 shekels.  Bottles are available to take home for 12 shekels each, with a four-pack costing 44 shekels.

The food menu is kosher and more extensive than the usual pub grub.  In addition to the expected hamburgers, hot dogs, shnitzel nuggets, meat sandwiches and French fries, there are vegetarian options such as Portobello mushroom burgers, and fried cauliflower and broccoli nuggets.

Trudy and the old blogger enjoy
the ambiance at the Malka Brewpub.
Between the four of us, we ordered and shared almost all of Malka's beers.  I have always enjoyed their bottled beer, and fresh from the tap they were even more delicious.  The Hindi IPA and the Blond Ale were especially welcome.

Having a few beers with good friends in a rustic setting was a very cultured way to start the weekend.  Afterwards, we happily worked our way across the road to the kibbutz guest house, where we would be spending the Sabbath.

The Holy Day was delightful, nourishing and relaxing.  But since that's not the subject for a beer blog, this would be a good place to finish.  We can only heartily recommend the combination of touring Israel and visiting a craft brewery.  There's something for everybody and a brewery almost everywhere.   

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