February 18, 2018

Two new smokies -- The Dictator Big Peat, Sheeta Smoked

Beer styles that have been foreign to Israel -- available here only as imports -- are now being made by our local micro-breweries. Witness, for example, Pilsners and oak-aged stouts.

Now add to the list smoked beers. The distinctive smoky taste of these beers is achieved by kilning the malted grain above open flames. The degree of smokiness you smell and taste in the beer depends on how long the malt is smoked, and what kind of malt you use in the first place.

I've already written about some beers which are made this way, including Salora Smoked Stout, Black Jack Smoked Stout, Mosco Smoked, and Buster's Smoked Lager.

One of the newer smoky beers is Big Peat from The Dictator Brewery (contract brewed at the Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.)

Big Peat's smokiness is also achieved by smoking the grain -- but one generation removed. That is, the malt that is smoked is used to distill Big Peat Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, from the island of Islay, which is then added to the beer. The malt is actually smoked over the burning embers of peat -- which gives its name to the whisky and the beer.

For several winters, Dictator partner and brewer Yotam Baras has been producing a whisky-infused ale such as this, but until now he's been using Laphroaig for the Scotch. [Read about an earlier version here.] "From now on," he says, "we will be choosing a different whisky every year. And this year we also used a pale ale as a base, instead of a red ale. We found that the whisky enhances the fruitiness and sweetness of a pale ale even better."

But whichever whisky is in the beer, it gives the beer two kicks -- a kick in taste and a kick in strength. Big Peat is a hefty 9.9% alcohol and is full of distinctive flavors.

The beer is a clear, light amber color with very little foam. You can't miss the aroma of smoky Scotch whisky -- that is, if you've ever had a good and smoky Scotch whisky. There is also yeast and fruit and some kind of fresh smell, like a room after it was just cleaned. I say this without malice. Such an aroma can be quite pleasant.

There is more smoked whisky in the taste, along with sweet malt and very subdued hoppiness. The body is full. For all the whisky added to the beer, it is not very noticeable (other than the smoke, of course). In fact, the finish is quite sweet.

I enjoyed Big Peat, the beer, and I'm quite sure I would like Big Peat, the whisky. You can't drink too much of it at one sitting, though, because of its alcoholic and gustatory strength. Yotam Baras suggests you share your bottle of Big Peat with a friend, and that's a good idea.

Image may contain: textSheeta Smoked is the new beer from the Sheeta Brewery in Arad, owned and operated by Jean and Neta Torgovitsky.

I found this a very enjoyable smoked beer, primarily because the smoke is not overpowering. But it's there; you can't miss it. The aroma is smoked meat and wood smoke, while the taste is a nice blend of hops and smoke with a sour finish. The color is dark amber, with low carbonation and therefore almost no foam. Alcohol by volume is 5%.

The body is very thin, bordering on the watery. I would have liked this beer to be thicker and sweeter, but then I wouldn't have wanted to drink so much of it! So, nicely done, Mr. and Mrs. Sheeta Beer. Israeli fans of smoked beer now have less reasons to turn to European imports. By all means, give these imports a try, but don't forget to look for the smokies with Hebrew labels as well.

February 11, 2018

What's up for 2018?

My brother Israeli beer blog in Hebrew -- Beer Blog -- בירבלוג -- (https://beerblog.co.il/) -- just published a forecast of what's to be expected from several craft breweries in 2018.  I thought that my English readers would be no less interested in this information, so Yochai Maytal and the Beer Blog Team has graciously allowed me to translate it and publish it on my blog.  Here it is:

The year 2017 was an interesting one for the Israeli beer market.  We were able to drink new beers (some we liked more, some less), and attend beer events and festivals.  New breweries were opened as well as locations which specialize in serving quality beer.  We approached a few of the major players and found out a few items that can be expected in 2018.

Alexander Brewery

On March 23, the third annual "Destruction of the Leaven" event will take place before Passover at the brewery in Emek Hefer.  There will be live music, all Alexander beers available on tap, and stands for food.  This year, the event will also include announcing the winners of the B'tsisa home-brewing competition (in cooperation with the Beer & Beyond beer store), and you'll be able to taste the beer of some of the competition participants.

Congratulations also go to Alexander on the tenth anniversary of its opening, and for being named the best brewery in Israel by the famous RateBeer website.

Itay Maron, owner of
HaShachen Brewery.
HaShachen ("The Neighbor")

The Americana Wheat IPA from HaShachen Brewery is currently available in a Single Hop (Citra) version.  The brewery, which specializes in different kinds of IPAs, will soon bring out a Double IPA. available in beer specialty stores and at the Beer Bazaar chain.  Look for it beginning in March.

The brewing brothers and owners
of HaDubim Brewery:
Dagan (left) and Rotem Bar-Ilan.
HaDubim ("The Bears")

HaDubim Brewery promised us that it will release two new beers in the coming months.  Since the brewers have a known affection for IPAs, that would be an educated guess for the styles of the beers.

Neil Churgin (left), owner of the
Beetzinut Brewery, and his son Perry,
meet the old blogger.
Beertzinut ("Seriously")

The Beertznut Brewery has expanded its production and marketing by concentrating on its geographic area -- the Arava Valley and the Negev Desert.

The new Timna beer was brewed in cooperation with the Timna Park Visitors Center, where it is on sale.  In 2018, Beetzinut plans other cooperative brewing ventures, plus a program to provide contract brewed beers for weddings.       

We recommend that you look for the Beertzinut stand at beer events and exhibits, since that is almost the only place you can find their new strong beer and their new sour Berliner Weiss.  These beers are also available at the brewery's own pub on Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava.

The Dictator

Those who follow The Dictator know how much he loves to bring out new products, and for 2018, The Dictator plans for at least three such projects.  Those who enjoyed The Dictator's Porter and IPA will be happy to learn that these will be brewed as seasonal beers this year as well.

No automatic alt text available.Benny's Cask Ale Pub

Here too we can say it's already a tradition: Benny's Cask Ale Pub will be serving beers from the Fuller's Brewery in London.  You can also occasionally find and enjoy different ciders from Israeli apples served from gravity pouring taps at the pub.

Beer & Beyond

Those who frequent the Beer & Beyond store in Tel Aviv will be pleased to soon discover that a tap has been installed for serving customers beer in the store or to take home.

In addition, the following events have been scheduled for this year:

March 1-2:  Beer & Beyond's birthday party in the store.
March 23:  Announcement of the winners of the B'tsisa home-brewing competition (as we said, at the Alexander Brewery). 
May 2-9:  Beer and Whisky Tour of Scotland (in cooperation with Benny's Cask Ale Pub).
Mid-May:  Shavuot holiday event in the corridor.
Mid-August:  Summer event in the corridor.
Sukkot Holiday:  Beer Tour and Oktoberfest in Germany.
December:  Year End event in the corridor.

We wish all of you and all of us a year of plentiful and wonderful beer!