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.

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