June 27, 2018

The first Isra-Brew competition winners

No automatic alt text available.The first Isra-Brew competition was held, I can't say recently, but not so long ago, under the auspices of the Israel Home-Brewers Association.  

The moving spirit behind Isra-Brew is Beersheva's own Gilad Ne-Eman, active in home-brewing circles (Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva), retail sales (Brew Shop), beer festivals (the Beer7 Fest), and brewing (Tog Brewery).

Gilad told me that Isra-Brew is the first home-brewing competition in Israel that is run by the home-brewers themselves and not by one of the big marketers or producers.  "We also are the only one which is supervised by the Beer Judge Certification Program in the U.S.," he added.  "In total, 106 beers were submitted to compete in nine different categories.  All prizes were donated by breweries and businesses in Israel and abroad."

Here then is the list of the Isra-Brew winners, appearing for the first time in English:

Best in Show
Aleksei Radionov -- Oatmeal Stout

Spice, Herb and Vegetable Beers
First:  Eran Shtroul -- Ha-Barnash Pumpkin Ale
Second:  Dimitry Khrashchev, Michael Raveh and Aleksey Bingur -- New Year 2018
Third:  HaTeirutz Brewery -- Nachala

Belgian Ales
First:  Gidon Litmanovich -- Belgian Dubbel
Second:  Michael Van Straiten -- Doochifat (Hoopoe Bird)
Third:  Naveh Lazar -- Crasenti's Tripel
Honorable Mention: Asaf Murkes -- The Belgian

First:  Aleksei Radionov -- The Asking Out
Second:  Moshe Glantz (Glantz Brewery) -- Sweet Chives
Third:  Arik Fonomariov -- Irish Eyes

Dark and Brown Ales
First:  Zvi Sharon -- The Brown Glacier
Second:  Lior Ashbal -- Pecan Porter 512
Third:  Idan Shmueli and Ofek Aloni -- Olga Porter
Pale Ales and IPAs
First:  Gil Sonnenreich -- Sonnenbrau 1st Beer
Second: Naveh Lazar -- Shani Amber Ale
Third:  Maxim Shain -- Maxim
Fourth: Ofer Zilber -- Zilbeereut

Sour Beers
First:  Yisrael Atlow -- Special Passion Fruit Mint
Second: Zvi Sharon -- Sour Belgian Forest
Third:  Lior Digabli -- Baron's Raspberry Berliner Weiss

Wheat Beer
First:  Idan Shmueli and Nehorai Ben-Zvi -- Olga Kolsch
Second: Moshe Glantz -- American Wheat
Third:  Shimon Bitton and Gabi Hadad -- Doctor H

Classic European Beers
First:  Murat Nepesov -- Bohemian Forest
Second: Vladislav Sakorik -- Barley Wine

Specialty Beers
First:  Gilad Ne-Eman -- The Night Gate Keeper in the Barrel
Second: Murat Nepesov  -- Gotlandsdricka

Though I was unable to attend the award ceremony, I was fortunate enough to establish contact with Aleksei Radionov, winner of the Best in Show for his Oatmeal Stout, which he calls, "The Asking Out."

Aleksei (center) and Yulia Radionov present
the old blogger with a closely guarded bottle
of the Best in Show Oatmeal Stout.

(Photo: Frank Perlmutter)
"I wanted to avoid the bitterness shared by most stouts," Aleksei told me, "so I used a process called 'cold steeping.'  The roasted malt isn't mixed with hot water -- the mashing -- but is steeped overnight in lukewarm water.  This gets all the taste without extracting the tannins, which cause bitterness.  Later, I add oatmeal, which gives a smoothness and complexity to the final beer.  I achieve the sweetness and creaminess without adding lactose (milk sugar)."

Well, whatever the method, I can report that it works well.  Aleksei's Oatmeal Stout exhibits no bitterness, either from the hops or the malt.  The color is a very dark brown, partly cloudy, with very little carbonation.  The body was noticeably thin.  The roasted chocolate and malt in the aroma was unmistakable.  The taste had more chocolate, actually a chocolate liqueur, and some coffee with a vanilla cream background.  No trace of hops.  Mouthfeel is very creamy, with a semi-sweet chocolate finish.  There is no alcoholic warmth, which is no surprise since the alcohol by volume is a moderate 5.5%.

This is a delicious beer which can be enjoyed by itself, or paired with sharp cheese, baked beans, dried fruits, chocolate desserts or any containing cinnamon, or even a soft pretzel and mustard.

Normally, this is where I tell my readers that they will not be able to drink this prize-winning beer because it's a home-brew and not in stores.  Well, not this time!  The Isra-Brew prize for the Best in Show is a brewing in commercial quantities by the Beer Bazaar Brewery (Mivshelet Ha'aretz) in Kiryat Gat.  So sometime in September, Aleksei's Oatmeal Stout will be available in beer specialty stores and selected liquor stores around the country.  It's worth looking for.             

June 26, 2018

First Nes Ziona Beer Festival -- June 28

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I was just notified that the picturesque city of Nes Ziona in central Israel is getting into the act.  The first Nes Ziona Beer Festival is being held there this coming Thursday, June 28.  This makes it the third beer festival (at least) taking place on the same night!  What have we done to deserve this?  [Read about the other two here.]

The Festival begins at 7:00 p.m. in the square at 5 Habanim Street.  Admission is pricey: 100 shekels, but it gets you six glasses of beer (of unspecified size).  This Festival is sponsored by Hacarem Spirits Ltd., one of Israel's largest importers of wine, beer and liquors.  Therefore, you can expect that the only beers available will be brands that they import (such as La Chouffe, Liefmans, and Blue Moon), as well as Malka and Negev, two Israeli craft beers in which they hold shares.

Live music and food are also on the agenda.  For soccer fans, there will be a giant screen for viewing the England vs Belgium match which will take place at the Mondial, the world championship cup, starting at 9:00 p.m.     

June 25, 2018

Two more beer festivals this week: Ein Shemer (June 27-28) and Tekoa (June 28)

Here's the old blogger trying to keep up with summer beer festivals in the State of Israel so that you, dear reader, can go out and have a good time.  When you have your first beer, raise the glass for Israel Brews and Views, be proud and shout it loud.  Also, tell your friends where you read it.

No automatic alt text available. Israel Beer Festival at 
Kibbutz Ein Shemer
June 27-28

The second "Israel Beer Festival" at the Alon Ein Shemer Fashion Mall at the Karkom Intersection is taking place this week on Wednesday, June 27 and Thursday, June 28, from 5:00 to 11:00 p.m.  Admission is free.  There will be stands for Israeli craft beers and imported beers, food and live music.  A lane of stores will be offering jewelry and crafts, while street performances go on.  The Harley-Davidson Club in Israel will be riding in on their "hogs" to add to the festive atmosphere.  

If you can believe the list of participating brewers, it is huge.  If last year there were eight, this year there will be over double that number, including some brewers which are new to me.  


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Tekoa Beer Festival 

June 28

The fourth annual Tekoa Beer Festival is taking place this Thursday, June 28, at Beit Ba'ad in Tekoa (Gush Etzion).  Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

There will be food, of course, and music by Jerry's Kids and Lazer Lloyd.  There is an entrance fee of 60 shekels at the door, or 50 shekels if you pre-order the ticket (which you can do here).  The first beer is free.      

This is a special kind of festival because all of the 16 people selling their beers are home-brewers from Tekoa.  This little town with a population of around 4,000 is getting quite a reputation as a home-brewing hot-spot.  


I've been wanting to go to this festival since its inception to find out why home-brewing is so popular in Tekoa.  Unfortunately it's never worked out for me.  This year, too, I can't be there because my son's graduation ceremony at the Technion in Haifa is taking place the same evening.  I told the school officials of how important it was for me to be at the Tekoa Festival, but they absolutely refused to change the date of the graduation.  Some people have no respect for beer!        

June 22, 2018

Two Israeli beers honor the Soccer World Cup

If you live in the U.S., you may not be aware that there is now a world soccer championship being played out in Russia.  However, for everyone else on the globe, this is the most exciting event that's happening now.  Hundreds of millions of usually sane individuals are losing their minds over these games, also known as the Mondial.    

Alas, Israel (again) didn't make to the final playoffs, but the fever is also here as Israelis choose another favorite team, watch the games on TV, drink beer and cheer through the night.

Two Israeli craft breweries have chosen to commemorate this once-in-four-years event by introducing themed beers for the Mondiale.  They were both brewed in "limited editions" for the period of the games, and I understand they may be sold out even before we have a world champion.

The first is from Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva.  Brewery partner Jeremy Welfeld rarely misses a PR opportunity for his fine beers.  In this case, he has brewed a pale ale named Mondi-Ale.  Unfortunately (and I mean this very seriously), it is only being sold on tap at the Jem's brewpubs and restaurants, and a few other locations, none of them in Jerusalem. 

So even though I haven't tasted Mondi-Ale, I understand that it's a pale ale with a citrus hops aroma.  Jeremy adds that it's perfect for watching the soccer games on television during our Israeli summer.  Since it's a light 5% alcohol, you can knock down a few glasses while you're keeping your eye on the ball.

The second topical beer is Mexico 70 from the Herzl Brewery in Jerusalem.  Soccer fans know that the 1970 Mondial was hosted by Mexico, and that was the first (and only) time that Israel participated!  Still, I guess we like to be reminded of those glory days, and Herzl owner Maor Helfman is only too happy to accommodate us.

In fact, he brewed a first version of Mexico 70 in 2014, during the Mondial in Brazil, when it was a wheat beer made with mango and chipotle peppers (smoke-dried jalapeƱo).

[You can read about the first Mexico 70 of 2014 here.]

Today's Mexico 70 is very different.  It's a pale ale, 6% alcohol by volume, brewed with lime and yuzu zest.

(Yuzu is a sour Japanese citrus fruit with an aroma and flavor somewhere between grapefruit and lime.  It's not eaten straight, but used as a souring ingredient in cooking and, it now seems, in brewing.)

The illusive yuzu fruit:
Citrus from Asia for the Mondial.
Maor explains that Mexico 70 lets Herzl brewers play around a bit with different ingredients.  In fact, Herzl has also brewed beers which contained cocoa and vanilla and even Cuban tobacco leaves.

Mexico 70 is a cloudy, mid-amber color.  The aroma is lime and undifferentiated citrus.  Since I don't know what yuzu smells and tastes like, I can't tell if it was there, but the citrus fragrance was high value.  In the taste, too, lime was very dominant, with lemon in the background.  Yet there was little sourness.  In fact, the aftertaste ended on a sweet note.  The beer was super refreshing.  I can see it fitting right in while you're watching a Mondial game.

Even if you're an American in Israel and somehow ignoring the soccer madness, you can still enjoy Mexico 70, especially as the weather begins to heat up.                         

June 20, 2018

Winners of the B'tsisa Home-Brew Competition

No automatic alt text available.As my readers know, the B'tsisa (Hebrew for "In Fermentation") home-brewing competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious in Israel.  Each year, dozens of dedicated home-brewers submit their beers to be judged by a panel of the most experienced beer judges in the country.

B'tsisa is organized by the Beer & Beyond beer super-store in Tel Aviv.  Every year there is a different sponsor, and this year it was the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer.

Winners were chosen in six different categories, plus the Best in Show.  So without further ado, here is the list of winners, I believe for the first time in English: 

Best in Show
Yonatan Bendett -- Doppelbock

Bavarian Wheat
First:  Tom Arad
Second:  Murat Nepesov
Third:  Aleksey Radionov

English IPA
First:  Jason Barnett 
Second:  Bentzi Alexander, Garry Barak and Ami Prager
Third:  Chen Shlita

Belgian Strong Pale Ale
First:  Constantine Katkov
Second:  Elchanan Hopper Hornman
Third:  Jason Barnett

American Stout
First:  Yonatan Bendett
Second:  Natan Shochat and Yuval Guterman 
Third:  Elchanan Hopper Hornman 
First:  Yonatan Bendett
Second:  Gal Valency
Third:  Roi Fuchs

Smoked Beer
First:  Alex Filimonov
Second: Lior Digabli
Third: Constantine Katkov

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Home-brewer Yonatan Bendett, with his
two first-prize and Best in Show awards
at the B'tsisa Home-Brewing Competition.
The big winner this year was undoubtedly Yonatan Bendett, who took the gold for his American Stout and Doppelbock (Double Bock), as well as the Best in Show for the Doppelbock.  Twenty-six year old Yonatan is from Ramat Gan, and I was fortunate enough to catch up with him and taste his winning beers.  (I wish I could have tasted the other winners, but I don't move as fast as I once did!)

The American Stout style is the new kid on the block, making its appearance with the American craft beer revolution.  It is generally more alcoholic, malt roasty and hop bitter than its British and Irish counterparts which have existed for centuries.  

"For this style," explained Yonatan, "the greatest challenge is to get the hop bitterness stronger than the sweet finish."  He added modestly: "I don't think I was successful enough in achieving this."

I understood what Yonatan meant when I drank this beer (together with fellow taster Moshe).  It pours out a very dark brown with a tan head.  Roasted malt is the dominating aroma, and it activates your taste buds.  But then there's a let-down as you try to find the expected chocolate or coffee flavors.  They were just whispers in the bottle we tasted.  The finish, however, was as it should be: very refreshing -- dry and bitter.  Alcohol by volume is 7%. 

We also tasted Yonatan's Doppelbock, the Best in Show.  Since this style of lager beer is German bred and nurtured, Yonatan used German malt, hops and yeast.  (At least the water was Israeli!)  "I was aiming for a strong beer, full-bodied, moderately sweet, and malt-dominant," he said.
We have no doubt that he succeeded.  The beer is a hazy, dark amber-to-brown color with a thin head.  Not very carbonated.  You can smell the rich malt and toasty caramel even as the beer splashes in the glass.  The taste is complex, as doppelbocks should be: notes of grapes, prunes, malt, alcohol  and liqueur -- ending with a sweet and lasting aftertaste.  The sweetness is not cloying, but is well balanced by the strength of the other tastes.  Alcohol by volume is a hefty 7.5%.  This is what I call a winter beer -- warms the body and the soul.  

There's no doubt that Yonatan Bendett is a talented brewer.  It's a shame you can only read about his beers and not drink them.  Maybe someday Yonatan will have a chance to brew his prize-winning beers commercially, and Israelis will have a chance to taste them.   
Read about previous B'tsisa winners here and here and here.   

Coming soon:  More home-brew champions in the 
premier Isra-Brew competition.                   

June 18, 2018

Two festivals on Friday, June 22: The 7th in Beersheva and the 1st in Givat Ada.

Two beer festivals are coming up at the end of this week, Friday, June 22.  Unfortunately, you can't attend both -- unless you're up to driving "under the influence" from the Haifa District to Beersheva, or vice versa.  Not recommended.

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Seventh Beer7 Fest
Beersheva, June 22

It's the seventh time the Beer7 Fest is being held, and I know it well.  You get to taste the beers of enthusiastic home-brewers from the south of Israel.  Some of them have been pouring their beers since the start of the Beer7 Fests, but I understand that some will be new.

Doors open at noon at the Baraka Club in Beersheva's Old City, 70 Shloshet Bnei Ein Harod Street (that's a mouthful of a street name).  Over 40 different beers will be available at 5 shekels for a taste, and 15 shekels for a third of a liter.  There is an entrance fee of 30 shekels, but you get a branded glass to take home.  

The spark plug behind the Beer7 Fest is Gilad Ne-Eman, head of the Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva, and partner (with Tomer Ronen) of the Brew Shop in Beersheva, and of Tog Brewery.  

As I said, I have always enjoyed the Beer7 events and I plan to be at this one as well.  Always a wonderful atmosphere, friendly and ebullient brewers, and plenty of fine and unusual beers.  See you there!

More information here, including how to buy tickets online:  https://www.facebook.com/events/243254739744258/?active_tab=about                        

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First Beer Brewers Festival
Givat Ada, June 22

  • Also opening at noon at Ada's Beer & Friends Pub is the first Beer Brewers Festival in Givat Ada, south of Haifa.  Alongside of industrial beers from Israel and abroad, there will be beers from several local home-brewers.  That's where it get interesting.

    If you're not a member of the Ada's Beer & Friends cooperative, admission is 25 shekels (credit card only).  A glass and a taste of beer and a portion of smoked meat costs 15 shekels.  A third of a liter of Tuborg is only 8 shekels, while the same amount of Hoegaarden, Stella Artois or Weihenstephan is 10 shekels.  A hot dog on a roll is 12 shekels, and an "extra large" slice of pizza is 10 shekels. 

    There are also other food stands and music.  Sounds like it could be fun.   

  • More information here:  https://goo.gl/ZSSb1i

June 13, 2018

First Netivot Beer Festival -- June 14

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It's billed as the First Netivot Beer Festival for Youth -- but anyone over 18 is welcome.  Doors open tomorrow night (Thursday, June 14) at 8:00 p.m. at the Sportek grounds in the Negev city of Netivot, between Beersheva and Gaza. 

Craft beer at "subsidized prices" from the "best of the southern breweries" will be available.  There will also be food stands, places to sit down, and live music.

Entrance costs 20 shekels, and you can already buy a ticket online at this site: https://goo.gl/AJAcHt

This is continuing with the trend for even the smaller towns and cities on Israel's periphery to have their own beer festivals.  This is something that should be encouraged, so if you're in the area, go and have a good time!