September 23, 2018

"Beer smells like a goat": Opus Brewing and Julian the Apostate

Shortly after the invisible Dr. Scott visited me (read about that episode here), another pilgrim came to Jerusalem to present me with his beer and his story.

The old blogger meets Jason Barnett,
founder, owner and brewmaster of
Opus Brewing.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Jason Barnett, the founder, owner and brewmaster of Opus Brewing, is 30, Kansas-born, eight years in Israel and freshly engaged.  Mazal Tov!

He started home-brewing around five years ago because he loved good beer but found it expensive to buy in stores.  His answer: Make your own at home.  It's better than industrial beers, and costs a fraction of the price of craft beers.

Jason quickly got hooked on the whole "passion for brewing" thing.  So much so, that he left the administrative world of non-profit organizations to take a job as assistant brewer/cleaner/delivery guy at the Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv. 

"Even then," he adds, "I knew that I would have my own brewery some day.  While I was working at the Camel, people asked me if I could tell them more about beer and help them start home-brewing.  So I began to organize brewing workshops in people's homes.  As the demand for these skyrocketed, I decided to leave my day job and do it full-time."

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Jason now runs home-brew workshops, beer tastings and lectures, and other beer events wherever he can.  These are held in private homes, offices or public venues: Birthday parties, bachelor parties, office perks, anything.

Jason can organize his own parties when asked, but also works closely with Sipscene, which runs alcoholic-based events in the Tel Aviv area, and with organizations such as Nefesh B'Nefesh and Lone Soldiers.

He named his business Opus Brewing because that is the Latin word for "work."  "That's been my philosophy from the time I started home-brewing.  When you have a problem and you want to change things, put your head down and get to work."

The goat logo comes from a poem written by the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate (330-363).  Wine is the drink of the gods, he wrote, while beer smells like a goat.  I guess Julian never really had any good beer.  At any rate, Jason commemorated the emperor by naming his logo goat Julian.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Jason brews four permanent core beers: Amber Ale, Kolsch, Mosaic IPA, and Bourbon Oak Stout.  He also makes 4-5 seasonal beers, including Farmhouse Ale, Belgian Witbier, Imperial IPA and Ginger Peach Cider.  He graciously gave me three bottles to try at home, so I did.

The Sunset Amber Ale is a dark, semi-clear amber, very carbonated out of the bottle, with a huge long-lasting head.  I got aromas of pineapple, resin (also called "dank") and a little soap.  The taste is bitter fruit, maybe lemon, but then as it warms, some bread and strong alcohol.  I found this to be a refreshing beer, but I would have preferred the alcohol taste to be less aggressive.  This was strange since the beer is only 5.8% alcohol by volume.           

With the Burn the Barn Farmhouse Ale, we returned to the dark amber color and high carbonation, but the aroma was brown sugar and, yes, farmhouse funk.  One of my drinking partners was less polite and compared the funk to "reflux," while another called it a "beautiful beer which waters your tongue," i.e., causes salivation.  At any rate, this beer delivers what a farmhouse ale should, and is a good example of the style.  Alcoholic content is a strong 8.4%.         

The Opus Kölsch also brings this style of beer to the fore.  Originating in Cologne, Germany, in the early 20th century, Kölsch is a light, session (low alcoholic) ale which rivals lagers for balance and crispness.  In fact, traditional Kölsch beers were fermented at warm temperatures with ale yeast, yet lagered (matured) at cold temperatures.

Opus Kölsch pours out a golden amber color with a large frothy head that I called "explosive."  The aroma was similar to a wheat beer, with herbs, spice and aromatic hops.  The taste was of sweet spice, malt and subdued hops.  As we reached the bottom of the bottle, the beer became thicker with an opaque copper color, approaching the taste of a Belgian ale.  The finish was a little sweet and very refreshing.  Alcohol by volume is 5.4%, on the high side for a Kölsch, but just right for me.  

Jason is a home-brewer, so his beers are only available at his own events (lectures, workshops, tastings).  In the longer term, however, he would like to sell his beers commercially and perhaps even open a neighborhood bar.  He has the talent, he has the determination and he certainly is not afraid of hard work.  So I suspect we'll be hearing more of Opus beer in the not-too-distant future. 

[You can read more about Opus Brewing on their website here.]

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