Just as there are trends in fashion, food, celebrity status and google searches, so are there trends in craft beer. One such trend now in North America and Europe is getting back to the basics; brewing a beer to achieve a clean, unadulterated taste.
This trend has reached the Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat (also known as Mivshelet Ha'aretz). They have brought out a basic lager beer named Gallagher. Nice touch, that: the name contains the style.
To explain what makes a lager a lager while standing on one leg, let me say this. Lagers are beers fermented at lower temperatures than ales, and lager yeasts tend to aggregate at the bottom of the tank, while ale yeasts prefer the surface of the liquid. I have no idea how the little fungi know to do this.
Because of the different yeasts and the cooler fermentation temperatures, lagers are generally more mellowed out than ales. They also tend to be crisp, smooth and light tasting. Ales are more robust tasting, fruity, aromatic and bitter. Almost all of the mass industrial beers brewed in the world today are lagers. That's what most people like. A crisp, cold brewski. Color, aroma and taste are secondary.
|The Beer Bazaar in Jerusalem's|
Machane Yehuda Market.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Gallagher is a very drinkable beer, meaning you can gulp it down to quench a mighty thirst. The moderate 5.1% alcohol by volume won't stand in your way.
Light lagers pair well with bold and spicy dishes which they cool off (stir-fries, pizza and salsas, for example) as well as mild food which they do not overwhelm (such as fruit salads, light appetizers and grain dishes).
Another trend seeping into Israel from abroad is beer-grape or beer-wine hybrids. Actually, since many early beers -- and I really mean ancient -- were flavored with grapes, this is not such a modern idea.
It made its comeback in the U.S. during the last five years or so. Craft brewers began experimenting with adding grape juice (sometimes including the grape must: skin, pits and stems) to the fermentation stage. Obviously, the grape juice begins fermenting into wine as the wort (pre-beer liquid made from malted grain) ferments into beer. The result is a true hybrid, combining taste characteristics of wine and beer. And, to tell the truth, they go well together, as our ancient ancestors also knew. Winemakers, too, have gotten caught up in the trend and are adding hops to their wine. Are the resulting drinks wine that tastes like beer, or beer that tastes like wine? Does it really matter?
Another phenomenon in America has been the ability of this beer-wine to reach across the aisle, as it were. Bottles of it are appearing in wine stores and giving condescending wine drinkers a chance to try craft beer.
Israel's entry into this style is from the Sheeta Brewery in Arad, run by the husband and wife team of Jean and Neta Torgovitsky. They call this their Special Edition Beer, made with grapes from the Midbar Winery in the Negev.
As you would guess, beer-wine hybrids are strong beers, and this one is no exception, at 8% alcohol by volume. The beer's appearance is a cloudy dark amber. The aroma is redolent with malt, yeast, caramel and raisins -- hinting at the fulsomeness to come. The taste is sweet with caramel, dried fruit and alcohol, reminiscent of a fruit liqueur or grandma's thick home-made wine. [They're talking about someone else's grandma, not mine.] The full body fills your mouth with bitter-sweet spice.
Sheeta Special Edition is so strong and flavorful that only the most spicy and pungent foods can stand up to it. It would go well with ratatouille vegetable stew, hot curries, goat cheese and even strong cream cheeses.
Sheeta Special Edition is the kind of strong, heavy beer best enjoyed during the colder months. There might be a few more bottles still available now on the shelves of beer specialty stores and bottle shops, but brewer Jean Torgovitzky told me that he plans to brew another batch which will be ready for shipment in the fall. Look for it. In Israel, it's sui generis.