May 12, 2019

Seeking new beers at BEERS 2019

I must admit: Being at the opening of this year's BEERS Exhibit in Tel Aviv was great fun.  So much fun that I forgot to take notes.  Luckily, Mike ("Have Camera, Will Travel") Horton was there to digitally capture a few historic moments.

A view from the balcony:
The old blogger begins his
promenade at the BEERS 2019 Exhibit.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
We were there with the other "professionals" before the exhibit was open to the general public.  It was great to walk around meeting old friends and acquaintances and making new ones.

This year, BEERS returned to its original format of an exhibit rather than a festival.  It was held in the three-level lobby of the Heichal Tarbut (Bronfman Auditorium), so gone were the trees and grass and warm summer breezes under starry skies.  Food stands and music were there, but definitely in the background.  Visitors, both professional and public, were there to taste, enjoy and talk about beer.

True to form, a number of importers and brewers used the occasion of BEERS to introduce new beers to thirsty Israelis.  Most of the new and interesting stuff was indeed imported, and while an interesting subject in itself, this blog puts Israeli beer first.

There were three new beers from Israeli commercial brewers.  The number is small, yes, but they were each news-worthy in some way.  I tasted them all at the show, and I also brought a few bottles home to give you a more thorough report at a later date.

The old blogger joins Shapiro
Head Brewer Ory Sofer to model
the new Strong Sour t-shirt.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
From the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh comes Israel's first commercial sour beer, Strong Sour.  This beer is called "kettle-soured" because the souring comes from introducing "wild" yeast into the wort before it is killed in a pasteurization process.  In this case, the yeast came from almond flowers from the hills of Jerusalem.  Additional saison yeast was used in a second fermentation.       

Shapiro Head Brewer Ory Sofer told me that he thought it was time to introduce Israelis to sour beer (even though quite a few imports are available).  Since for most Israeli drinkers, this will be their first experience with sour beer, Ory and Brewmaster Yochai Kudler kept the sourness level moderate.  "Entry-level sour" is what I call it.

Strong Sour tastes similar to dry fruit cider and even dry white wine.  Alcohol by volume is a hefty 8.5%, but it goes down smooth.  I don't know if Israel will develop a local sour beer brew scene, but I think that Strong Sour is a start in the right direction.

[Sour beers have always been popular in Belgium and northern France, and are now gaining traction in the U.S. as craft beer devotees seek new tastes and experiences.  Read what I originally had to say about sour beers here.  I have since developed a greater appreciation for that family of beers.]

Rotem Bar Ilan of HaDubim Beer adds a
potent chili pepper drop to a brave visitor's
glass of Esh beer.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
A few stands away, Rotem Bar Ilan, one of the partner-brothers of HaDubim Beer, was pumping his new version of Esh ("Fire"), a pale ale made with shata red chili peppers (contract brewed at the Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat).  I say version because the first Esh came out in 2012 and was produced for several years.  "That was even hotter than this," Rotem let me know.

My years of eating spicy Middle Eastern food have raised my tolerance level to unimagined heights, so I found Esh rather mild.  The first taste is a hoppy pale ale, with the chili making itself known when it hits your throat.  It's a nice warming feeling that self-complements the fruitiness of the hops.

Rotem noticed my rather blase reaction.  "Aha," he said, as he pulled out a little bottle of highly condensed chili power just made for the beer.  "Maybe this will help."  One drop in my glass was all it took to turn it into an explosive chili beer.  Rotem prepared the concentrate, by the way, especially for the exhibit.  It is not included when you buy the beer! 

The Six-Pack Super Hero (aka Itay Gershman)
is no match for the old blogger
after drinking SMASH IPA.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Also introduced at BEERS is a new single-malt, single-hop (SMASH) IPA from the Six-Pack Brewery, the Super Hero Beers (made at the Beer Bazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat).  SMASH is brewed with Maris Otter malt and Columbus hops, very popular in IPAs for their intense bitterness and herbal-lemon undertones.

SMASH is a solid IPA, bitter within limits, with hop aromas of fruit and grass.  Nothing fancy, but refreshing with a dry and bitter finish.

Six-Pack's one other beer on the market now is Ultimus, an amber ale.  Their Heavy Hitter, a Belgian trippel ale, is no longer produced.

Eyal Noam, his brother-partner Meidad Ram, and their super showman Itay Gershman were there as usual in their super hero costumes, attracting lots of attention from visitors.  In addition to their beer, Six-Pack has a great publicity angle and they utilize it with much dexterity.

[Read an earlier article which mentions the Six-Pack Brewery here.]

Jeremy Welfeld of the Jem's Beer Factory
was having a grand old time offering his
bourbon barrel-aged 8.8 Belgian strong ale.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
Another publicity maven is Jeremy Welfeld, partner of Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva, who was whooping it up with his normal infectious enthusiasm.  It wasn't very difficult for him to convince people to try his new creation: Jem's 8.8 Belgian strong ale aged for four-and-a-half months in a used bourbon barrel from the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv.

The result is a flavor monster, bursting with dark chocolate, raisins, dried fruit, bourbon -- and lots of oak wood.  I believe only one barrel was made for the BEERS Exhibit,  and I consider myself lucky to have tasted some.

The young Ifshi brewers, Yishay Maguri (left)
and Yonatan Navon welcomed the old blogger
to taste their two beers.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
One mini-brewery venturing into the public spotlight for the first time is Ifshi (Aramaic for "I can do it"), brewed by two students from Kochav HaShachar -- Yishay Maguri and Yonatan Navon.  They learned home-brewing with Shmuel Naky of Beerateinu in Jerusalem, and after their beers were well received, took the brave step of going commercial about six months ago.  Their beers are now contract brewed at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.

They make a Belgian Wheat (witbier) with fruit tea, and an Oatmeal Stout with tequila and honey.  Both beers demonstrate imagination and skill, and I found them to be noble representatives of their styles and very enjoyable.  Good luck to Yishay and Yonatan.   

The Shorashim organization
offered their eponymous beer,
brewed by the Shapiro Brewery
to support their charitable work
among Holocaust survivors.  
At a separate stand was a beer called Shorashim ("Roots"), which is also the name of the organization selling it.  Shorashim provides assistance to Holocaust survivors in Israel, many of whom live in conditions of poverty and loneliness.  The beer is in fact Shapiro Pale Ale, a popular beer which appeals to a broad section of the public.  The Shapiro Brewery makes and bottles it especially for Shorashim, and all income goes to that very worthy cause.

This is not the first time that Shapiro has joined forces to support a charitable organization.  Partner-brothers Dani, Itzik and Zvi and sister Tamar have built benevolence into the Shapiro company structure, and they should be greatly commended for this.                              

Todd Kedes explains his Schnitzer Brau gluten-free beer,
brewed from organic millet malt, to the old blogger.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
I also want to give one final mention to a new beer in town which is not Israeli (and as I said, there were lots of them at BEERS).  This is Schnitzer Brau from Offenberg, Germany, a gluten-free beer brewed from organic millet malt.  Importer-distributor-marketer Todd Kedes was there pitching Schnitzer Brau to anyone who would listen.  People who are gluten-intolerant or gluten-sensitive are the natural market for this beer, but Todd also wants to reach those who are looking for an alternative to regular beer.  Schnitzer Brau is definitely on the sweet side of the spectrum -- in fact, one of the sweetest beers I've ever tasted.  

As I've written before regarding other gluten-free beers (brewed with a source of sugars other than malted grain which contain gluten), I find it difficult to categorize them as "beers" -- even though they may be very refreshing beverages in their own right.  

Schnitzer Brau fits this definition.  So if your ideal drink is light with minimal hops and malt flavors, and not too bitter, Schnitzer Brau may be just right for you.         

Those are the points I wanted to highlight about my visit to BEERS 2019.  I'll be back with more in-depth reviews about three new Israeli beers -- Strong Sour, Esh and SMASH IPA.

1 comment:

Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!