December 24, 2020

Who's afraid of BeerBazaar Scary Pumpkin?

What's more American
than pumpkin pie?

Who's afraid of pumpkin ale?  Not me! 

Pumpkin ales have been an American tradition for many years.  Hardly a brewery exists that doesn't make a pumpkin beer of some kind.  Those are not just brewed with added pumpkin, but they put in the whole pie -- pumpkin pie that is.  The spices that give pumpkin pie its distinctive taste are added to the beer as well: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and/or ginger.

From what I understand, beer drinkers either love them or hate them.  They are the butt of more beer snob barbs than any other style except industrial light lager.

BeerBazaar's Scary Pumpkin Ale is, by my count, Israel's third entry into the pumpkin beer ocean.  The Galil Brewery on Kibbutz Moran has brewed a seasonal pumpkin beer since its earliest days.  Like the other Israeli pumpkin beers, it's made with the Israeli version of the orange pumpkin, called dla'at.  The Sheeta Brewery in Arad made a seasonal pumpkin ale last year.

[Read about the Galil Pumpkin Ale here, and about the Sheeta Pumpkin Ale here.]

Scary Pumpkin from the BeerBazaar Brewery:
Cinnamon, spice and everything nice.

From the label, you learn that Scary Pumpkin is brewed from dla'at, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.  Alcohol by volume is a moderate 5.3%.  

Let's see what comes through.   

First thing, a lot of light comes through this mid-amber, crystal clear brew.  The head was thin, but that was probably because we poured it so gently.  

The next thing that comes through is the aroma of pumpkin pie spices, specifically ginger and cinnamon sticks, with a bready malt background.  The first sip brings cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and bread (or maybe that's a pie crust!).  

Getting a little more technical, my drinking partner Daniël Boerstra noted that you get the full pumpkin pie effect as a retro-nasal aroma, that is, when you breathe out.  

The retro-nasal breath pushes aromas
against your olfactory epithelium:
Something every beer lover 
should know.

As the beer warms up, the cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices become more distinct.  "It reminds me of a Glühwein," said Daniël.  (That's about the same as a mulled wine.)

The bitterness level is low, and the mouthfeel reveals a medium body and a subtle carbonation.  

We both agreed that Scary Pumpkin fulfills the role of what they call abroad a "holiday ale" or a "winter ale," giving us flavor and strength during the colder, darker months ahead. 

December 14, 2020

'Double identity beers' from BeerBazaar

Those readers with sharp eyes might have noticed that some of the newer beer labels from BeerBazaar state that the beers are from the HaGibor Brewery in Carmiel.  In fact, they are HaGibor core beers wearing the label of BeerBazaar.

BeerBazaar labels on the outside;
HaGibor beer on the inside:
Hatav Hakatom IPA, Groovy Brown Ale
and Yihiye Beseder Blond Ale.

These include:

Hatav Hakatom IPA -- HaGibor IPA

Hatav Hakatom Wheat -- HaGibor Wheat

Yihiye Beseder Blond Ale -- HaGibor Blondie

Groovy Brown Ale -- HaGibor Brown Ale

[You can read more about the HaGibor Brewery and its beers by clicking here.] 

I asked Avi Moskowitz, CEO of BeerBazaar, what's going on here?

"This is a temporary solution for us until we expand our brewing capacity," he answered.  "We simply cannot make enough beer to keep up with the demand for it.  We have a good working relationship with Eran Grunwald of HaGibor and we are marketing some of his beers under our own label."

The BeerBazaar
Za'atar Beer
is the same as . . .

Avi stressed, however, that BeerBazaar is maintaining its own creativity and is introducing new beers at a rate of one or two a month -- far more than any other Israeli brewery.  

"Most recently," he added, "we have launched HaGanan ("The Gardener"), a rye IPA, Calamansi, our third beer using rare lemons from the Klotzman Orchards, and a Hard Apple Cider.  And we are continuing with our new beers and other beverages in spite of the many COVID-19 restrictions."       

  . . . Saison de Zion
from Nomads.

In addition, the second coming of the Nomads Saison de Zion is being sold under the Nomads own label and as the BeerBazaar Za'atar Beer.

In this case, the brewing Nomads, Yonah Rubin and Jacob Mogerman, have simply reached an agreement with the BeerBazaar (which is where they brew their beers) to market the beer under the two labels.

[Read more about the Nomads and their za'atar beer here.] 

The bottom line is this:  The BeerBazaar's customer base is growing so fast, and its online ordering and home-delivery systems are so efficient, that it cannot meet the demand for beer.  By co-marketing beers with other brewers, BeerBazaar has taken a step to solve this problem, as Avi Moskowits says, on a temporary basis.  

"We are working now to expand our capacity," Avi adds, "so that our beers will be available to be ordered and enjoyed by all those who want them."         

December 9, 2020

Sheeta Chardonnay: "Waiter, there's a grape in my beer!"

The Sheeta Brewery in Arad, founded by Jean Torgovitsky and his wife Neta, has been brewing beer with wine grapes for several years.  In 2018, they used Grenache grapes to produce a Special Edition beer which surprised and delighted aficionados of Israeli craft beer.  A year later, they brewed beers with Grenache, Pinot Noir and Shiraz grapes.  They remain the only Israeli brewery to do so.

[Refresh your memory about that beer and read some valuable background information here.]

Beer-wine hybrids have a small following in the U.S, and Europe, where innovative brewers have been adding grapes or actual wine to their fermenting beer.  Some vintners return the favor and have been adding hops to their wine.  

This year, Sheeta once again collaborated with the Midbar ("Desert") Winery in using Chardonnay grapes grown near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev.

Sheeta's three beer-wine hybrids
from 2019: Shiraz, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

"Chardonnay grapes are used in making some Champagne wines," Jean explained.  "They give our beer a deep yellowish color.  We planned the base beer to blend well with the Chardonnay flavor.  What we get is a raisin-sweetness and a balancing sourness."    

Well, let's see.

The Sheeta Chardonnay begins with a reddish-glowing copper color, hazy, and an off-white foamy head.  A nice start.  On the nose you get some yeasty white wine aromas, raisins and a hint of sweetness.  My drinking partner Daniël Boestra noticed some orange notes, which passed me by.

Jean and Neta Torgovitsky serve
their beer during earlier times,
when faces were recognizable. 

(Photo: Mike Horton)
We both got the taste of strong malt, definite fruity grapes and alcohol.  (ABV is a solid 7.9% -- something you would expect when the grapes are adding their own alcohol to the malt fermentation.)  Even though the hops are in the background, they are just enough to balance the sweetness of the grapes.  Like with many other beers, as the beer warms up, some flavors become more noticeable.  In this case, the grapes add a dry, wine-like finish. 

Daniël also expressed his admiration for the label art: a colorful pastoral scene, well designed, and a small flyer around the neck of the bottle with more information, signed by Jean.  

Sheeta Chardonnay is a class act in many ways.  As you enjoy it, you should know you're giving support to one of Israel's finest micro-breweries and encouraging innovation in our craft beer industry.   

December 1, 2020

Alexander Black takes yet another international medal

The European Beer Star Silver Medal
to Alexander Black was announced 
this year over the internet.

I simply have to tell myself not to get jaded or complacent.  

For the eighth time, with surprising regularity, the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer has won a medal in the internationally prestigious European Beer Star competition.  This time, once again, the winner was Alexander Black.  While described as a Porter, it took the Silver Medal in the Sweet Stout category.  

Alexander Black has taken medals in the European Beer Star in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018 -- and a Gold Award in the U.S.-based World Beer Cup in 2014.

We can safely describe that as an "award-winning beer"!  And now here's the deal (as Joe Biden would say):  It's a flagship beer of the Alexander Brewery and you can go out and buy it wherever Alexander Beers are sold.  It's brewed afresh before the winter and is almost always available. 

Ori Sagy, CEO of the Alexander Brewery,
shows the old blogger some of the earlier
awards from the European Beer Star.  

Ori Sagy, CEO of Alexander, told me that other Israeli beers have entered the European Beer Star through the years, but he's not sure about this year, and no other Israeli beers won medals this year.  

"To use an analogy with sports," he added, "only the best compete, only the very best win medals, and very few win medals more than once.  This competition draws the best breweries in the world.  Beers are judged by professionals in a pure blind tasting, and there are only three winners in each style."      

This was the 16th consecutive European Beer Star.  2,036 beers from 42 countries were entered.  Because of the coronvirus, there were no live events.  A 72-member judging panel, made up of master brewers, beer sommeliers and European beer connoisseurs, blind-tasted all the beers over two-and-a-half days, and awarded gold, silver and bronze medals for 70 different beer styles. 

Instead of the usual award ceremony, the winners were announced over the internet.

[You can read about Alexander Brewery's earlier achievements at the European Beer Star here.  Follow the links back to read about 2017 and 2014 as well.]      

So congratulations again to Ori Sagy and Alexander Beer for having the ambition and daring for entering international contests, and the excellent beers for winning them!   

Technically a Porter, Alexander Black is brewed every year for the winter months.  It's perfect for this season, dark brown and warming (alcohol volume is a high 7%), rich in flavors of bitter chocolate, coffee and roasted malt.  This year's version is now on the shelves, so go get some if you want to taste an international prize-winning beer.

November 25, 2020

Two fruited wheat beers: Mishmesh & Wheat Chee

Like other fruits, apricots can be 
excellent additives to wheat beer.

Two fruited wheat beers arrived on the scene recently.  I turned over a new leaf and rushed out to try them before they fade into the background.

I generally like wheat beers brewed with fruit.  The wheat style seems to be a "universal recipient" when it comes to fruit additives, much like people with AB+ type blood.  (That may not be the best analogy.)  I've enjoyed wheat beers made with cherries, raspberries, strawberries, oranges, citrons  . . and more.

Mishmesh (as those of you who know Hebrew can already guess) is a wheat beer brewed with apricots from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  It is one of their seasonal beers which are appearing with rapid regularity.  As I wrote already, when most of them are sold out, BeerBazaar eventually brews up another batch.  However, the apricot season is so very short (so much so that it's become an anecdote for "don't hold your breath") that there might not be more Mishmesh beer until next summer.

Mishmesh Wheat Beer from the
BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.

Still, it was available recently and I had a chance to taste it with my drinking partner Moshe.

Its color is a cloudy yellow-orange which Moshe called "one of the coolest colors I've ever seen."  The aroma is sour fruit and grassy first of all, with a spicy tang.  This continues when you taste it: a little sour and tart, yeast and fruit sweetness.  The apricot is in the background, but as the beer warms up it moves to the fore.  The body is medium and what you would expect from a wheat beer.  Alcohol by volume is 5%.  

I enjoyed it, but remember this: Until the beer warms up a bit, the apricot gives notes of tartness, fruitiness, and lightly sour, without the actual flavor.  To get the fruit taste, nurse your beer a little longer than usual.

Luscious lychees add distinctive
aromas and tastes to wheat beer.
The same holds for Wheat Chee from Klara Beers, brewed at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.  Its base is an American wheat beer, brewed with lychee fruit, with 5% alcohol.  

Here, too, the lychee taste only comes alive when the beer warms up.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Klara is the brand name for the beers brewed by Na'ama Ashkenazi, the "Israeli Queen of Beer."  Na'ama told me that Wheat Chee was brewed in collaboration with Rotem Zin of Biguns, the Center for Culinary Hobbies in Pardes Hanna - Karkur.

Three different bottles for
the same beer:
Wheat  Chee, the new wheat beer with
lychee fruit from Klara Beers.
[You can read more background on the Israeli Queen of Beer here.]

She also revealed something that is easy to overlook.  Wheat Chee comes in three different bottles.  Same beer inside, but different labels.  Look at the lychee fruit in the shape of a crystal ball within the hands of a gypsy fortune teller.  On one label, it's full, on another it's half, and on the third it's sliced in the middle.  Each label has a different color tone and a different fortune reading [they all lose something in my translations from the Hebrew]:

"Your future is shrouded in foam; you'll soon have a mustache."

"You feel that your life is stuck in a bottle cap; you'll soon be drunk."

"You're thirsty for change; something will soon open up." 

Anyway, back to the beer.

Na'ama Ashkenazi, the "Israeli 
Queen of Beer" and owner of Klara Beers.

A quick Google search reveals around 50 beers around the world that have been brewed or are still being brewed with lychee fruit.  It's not clear how many of these are wheat beers.  So Klara is not the first with a lychee beer, but it is a beauty.  

Wheat Chee poured out a very hazy, hay color, what you would expect from an unfiltered wheat, with almost no head.  The aroma was fruity and sweet, even bubble gummy, with some grapefruit.  The first taste is hoppy and bitter with a hint of lychee, citrus fruit and spice coming through.  Moshe's first reaction was that, "it tastes how lychee smells."  But as it warms up in the glass, the lychee becomes stronger.  In the end, you're left with bitter and lychee aftertastes that both stay with you.  "A good call," is what Moshe and I agreed on, meaning the wheat-lychee combination.

Beers from the BeerBazaar Brewery can be ordered from this English-language site:

Klara Beers are also available for purchase online at this site:    

Most of the pages have English versions, but the online shopping pages are only in Hebrew.  Na'ama says that there will soon be English shopping pages available.                                    

November 13, 2020

Amit Meltzer: From beer salesman to beer collector to brewer

Amit Meltzer pumps
his beer in front of his
beer memorabilia collection.  

The beer is Amit Meltzer's, but the picture on his bottle, coaster and glass is not.  It's his father, Ilan, to whom Amit has dedicated his entire brewing enterprise.  

"He's not just my father," Amit told me. "He's my mentor and best friend."  On the bottle and the coaster, Amit writes [my translation from the Hebrew]: "Beer for me is culture, tradition, feeling and love.  My father symbolizes everything that my beer and I want to be.  Daddy -- this is for you.  Amit"

Be that as it may, Amit first became interested in beer around a decade ago when he was 26.  A chance meeting in a local bar with an agent from the Norman Premium import agency (now a part of Hacarem Spirits Ltd.) resulted in Amit being offered a very welcome job.  He began to sell imported beers across a wide swath of Israel.  He learned all he could about the beers: the brewing, the marketing, the popular tastes.

Amit also began to collect beer memorabilia.  In fact, it became a passion.  He never stopped.  His house is now bursting with over 37,000 beer coasters, hundreds of branded beer glasses, and signs, mirrors and towels from bars around the world.  

Amit Meltzer's father, Ilan, is on the
bottle labels, coasters and glass.

Later, after he was hired to manage two restaurants in Rishon LeZion, he began to brew his own beer, using the kitchens of the restaurants after hours.  "We would offer the beer, not sell it, to customers and I saw from their reactions that they really loved it," explains Amit.

It wasn't long before Amit turned his amateur brewing into a commercial enterprise.  He now contract brews his Meltzer Beer at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad, owned and operated by Jean and Neta Torgovitsky.  "I'm brewing 3,000 liters a month," he says proudly.  "I distribute my own beer and Sheeta Beer to selling points around the country.  Meltzer Beer can now be purchased in 72 locations, and I also do home deliveries -- like I'm doing to you now."

Amit Meltzer delivered his Pale Ale 
directly to the old blogger.
It's true.  Amit himself delivered his popular Pale Ale directly to my home, also agreeing to sit and talk with me about his brewing and plans for the future.  "I want to brew a seasonal beer every quarter," he adds.  "Last summer, for example, I made a Special Edition Summer Ale which was very well received. 

"But the Pale Ale is my steady beer and the most popular.  There is nothing unusual about it; I try to keep it a solid and faithful American Pale Ale.  I use Pale Ale, Vienna and Munich malts, and hop and dry-hop with Cascade and Citra."

The proof is in the drinking.  Meltzer Pale Ale is a semi-cloudy, dark orange color with a small but stable head of foam.  We got the aromas of different fruits, or maybe fruit syrups: citrus, apricot, peach, and berries, along with sweet malt.  The taste was moderately bitter with more fruit (couldn't detect any real citrus) and a strong malty backbone.  The finish is bitter.     

We're talking a pale ale that is solid and refined and pushes all the right buttons.  These kinds of beers are growing on me, I must tell you, staking out a middle territory that brings together the craft beer taste experience with the simple kick-back pleasure of having a cold brewski.     

So thank you, Amit, for ending up a brewer.  I hope you fulfill your dream of having your own brewery, with space for a taproom and restaurant, and for a beer museum to house your growing collection of memorabilia.  Remember to invite me to the opening.

November 10, 2020

Two very delicious IPAs from HaDubim and Chalutz Chadash

Here are two new Israeli IPAs (India Pale Ales) that I can call delicious.  Not just true to their styles with strong hop aromas and flavors, enhanced bitterness, and balancing malt -- but are also genuinely delicious.  They are made by two smaller contract brewers who are known for their highly personal and excellent craftsmanship:  

HaDubim (The Bears"), owned by the brew brothers Rotem and Dagan Bar-Ilan, brewed at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat, 


Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer"), the beers of Gilad Ne-Eman, brewed at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.  

From HaDubim comes VMASH Mosaic, a rather complicated name which was explained to me by Dagan Bar-Ilan.  "This is the first in our series of Session IPAs," he said, "each one made with Vienna malt but with a different hop variety.  So VMASH stands for Vienna Malt And Single Hop.  For this first one, the hop is Mosaic, known for its tropical fruit aromas and flavors.

"We chose Vienna malt as the constant because, well, it's my favorite.  It's rich in flavor and brings a perfect balance of biscuit flavor and malt toastiness, with a clean, dry and medium-light body. 

"By the way, 'Session' simply means that the beer is low in alcohol so you can have more than one in a 'session.'  VMASH Mosaic is 4.2% alcohol by volume."

Thank you, Dagan.

I tasted VMASH Mosaic with my drinking partner Moshe via Zoom.  It pours out a cloudy, deep golden color with a creamy head.  The aroma is hoppy with a clean, citrus character.  The taste is bitter, less citrus, more floral and nondescript fruit, with toasted malt.  It's complex, with several different flavors coming together, but not blending, and even a little sourness in the background.  I would call the body medium and the finish dry and bitter.  All of this makes it very refreshing.  "Dew on wheat" is what Moshe thought of it.  Me, I enjoyed the flavors and the easy-drinking. 

Gilad Ne-Eman's prize-winning 
American IPA on sale in London:
The same recipe was used to brew
Made in Israel

The new IPA from Chalutz Chadash is named Made in Israel, reflecting Gilad Ne-Eman's belief that all of us should now be supporting Israeli-made products.  "This beer uses the same recipe as my IPA that was awarded Best-in-Show at the London and South East Brewing Competition in 2015," Gilad explains.  "That beer was named Avodah Ivrit ("Hebrew Labor"), and I brewed it myself under home conditions.  I was fearful that the results would not be the same when we made it in commercial quantities, but the Sheeta Brewery did an excellent job.

"Made in Israel is an American West Coast IPA.  I tried to emphasize the maltiness in order to balance the hop bitterness.  But we also didn't hold back on the hops for aroma and flavor.  Since the alcohol by volume is only 5.9%, you can enjoy drinking this beer without fear of having too much alcohol."

[You can read more about Gilad's win in the London beer competition here.]          

Thank you, Gilad.

Made in Israel is a hazy, dark orange color with a thin head of foam (when we poured it).  The aroma had nice notes of grapefruit, which I always like in an IPA, and other tropical fruits and pine -- Moshe smelled "sweet apricots."  Whatever.  When we took a swig, there was indeed a strong maltiness, with red grapefruit, tropical fruits, maybe apricot or peach.  The flavor of the fruit was not quashed by the bitterness.  In fact, it shone through.  This made for a commendable balance between the bitter and the sweet of the fruit.  The body is medium and the finish is mid-bitter.  A very satisfying and flavorful drink. 

These are two IPAs which are made for you to enjoy and not to overly analyze.  It's time to buy Israeli-made beer and be proud of Israeli brewing.              

November 1, 2020

Changes at Shevet Brewstillery

The Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna, which combines beer brewing and spirit distilling facilities, has announced changes in its brewing staff, with a new direction for its beer production strategy.
CEO Neil Wasserman
in the Shevet Brewstillery
in Pardes Hanna. 

"We have hired a new Brewmaster from Germany," explained Shevet CEO Neil Wasserman. 

"For us, working with a creative and experienced Brewmaster from Germany is a huge opportunity to finally start introducing more core beers to our existing two flagships: The Ice Mann Helles Lager and The Wee Laddie Scottish Ale, which have been available since we opened, over a year and a half ago." 

Neil did not ignore the fact that Shevet has produced four Small Batch beers: IPA, Extra Special Bitter, Double Bock lager, and Blonde Ale. "But these were not meant to be a flagship line," he added, "but rather to engage with our public and see what they like. Don't misunderstand me. We will continue with our Small Batch Series, and we have some very exciting styles planned. But the emphasis will be on expanding our line of colorful core beers. We’ve already started experimenting and will be welcoming a few new characters to our shevet ("tribe") in the very near future.”
Shevet's two core beers:
The Wee Laddie Scottish Ale and
The Ice Mann Helles Lager.

Neil did not name Shevet's new German Brewmaster, but he did assure me that he comes with international experience, having worked not only in Germany, but in other locations such as Australia, South Africa and India. 

"Don't think that he only brews German-style lagers and ales," Neil advised. "Because of his world wide experience, he is innovative and creative, so we can expect some really interesting beer styles from Shevet."

When I asked Neil for some specifics, he revealed that for this winter, the Shevet Brewstillery is looking to release a limited batch of Barrel-Aged Double Bock which has been aged in new charred American Oak barrels for over eight months!  Afterwards, those same barrels will be used to age distilled beer to produce a limited edition of a “single malt spirit.” 

"We are recommitting to what our mission has always been," Neil concluded: "To brew the best possible beers for the members of our 'tribe' -- the people who love beer in Israel or wherever they may be." 

October 25, 2020

Two more beers from BeerBazaar: Double Bhindi, Carpe Diem

I don't know of any other brewery in Israel that is introducing new beers at the rate of BeerBazaar.  They may not last long on the shelves or in the online store, but they seem to always be making a comeback, with new ones added all the time.  If this is a marketing ploy, I think it's a good one.  Craft beer fans are always on the lookout for new experiences, new beers.  They appreciate the golden oldies, but new beers are something to talk about and share on social media and with real friends.  

Two of the newer beers from BeerBazaar are Carpe Diem, a Summer Session Pale Ale, and Double Bhindi, a double version of their popular Bhindi IPA.  I'm not certain if they will be available at the time you read this, but if they're not, they will be back eventually.   

Pouring out one shade darker and just as clear as ginger ale, Carpe Diem looks the part for a summer ale.  The 4.5% alcohol by volume makes it a "session" beer, when you want more than one.  We got lively fresh hop aromas: apricots, lemon, lychee.  The taste is mild and mid-bitter, with a touch of sour and citrus, yeast and even more apricot.  The taste gets richer as you drink it, that is, as it warms up a little bit.  American Pale Ale is a style I appreciate just to get away from the more aggressive IPAs from time to time.  And Carpe Diem fills the bill, perhaps best for summer, but welcome anytime.

Don't think from the above that I don't enjoy strong and bitter IPAs as much as anyone else.  A good one is the second BeerBazaar offering in this write-up: Double Bhindi.  As they say on the label: "Double the hops, double the body, double the alcohol [not exactly double: 7.5%, against regular Bhindi's 5.5%]."  The colorful psychedelic label shows two of the Bhindi Bhuddas as seen through two eyeglass lenses.  Nice.  

This is a semi-hazy IPA, light-copper color with a thin head.  Lots of fruit and even sweet malt is in the aroma: grapefruit, mango, passion fruit.  But when it hits your tongue, you get the powerful bitterness, although tempered by the citrus and tropical fruits, along with some caramel and dark bread.  Crispy carbonation and full-bodied in the mouthfeel.  As you get used to the flavors, the warmth from the alcohol comes in, with a short, bitter finish.  

I waxed kind of poetic there, but this beer encouraged it.  My drinking partner Moshe and I felt that this Double Bhindi should be the BeerBazaar's regular Bhindi.                

Two fine beers from the BeerBazaar.  As soon as we're allowed, enjoy them with friends at the BeerBazaar pubs.  In the meantime, you can order them to your home (when they're available) from the BeerBazaar online store.

October 22, 2020

Shevet wins three London medals; introduces Small Batch Blonde Ale

The Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna has come out with yet another beer in its Small Batch series.  This time a Blonde Ale. 

At the start of the year, Shevet entered three of its beers in the London Beer Competition -- and in the summer (the delay was because of the severe corona epidemic in England) all of them won medals in their categories!  More about this later.     

The Blonde Ale also came out earlier this year.  It may not be easy to find on the shelves, but I've been assured that it will be making a comeback.   

I love the amount of information that's given on the Blonde Ale label (as with all of the Small Batch series):

4.9% alcohol by volume 

IBU (International Bitterness Units):  26 [moderate]

Number of bottles produced: 4,000

Specialty malt: Carapils

Hops: Citra, Nelson, Centennial

Tasting notes: Medium maltiness with smooth citrus hops flavor.

Thus should it be with all beer labels!

American blonde ales, as this one is, are easy-drinking, with neither the hops nor the malt dominating, and some mild flavors in the families of grain, bread and fruit.  

At least that's what the textbooks say.  Let's see how the Shevet Blonde Ale matches up.

It pours out a very clear light amber, lively bubbles rising but only a thin head.  The aroma is bready with some grass, spice (on the peppery side) and citrus (on the limey side).  You get a mid-bitter taste, low hop bitterness and some sweetness from the malt, also in an envelope of bread and yeast.  A thin body, active carbonation and a dry finish complete the picture.  

Lior Balmas, the former Brewmaster of Shevet, under whose auspices the Small Batch Blonde Ale was made, explained that the three hop varieties used for the beer contributed aroma and flavor, but not bitterness.  This is because they were introduced in the fermenting stage ("dry-hopped"), and not in the boiling stage, which would have absorbed the bitter acids.   
Shevet's three prize-winning beers
from the London Beer Competition. 

Lior also proudly told me about Shevet's three medals in the London Beer Competition.  "We sent our beers to London at the start of the year," he began.  "The judging was supposed to be at the end of March, but because if the corona crisis in England, it was only held in June.  That means our beers won even though they were sitting around in London for five months!  There was no public ceremony held, so we got our prizes by mail."

The London Beer Competition judges beers by their ability to identify and target a specific beer drinker, beers that are marketable and consumer driven.  Quite naturally, then, the judges are importers, store owners, pub owners, and others in the profession who have their finger on the market pulse.

"Our awards put Shevet on the same line with the best breweries in the world," Lior continued, "and Israel on the map of world beers."

Shevet's Small Batch IPA won the Silver Medal in the IPA category.

Wee Laddie won the Bronze for Scottish Ales.

Ice Mann, a Helles Lager, took the Bronze Medal in the category of Pale Malty European Lager. 

Congratulations to the Shevet Brewstillery on continuing the excellent Small Batch series, and on three prize-winning beers. 

October 11, 2020

Isra-Brew 2020 names home-brew winners in times of coronavirus

In a normal year, Israel has a few competitions to recognize and award talented and dedicated home-brewers.  Actually, quite a few.  

But this isn't a normal year, is it?  Almost all of the competitions were cancelled because the coronavirus keeps people apart.  No tasting beer together, no award ceremonies, no shaking hands.  

However, one competition, Isra-Brew, found a way to do everything according to the health guidelines, did the tasting and judging, and awarded 32 prizes to some of the country's best home-brewers. 
The Isra-Brew Jerusalem 
judging panel meets in solemn assembly.

Isra-Brew is organized by the Home-Brewers of Israel community.  It is sanctioned by the world-wide Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), and all of the judges are BJCP members to ensure a comprehensive evaluation and proper feedback to all of the entrants.

"This year, all of the competing bottles were delivered just before the country went on lockdown," explains Omer Basha, a competition organizer and Israel's only BJCP Master Judge.  "When things loosened up a bit, we sent the bottles to judging panels in different locations around the country.  Within a week, all of the judging was completed, we collected all of the scoresheets, scanned them and declared the winners on a Facebook live broadcast.  
The Isra-Brew Tel Aviv
judging panel assesses home-brews.

"Everything was carried out within the framework of the coronavirus regulations." 

[You can read about last year's contest, when judging and ceremonies were out in the open, here.]  

So without further ado, here are the winners of the 2020 Isra-Brew home-brewers competition:

Best of Show
First: Danny Perets (Karmazina) -- American IPA
Second: Gilad Ne-Eman (Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva) -- Imperial Stout
Third: Nitai Leffler -- Spiced Beer 

Champion Brewer (with all prizes taken into account)
Ohad Gertel

Belgian Ales
First:  Eviatar Azulay -- Ebi Cocoa Jumbo, Belgian Dubbel
Second:  Oren Bunimovich -- Over Quarter Ton, Saison
Third: Uri Shwed -- Beeradical Rapinoe, Belgian Blond Ale

Porters and Stouts
First:  Gilad Ne-Eman (Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva) -- Night Gate Keeper,                       Imperial Stout
Second:  Jacob Avakov -- Jack Dusty English Porter
Third:  Boaz Lanner -- Party Gyle Stout, American Stout
First:  Danny Perets (Karmazina) -- Hugeness American Flag Cork, American IPA
Second: Naveh Vagenfeld -- American IPA
Third: Jacob Avakov -- Jack Dusty IPA, American IPA

Wheat Beers
First:  Tom Arad -- Lightwheat, Weizenbock
Second:  Raviv Soha -- Wheatwit, Witbier
Third:  Assaf Murkes (Modi'in Brewers)-- Wizen, Weissbier

Lager Styles
First:  Ohad Gertel -- #55, Eisbock
Second: Nitai Leffler -- Marisa Bandera, Vienna Lager
Third: Oren Bunimovich -- Darko, Dunkel Bock

Specialty Beers
First:  Ohad Gertel -- #47, Wood-aged Beer
Second: Assaf Murkes (Modi'in Brewers)-- Salted Oaked Stout, Wood-aged Beer
Third: Alex Fuks (Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva) -- These are Hard Times, 
            Fruit Beer

American Pale Ale
First:  Jacob Avakov -- Jack Dusty APA
Second:  Vitali Oneg -- K-la-Hop 
Third:  Danny Perets (Karmazina) -- Hugeness Green Cork

Spiced Beer
First:  Nitai Leffler -- Dalorian
Second: Alex Fuks (Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva) -- Coffee & Cream
Third:  Lior Eshbal -- Alamida

Other Pale Ales
First:  Dvir Flom (Home-Brewers Guild of Beersheva) -- Mild, Dark Mild

First:  Ohad Gertel -- #78, Meomel
Second: Ohad Gertel -- #82, Dry Mead
Third: Gilad Ne-Eman -- Mead Me, Dry Mead

Congratulations to all the winners!  You know, in normal times we would take some photos of the winners receiving their awards at the ceremony.  That will have to wait until next year -- we hope!  

October 4, 2020

Cold-brew coffee beers from BeerBazaar and Shapiro

Maybe it was because of all the coffee commercials we've been seeing lately on Israeli TV.

Maybe it's because caffeine has been getting such a good press. 

Maybe it was because coffee beers are a growing trend in the U.S. -- that vast heartland of craft beer culture.

Whatever the reason, two Israeli breweries have recently brought out beers that are:

    ✔ Both made in collaboration with coffee roasters;

    ✔ Both fermented with cold-brew coffee infusion;

    ✔ And both, in my humble opinion, excellently crafted.

But they are very different beers.

First out was Cold Brew from the BeerBazaar
BeerBazaar Cold Brew
Coffee Stout.
Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  The base beer here is a stout, a style already known for having roasty and coffee characteristics from the malt.  The beer was brewed with the collaboration of Caffe Tamati in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market, which supplied the cold-brew infusion (as well as daily cups of coffee for the BeerBazaar staff in the Carmel Market!).

The beer is very dark brown and allows no light to pass through; headless when we poured it from the bottle. Beautiful aromas of very dark roast coffee. This stays in the flavor, along with dark chocolate. It doesn't have to be said, but because of the cold-brew liquid, this beer is much more flavorful than stouts which rely just on the malt to get their coffee character. The mouthfeel is mid-body with no alcohol warmth from the low 4.7% ABV. We felt a beer like this should have a fuller and creamier body, but that's really picking nits. Cold Brew is a fine, enjoyable beer -- especially if you love the aroma and taste of good coffee.
Caffe Tamati in Tel Aviv provided the
cold-brew coffee infusion for
BeerBazaar Cold Brew.

A while later, the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh introduced Barista Beer, a "special edition" brewed in collaboration with Coffee Shop 51 in Tel Aviv.  The base beer here is, surprisingly, a pale ale, 4% alcohol, whose malt and hop flavors blend elegantly with the coffee.

"Our challenge was to find the right 'match' between two good friends: beer and coffee," says Danny Shapiro, a sibling/partner in the Shapiro Brewery.  "Using stout would have been combining two things very similar.  So our Brewmaster, Yochai Kudler, suggested that we use a pale ale.  
Shapiro Barista Beer.
(Photo: Udi Katzman)

"The cold-brew infusion that we got from Coffee Shop 51 is brewed with Aricha washed coffee beans from the Yirgacheffe region in southern Ethiopia.  These are among the most highly-regarded coffee beans in the world, and their flavor is less on the roasty side and more fruity and sweet.  This was perfect for our pale ale base."
Tipping a hat to its origins, Barista is the first Israeli craft beer to have Amharic on the label!  If you have trouble reading it, let me help you.  It says, "Shapiro Beer."

Shapiro Chief Brewer Ory Sofer reminds us that we shouldn't ignore the interplay of alcohol and caffeine in coffee beer.  "The caffeine level is quite high because of the cold-brew infusion," he says, "and it gives you an energy kick that cancels out the drowsiness you feel from the alcohol.
Dotan Greenberg (right),
owner of Coffee Shop 51,
visited Ethiopia in search of the
perfect coffee beans for 
Shapiro Barista Beer.  

"A beer like this is perfect for a day when you wake up late and can't decide whether to have your regular cup of coffee or go straight to having a beer!"

Let's go straight to having a Barista.  It pours out an appealing hazy amber color with an off-white head.  There are intertwining aromas of very fresh dark roast coffee and citrusy pale ale hops.  The taste is mildly bitter, or better yet, bittersweet with the coffee and the fruit.  You feel a crisp citrus on the tongue, backed by more coffee, nuts and orange peel.  The body is medium and smooth.    

Dive into the realm of coffee beers with Cold Brew and Barista and you'll taste what all the shouting is about.  These beers pair beautifully with sweet desserts, of course (think chocolate truffles or lemon meringue pie), but also foods you would have a cup of coffee with: eggs, macaroni & cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich and even bagel & cheese.  Enjoy! 

September 23, 2020

Interdonato & Bergamot: Two rare lemons used in BeerBazaar beers

There have been a slew of new beers recently from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  The supply has been rather sketchy since they are brewed in limited quantities and sell out quickly in stores, including BeerBazaar's own chain of pubs, and in the online store ( But most of them will be making comebacks so you should keep looking for them.

Two of the most unusual were brewed in collaboration with the Klotzman Orchards near Kibbutz Ein HaHoresh in Emek Hefer.  They grow some rare fruits there, including 10-12 varieties of lemons.  These varieties are only grown in a few countries outside of Italy and France.  

Bergamot lemons in the 
Klotzman Orchards.

The orchards were founded in 1906 by the great-grandfather of the two current owners, brothers Ben and Gal Alon.  (Klotzman, which means "woodsman" or "woodworker" in German, was Hebraized to Alon, which mean "oak tree," a generation ago.)  

"We sell our lemons to individuals, mostly food enthusiasts, and gourmet restaurants," says Ben Alon.  "Lior Weiss, the Brewmaster at the BeerBazaar Brewery, and I thought of the idea of making beer with two varieties of these lemons: the Interdonato and the Bergamot.  Both of these are grown mainly for the zest from their outer rind.  The inner rind and pulp are too bitter for use."

Ben Alon of the Klotzman Orchards
carefully removed all of the green rind
from these Interdonato lemons.

The two most well-known products for these lemons are 
Lemoncello, a popular Italian aperitif, which incorporates the rind of the Interdonato, and Earl Grey tea, which is flavored with oil from the skin of the Bergamot. 

"For the beers," explains Ben, "I grated all of the lemons by myself.  I hope that these beers will give people a taste of the terroir of our orchard: the water, the earth, the sunshine."   

Ben Alon (left) of the Klotzman Orchards
shows viewers an Interdonato lemon.
With him is Lior Weiss, Brewmaster of the
BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.

Both of the beers are named after the lemons.  Interdonato beer, according to Lior Weiss, "is based on American pale ale, and we dry-hop it with Citra hops and lemon zest." 

So what does this bring us?

Interdonato beer is a clear, light orange color with a big foamy head.  The aroma is rather grassy, but you also get the smell of lemon tea.  Perhaps with lemons, you would expect a sour taste, but there isn't much of that.  What there is is a full bitterness, perked up with lemon tea and lemon popsicle.  It's a taste that makes you thirsty, which is not bad in a beer since you want to keep drinking.  ABV is 5.2%.

Bottles of Interdonato and
Bergamot beer from the 
BeerBazaar Brewery,
made in collaboration with
the Klotzman Orchards.
The base for the Bergamot beer is the Saison style.  It's a darker color than Interdonato and a little stronger (6.2% ABV).  It doesn't have the lemon tea taste, but more like lemon and honey, or "lemon in gravy," as my drinking partner Moshe said.  You also can't mistake the very distinctive taste of Saison yeast.  The finish is long and bitter.    

The Bergamot, we agreed, is the more complex and sophisticated of the two, but the Interdonato was more interesting and, in the end, more enjoyable.

Kudos to the BeerBazaar Brewery for taking this brave step and introducing two innovative beers which, while tasty, are outside of the comfort zone of most beer drinkers.