January 22, 2020

New from BeerBazaar: Cannabrew ● Free home deliveries ● OMG (2020)

News is a-poppin' at the BeerBazaar Brewery (Kiryat Gat) and chain of pubs.  Two new beers have been released, and a home-delivery project is in the beta stage.

Cannabrew -- Israel's first cannabis-based beer

You can smell it; you can taste it -- but you can't get high on it.

In mid-January, the BeerBazaar Brewery launched Cannabrew -- Israel's first beer made with cannabis isolates.

"In Israel, it is not yet legal to use cannaboids, the psychoactive components of cannabis," explained Avi Moskowitz, CEO of BeerBazaar, "but the use of terpenes, the organic compounds which plants use for defense and communication, is legal."

BeerBazaar worked with a laboratory which succeeded in identifying the genetic profile of the Sativa cannabis plant and isolating those terpenes which had the qualities they were looking for.  Avi continued:  "We were able to replicate the exact components that contribute to energy and focus in the Sativa plant and from other non-cannabis plants.  Cannabrew is our first 'functional beer,' and we expect to continue to make other functional drinks leveraging this unique technology." 

But there was another challenge that had to be met as well: How to get the oil-based and insoluble terpenes to blend with the beer?

Avi Moskowitz, CEO of BeerBazaar,
in the Jerusalem Machane Yehuda branch.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
"To overcome this," Avi explained, "we partnered with an Israeli start-up company that specializes in
cannabis and terpene emulsification.  Their patent-pending technology allows the terpenes in the beer to be combined into a uniform beverage.  There are no sediments; the different elements are fused into one.  You can actually smell and taste the terpenes in the brew."

I'm a beer blogger, not a chemical engineer (like my youngest son), but I was able to follow Avi's explanation and understand how very difficult this process was -- to produce a beer which has the aroma, taste and beneficial effects of the Sativa cannabis plant, and is legally permitted.

Bottles of Cannabrew will soon be available online on the new BeerBazaar website (see below).  When it goes on sale at the BeerBazaar stores sometime later, it will come in a cylinder gift package, including a special edition poster, magnet and "other goodies."   

BeerBazaar plans to introduce other "functional beers" during the course of the year.  This is a new and exciting dimension in the world of craft beer, and we can hardly wait to hear more about it.

Beer from the Beer Bazaar direct to your home -- the same day!

My home delivered package from BeerBazaar
arrived safe and sound with eight
assorted beers (four different beers),
including the new Cannabrew.
Very shortly, you'll be able to buy Cannabrew through the new BeerBazaar home-delivery website.  The site is still taking its first steps, so not every function may be working, but in principle you should soon be able to surf over to www.beerbazaar.co.il and order Cannabrew as part of an 8-pack or 12-pack bundle.

You can already use the site to purchase other BeerBazaar beers (an 8-pack for 99 shekels; a 12-pack for 129 shekels), choosing from either pre-assorted packs or make up your own.  Currently, the site is only in Hebrew.

And here's the kicker -- delivery is free and if you order before noon, your beer arrives the same day!  BeerBazaar invested time and money in setting up a logistical network that gets the beer to you on the same day that you order.  This could be a game changer -- if all goes well.

2020 version of OMG (Oh My Goodness) is a barrel-aged Imperial Stout 

No photo description available.For the third year in a row, BeerBazaar has brought out a new version of its winter super-beer, OMG.  [You can read about last year's version of OMG here.]

The year, the style is an Imperial Stout, 8.5% alcohol, aged for five months in barrels which held whisky and rum from the Golan Heights Distillery.  Only 500 numbered bottles were produced.  They are available only at the BeerBazaar pubs, where you can also buy the beer on tap. 

Bottles cost 79 shekels for 750 milliliters.  Gift packages that include a cardboard cylinder, a special edition poster and a magnet sell for 104 shekels.  This is a very limited edition, so I suggest you get over to your nearest BeerBazaar as soon as possible if you want to buy a bottle or taste it from the tap.

I haven't tasted this beer yet, but I can say that it is pitch black and, according to the label, full-bodied and rich with flavors of roast and dried fruits.  It's recommended to pair with smoked cheeses or chocolate desserts. 

OMG is a perfect beer for aging.  The brewers say that you can put your bottle away for up to five years and the beer will just get better.  Of course, there are those of us who can't or won't wait that long.   

Stay tuned for my up and coming review of Cannabrew and this year's OMG.

January 15, 2020

Beers brewed in ancient Israel to be produced commercially

"If you promise them beer, they will come":
The crowd at the Bible Lands Museum
in Jerusalem hears about the project
to brew beers made with
ancient yeast and original ingredients.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Last year, a team of Israeli archaeologists, microbiologists and brewers announced that they had successfully isolated and cultivated yeast cells found in the pores of ancient clay vessels, excavated in Israel, which were believed to have held beer. 

They then used one of the strains of this yeast (dating back the Philistine period of about 850 BCE) to successfully brew a tasty beer.  This event was announced at a well attended press conference at Beerateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, which you can read about here.

Prototype bottles of "Ishtar," a mead
made from ancient yeast dating back to the
Persian period, about 500 BCE.

(Photo: Mike Horton)   
Two months ago, a honey mead was introduced to the public which was made with another strain of this ancient yeast -- this one dating back to the Persian period, about 500 BCE.  

It was made public during an event at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.  Mead is made from honey, water and yeast – and this one has a delicious sweet, nutty flavor, with a higher alcoholic content than beer.

At that event, Dr. Michael Klutstein of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, revealed that his laboratory, along with Hebrew University's Yissum Research Development Co., plan to bring three of these ancient beverages to the commercial market: the Philistine beer ("Goliath"), the Persian mead ("Ishtar") and an Egyptian beer made from yeast dating back to about 3100 BCE (tentatively to be called "Narmer," the first pharaoh). 

Dr. Michael Klutstein, a microbiologist at the
Hebrew University - Hadassah
School of Dental Medicine,
announces the project to commercially brew
beers from ancient yeast found in Israel.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
"In the past," Dr. Klutstein told me, "reconstructed ancient beers have been made with what people thought were original ingredients, and modern yeast.  We have made our drinks so far with ancient yeast and modern ingredients.

"But the ancient beverages we brew will have both original yeast and other original ingredients.  This is a first, and this is what we are really excited about."

The importance of this project cannot be underestimated.

Dr. Yitzchak Paz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that this experiment was a real "breakthrough."  "This is the first time we succeeded in producing ancient alcohol from ancient yeast.  In other words, from the original substances from which alcohol was produced.  This has never been done before."

And Prof. Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, the head archaeologist of the team, summed it up by proclaiming, "Make no mistake about it.  This is a fantastic find!" 

Dr. Klutstein's team is looking for investors to move this project forward, so if any of you, dear readers, are interested or know someone who might be, please contact me. 

January 14, 2020

Sales & Mergers: Oak & Ash buys Buster's; Herzl joins Malka

We may not be talking about earth-shaking exits, sales and mergers, but two recent events have tongues wagging in the Israeli craft beer industry.

Buster's Beverages sold to Oak & Ash

(From left): Asher Zimble, Leiby Chapler
and Denny Neilson toast the sale of
Buster's to Oak & Ash.
The Buster's Beverage Company, founded by Denny Neilson, has been purchased by Oak & Ash, a craft brewery known for its innovative beers, including several aged with oak (hence its name).
Oak & Ash partners Asher Zimble and Leiby Chapler have been contract brewing their beers in different locations since they started in 2017. With the purchase of Buster's in the Noham (Sorek) Industrial Area near Beit Shemesh, they now have a permanent home. In addition, they have acquired the Buster's brand name, which includes three styles of apple cider, two flavors of hard lemonade, a line of craft beers, and spirits under the Pioneer label.
Pam and Denny Neilson: 
More time to be grandma and grandpa.

Denny Neilson -- winemaker, brewer, teacher, pioneer in the Israeli craft beverage movement, and founder of the Buster's Beverage Company -- first put out feelers to find a buyer several months ago.

 "I have been working non-stop for the last 55 years, most of that time working two jobs," he told me.  "I've loved every minute of every year, but the time has come for me to be solely a husband, father, and saba (grandfather)."

His son Matt, who is heavily involved in the company's sales and marketing, would have been a natural for taking over the reins of Buster's.  But Matt has other plans for his future.

Matt and Denny Neilson
with Buster's flagship hard apple cider.
"This was a perfect opportunity for anyone interested in entering the craft beverage industry," says Denny.  "Oak & Ash were able to produce beverages and generate income from day one!  Starting from scratch would have taken 10-14 months, minimum, for anyone to reach the production level of a facility like Buster's."

Denny was looking for a buyer who was passionate about craft beverages and would make every effort to maintain the quality of the brand.  "I found this with Asher and Leiby," he asserts.

Asher says that he will continue to produce the full line of Buster's Beverages, while also expanding
the production of Oak & Ash's well-known beers.  "In fact, we just brewed 600 liters of our popular New England IPA," he continues.  "We have plans for new beers, some oak aged.  Since we are also a distillery, we have barrels which formerly held whisky that can be used for aging beer, creating, for example, bourbon barrel barley wine and stout.

"I advise you to keep your eyes open for our new beers and new liquors."           

Last year, Denny exported his kosher-for Passover hard lemonade to the New York / New Jersey area.  [Read about that here.]  Asher revealed that he is now working on an order for 20,000 bottles which will be shipped to the same New York importer in time for Passover.

There is no doubt that the purchase of Buster's by Oak & Ash produces a synergy which will bring us very interesting and innovative beverages.  This perhaps is some compensation for the retirement of Denny Neilson, whose laid-back manner, friendliness and boundless knowledge of brewing helped make the Israeli craft beer industry what it is today.

Herzl Beer now being brewed (temporarily) at the Malka Brewery

Herzl owner/brewer Maor Helfman (right) greets
 the Austrian "Beer Pope" Conrad Seidl and
Bernhard Purin, Director of the
Munich Jewish Museum,
at the Jerusalem Beer Festival.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Maor Helfman, owner of the Herzl Brewery in Jerusalem, has announced that his beer will now be brewed at the new Malka Brewery in Tefen, and distributed by Hacarem Spirits Ltd., which is a partner in the Malka Brewery. 

"This arrangement is temporary until we find a new and bigger facility for Herzl in Jerusalem," says Maor. "Our problems have always been 1) having the capacity to brew enough beer to meet the demand, and 2) having the distribution resources to get our beer to markets all around Israel.  Brewing at the huge, modern Malka facility will enable Herzl to increase its output many times, and our distribution will be handled by the Hacarem network, which reaches all over the country."
Maor Helfman and the old blogger.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
During the time of this arrangement, Maor will serve as Beer Brands Manager within the HaCarem organization, replacing Gilad Dror, who becomes Director of the Malka Brewery.

"For me, It's like a homecoming," continues Maor.  "I worked for the Hacarem agency for four years before I opened the Herzl Brewery.  They are a very professional staff, and we have plans for new beers and logistical improvements for this year.  They also know about my chutzpa and knowledge of 'guerrilla marketing' which I hope will benefit everybody."          

January 11, 2020

Hagibor Brewery: A short introduction

Image may contain: cloud, sky and outdoorEran Grunwald has been brewing beer since 2012 -- not a very long time in home-brewers' years.  Yet he was sure enough of himself and his beers to start brewing commercially about two years ago.

"We brought in our new equipment to the Meadan Brewery in Carmiel and started to brew our beers there.  Meadan recently ceased operations and the brewery is now used solely for our brand -- HaGibor."

That means "The Hero" in Hebrew and I asked Eran whom that refers to.

"That's my van, whose drawing is on all of our labels," he laughs.  "When we started brewing, it really was our hero, bringing in supplies and delivering beer non-stop."

Today, HaGibor Brewmaster Yoni Batash produces around 25,000 liters a month, including beer which is contract brewed for others.

"We have 14 fermenters of 2,000 liters each," Eran explains, "plus we have a cooling system for lagering beer.  This is not very common in Israel and several other brewers also use this facility."

The brewery recently opened a Visitors' Center and Beer Garden that is a popular venue for locals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

HaGibor brews five core beers:

A section of the HaGibor Brewery in Carmiel.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Blondie -- A Blond Ale (5.6% alcohol by volume), brewed with spices, yeasty and spicy with orange the most recognizable aroma and flavor.

Bavarian Wheat -- A classic weissbier (5.2% ABV), with aromas of wheat, sweet spice, cloves and citrus.

Brown Ale -- Yeasty and toasty, with bitterness and flavors not associated with brown ale. 5.3% ABV.

Extra Stout -- On the drier side of the stouts scale (5.5% ABV), with roasted malt, chocolate and coffee aromas and flavors.
IPA -- One of my favorite Israeli IPAs. Very well balanced with citrusy hops, malt, and yeast flavors. 7.3% ABV.
Eran says that the Bavarian Wheat is the best seller, followed by the IPA.

Eran Grunwald (the big guy), owner of the
HaGibor Brewery, "donates" some of
his beers to the old blogger.
In addition, HaGibor has just introduced its first seasonal beer -- a Winter Ale, a high-spiced, high-alcohol (9.7%) beer in the style of the many "Holiday" or "Christmas" ales brewed in other countries.  It's amber colored and spiced with orange peel, cinnamon, star anise, and "other good things."

The Winter Ale is still not available in Jerusalem (our eternal capital) so I haven't had a chance to taste it.  But I'm working on it and will certainly give you my report as soon as the beer and I can get together.