April 23, 2020

How Israeli breweries are coping with the shutdown

Israeli craft breweries are feeling the effects of the national shutdown like every other business -- but even more so! 

With restaurants, bars and pubs closed to the public, beer sales are being made only through retail outlets like supermarkets and grocery stores.  Although some beer and liquor stores are open or doing home deliveries, foot traffic and sales are way down as customers are confined to their homes.

Ofer Ronen, partner of the Srigim Brewery
in Srigim (Li-On), welcomed
the old blogger to the brewery
in better days.  
"All of our retail customers have shut down their businesses," bemoans Ofer Ronen, founder/partner of Srigim Brewery in Srigim (Li-On), brewers of Ronen and Emek Ha'ela beers.  

"With all of our employees on 'vacation,' we have stopped brewing, of course, and are selling our bottled beer by direct home delivery, even though this is bringing in only about 5% of our regular revenue.  We have upgraded our website and are selling beer in 4-packs, 6-packs, and 24-bottle cartons.

"My partner Ohad Eilon and I do everything alone.  We prepare the shipments and then deliver them.  Sometimes we have to call a customer and ask if we can bring the beer late at night.  No one refuses.  When you bring beer to someone, they always have a smile on their face."

Other Israeli craft breweries have also begun to do home deliveries, just to keep their business in operation.  A partial list includes: Alexander, BeerBazaar, Buster's (Oak & Ash), Jem's, Mosco, Shevet, Dancing Camel, Sheeta, Arava, Barzel, HaGibor, Shapiro and HaDubim.  Beer specialty stores and pubs are also delivering, including Beerateinu, Beer Market, Beer & Beyond, Kishkashta, Beit HaBira, Beer Station, Bira Nekuda, Beer Point, and Beer Shop.  Check their Facebook pages or website for details, including areas of delivery.

Assaf Lavi, brewer and partner 
of the Malka Brewery in Tefen, 
holds some of the malted barley 
used in making beer.  
(Photo: Mike Horton)
One brewery resisting the delivery trend is Malka Beer in the Tefen Industrial Area (where Negev and Herzl beer are also brewed).  Partner and brewer Assaf Lavi explains: "Our distributors and wholesalers cover enough supermarket chains and grocery stores to keep our beer moving, even in these difficult times.  Also, we think it's an ethical problem to be competing, even in a small way, with the retail outlets that are continuing to sell our beer.

"What we do on our new web page is to give a list of the retail outlets that are selling our beers by home delivery.  This seems to be a fair compromise."

Lavi noted that even if the retail sales are continuing (though much less than usual), the sale of Malka Beer in kegs to bars and restaurants accounted for 70% of turnover, and this is completely ended.  This figure appears to be the norm with all other breweries as well.

Image may contain: 4 people, text
The five new bottles which the Malka Brewery
is releasing for Yom Atzmaut. 
Each has the image of a different
Jewish or Israeli leader.
Nevertheless, Lavi is optimistic enough to believe that Israelis will be drinking their usual quantities of beer on this Independence Day (Yom Atzmaut).  For the second year in a row, Malka has prepared its beers in special bottles with caricatures of Jewish and Israeli leaders: Golda Meir, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Chaim Weizmann and Theodore Herzl.

David Cohen, owner of the
Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv,
greets visitors at a local beer festival.  
The Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv (Israel's first micro-brewery) is only delivering to "faithful local customers," according to owner David Cohen.  "We are now scheduling a wider distribution," he adds. 

"The virus hit us at a very critical time.  Before Pesach, retail outlets order a lot less beer because they don't want to get stuck with it over the holiday.  And that's exactly when the shutdown began.  So even the recovery we were expecting after Pesach isn’t going to happen."

Cohen says that government support is now crucial if small breweries are to survive.  "We have some staying power, but it's not unlimited," he appeals.  "There is no plan in place that will save us if this continues even a little while longer.  The government has to adopt a program to help small businesses like us."

Ori Sagy (right), owner of the Alexander Brewery
in Emek Hefer, talks with Octavio Costa,
organizer of the ARTBEERFEST in
Caminha, Portugal, last year. 
Alexander was the first Israeli craft brewery
to participate in this major European beer festival. 
Ori Sagy, the owner of Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer, has developed a policy of free home delivery to anywhere in Israel to keep his brewery in business.

"We advertise on social media," he explains, "asking for a minimum order of 12 bottles.  This costs 130 shekels.  Members of our Customer Club get a 10% discount, but you can join when you order and get the discount immediately."

For Israeli craft beer, this is considered a low price.  It is in line with all other breweries, who have also brought their prices down during this period.    
"This is great time to buy Israeli craft beer online," Sagy declares.  "Prices are low and we will keep them low for Yom Atzmaut.  Now is the time for everyone to buy local and drink excellent Israeli beer!"  

A version of this article appeared Friday, April 24, in 
                                 The Jerusalem Post local weekly, In Jerusalem. 


  1. Interesting, well-written piece...

  2. I'm tempted... seriously. Which has the best prices for Shapiro?


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