June 22, 2020

Lodestone debuts with a Tropical IPA and a Peach Blonde

We first met Jason Barnett a-year-and-a-half ago when he was brewing and selling his beers under the Opus label, and giving workshops on home-brewing and beer tastings.  [Read about it here.] 

Since then, Jason has continued with all of these activities, most recently giving his Beer Lab seminars for the BeerBazaar chain of pubs (before they were closed down on orders of General Corona).  

"But I continued brewing in my spare time," Jason recently told me in a telephone interview, "building up different beer recipes around local ingredients." 

A little while ago, Jason received an e-mail from an Israeli lawyer informing him that the name "Opus" had been registered in Israel in the 1990s as a name for wine and beer by the Opus 1 Winery in California.  He warned Jason that he would be sued if he continued using the name.  

Lodestone partners
Malcha Miller and
Jason Barnett.
"We saw that as an opportunity to rebrand and find a new name which expressed our principles," Jason explained.  He and his new partner Malcha Miller, who has a background in sales and marketing, decided on the name Lodestone.

"It's elemental," according to Jason, "giving us a new direction and placing us between traditional brewing and using local ingredients."  A lodestone is a naturally magnetized mineral, and by extension, anything that's a focus of attention or attraction.  So it does seem to fit.

Lodestone's first beer is a Tropical IPA, contract brewed at Buster's Brewery (Oak & Ash) in the Noham industrial area near Beit Shemesh.  It's made with Israeli mango and Saison yeast, so we can expect a (tropical) fruity character with a dry, perhaps peppery finish.

Let's see how this plays out:

The beer pours out a slightly hazy light amber color with a big frothy head and very active carbonation.  The aroma is certainly IPA, though not very aggressive: some tropical fruit, yeast, grapefruit, lemon and spiciness.  The taste is quite bitter, with spice phenols from the yeast, and hints of lemon zest, green apple and fruit popsicle.  
There is also a fruit sourness which led my drinking partner DaniĆ«l Boerstra to call this beer, "an IPA mixed with a sour."  We also thought that the high alcoholic volume (7%) makes itself felt in the taste and the "warmth" of the mouthfeel.

While we both agreed that Tropical IPA is a pleasant beer to have on a warm summer's day (which we did), we were disappointed with not detecting any mango.

To tell the truth, I've had that same reaction with a number of new beers I tasted recently.  They were brewed with fruit or other natural additives -- but there was nary a hint of these flavors in the beers.  I'm not saying that these should all be "fruit beers" which taste like fruit juice with a little bit of hops.  We certainly have enough of those, mostly imported.  But if a beer is made with a certain flavor additive, you ought to be able to know it's there.  If not, why use it?  Am I wrong?           

A perfect example of what I mean is Lodestone's second beer -- Peach Tree Blonde -- described by Jason Barnett as a balance between an American blonde ale and a peach cider.  Here the peach is unmistakable as soon as you pour.  The haze, color and carbonation were similar to the Tropical IPA, but the whiffs from the glass were completely different.  We perceived peach preserves, butterscotch, and fresh yeasty bread.  

On the tongue (as they say), there is white peach and an alcoholic peach liqueur (ABV is 6.5%), which stay with you.  The mouthfeel sensations are medium-body, some alcoholic warmth and a honey smoothness.  Peach Tree Blonde is a complex, multi-dimensional beer, yet very refreshing and made for such a summer's day.  Jason says that this beer, in fact, "captures the feeling that summer's coming in Israel," by choosing a summer fruit and keeping the malts and hops in tune with a light, semi-dry beer.              
Lodestone's first two beers are promising, and we look forward to more of them which will keep the brewery's mission statement (presented here only partially):

Striving to create unique beer by constantly challenging ourselves and our community


Being for what's right, not who's right.


Solving problems through collaboration and out-of-the-box solutions


Incorporating the legacy of pioneer brewers by tapping into our history of beer and brewing


Building an institution and Israeli legacy in order to cultivate and promote Israeli pride.


Utilizing foresight within our team to courageously solve problems by re-assessing and adapting to changing situations


Using Israeli ingredients sourced locally and sustainably.


Empowering the public and next generation of brewers through education


Lodestone Tropical IPA is available these days in stores in the Tel Aviv region, Ramat Gan and Jerusalem.  Malcha and Jason themselves have been making the deliveries.  Malcha lives in Jerusalem, and has been actively promoting the beer to stores throughout the city.  As the lockdown conditions ease, the distribution area will grow, including pubs and restaurants.