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
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!).
|BeerBazaar Cold Brew|
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.
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.
"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!