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."