December 9, 2020

Sheeta Chardonnay: "Waiter, there's a grape in my beer!"

The Sheeta Brewery in Arad, founded by Jean Torgovitsky and his wife Neta, has been brewing beer with wine grapes for several years.  In 2018, they used Grenache grapes to produce a Special Edition beer which surprised and delighted aficionados of Israeli craft beer.  A year later, they brewed beers with Grenache, Pinot Noir and Shiraz grapes.  They remain the only Israeli brewery to do so.

[Refresh your memory about that beer and read some valuable background information here.]

Beer-wine hybrids have a small following in the U.S, and Europe, where innovative brewers have been adding grapes or actual wine to their fermenting beer.  Some vintners return the favor and have been adding hops to their wine.  

This year, Sheeta once again collaborated with the Midbar ("Desert") Winery in using Chardonnay grapes grown near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev.

Sheeta's three beer-wine hybrids
from 2019: Shiraz, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

"Chardonnay grapes are used in making some Champagne wines," Jean explained.  "They give our beer a deep yellowish color.  We planned the base beer to blend well with the Chardonnay flavor.  What we get is a raisin-sweetness and a balancing sourness."    

Well, let's see.

The Sheeta Chardonnay begins with a reddish-glowing copper color, hazy, and an off-white foamy head.  A nice start.  On the nose you get some yeasty white wine aromas, raisins and a hint of sweetness.  My drinking partner Daniël Boestra noticed some orange notes, which passed me by.

Jean and Neta Torgovitsky serve
their beer during earlier times,
when faces were recognizable. 

(Photo: Mike Horton)
We both got the taste of strong malt, definite fruity grapes and alcohol.  (ABV is a solid 7.9% -- something you would expect when the grapes are adding their own alcohol to the malt fermentation.)  Even though the hops are in the background, they are just enough to balance the sweetness of the grapes.  Like with many other beers, as the beer warms up, some flavors become more noticeable.  In this case, the grapes add a dry, wine-like finish. 

Daniël also expressed his admiration for the label art: a colorful pastoral scene, well designed, and a small flyer around the neck of the bottle with more information, signed by Jean.  

Sheeta Chardonnay is a class act in many ways.  As you enjoy it, you should know you're giving support to one of Israel's finest micro-breweries and encouraging innovation in our craft beer industry.   

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