January 28, 2021

Three new IPAs hit the shelves: Herzl Va'adat Kishut ● Mosco Juicy New England IPA ● HaDubim Petra Imperial Oak Red IPA

Here in Israel, we are in the heart of winter (although on some days you wouldn't know it).  It's time for strong, dark and sweet beers, full of alcoholic warmth and flavors, maybe even spices.

So instead we get three new India Pale Ales -- not sweet, not particularly alcoholic, but rich in flavor.

Va'adat Kishut
Double Dry-Hopped IPA
from Herzl Brewery.

Va'adat Kishut is the first new beer from Herzl Brewery in several years.  It's a double dry-hopped IPA.  The name continues in the Herzl tradition of slang and double entendres:  It could mean "Hops Committee" or its Hebrew homophone, "Decoration Committee."  

The original Herzl Brewery was in Jerusalem, but the beers are now brewed at the Malka Brewery way up north in the Tefen Industrial Area.

Maor Helfman, one of the original partners of Herzl and now Beer Brands Manager for Hacarem Spirits Ltd., Malka's parent company, told me that only 2,000 liters of Va'adat Kishut were brewed, "and we sold out in 10 days.  I have no more bottles in the storage room.  They're all in the stores.

"We used 50 kilograms [110 pounds] of hops -- Citra, Cascade and Simcoe.  The first dry-hopping was done during the fermentation, and the second was added 10 days later.  The hops added mostly aroma and flavor, rather than bitterness, and the beer also has a strong malt backbone.  Oatmeal was also used in the brewing process.  Alcohol by volume is 6.5%, not very strong, and the IBUs [International Bittering Units] are a moderate 30-35."

My tasting began with pouring out a very clear, mid-amber colored beverage, mildly carbonated.  The aroma brought tropical and citrus fruit scents; specifically peach, mango and grapefruit, and a malt sweetness.  The mouthfeel was rich and smooth to the nth degree.  Flavors of sweet fruit (peach and citrus) from the hops, enveloped by silky milk chocolate.  That's the impression I got.  The finish maintained the fruit character and was mildly bitter.

New England IPA
from Mosco Brewery.
So, Va'adat Kishut emerged as a most delicious IPA, full of flavors and enjoyable sip after sip.  A well constructed beer, balanced and eminently drinkable. 

Also coming out with their first new beer in several years is the Mosco Brewery in Beit Shemesh.  The beer is called Juicy, a "New England IPA," 5.6% alcohol.  

Juicy begins with a semi-hazy light amber color topped by a frothy, long-lasting head.  The aroma is of pine needles, grass, yeast and some sweet fruit in the background.  The taste brings up pine, herbal and some soap and indistinct fruit, but the most forward seems to be yeast.  The mouthfeel is pleasant carbonation, but a bit harsh on the tongue for an NEIPA.  

Although Juicy is a passable IPA, it should be smoother, hazier and, well, juicier to qualify as an NEIPA.  I thoroughly enjoyed a bottle with a great Israeli hummus platter.  No other beer (at the time) could have been more right.

From HaDubim Brewery comes the third new IPA: Petra, an Imperial Oak Red IPA.  This is the darkest, strongest (8% alcohol) and bitterest (65 IBUs) of the new IPAs, brewed for HaDubim at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  

Petra Imperial Oak Red IPA
from HaDubim Brewery.
As usual, the HaDubim partner/brothers, Dagan and Rotem Bar-Ilan, go for pushing the envelope, playing with ingredients and styles to produce special and innovative beers.

"We love hops," states Dagan.  "Everybody knows this and our beers show this.  We wanted to make a beer for the winter, but not another heavy, dark beer.  We wanted something hoppy, but with a twist; some caramel and complex flavors."      

The "Red" in the name comes from the Carafa #2 malt (only 3% was used in the bill), along with Pilsner, Vienna and Crystal.  

On the subject of the hops, Dagan explained how the problem of oak maturation was overcome.  "The flavor of hops erodes quickly over time -- yet we wanted a beer that was 'aged' with oak.  We sped things up by brewing an oak tea, boiling French and American oak chips in water, and then adding that to the beer during fermentation.  We chose hops that we felt paired best with the oak: Simcoe, Chinook and Hallertau."

Thank you, Dagan, as always.    

The old blogger got together with 
Maor Helfman (center) of Herzl Brewery, and
Rotem Bar-Ilan of HaDubim Brewery.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

I was fortunate enough to zoom-taste this beer with my drinking partner, Daniël Boestra. Held up to the light, the beer is a dark chestnut color with red highlights, semi-hazy, with a thin but foamy beige head. A lovely color. 

You can smell the hops immediately; scents of orange peel, grapefruit, wet grass, with the malty aroma coming later. The taste is also hop forward, bitter and spicy with some caramel.  Daniël also caught more orange peel, bitter fruit.  As the beer warmed up a bit, you got more grapefruit and orange, as well as malt.  This is recommended.  The finish is semi-dry and bitter.

What was missing in all of this, unfortunately, was the oak.  After all that work to brew and add an oak tea, the flavor was missing, hidden by the hops and malt.                

Still, Daniël appreciated that even with all the qualifying adjectives ("Imperial," "Oak," "Red"), Petra is still a real IPA, hoppy and bitter as is should be.  He would give it a high rating on the "Daniël scale."

A nice influx of IPAs to the market is always welcome, no matter what season. I hope these beers are still around when the temperature warms up and the COVID is just a bad memory.  I would love to drink them with friends, face-to-face.     

January 19, 2021

Three more from BeerBazaar: Haganan ● Calamansi ● Kafir Lime

It's tough to keep up with new beers from the BeerBazaar Brewery (in Kiryat Gat).  They come out every two weeks or so and, although they don't last very long in the online store, several have been re-brewed and made a come-back.  You can never know when this will happen, or even if it will happen.  So I'm just going with the flow.  Those that I get a hold of, I will write about.    

HaGanan Rye IPA from the
BeerBazaar Brewery.

One of the latest is HaGanan ("The Gardener"), a rye IPA, at 6% alcohol.  Rye doesn't so much add flavor to beer as add something else.  Some say it's a "richness" or a "crispness" or a "spiciness" or even a "creamy smoothness."  When I poured a HaGanan, this is what happened:

The beer is semi-hazy, a nice golden honey color, topped by a thin white head.  There are good fruity IPA aromas: red grapefruit and mango, and also some spice.  The taste had the same rich fruit, a malt background, and is not very bitter.  Where is the rye?  Perhaps someone on a higher pay scale than I will be able to find it.  Nevertheless, HaGanan is an enjoyable IPA: aromatic and fruity and moderately bitter.

The other two recent beers from BeerBazaar complete the "rare lemon" series which were brewed in cooperation with the Klotsman Orchards near Kibbutz Ein HaHoresh in Emek Hefer.  

Calamansi and Kafir Lime:
Two more "rare lemon" beers
brewed by the BeerBazaar Brewery
in collaboration with 
Klotsman Orchards. 
The first two beers in this series were Interdonato and Bergamot, and you can refresh your memory about them here

Introduced more recently was Calamansi beer.  This is a pale ale, 4.5% alcohol, brewed with the skin and pulp of the Calamansi lime, claimed as native by both Malaysia and the Philippines.  "This is a small fruit in the kumquat family," says Ben Alon, one of the owners of the Klotsman Orchards.  "We use both the pulp, which is very bitter, and the skin, which is sweeter.  This gives the beer a good balance, and delivers a taste which is fresh with the sun and the blossoms, like you are swimming in the orchard."      

The Calamansi lime: A little powerhouse
of bitter and sweet flavors.

As much as I appreciate Ben's poetry, I had to taste the beer for myself.  It pours out a lightly cloudy amber with noticeable carbonation.  The aroma brings together a harsh lemon, a bitter orange peel, and fresh-cut grass.  So, yes, you can say that you get the smell of the orchard.  When it first hits your tongue, there's the citrus bitterness, but right after you taste the lemon zest.  There's no mistaking that this beer, like the others, is lemon-centered.

If most beers aim for some kind of a balance between the bitter hops and the sweeter malt, Calamansi strikes a balance between the bitter and the sour – within the same fruit. I believe it goes well with much of our Israeli cuisine – and suitable more for our Israeli summer. 

Fruit and leaves of the Kafir Lime:
The aroma and flavor of Thailand.

The latest beer in the series is Kafir Lime, which is made with the leaves of the tree rather than the fruit itself. Ben Alon revealed a surprising fact: "The Ministry of Agriculture does not allow any kafir lime trees to be grown in Israel. Apparently, the trees tend to carry a plant disease called 'greening,' which destroys other citrus trees. To brew the beer, we imported leaves from Thailand, where kafir limes are an important part of the local cuisine."

The base of this beer is an English Bitter, and the alcohol is a moderate 5.2%.

Getting poetic again, Ben likened the flavor of the beer to, "swimming in a cold Thai soup."

Well, I've never done that, but I can say that the Kafir Lime beer is as lemony as the other three, but also more mellow. It's bitter rather than sour, with aromas of lemon drops and malt, and tastes of lemon and vegetal. You even get the sweetness of the lemon as the beer warms up a bit. The body is thin with active carbonation, and the finish is short and bitter.

Producing these four rare lemon beers was a brave step by the BeerBazaar and the Klotsman Orchards. While tasty, they are clearly outside of the comfort zone of most beer drinkers.

January 16, 2021

Nomads Weiser von Kölsch

Weiser von Kölsch beer
from Nomads Brewing:
Brewed with sage spice.

The Nomads brewing duo of Yonah Rubin and Jacob Mogerman have brought out their second beer -- Weiser von Kölsch.  It's brewed at the Good Stuff Brewery (AKA Buster's and Oak & Ash) in Beit Shemesh.  Weiser von Kölsch is Kölsch-style beer, but brewed with sage.  

[Read about the Nomads and their first specialty beer brewed with za'atar, Saison de Zion, here.]    

Kölsch beer calls for a little historical background, but I'll try to keep it short.  Its origins are in the German city of Cologne (Köln in German), going back to the 17th century.  In fact, in Europe you can only call the beer Kölsch if it's brewed in Cologne (and a few other neighboring towns and villages).  In other countries, brewers can, and do, call any beer they want Kölsch.

Authentic Kölsch adheres to strict guidelines.  It should be brewed with German malts, Noble hops and usually German ale yeast.  We're aiming for a clear (filtered) golden color, aromas of bready malt, a little fruity with hops in the background.  The flavor should be clean, fresh malt with only a hint of the hops, finishing dry and slightly bitter.  Alcohol  by volume shouldn't be over 5.2%, and the bitterness low to medium (not over 30 IBUs).  Sounds easy, right?  But try to achieve it.

One more thing: Kölsch is fermented with ale yeast (top-fermenting), yet conditioned in cold temperatures like a lager -- making it kind of a hybrid.

Nomads partner Yonah Rubin personally 
delivered bottles of Weiser von Kölsch 
to the old blogger. 

Getting back to Weiser von Kölsch, Nomad partner Yonah Rubin was kind enough to bring me a few bottles during a break in the lockdowns.  Yonah works at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat and keeps a very busy schedule.  

Right off the bat, he warned me that he and Jacob had "taken some liberties" with the style.  "We chose Kölsch to challenge ourselves," he said.  "It's a style that gives you very little room to hide.  Yet we believe that with today's brewing tech, we can control the reactions better than they could when they laid down the rues for Kölsch.  So why not use the tech to produce a better beer?"

The Nomads used the requisite German hops (90% Pilsner plus a little Carapils and Vienna), but they thought the style was right for using sage instead of aromatic hops.  Alcohol by volume is 4.6%.

In Köln, Kölsch is traditionally drunk in
a small (200 milliliters), tall thin glass
called a "stange." 

I tasted Weiser von Kölsch with my drinking partner Moshe.  Since neither of us has drunk authentic Kölsch in Köln, we had only the style guidelines and our own taste buds to advise us.  The beer pours out a very clear color of pale hay, very lightly carbonated.  "One of the clearest beers I've seen," Moshe remarked.  In the aroma, there was the bready malt, unmistakable, but stronger still was the sage, with a little fruit (perhaps melon) in there too.  The flavor was more sage, lemon, and herbal.  As the beer warmed up, the malt flavor grew and balanced out the sage.

Bottom line: We were both impressed with the beer and how very well sage works as an additive.  Its aroma and flavor blends deliciously with the malt base of the beer.  The drink is light and refreshing and would pair well with any sage-friendly food: pastas, pizza, hummus, hearty salads.  

But  . . . it's not the Kölsch style we had heard about, nor what others who knew Kölsch were expecting.  Weiser von Kölsch is a good Israeli beer brewed with good local sage, and it doesn't have to be anything else.                                          

January 11, 2021

The Baroque beers of Beerateinu, Jerusalem

In normal times, when the country is not in a corona shutdown, Beerateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center (6 Hillel Street), is one of the best places in the capital city for buying cans and bottles of Israeli and imported craft beers, for enjoying the same on tap at the bar, and for buying equipment and ingredients needed for home-brewing.  It is also a restaurant of some repute, whose kitchen is overseen by chef Levi Laine.

Beerateinu partners
Shmuel ("Shmultz") Naky (left) 
and Leon Shvartz.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

What is less known is that Beerateinu is also a contract brewer of some of the most innovative and sui generis beers in Israel.  Most of these are the products of the wildly creative mind of partner Shmuel Naky, known to his many friends as Shmultz.

"Have you noticed all of these incredibly flavored beers coming from overseas brewers?" Shmultz asked me rhetorically.  "Pineapple, peanut butter, marshmallow, candy cane, pistachio, chocolate cake, graham crackers, breakfast cereal -- whatever!  We asked ourselves, 'Why should we have to wait long periods for overseas brewers to send us beers with flavors like these?  Why can't these beers be made in Israel?'  Well they can!  And even with these flavors, they can still remain real beer.  That's the challenge that we set for ourselves."

Beerateinu has already produced four such beers.  They were brewed in very limited quantities which sell out very quickly.  In fact, at least two of the beers that I am writing about here are already gone -- so this is more for the "historical record" rather than practical reviews of the beers you should be drinking.

Bloody Mary Berliner:
If it smells like a Bloody Mary
and tastes like a Bloody Mary . . .

(Photo: Mike Horton)
So beginning with the most recent -- as of this writing -- we have Bloody Mary Berliner.  This appeared just in time for January 1st, which is International Bloody Mary Day.  Who knew?  The other connection with January 1st is that the Bloody Mary is a cocktail which is supposed to be a cure for a hangover -- a serious problem following New Year's Eve.

Bloody Mary Berliner is a semi-sour beer, soured by natural microbes which flourish on the barley and wheat malt and are nurtured in the mash.  On the boil, the brewers added tomato concentrate, oatmeal, celery seeds, Tabasco sauce, and salt.  

Shmultz told me that the idea came to him when he remembered some cocktail tastings which were based on tomato juice.  "I thought, 'Why not have a beer with tomato juice as well?'  And then we checked the calendar and saw that it was almost time for Bloody Mary Day."  

Bloody Mary Berliner was made at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.  Only a very small quantity was brewed, and chances are it will no longer be available by the time you read this.    

I don't want to rub it in, but I did get a chance to try it.  The beer pours out a hazy, caramel color.  What can I say?  All the expected aromas and tastes are there.  The fragrance of tomatoes mixes with the remembered fragrance of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda, a popular American celery tonic which dates to the 19th century.  There is also a strong malt aroma to keep it an honest beer.  With the taste you get more tomato juice, celery tonic, salty lemon and the Tabasco sauce, which heats up your tongue and throat.  It's actually an enjoyable combination of sensory perceptions.  The moderate 5.5% alcohol is not felt.  

I recommend drinking Bloody Mary Berliner closer to room temperature than to refrigerator cold.  I drank it out-of-doors on a cool Jerusalem day and it was just right.  My drinking partner, Mike Horton the photographer, had trouble accepting it as a beer, but declared it was a "great party drink that needs no additions."  For me, it certainly fit under the big tent that we call beer styles.  

Festivus:  Like drinking
a sufganiya.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

A week or two earlier, Shmultz and partner Leon Shvartz unveiled a new beer for the Hanukka holiday -- Festivus, named after the secular holiday invented for the Seinfeld television series.  Festivus is based on brown ale, but brewed to taste like a jelly doughnut, a Hanukka treat known in Hebrew as sufganiya.  As such, you can already guess what ingredients are in there (in addition to the usual water, malt, hops and yeast): Strawberry jelly (one kilo for every 20 liters of liquid), natural strawberry essence, oatmeal, powdered sugar and spices.

Festivus was brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem, formerly the Herzl Brewery.  In this case, almost 400 liters were brewed, so there probably are still bottles available at Beerateinu.

Well, bless my soul if the aroma isn't that of a strawberry pastry!  The smell is sweet with strawberry jam and cinnamon.  But then you taste it and the sweetness is gone.  It's a real beer, with a strong 7.5% alcohol by volume and a hefty 66 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).  The taste also gives you the spiciness and even a touch of sourness.  It's tempting to categorize Festivus as a "Christmas" or "Winter Holiday" ale, but the spice sensation is different.  Leon told us that the malt mix was chosen to give the beer a feeling of a pastry -- and Mike and I had no doubt that they succeeded.     

Oogipletzet Imperial
Pastry Stout:
Still waiting for me!

Moving our time machine back a week or two, Beerateinu released its boldest Baroque beer to date:  Oogipletzet -- a 13% alcohol "Imperial Pastry Stout" brewed with oatmeal, rum, coffee, vanilla, . . . and Oreo cookies.  The name itself is a slight variation of what the Muppet Cookie Monster is called in Hebrew -- Oogifletzet.  "We did that because of copyright issues," explains Shmultz.  "This is a strong beer that can be aged for a long period and continues to improve.  We say on the bottle label that it will, 'sweeten the end of the world.'  We brewed only about 190 liters and sold it in half-liter bottles.  We were sold out in 12 hours."

Oogipletzet was brewed over a three-month period at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.  The chocolate Oreo cookies (without the vanilla cream filling!) were added to the malt mash.  To add the other flavors, a special vanilla coffee blend (prepared by the Shuk Café coffee grinders in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market) was steeped in rum, which was then combined with the beer during the lengthy fermentation and conditioning stages.  

Since I am listening to Shmultz when he tells me to let my bottle age as long as possible before I drink it, I must admit that I have not yet tasted Oogipletzet.  However, from other reports by people with less patience, I can share the following:  

"Please, take my beer!"
Shmultz really didn't have to convince
the old blogger to take one of the 
last bottles of Oogipletzet.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

The beer is very dark brown, almost black, with a beige head.  The aromas give the impression of sweetness (what else?) with Oreo cookies, vanilla and coffee.  The flavors bring in chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rum, ending with a long and bitter aftertaste.  The mouthfeel, according to some, is full-bodied and dry.  As the glass warms, the taste approaches a sweet and creamy cookie, finishing with bitter chocolate.

That's what I'm looking forward to.  How long I can wait is another story.                     

And with that, we come back to the first of Beerateinu's Baroque beers: It's called Bukra fil Mishmish, a kettle-soured ale brewed with apricots and cardamon.  It was brewed in collaboration with the Sheeta Brewery in Arad. It's long since sold out.

Hummus was a delightful accompaniment
to Bukra fil Mishmish kettle-soured ale.
Or vice versa.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Even the name is edgy. It's an Arabic expression which literally means, "tomorrow there will be apricots."  But because the apricot season is usually so short, it's used as an idiom to mean, "when pigs fly" or "don't hold your breath."  On the other hand, you hear the word "mishmish" (which means "apricot" in Arabic and Hebrew) and that's what counts.

As I said, Bukra fil Mishmish was first kettle-soured with bacteria that gave it a tart, acidic taste.  After these little bugs were boiled away, Saison yeast was pitched to begin fermentation.  Hops were then added after the first fermentation, and two weeks later fresh apricots and cardamon joined the mix.

The resulting ambrosia was a hazy, pale orange color.  The aroma had no surprises: Apricot backed up with cardamon, an aromatic and somewhat piney spice.  With the taste, you got mostly sour apricots, some citrus and funk.  I felt an impact on my tongue like crisp gin and tonic.  This was a sour beer that doesn't make you pucker, but kept the fruitiness and sourness in good balance.

These are the four Baroque beers that have made Beerateinu famous. However, I also have to mention the four core beers that are also brewed under Shmultz's baton and are pretty much available all year round.

Glen Draft -- an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), aged on honey, oak and whisky

Fink -- Bavarian-style dark wheat beer

Syndrome -- a new Jerusalem IPA (India Pale Ale)

Slow Moshe -- a black cream ale

I will close with this advice:  Try to stay on top of what's happening at Beerateinu.  Their new beers will be some of the most interesting, innovative and exciting in the country.  You don't want to miss out -- and you heard that from the old blogger.