February 28, 2021

BeerBazaar Mango Sunrise + The Coal Miner

This time there are two more beers from the BeerBazaar Brewery (Kiryat Gat) which continues its frenetic pace of turning out new beers.  As I wrote before, they are not on the shelves (or in this case, available in the online store) for very long, but they have been known to make come-backs, especially if they are popular.  I'm guessing these two might be. 

Mango Sunrise:
A flavored saison from
the BeerBazaar Brewery,
with mango you can really taste.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

Mango Sunrise is a saison-style beer, 5.8% alcohol, with the addition of mango.  Saison beers are often flavored not only with fruit, but also all kinds of herbs, vegetables and spices, coffee, chocolate, nuts and vanilla.  Still, the saison quality should always come through: Refreshing, moderately bitter, dry, and a little spicy from the yeast.    

By my count, there have been six other Israeli craft beers brewed with mango, and they are: Kruso and Double Kruso (pale ales from the now defunct HeChatzer Brewery), Freedom IPA (from Oak & Ash), Education IPA (from Good Stuff), Tropical IPA (a saison from Lodestone), and Mexico 70 (a wheat ale from Herzl).      

Of course, many other beers in Israel and abroad have mango flavors, but these are usually from the variety of hops used, and not from the addition of fruit.

Mango Sunrise pours out a cloudy orange juice color with a thin head.  A first whiff brings mango juice, sweet spice (maybe cinnamon?) and a sour note.  The flavor begins with sweet mango, followed by a little bitterness, beery malt and yeast esters.  The body is medium-full and the finish is semi-sweet and juicy. 

You can definitely taste the fruit in Mango sunrise -- unlike some of the other mango beers.  And since I like mango, I appreciated this.  My drinking partner, photographer Mike Horton, also likes mango -- but he "would prefer to have my mango juice separately and my beer separately."  To each his own.

The Coal Miner from the
BeerBazaar Brewery:
A mildly smoked lager.
(Photo: Mike Horton)

BeerBazaar's second new beer is The Coal Miner (HaKoreh in Hebrew), with 5.2% alcohol by volume.  It is a smoked lager, a beer style with ardent followers in Europe and elsewhere.  Here in Israel, I counted at least 10 local smoked beers over the years.

These beers get their smoky character from the specialty malt, which is exposed to different kinds of wood or peat smoke.  When the malt is used in the brewing, it imparts the smoky aromas and tastes to the beer.  Even a small percentage of smoked malts will have an effect on the beer.

The Coal Miner uses malt smoked over beech wood.  This gives the beer a mild smoky aroma, with some charcoal in the background.  The taste is not very bitter, with some malt sweetness and mildly smoked meat (as I remember it to be).  But my drinking partner Mike compared it to being in front of a charcoal fire before the meat is put on.  The body is medium and the smoky aftertaste stays with you for a while.  

I enjoy smoky beers (and smoky whiskies) if the smoke is not overwhelming, so The Coal Miner was just right for me.  The only thing I do question is the choice of the name and image, since coal has nothing to do with preparing smoked beers.  Ah well, what's in a name?  Enjoy the beer when it comes back.  

February 23, 2021

Malka Strong Ale for the winter

Malka Strong Ale:
Belgian-style, 9% alcohol, winter-warmer.

It's always a pleasure to find a new beer that's made to fit the season.  So I was happy to find out about, and get a bottle of, the new Strong Ale from the Malka Brewery in the Migdal Tefen Industrial Park, just as our winter seemed to be reaching its peak.  This is a limited edition, seasonal beer.  It's in the family of strong Belgian ales, and could probably qualify as either a Strong Pale (or Golden) Ale, or a Belgian Tripel.  The dividing line between these two styles is quite ambiguous.  Certainly the 9% alcohol by volume fits the bill for both. 

Wherever you place it, the Malka Strong Ale is strong, flavorful and warming.  I would call the color a ruby-amber, since there are red highlights in the sunlight.  It is clear and well carbonated.  I got aromas of yeast, malt, some dark bread and even anise.  The taste is sweet with pepper spice, and very alcoholic.  The alcohol warmth dominates the mouthfeel, along with a full, smooth body and a dry, bitter finish.  Maybe there's even some pine resin in the finish.

In short, a good, Belgian-style strong beer for the winter.  Sip it; no chugging.  Enjoy it at warmer temperatures (around 8°- 12° C) to experience all the flavors and nuances.  These kinds of beer go well with spicy foods, strong cheeses and many (non-chocolate) desserts and cakes. 

A panoramic view of the Malka Brewery
in the Migdal Tefen Industrial Park.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 

One other point: Several brewers who have taken part in beer festivals (before the plague) have told me that Israelis' first question is the alcoholic content of the beer.  If the answer is too low, they say "thank you" and move on.  They're looking for high-alcohol beers that will get them more shicker for their shekel.  [Translation: More inebriated for their buck!]   

If that's the case, then Malka Strong Ale should be very popular with the locals.  Not only do you get the alcohol, but you taste it and you feel it going down.  What could be better in these colder months?    

February 15, 2021

Stout-Hearted Beers ► Shevet Imperial Stout ● Shapiro Idealim Hot Chili Stout

Two stout beers have come to market recently.  They are both limited editions, but even if they are gone by the start of spring, we'll have time to enjoy their winter warming qualities.

Small Batch Imperial Stout
from the Shevet Brewstillery
in Pardes Hanna.

From the Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna comes an Imperial Stout, the fifth in their Small Batch series and the first creation of the new brewmaster from Germany, Felix Magdziarz.

Imperial stouts share many of the characteristics of regular stouts, but they should be more, well, "imperialized."  More alcoholic, darker (even black), robust and rich in roasty malt flavors and aromas, fruity and bittersweet, and full-bodied ("chewy").  Imperial stout is the classic beer for cold weather drinking.  It's no wonder that its origins are linked to the Russian nobility, who demanded and encouraged the brewing of this style.      

So, here we have Shevet Imperial Stout.  The informative label tells us that the alcoholic volume is a strong 8.5% and the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) a hefty 75, which are kind of mid-range for an imperial stout.  Some 4,000 bottles were produced.      

It pours close to black, with some reddish highlights when you hold it up to the light.  The head is tan, thick and fizzy and very long-lasting.  The aromas get the palate ready for what's to come: Roasty malt and yeast, dark chocolate, and whiffs of alcohol.  The flavors are powerful with dark chocolate, bitter Turkish coffee, alcohol, bitter hops, roasted, yeast and dark fruits.  

Felix Magdziarz from Germany
takes the helm as brewmaster
at the Shevet Brewstillery.
The mouthfeel brings a full body, alcoholic warmth, some astringency and mild carbonation.  The beer finishes slightly sweet and strong, the favors hanging in there.  Like all strong and dark beers, it should not be drunk ice cold.  A warmer temperature (around 15° C) brings out the flavors that the cold hides.

I tracked down Brewmaster Felix to get a little background information on himself and on his first Shevet beer.  A young man of 35, Felix already has 16 years' experience as a professional brewer, having worked in Germany, Scotland, South Africa, India and Guinea-Bissau.  

He chose the imperial stout because he wanted a dark beer for the winter (of course), working with the malts already stored at the Shevet Brewstillery, Scottish Ale yeast, and Magnum, Cascade and Centennial hops.    

"I was aiming for a beer that was dry and drinkable, even though strong," he noted.  "You get a bit of lemon from the Centennial hops, which I thought would go well with the traditional aromas and tastes of coffee and dark chocolate." 

What can we expect from 
Shevet's limited edition
barrel-ages beers? 
    For the coming months, Felix is planning to beef up Shevet's flagship line of beers by adding an Irish Red, IPA, American Pale Ale, and Belgian Wit.  In addition, there will be limited editions of barrel-aged beers, which is something we don't want to miss.   

Felix arrived in Israel and started work during our pandemic lock down, so he misses getting out and taking part in the Israeli craft beer scene.  "I want to visit the Israeli beer bars, breweries and festivals," he laments.  "The appeal of craft beer is that it's more personal, and I need to interact with other brewers, to discuss collaboration beers, and to get feedback from our customers, whom we call 'members of the tribe [shevet].'  This is what I look forward to." 

Idealim Hot Chili Stout from the
Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh.

(Photo: Udi Katzman)
Over in Beit Shemesh, the Shapiro Brewery has kept up its tradition of beers coming out of left field by introducing Idealim ("Ideals"), a "Hot Chili Stout," brewed with Madame Jeanette peppers.  These are a very, very hot species of chili peppers originally from Suriname and now also grown in the Negev Desert's Arava Valley.

But the back story doesn't begin there.  Sha'anan Streett, lead singer in the hip-hop/funk group Hadag Nahash, was putting out a solo album called Idealim, when he made a suggestion to his friend Itzik Shapiro, a partner/brother of the Shapiro Brewery.  "We've been thinking about doing something together for a while," Sha'anan told me, "and when I knew I was releasing the album I contacted Itzik with the idea to brew a beer based on my album."

Sha'anan Streett (left) of Hadag Nahash
and Shapiro Chief Brewer Ory Sofer
pick the peppers for 
Shapiro's Idealim Hot Chili Stout.
Itzik agreed.  Sha'anan and Shapiro Chief Brewer Ory Sofer put their heads together and came up with the idea for a spicy beer made with hot chili peppers.  Sha'anan explains: "The album and the beer are named Idealim, and the spiciness of the beer reminds us of the 'edge' that ideals can inject in our lives."

Although most of the chili beers brewed in the past have been light-colored, Ory thought a dark stout, with its roasty, coffee and chocolaty character, would provide a perfect stage for the chili pepper -- without allowing the pepper to completely dominate the beer.       

Sha'anan Streett's new solo album, Idealim: 
Ideals that inject an 'edge' into our lives. 
[I can remember two other chili beers from Israeli breweries, both light-colored: Leche del Diablo from the Dancing Camel, and Esh from the HaDubim Brewery.]

In search of the perfect pepper for their beer, Sha'anan, Ory and Brewmaster Yochai Kodler traveled to Moshav Faran in the Arava, to the farm of Guy Ilan.

"We burned out tongues tasting a few varieties," Yochai relates, "but we decided on Madame Jeanette -- a newcomer to the farm -- because it was very hot with a lemony taste; refreshing like lemon zest.  We thought that would go best with the flavors of the stout."

[Remember that Shevet Brewmaster Felix also wanted to insert a bit of lemon taste into his imperial stout.  See above.]

What President Truman really said:
Close enough.
Idealim is colored an opaque dark brown with some reddish highlights, topped by a tan head.  You get good, solid stout aromas -- much like Shapiro Oatmeal Stout: Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, some spiciness but not yet the chiliness.  The first tastes are coffee and cocoa, with a deep roasty background.  But then the chili strikes, almost immediately.  Hot chili peppers on the sides of my tongue and down my throat.  The aftertaste is long and spicy.  Alcohol by volume is 5.2%.  

Like a beard on someone's face, once you concentrate on the chili peppers, it's hard to notice anything else: The coffee and chocolate, even the balanced bitterness, have to fight to stay relevant in all that heat.  

To paraphrase President Harry Truman: "If you can't stand the heat, don't drink the beer!"  But if you can, and if you'd like to try something out of the ordinary, pick up a bottle or two of Idealim.  Only one batch of 1,000 liters was brewed, so don't put it off.               

And if you're into the hip-hop/funk scene, get the album with the same name -- and feel the burn.