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.


  1. I'm drinking Shevet's imperial stout right now. Wow!

  2. I loved the imperial stout. https://me-ander.blogspot.com/2021/02/shevet-imperial-stout-great-strong-beer.html

  3. Interesting. Are there any new or established Israeli Stouts that are roughly equivalent to Samuel Smith's Chocolate Stout as well as Founders Breakfast Stout and KBS?


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