April 26, 2021

Shapiro's second Double IPA

Israeli craft beers can hold their head high (I sometimes think).  We have beers that we can call excellent.  Just like we're known as the "start-up nation" and the "vaccination nation," there are surprising events that are making us the "fermentation nation" -- in beer as well as wine.

Shapiro Double IPA: Version 2021.
(Photo: Udi Katzman) 

Two recent Israeli Double IPAs help to prove my point.  Not an easy style to master, yet these breweries have nailed it.  One -- Va'adat Kishut, a Double Dry-Hopped IPA from Herzl Brewery -- I've already written about.  (Refresh your memory here.)  The second is from Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh.  It's called Double IPA, and it's actually the second version.

"A year ago, we introduced our first DIPA at a big event at the brewery," Shapiro Chief Brewer Ory Sofer told me.  [I know because I was there and this what I wrote at the time.]  "What we did then was simply increase the hops we use for our regular Citra IPA -- making it more bitter and more alcoholic.  This time, we used a completely new recipe that was built to support a DIPA.  We brewed one batch of over 2,000 liters.  

"Our hops were Galaxy and Nelson Souvin plus two other regular varieties.  It's not enough just to use the Galaxy and Nelson for dry-hopping.  To achieve their full potential, we also added them at the end of the boil.  We produced a beer which keeps its strong aroma and taste all the way down to the end of the glass!"

Sounds good.  Let's open a bottle.

At the launch of the first version (2020) of
Shapiro Double IPA. 

The 2021 Shapiro Double IPA is a crystal clear mid-amber color with an off-white head and light carbonation.  The exotic hops begin to do their stuff with the aromas: citrus, pine and tropical fruits (mango and guava came through to me).  They continue with the flavors.  Under a bitter super-structure, you can detect the sweetness of malt, citrus, tropical fruits (orange and pineapple) and light pine.     

The mouthfeel is tingly from the carbonation, astringent, with some alcoholic warmth (ABV is 8.2%, after all).  The finish is long and bitter.

Shapiro Double IPA is a superior beer, well made and delicious.  It reminded my of the Herzl Double Dry-Hopped IPA, Va'adat Kishut, which had been released just a few weeks earlier.  It struck me that tasting them side-by-side would be an interesting exercise (and a good excuse to drink them again).

Both have exotic aromas of citrus and tropical fruits, though the Herzl beer was less pronounced on the citrus.  The flavors, too, were similar: Deep bitter-sweet fruits, both tropical and citrus.  The two beers have elegantly smooth finishes, with Shapiro being slightly more astringent.

But this is cutting it too fine, even for beer geeks.  We should be enjoying these two fine beers as excellent examples of a very popular style.    

[Other Israeli breweries have produced Double IPAs in the past.  I can think of Double Bhindi from BeerBazaar, Imperial Paradox (a Double Black IPA) and several versions of Grizzly from HaDubim, and, even further back, Chutzpah from Buster's.]              

April 21, 2021

Melnick from Beerateinu: The blueberry super-giant star

Melnick, an Imperial Pastry Stout from
Beerateinu, is 12.5% alcohol by volume
and boasts of Belgian waffle, caramel and
blueberry flavors. 

(Photo: Mike Horton)  

By now you shouldn't be very surprised that the next "Baroque beer" from Beerateinu is named after a super-giant blue star located in the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud.  It is much bigger than our sun and 163,000 light years away from us.  

The star is named Melnick 42, and the beer is simply known as Melnick, an Imperial Pastry Stout.  As Melnick 42 the star is blue, Melnick the beer is made with blueberry puree and caramel biscuits.  As Melnick 42 the star is gigantic, Melnick the beer is huge with alcohol (12.5%) and full of strong flavors.  The label says you can expect the tastes of Belgian waffles, caramel and blueberries. 

To make it even more special, Melnick doesn't have a fancy beer label.  Oh no.  Beerateinu partners Leon Shvartz and Shmuel Naky commissioned artist Alex Molly Yampolsky to paint a picture for the beer, which is then wrapped around the bottle and held in place by a string!  You buy the beer, you get the painting.  It shows an androgynous star child brewing beer with hops, blueberries and Belgian waffles, against a starry starry night background.  

Let's leave the decorations behind for a moment and taste the beer.

Wow!  Perhaps the strongest Israeli beer I've ever had.

One of the stars out there is Melnick 42,
a super-giant blue star,
163,000 light years away from earth. 

Melnick is an opaque dark brown to black with no head.  The aromas are varied and powerful: Caramel, berries, hazelnuts, black bread and maple.  Photographer and IBAV Taster Mike Horton called them the aromas of the West Indies and perceived them from seven centimetres away!  The taste is dark roast with flavors of bittersweet chocolate, nuts, alcohol, coffee, maple and caramel.  Mike recorded an initial taste of "burnt stout, but moments later the sweetness of the fruit and waffles permeate the senses."       

The mouthfeel brings a full body, even "chewy," with alcohol warmth and a finish of harsh sweetness.  Mike and I agreed that Melnick is not a beer you drink a lot of.   

To fully enjoy all the flavors in Melnick, you should drink it at around 12°-15°C (53°- 59°F).  So take it out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you pour it.  Also, you'll notice how the flavors change and develop as you're drinking it, so there's no need to hurry.  It's a good beer to share with a friend.  I think it would go well with anything you would have with a cup of strong coffee.  

Melnick is not everybody's glass of beer, but it might be the kind of taste experience you would appreciate.  One way to find out.            

April 7, 2021

Beerateinu Opokhmel -- Pickle beer when you're pickled

Opokhmel gose-style beer from Beerateinu:
Brewed with cucumbers, garlic, dill and salt.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

"This isn't a gimmick; it's a real beer," I keep telling myself.  

Another offering from Beerateinu -- the  Jerusalem Beer Center -- is called Opokhmel, the Russian word for a hangover cure.  Since a traditional Russian cure for hangovers is drinking pickle brine, Beerateinu partner and brewing maestro Shmuel (Shmultz) Naky has fashioned this beer with barley and wheat malts, cucumbers, garlic, dill and salt.  You can't make this stuff up. 

Shmultz's recipe produces a gose-style beer (a lightly sour and salty wheat beer pronounced go-seh) with hardly any bitterness (only 3 International Bitterness Units) or hop character (a small amount of Magnum hops are used) and only 3.5% alcohol.  The beer is brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem. 

Pickle brine beer has been around for about five years in the U.S.  From what I've read, most people hearing about it for the first time react with an "Ugh!" -- but then are happily surprised when they taste it. 

Opokhmel is a hangover cure in Russian,
meant for following scenes like the one
depicted on the label!  

Will I be the same?

Appearance-wise, Opokhmel is a slightly hazy pale amber color with lively carbonation but a thin head.  The aroma of pickles in brine was certainly there, but also some fresh cucumber, a very gentle scent but still recognizable.  The taste is lightly sour with flavors of cucumber, garlic and pickle spice.  No bitterness, no sweetness, but a little salty.  The mouthfeel is crisp and fizzy, slightly astringent.  

The way we bought pickles
back in the Bronx!
Growing up in the Bronx, where we picked our pickles from a big pickle barrel on East 174th Street, I think I know my pickles.  The taste of Opokhmel that came to my mind was what we called "half-sours," where the cucumbers are not fully pickled.  

As for the salty pickle brine in the beer, I had my usual disagreement with IBAV photographer and fellow taster Mike Horton.  Mike, who prefers his beer without extraneous flavors, stated: "I give it full marks for the incredible process where the cucumbers and the beer fermented together.  But I wasn't able to drink it!"

I say, if we enjoy eating salty snacks with beer (because the flavors complement each other), why can't the salt flavor already be in the beer?  Maybe this is the secret behind pickle beer's popularity.

Whether it will cure your hangover, how should I know?