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 rye malts, puffed wheat, 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?     

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