August 5, 2021

Herzl Embargo Nitro Robust Porter: Israel's first nitrogen beer

Embargo Nitro Robust Porter
from Herzl Beer:
Israel's first nitrogen beer.

Israel's first nitrogen beer is Embargo Nitro from Herzl Beer.  It is brewed in the Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Park in the Galilee.

As with quite a few other trends in the craft beer world, nitrogen (or nitro) beers have been brewed for years in the U.S. and elsewhere, long before Embargo Nitro debuted in Israel.  The concept is simple, though not easy to execute.  Instead of being carbonated with CO(carbon dioxide), the beer is mixed with nitrogen, a gas which is not absorbed in the liquid.  Nitrogen bubbles are smaller and more profuse than carbon dioxide bubbles.  This gives the beer a very creamy mouthfeel which is appreciated and loved by many, though not all, beer drinkers.           

Most nitro beers are made for kegs or cans, where the gas is easier to handle, but not in bottles.  Since the Malka Brewery does not have a canning line (no Israeli micro-brewery does!), Maor Helfman, the founder of Herzl Beer, accepted the challenge to put his Embargo Nitro in bottles.  (Today Maor is the Brands Manager for Israeli Beers for Hacarem Spirits Ltd., Malka's parent company.)

"For me, it's a big issue to be a pioneer, the first to do something," Maor told me.  "The most fun of being involved in craft beer is learning.  The Embargo Nitro is the same recipe as Herzl's very popular Embargo Porter, which is brewed with tobacco leaves.  We tried the tobacco with the nitro, but it didn't work."

Nitrogen bubbles give nitro beers 
a smooth and creamy mouthfeel.

Maor explained that all of the nitrogen gas is in the neck of the bottle, above the beer.  "Before you open the bottle, you  have to give it three or four quick shakes to mix in the gas.  Then open it and quickly pour it very aggressively into the glass.  You'll be able to see the layers of nitrogen bubbles in the beer."              

Well, let's try Israel's first nitro beer.

My drinking partner Daniël Boestra and I shook up our bottles of Embargo Nitro quite vigorously and poured them out completely quite aggressively.  I used Herzl's own pint glass.  And there were the mini-bubbles, kind of floating in layers in the very dark brown, opaque beer.  The head we got was thin and not very foamy.  

Human beings are not the only animals
who like to chew on wood. 

There were aromas of oak, coffee and caramel in a sugary envelope.  (Where does the oak come from, I wonder?)  Daniël, ever the Dutchman, smelled some soft licorice.  It tasted like oak, cold coffee and some chocolate.  Daniël said it took him back to his childhood, when he chewed on wood.       

The nitrogen bubbles made their presence known in the mouthfeel: It was especially smooth and creamy.  We didn't feel the carbonation, just the creaminess.  In fact, if a feel could be called "bland," this was it.  The finish was sweet.

I think for the both of us, it was an interesting tasting and a noteworthy event -- but probably not a beer we would go out of our way to drink again.

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