September 19, 2021

Three from Birateinu: Apple Molly Graf ● Scapegoat (Se'ir La'Azazel) Smoked Bock ● Aluma Wheat Wine

Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, owned and operated by Leon Shvartz and Shmuel ("Shmulz") Naky, continues to produce its own "way-out" beers.  (I've been calling them "Baroque" beers, and you can read about some earlier ones here and here.)

Apple Molly from Birateinu:
Israel's first graf.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
It seems they've been brewing larger quantities since the beers remain on sale for a longer time.  The three I'm going to talk about here can still be purchased at the Birateinu store or ordered online.

Apple Molly is called a graf, a kind of cider-beer hybrid.  In this case, apple concentrate was added to the wort and the two fermented together with ale yeast.  The apple accounts for 5% of the total wort.  Readers will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the first time a graf has been produced in Israel.  Apple Molly was brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.

The beer historians say that graf-making goes way back, when people began to brew beer with fruits and other flavorful additions.  There are no rules for the proportions of apple and malt which should be used, so grafs that are largely apple will be more like cider, while those heavy on the malt will taste like a fruit beer.

Shmulz alerted me that the base of Apple Molly is an Irish Red Ale, using the apple concentrate as a gimmick.  "But this gimmick leads to a better tasting beer.  It's like eating an Irish apple cake."   

Not really knowing what an Irish apple cake tastes like, my drinking partner Daniël Boerstra and I set out to try an Apple Molly.

Easier to find the apples in the tree 
than in Apple Molly.
It poured out a semi-hazy, ruby reddish brown color with an off-white head above constantly rising bubbles.  We smelled cinnamon, some other quieter spices, slight apple, and the malt and caramel aromas of Belgian strong ale.  Daniël sensed some dark chocolate in there as well.  The taste was also that of a Belgian ale, with added chocolate and butterscotch.  Try as we might, we couldn't find the apples.

The beer tastes and feels very strong (it is 6.7% alcohol), but the finish is drier than a Belgian ale, more like a cider.

Our verdict was that the apples used in this graf added fermentable sugars, which boost the alcoholic strength and full mouthfeel, but do not add much flavor.  Still, if you haven't tasted a graf, this Israeli original should be your first.

Also pushing the envelope is Se'ir La'Azazel ("Scapegoat" in English), a smoky Bock lager.  Bock beer is a stronger and darker version of the European light lagers which are so popular all over the world.  They get their color from the roasted malt (usually Munich or Vienna malt) which is used in the brewing.    

Peaty and meaty:
The smoky scapegoat on the Se'ir La'Azazel label.

To get the smokiness in there too, 80% of the malt that Shmulz used was smoked over peat.  Alcohol by volume is 7.4%.  Se'ir La'Azazel is brewed at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.    

Se'ir La'Azazel is dark reddish-brown, smack on the Bock color scale.  The smoky aromas hit your nose even before it gets close to the glass.  Malt and caramel are also present.  "Smoked meat" is what my drinking partner Moshe shouted out, bringing back distant memories to me.  "Smoked Scotch whisky" is what I thought of.  The taste is quite smoky as well, dominating any other flavors.  

Aluma (left), a strong
Wheat Wine made with 
all-wheat malt.
Se'ir La'Azazel (right),
a smoky Bock lager made
with roasted and 
peat-smoked malt.

(Photo: Mike Horton)  

It's a little on the sweet side, with a light body.  Moshe was jarred by the contrast between the strong taste and the light body.  But we both agreed that it was another one of Shmulz's successful ventures.  By the way, he suggests that this beer can be beneficially aged for some time, which may mellow out the strong flavors a bit.  

It's too wild for a dessert beer, but would go well with foods that could do with a smoky addition -- like vegetable stews, some quiches, soups and salads, mac & cheese, or even eggs.  

Several Israeli brewers have cooked up Barley Wine, most noticeably Alexander, which makes an annual version.  This is one of the strongest beer styles, normally clocking in at 11-12% alcohol by volume.

Aluma, I can state with some certainty, is Israel's first commercial Wheat Wine, using 100% malted wheat instead of barley.  Its ABV is 12% and it's brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.

Shmulz and other brewers have told me that brewing with wheat malt is umpteen times more difficult than brewing with barley.  The lack of husks in wheat, plus the higher protein, makes the grain mash, well, very mushy, almost like a bread dough.  The fact that the brewers were able to produce a fermentable wort is a tribute to their skills.      

This sheaf of wheat gives Aluma Wheat Wine its name.
Cloudy and carbonated, Aluma (which means "sheaf" in Hebrew) is golden orange.  The aroma is very fresh with hay and malt -- and there's no mistaking the alcohol.  The taste is alcoholic and bitter (which is what you're looking for in this kind of beer), but with sweet notes of brown sugar and caramel. 

The mouthfeel reveals a full body and some real alcoholic heat.  Aluma is the counterpoint of a summertime beer.  It has the characteristics of a wine, but is a heavier drink.  I'm told that Aluma is also a good beer to age.      

While not as "Baroque" as some of the earlier beers from Birateinu, these three additions are definitely in the category of "pushing the box" or "outside the envelope" or whichever other metaphor you want to use.  They are all available now at Birateinu in Jerusalem, or can be ordered online at this link (in Hebrew).

1 comment:

  1. The Aluma definitely has my interest.

    Regarding the Israeli breweries Barley wines such as Alexander, are they typically American or English style Barley wines?


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