[Read about last year's remotely judged competition here.]
This year, Isra-Brew 2021 was held under similar circumstances, although better organized for remote judging. Fifty-six brewers submitted their entries, and judging was again done by separate panels. The award ceremony, however, was held live at the Beer & Beyond store in Tel Aviv. Thirty-five prizes were awarded in the Beer categories, including Best of Show and Champion Brewer.
Prizes were also awarded in the Mead and Cider categories. In recent years, one of Isra-Brew's chief judges, Omer Basha, has been actively promoting the production and judging of mead and cider, and that was reflected in their inclusion in the competition.
|Some of the Isra-Brew judges at work in Jerusalem:|
(from left) Rafael Agaev, Omer Basha,
Ephraim Greenblatt and Shmuel Naky
(assisted by his young daughter!).
Isra-Brew is organized by the Home-Brewers of Israel community, and sanctioned by the worldwide Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). All of the judges are BJCP certified to ensure a comprehensive evaluation and proper feedback to all of the entrants.
Omer, Israel's only BJCP judge with a Master ranking, was one of the judge directors. He told me a little more about this year's Isra-Brew judging procedure. All of the 163 entries were gathered at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem. They were divided into 20 categories (16 for beer, three for mead and one for cider) and distributed to six judging locations throughout the country.
|The Sabresa Brewery team that brewed|
the American Porter Best of Show:
(from left) Yogev Nathan, Nitai Leffler,
Meital Leffler and Ofer Pekerman.
The winners in all categories were decided more than a month before they were announced at the ceremony. There was a reason for this, I learned from Omer. "We decided to do something very different this year: To commercially brew the entries of the Best of Show and the Champion Brewer so the public would be able to taste them.
|The original Best of Show American Porter|
from the Sabresa Brewery, and the two awards:
First Place in the Stout category and
Best of Show.
"HaDubim -- Rotem and Dagan Bar Ilan -- made a hop rich version of the Best of Show beer . . . and Hatch Brewery practically cloned the Champion Brewer's Belgian Blond Ale."
The winner of the Best of Show was an American Porter by Sabresa Brewery from Kibbutz Ein HaShlosha in the Negev. Sabresa is a team of talented brewers that includes Nitai Leffler, Yogev Nathan, Ofer Pekerman and Meital Leffler.
The version made by HaDubim is called Mara Shchora ("Bitter Black"), a Black English IPA. It was developed jointly by Sabresa and the Bar Ilan brothers. I understand it is hoppier than Nitai's winning beer, made with Chinook and East Kent Golding hops, at 6% alcohol by volume.
Best of Show.
Mara Shchora is an enjoyable enough beer, with good attributes for a Black IPA -- but here's the thing that bothers me: It's not anywhere near Sabresa's American Porter. Different recipe, different preparation, different style. If the purpose of this exercise was to give the public a taste of the winning home-brewed beers, why include a beer whose only connection was the involvement of the same brewing team?
It reminded me of the museum that was displaying George Washington's original ax, you know, the one he chopped down the cherry tree with. (Apologies to those who never learned this important piece of American history.) The card said, "This is the original ax. It's only had seven new handles and three new heads since then."
|Isra-Brew Champion Brewer|
Michael Van Straten (holding award trophy)
with his wife Nirit and friends from Moshav Klachim.
The title of Champion Brewer was awarded to Michael Van Straten from Moshav Klachim in the northwestern Negev, where he works as a veterinarian. The Champion Brewer is the one whose beers amass the most awards in the competition. Michael's Belgian Blond and Belgian Tripel took gold medals, and his German Pils a silver.Michael has been home-brewing for eight years, specializing in Belgian-style ales. He calls his brewery Duchifat ("Hoopoe Bird"). It was his Belgian Blond that the Hatch Brewery produced commercially, labeling it Duchifat Blond.
If this is an accurate recreation of Michael's Belgian Blond, I can see why it came in First Place in the Belgian Strong Ale category, and why he was named Champion Brewer.