December 26, 2022

Schnitt Beer comes to NYC

Pooah (Foofoo) Alon, CEO of Beerternational,
gifted the old blogger and wife Trudy with
fresh cans of Schnnitt beer brewed in New York.

Trudy and I added value to our September visit to New York City by meeting with Pooah Alon, known to her friends as Foofoo.  Israeli-born Foofoo heads a company named Beerternational which sells foreign beers in America, including Schnitt beer from Tel Aviv.  But she does this without importing them.  I'll explain later.

We met Foofoo at Cleveland 19, an Israeli restaurant in the SoHo neighborhood, and one of the 27 locations in NYC where Schnitt beer is sold.

[Click here to read my full article on the Schnitt Brewpub itself.]

Foofoo came to America with her husband seven years ago, the first four in Boston before moving to New York.  She's no stranger to the world of beer, having worked for Norman Premium, an importer and distributor of alcoholic beverages in Israel, and then at the Sam Adams Brewery Visitors' Center in Boston.  Her brother, Yoav Alon, is a partner in the Schnitt Brewpub.

"As soon as I got here, I was thinking about importing beers from Israel as well as from other countries," Foofoo told us.  "But I soon realized how expensive it was to physically bring over bottles of beer.  [Writer's note: All Israeli craft beers are bottled, whereas almost all American craft beers are now canned.]  We came up with an idea which isn't exactly new, but is rarely utilized: Contract brew the foreign beers in U.S. breweries, while tweaking the recipes, labels and branding to better fit American tastes and standards."  

Beerternational did its homework and found breweries in New York State and Chicago that were willing to brew the foreign beers.  Today, the company represents four overseas beer brands: Japas, women brewers of Japanese origin who live in Brazil, Oslo Brewery in Norway, Narcose Brewery in Brazil, and of course Schnitt from Tel Aviv.  These brands are now sold only in the NYC area, but Foofoo is working on finding new markets in other states.  The new year will see Schnitt beers sold in Florida. 

"The foreign brewers have very little initial expenses," explains Foofoo.  "They have to register their brand in the U.S., and adapt their branding and labels to American requirements.  We pay for the brewing itself, and then of course, take a percentage on all the beer sales." 

More specifically, the three Schnitt beers sold in New York are brewed and canned at the Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore, Long Island.  "They may not taste exactly the same as the beers you get in Tel Aviv," said Foofoo, "but they are very close."

To find out for myself, I joined IBAV Tasting Team members Oded Bartov and Bat Sheva Yanir to try the three beers.

The Tel Aviv Summer Ale is a hazy pale ale, 4.8% alcohol by volume, with aromas of very mild floral and some yeast.  The taste is not very defined, although Oded noted some apricot flavor.  It is well balanced, mid-bitter and, as the name says, is a nice summertime drink.  "If it were August and I was on the beach, I would drink it," Bat Sheva pronounced.    

The Tower of David vs the Tower of Schnitt:
IBAV Tasting Team members Bat Sheva Yanir (right) and
Oded Bartov (center) joined the old blogger in Jerusalem
to taste the three Schnitt beers brewed in New York.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

The Jaffa IPA (India Pale Ale) is brewed with oranges, which Oded recognized as the dominant aroma and flavor of this beer.  More precisely, Bat Sheva said that the aroma brings the sensation of sweet orange cake, while the taste is more like bitter orange rind.  It is indeed quite bitter, as a West Coast IPA should be, and the ABV is 6.5%.

The Malabiscous Sour is brewed with rose petals and hibiscus, giving it a lovely red amber (or red grapefruit) color.  It has a sour and yeasty aroma.  I noticed a faint flavor of rose water, but Oded said it was only because I knew beforehand it was an ingredient.  ABV is 5%.  Bat Sheva was disappointed with the low presence of both malt and hops.  It is sour, but not overly so.  If you are new to sour beers, this is a good one to start with. 

Foofoo says that New Yorkers have reacted very favorably to these Schnitt beers.  Currently, additional batches are being brewed, and perhaps additional beers will be introduced.    

December 9, 2022

Tropify from BeerBazaar ➯ Israel's first Sour IPA

Tropify by BeerBazaar:
A "Hazy Sour Session IPA."

Hot on the heels of tasting a Cold IPA and a Wheat IPA, we now have a Sour IPA.  This one is from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat and it's called Tropify, a "Hazy Sour Session IPA."  The label says that it's brewed with "four curious hops," and the ABV is 4.5%.

Sour IPA, I found out, is supposed to be a hybrid combining the tartness of a kettle soured beer with the hoppy, fruited softness of a hazy IPA.  It isn't a recognized beer style or even a sub-style.  It's more like a brewing experiment that very few American craft brewers will even touch.  The reason: Nothing clashes so much as the tastes of "sour" and "bitter."  In order to get the balance right, you have to find a way to soften the bitterness.  

That's a chemically technical question that I would rather not get into (mostly because I don't understand it myself!), but what do we have with Tropify?

Once we believed that different
locations on the tongue sensed
sour and bitter (and salty and sweet).
This is no longer considered scientific.
It pours out a semi-hazy yellow color with a small, fast-dissipating head.  The aroma certainly is sour, specifically lemon, with undertones of pine and flowers.  The taste is also tart lemon and a bit yeasty cake.  As sour beers go, it is quite moderate -- and also not very bitter.  The body is light, with an astringent and fizzy mouthfeel, and a finish that is tart and semi-sweet.

Tropify was made in a very limited batch of only 1,040 bottles, so by the time you read this, you may not be able to find any at your local BeerBazaar.  However, if past experience means anything, BeerBazaar may very well bring Tropify back in the future.  There are not many other Sour IPAs available in Israel.  In fact, there are not any other Sour IPAs here.  So I suggest you try it when you can.                                                  

November 30, 2022

HaDubim Triticum ➯ A strong, wheat IPA

Triticum IPA from HaDubim:
"Not a wheat beer;
an IPA brewed with wheat malt."

The latest IPA from the HaDubim brewer-brothers, Rotem and Dagan Bar Ilan, is called Triticum IPA.  I looked it up in my old high school Latin-English dictionary and (re)learned that triticum means wheat.  So this is a Wheat IPA, also known as a White IPA.  The style guide book says it should be a hybrid of an IPA and a Belgian Witbier.

Rotem explained that the tastes we get from a wheat beer (German-style or Belgian-style) come mostly from the wheat beer yeast, and Triticum is not made with wheat beer yeast. "This is not a wheat beer," he emphasizes. "It's an IPA that's brewed with wheat malt (40%) along with the usual barley malt.  This mix gives Triticum a lighter body and a slightly different style of malt sweetness.  The hop flavors come from Magnum, Chinook and Citra hops."

Triticum is brewed at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  ABV is 7%.

Beer from golden fields
of triticum aestivum.

Recipe details aside, Triticum pours out a very clear golden-orange color with a long lasting foamy head (one of the results of using wheat malt).  You get hop aromas of grapefruit, pine and spice.  The taste is very bitter, but still with flavors of grapefruit, spice and some bread coming through.  

Bitterness can be black like kola nuts, or sharp like horseradish.  But this bitterness is bright and herbal, and does not dominate the true flavors.  It continues through the long and dry finish.

If you're looking for the wheat in Triticum, you might have a hard time.  If you're searching for a strong IPA that delivers on hoppy bitterness and flavor, you'll find it here.    

November 20, 2022

Jem's MondiAle 2022 for the Mondial

Jeremy Welfeld, Brewmaster at the
Jem's Beer Factory, enthuses over
his new MondiAle 2022 beer.

Just in time for the Mondial world soccer championship in Qatar (where alcoholic beverages are forbidden) is the 2022 version of MondiAle from the Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva.  Jem's also brought out a MondiAle for the last Mondial in 2018, but I must have been looking the other way because I missed it.             

This year's MondiAle is called a Limited Edition pale ale, 5% alcohol, and for some reason was contract brewed at the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer.

The alcohol-free soccer world championship, 
the Mondial, opens today in Qatar.
The beer pours out a clear light amber color with a thin rim-clinging head.  The hop aromas are refreshing but not intense: A little citrus and fruit, some yeast and a tinge of soapiness.  The taste was mildly bitter, with the malt and hops in nice balance.  Flavors of bread, caramel, vegetal and faint fruit.  The mouthfeel brings a tingly carbonation and a medium body.  

This is an easy-drinking beer and good for what it was made for: Kicking back in front of your TV and watching the soccer championship.  And while you're doing it, think of the poor people in the stadium who have to drink their alcohol-free beer -- it at all!   

Thanks to the Stern Arieli Saar agency for sending me a bottle of MondiAle 2022 for tasting.  

November 13, 2022

BeerBazaar Scary Pumpkin arrives for the season

BeerBazaar Scary Pumpkin for 2022:
Pumpkin and spice and all things nice.

The BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat (with pubs and retail outlets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) has once again brought out its seasonal Scary Pumpkin Ale.  (The Hebrew name is closer to "Wicked Pumpkin," but whatever.)  This beer comes out in time for the North American pumpkin-eating season of Halloween-Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin ales have a huge following in the U.S.  There are those who await the fall avalanche of these beers with great anticipation, while others cringe at the very name.  I myself am a tepid fan.  Pumpkin and/or pumpkin pie spices in a beer can be quite enjoyable, certainly more so than many other flavored beers.  

This year's Scary Pumpkin was just that.  The taste of the earlier version (or versions) has long evaporated from my memory, but going by my notes, it wasn't much different from the 2022 edition.

(Read about the first BeerBazaar Scary Pumpkin here.)

The beer is brewed with pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice: About the same ingredients my wife uses to bake her pumpkin pie.  The pie has 0% alcohol; Scary Pumpkin has 5.8%.  

I'm not afraid of no Scary Pumpkin!

It's a hazy golden amber, the color of fall and pumpkins, with a thin, fizzy head.  You get aromatics of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, along with a solid malt background.

With the first sip, you taste sweet pumpkin spice, but this soon balances out with the hop bitterness.  Cinnamon and nutmeg are also prevalent, with some light cookie dough.  Cooked pumpkin has a very mild taste and I was unable to detect it amidst all the other spices.  Even with all the pumpkin pie flavors, Scary Pumpkin holds its own with real beer parameters: Malt, hops and yeast.

So if you're looking for a beer that delivers on the autumn pumpkin pie flavors, this is a good one.         

October 30, 2022

Shikma Bitter Wheat: The first beer with Israeli-grown barley malt

Shikma Bitter Wheat:
A hoppy Hefeweizen.
On the label:
"Contains Israeli malt."
(Photo: Yochai Maytal)

Last year, the Israel Beer Breweries Ltd. (IBBL), brewers of Tuborg and Carlsberg, launched their own craft beer brand -- Shikma.  They opened a separate brewery next to their mega-brewery in Ashkelon, to emphasize that this was a real, free-standing craft beer.  They produced three styles: Amber Ale, Mรคrzen Lager, and IPA.  [Refresh you memory about those beers here.]

Last month, Shikma introduced their fourth style: Bitter Wheat.  The beer itself is meant to be a kind of hybrid between classical Bavarian wheat, using wheat beer yeast, and an IPA using plenty of New World hops.  We'll get back to that.

Even more newsworthy is Shikma's decision to brew this beer with malt from home-grown barley -- an Israeli first.  According to Shikma's own sources, the barley variety was developed over a period of two years with assistance from the Volcani Center in Rishon LeZion and Agridera in Gedera.  Since there are no malting facilities in Israel, the grains were flown to the Wayermann Malting Company in Bamberg, Germany, before being returned to Israel as malted barley.

Only 30% of the malt used in Bitter Wheat was this Israeli-grown barley, but Shikma's final goal is to replace all of its foreign base malt (non-specialty) with Israeli malt. 

This is not insignificant news, people.  It may even mark the birth of a whole new Israeli enterprise.

But what is the result that ends up in our glass?

Bitter Wheat pours out the color of wheat beer, light amber and mid-hazy, with a fizzy head that quickly vanishes.  The aroma brings the phenolic cloves of wheat yeast and some bread from the malt.  Some thin floral notes from the hops.  The taste is bitter (but not so much as the name suggests), and with the pretty typical wheat beer flavor of cloves and some citrus fruit.  The finish is bitter/sweet and dry.  
Bitter Wheat is all about
money, sex and power:
The David Mamet play, that is,
not the beer!

Look, I am not a big fan of Bavarian wheat beer (Hefeweizen), and for all of the hoopla, that's what Bitter Wheat finally is.  If this is your style, you will enjoy it -- and let's give a boost to Israeli barley malt.                              

October 23, 2022

Arabica: A coffee beer from HaDubim

Arabica from HaDubim:
Pale ale with real coffee taste.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

The HaDubim ("The Bears") brewer-brothers Rotem and Dagan Bar-Ilan made Arabica, their new Coffee Pale Ale, for the Tel Aviv Coffee Fest last month.  From the bottle, we read that it was brewed at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat and the alcohol by volume is 5%.  To learn more, I had to taste some, which I did with my drinking partner and blog photographer, Mike Horton.           

Arabica is a golden amber color, although rather murky, with a thin white head.  The dominant aroma -- and flavor -- is coffee; but as Mike noted, "pure coffee, real coffee."  The pale ale base provides an excellent window to let the coffee additive shine through.  The malt gives just the right amount of "sweetener" for the coffee.

We felt that Arabica would go well with any dessert you should have coffee with.  Baklava and knafe come to mind.

Mike gave this beer high marks, but added that, "it wouldn't replace my morning coffee."

As for me, I wouldn't mind if it does, every now and then.    

This isn't the first time an Israeli craft beer has been brewed with coffee. For example, I've already written about Cold Brew Coffee Stout from BeerBazaar and Barista Beer from the Shapiro Brewery.  (Read about them here.)

October 15, 2022

Malka Cold IPA: A new style now made in Israel

Malka Cold IPA:
Crisp and clean like a lager;
hop-forward like an ale.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

The Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Area has released the first Israeli version of a pretty new (as yet unrecognized) beer style -- Cold IPA.  Its called Malka Cold IPA

Before I tasted this beer (with my drinking partner and photographer Mike Horton), I wanted to find out more about this new style for you, my dear readers.  

Cold IPA was developed back in the U.S. not more than four years ago.  The aim of these pioneer brewers was a beer that combined the light crispness of a lager with the intense hop flavors of an IPA.  Since the name "Cold" doesn't mean that you should drink it cold (you should), you might think that it's brewed or fermented at a cold temperature.  But the opposite is true.  It's brewed with lager yeast, yet fermented at a higher temperature associated with ales.  Around 20°C (68°F).  So in my way of thinking, I would have called the new style a Hot IPA, but no one asked me.  

By turning up the heat on the lager yeast, they eat more of the sugars, produce more alcohol, and don't leave behind any bothersome fermentation flavors such as esters.  The flavors come from the dry-hopping with aromatic hop varieties.  The result should be a hop-forward beer with bold flavors, light bitterness, and a clean, light body. 

There are those who compare Cold IPA to India Pale Lager or even Brut IPA, since the three styles are very similar.  But the experts say there are definite differences in the tastes and characteristics.  If your tongue can detect these, more power to you.

Getting back to Malka Cold IPA, it shares the brewing method described above, but also adds rice flakes to the barley malt to create more fermentable sugars and lighten the body even further.  The hops used are Ahtanum, Sabro and Amarillo.  The alcohol by volume is 5.7%.

The beer pours out a cloudy orange color with a thin white head, more like a halo.  Mike called the color, "bucolic."

Like the description says, you get lots of citrus aroma, more specifically white grapefruit.  The taste is also dominantly citrus.  It's not overly full of different flavors, but it spotlights the one it has very well.

The taste is mid-bitter and the finish is dry enough to make you want to keep drinking.  

Mike averred that this Cold IPA would go very well with an arak chaser, and would be an excellent complement to a sweet dessert such as cheesecake.

"It's a drinkable beer," said he, "but I don't think I would have more than one or two bottles."  I told Mike that we're not teenagers anymore.   

I enjoyed every drop, but my search for unique Cold IPA descriptors was less than successful.  The taste is indeed hoppy and intense, and the finish is "dry and crisp," but so are a lot of other beers I've had.

So if you're looking for a flavorful, crisp and dry IPA, Malka Cold will satisfy you.  If you want a new beer style experience, you may have to wait a little longer.

October 7, 2022

Beer and food pairings in the sukka


When you sit in your sukka this year, welcome a few Israeli craft beers as your "guests."

Much has been written about pairing food with different wines.  But actually, pairing food with beer offers a much wider range of aromas and flavors to enhance almost any dish. 

Wine is pretty one-dimensional.  Beer can bring to our palates bitter and sweet, sour and even salty.  Different malts add notes of bread, chocolate, coffee, dried fruits, caramel and much more.  The hops pitch in with earthy and spicy flavors, citrus, tropical fruits, floral, herbal or piney.  Just by varying the yeast we can perceive different fruits, juice, candy, and that ever elusive "funk."

When you add to this all of the craft beers which are made with added fruits, herbs and spices – the taste experiences become unlimited.

What are some Sukkot dishes that we can pair with Israeli beers?  Well, that's a problem since Sukkot, of all the Jewish holidays, doesn't seem to be associated with any specific foods.  Passover, Shavuot, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashana, Purim – all have special dishes.  You have to dig a little deeper – and use more imagination – to find the foods that are part of the Sukkot holiday.

One interesting association is with stuffed vegetables, symbolizing the autumn harvest bounty, with rice or grain overflowing out of the vegetable in a figurative horn of plenty.  Some commentators compare the stuffed vegetable to the Torah scroll we dance with on Simchat Torah: The real essence is wrapped inside. 

In our house, we serve stuffed cabbage in a tomato gravy (which my Baltimore-born wife calls "prakas"), but it can also be zucchini, eggplant, vine leaves, mushrooms, peppers, etc.  It's made with lemons, raisins and brown sugar, producing a sweet and sour sauce, with strong flavors of tomato and cabbage.  We stuff it with rice and soya, but it can also include meat.

To complement the stuffed veggie, try an Amber Ale, where the malt sweetness balances the vegetable and sauce, cutting some of the tomato acidity.  Amber Ales from the Shikma Brewery, and the Ultimus Super Hero from Six-Pack Beers, are good examples of this style.        

A contrasting beer would be an India Pale Ale (IPA) from the HaGibor Brewery or Shevet Brewery's Hop Guru.  Here, the hop bitterness balances the sweetness in the gravy, and subdues the sourness.

Another fitting dish for the sukka is a Seven Species Salad, which includes at least some (if not all) of the seven species which were the basis of agriculture in the Land of Israel: Wheat, barley, grapes (wine), figs, pomegranates, olives (oil) and dates (silan syrup).

People normally don't think of fresh salads going with beer, but choosing the right beer style can add a surprising taste dimension.  For example, an aromatic and light Wheat Beer will not overpower the delicate flavors of the salad.  The Bavarian-style Wheat Beers from the Jem's Beer Factory, or from the Galil Brewery, will to the job nicely.        

Another beer which will complement your salad is a Blond Ale – like those from the Alexander Brewery and the Malka Brewery.  The beer's malt sweetness and citrusy notes will add a new level of flavors to any light salad.      

Since eating in the sukka requires a lot of carrying between the kitchen and the table, one-dish meals are popular.  For example, we enjoy a hearty shepherd's pie, which can be either with meat or vegetarian.  Once you carry this into the sukka, the whole meal is practically there.

The rich, hearty flavors of a shepherd's pie cry out for a beer that can match the intensity.  A dark Porter or a Stout will do perfectly, while it contributes roasty, nutty and malty tastes to the pie.  Negev Beers' Porter Alon will also add oak notes.  Another perfect choice is Oatmeal Stout from the Shapiro Brewery.

For a different experience, have an Israeli Smoked Beer with your shepherd's pie (or any casserole) and add a woodsy, smoky character to the food.  Two excellent choices are Smoked Ale from the Mosco Brewery and Birat Ha'asor ("Beer of the Decade") Smoky Amber Ale from Srigim Brewery.

Meals in the sukka may also include dishes that are traditional for Rosh Hashana (New Year).  For example, we always have some pieces of honey cake left over to enjoy during Sukkot.  When you're having honey cake, try something different instead of the usual cup of coffee or tea.

Take a walk on the wild side and pair it with Israeli craft beer!  A good choice would be a Belgian Trippel, whose fruity esters and spicy flavor blend deliciously with any honey cake.  Emek Ha'ela and Oak & Ash just happen to brew fine examples of this style.  (The Oak & Ash Trippel is called "Ash 9.5".)

Another possibility is a Pale Ale; its moderate bitterness and hop flavors will balance the sweetness of the honey, and will emphasize the spiciness.  Typhoon APA (American Pale Ale) from HaDubim, or HeChatool HaShamen ("Fat Cat") from BeerBazaar are excellent Pale Ale choices for this dessert.

If you enjoy beer and food pairings over this Sukkot, don't be afraid to continue on your own for the rest of the year.  Once you get the hang of some basic flavor principles – intensity, complemental and contrast – it's not so difficult. 

Since the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians began to brew it over 5,000 years ago, beer was always meant to go with food.  See what interesting combinations you can come up with, and Chag Sameach!

                        [This article first appeared in 

                       The Jerusalem Post Magazine

                          on Friday, October 7, 2022.]     

October 2, 2022

Pizza Earth Theory: A Lichtenhainer Imperial Pineapple Gose from Schmulz

Pizza Earth Theory, "Brewed by the Beard," 
Shmuel (Schmulz) Naky:  
A Lichtenhainer Imperial Pineapple Gose. 

I've written on many occasions about the strange and wondrous beers brewed by Shmuel (Schmulz) Naky, either under his own "Brewed by the Beard" label or for Birateinu, The Jerusalem Beer Center, where he formerly worked.  

But I really had to stretch the powers of my sensory perception when I drank his Pizza Earth Theory, a Lichtenhainer Imperial Pineapple Gose!  Lichtenhainer, as everyone knows, is a sour, smoked German wheat beer, and Schmulz chose the style to showcase his appreciation for delicious pineapple pizza.           

On the technical side, he used pale, smoked and biscuit malt, oatmeal, and Magnum hops.  A large amount of pineapple puree was added during fermentation.  Alcohol by volume reached 10%.

Love it or hate it: Pineapple Pizza.
The beer pours out a cloudy orange color (you can also call it "hazy golden") with a minimal head.  We saw pieces of something floating in the beer, presumably pineapple.  The dominant aroma was smoke; not smoked meat, more like smoked cheese.  It was quite appetite-invigorating.

The primary tastes were smoke, salt, and spicy pineapple which tingled my tongue.  The sourness definitely dominated the bitterness.  The taste sensations were intense, as I'm sure Schmulz intended them to be.  This is not a beer to be taken lightly, or to be quaffed down with some pub grub.  The flavors should be appreciated by themselves.   

Even though Pizza Earth Theory was launched several months ago, bottles are still available for purchase at Birateinu in Jerusalem and their online store.

September 21, 2022

Whisky aged in beer barrels which held beer aged in whisky barrels

You read that right.  Here's what it means.

These four whiskies in the Milk & Honey
Art & Craft series were aged in ex-beer barrels.
Some four years ago, the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv, Israel's first craft distillery, decided on a long-range project to produce a series of whiskies aged in ex-beer barrels.  The aim was to see what different aromas and flavors the whiskies would absorb from the wooden barrels – which had themselves earlier absorbed from the beer.

Stay with me.

So they gave six Israeli craft breweries empty barrels which once held Milk & Honey whisky. 

Milk & Honey Head Distiller Tomer Goren
at work in the distillery.
Then they said, in so many words: "You guys use these barrels to age one of your stronger beers. After six months or a year or so, bottle the contents and sell it as a premium barrel-aged beer, or whatever you want, and then let us have the empty barrels back. We will then mature our single-malt spirit in these barrels for three years."

One of the whiskies was aged
in barrels which held this 
Imperial Chocolate 
Barrel Aged Porter
from the Shapiro Brewery.
When Milk & Honey got the barrels back, they filled them with the same single-malt spirit.  "The whisky then matured in the barrels for a full three years," explains Sigal Tweig, Brand Manager at Milk & Honey.  "Our Head Distiller, Tomer Goren, decided that in order to give these whiskies the best aromas and flavors, they should have a very high alcoholic content.  In fact, they are all overproof, above 50% alcohol.  These are part of our M&H Art & Craft series of whisky aged in unique barrels."   

I got together with some fellow Tasters to try the first four of these whiskies.  (The remaining two will be released shortly.)  Writing about whisky is out of my comfort zone, since I am a beer writer after all, but I was hoping to make the connection with the beer barrel aging.  Let's see how this works out.

The first whisky we tried is called Ex-Islay IPA Cask.  The beer that was aged in the barrels was made by The Dictator Brewery, which closed around four years ago.  It was a peated (that is, smoky) IPA, which was never released to the Israeli market.    

As expected, this whisky has aromas of smoke, though quite light, along with some citrus scents.  There is more smoke in the taste, full roastiness and ash.  The alcohol by volume (ABV) is 53.2%, high enough for us to feel the alcoholic fumes and, yes, experience the throat burn that comes with whisky this strong.  Adding a few drops of water to your glass, just a few, will enhance the flavor without diluting the whisky.

Jeremy Welfeld, partner of Jem's Beer Factory,
introduced me to his 8.8 Belgian strong ale
aged in barrels which then held 
Milk & Honey whisky.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

The second bottle was Chocolate Porter Beer Cask (56.2% ABV).  These barrels were used to mature the famous Imperial Chocolate Barrel Aged Porter, released by the Shapiro Brewery (Beit Shemesh) in 2018.  It was among the most rich and flavorful Israeli beers I've ever had.                             

The whisky maintains the chocolate aroma, vanilla, caramel, nuts, and booziness.  The taste brings milk chocolate – think of those whisky-filled chocolate candies – and oak.  The finish is very smooth with a candy sweetness. 

Next was Belgian Ale Beer Cask.  The beer aged in these barrels was the 8.8 Belgian strong ale from Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva.  This beer was offered to the public only at the 2019 BEERS Exhibit in Tel Aviv by Jem's partner Jeremy Welfeld himself.  I was lucky enough to have tried some. 

One of the whiskies was aged in barrels 
which held this OMG barrel-aged 
Doppelbock lager from the BeerBazaar Brewery.
The whisky that came out of this barrel is light, less boozy than the others, with aromas of spice and citrus.  The taste has delicate fruit, spice and licorice.  A very pleasant drink, and if I can say this quite amateurishly, the most whiskyish of the whiskies.  ABV is 55.1%.

Last was the Doppelbock Beer Cask, aged in barrels which held the 2019 OMG (Oh My Goodness) beer from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat – a barrel-aged Doppelbock lager.  BeerBazaar has been producing annual OMG barrel-aged beers, each one based on a different style.  Doppelbock (Double Bock) is a strong, German-style lager, low in hops but distinguished by malty and nutty flavors.                    

The whisky aged in barrels
which held this
Alexander Barley Wine (2019)
will soon be released. 
The whisky is the strongest in the series, 58.3% alcohol.  It brought tears to my eyes, but was in our opinion the most flavorful.  The aroma has fruit and chocolate, while on the palate you have a real malt backbone, banana, citrus, vanilla and more chocolate.

Within the next few weeks, two more whiskies in this series will be released by Milk & Honey. 

Barley Wine Cask – These barrels held the first Israeli Barley Wine (2019) from the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer.  Barley Wine is one of the strongest beer styles in the world, reaching alcoholic volume of 13%, full bodied and very bitter.  The whisky is 55.7% ABV.

Stout Cask – The beer aged here was Stout from the Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Area.  After maturing for six months in the barrel, it wasn't released on the market, but was "privately used" by the brewery workers – which probably means that they drank it all themselves!  The Milk & Honey whisky that was then matured in these barrels has an ABV of 54%.

Time is money:
The Milk & Honey whiskies matured for three years
in ex-beer barrels cost NIS 355 for a 700 ml bottle. 
The first four beer barrel-aged whiskies are available now in bottle shops throughout Israel, and the final two soon will be.   

As you can imagine, the entire four-year process was very time-consuming and costly for Milk & Honey, and this is reflected in the price: These Art & Craft whiskies cost NIS 355 for a 700 ml bottle.

A final word: Israel is in this case picking up on a trend that has been going on for several years in the craft beer world:  Utilizing the synergy between breweries and distilleries to produce new and exciting beverages.  Using each other's barrels for maturing is perhaps the most obvious example.  We are fortunate that we have the forward-thinking breweries and distilleries which can do this well.

                     [This article appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine

                         on Friday, September 16, 2022, under the title of 

                                          "Well, well, well, whisky."]     

August 30, 2022

Herzl 486: A "modern and exact" pale ale

From Herzl Beer (brewed at the Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Area) has come another seasonal pale ale for the Israeli summer.  It's named 486, which happens to be the exact alcohol by volume: 4.86%.  In fact, 486 doesn't hesitate to call itself "modern and exact."  Let every reader decide for him/herself what that means.  It also calls itself an American Pale Ale, which it is.

Maor Helfman, one of the founders of Herzl Beer and now Israeli beer brands manager for Hacarem Spirits Ltd., told me that 486 is brewed with oats (in addition to malted barley) and Galaxy hops from Australia.  

The beer is a hazy, light orange color with a really nice creamy head.  Through the head, you get aromas of grapefruit, guava, and some pineapple.  With the first sip, you experience some strong bitterness, but this is what an American Pale Ale is all about.  There are also flavors of white grapefruit and the rind, other fruity esters and malt. 

The finish is dry and bitter, enhanced by tingly carbonation in a light body.  A crisp, refreshing and flavorful beer that you should enjoy while our summer -- and the beer -- are still here.           

SCHNEIPA - Yellow Snowcone IPA from Schmulz: A classy New England IPA

In spite of the old blogger's best efforts to
hold him back, Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky
is leaving Birateinu.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky will soon be leaving Birateinu, The Jerusalem Beer Center, following a seven year run as a partner and brewer extraordinaire.  In that time, he's brewed umpteen "Baroque" beers under the Birateinu label, and a few even more extreme bearing his own "Brewed by the Beard" label.  

Schmulz's latest beer is called SCHNEIPA - Yellow Snowcone IPA, made at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.  The first three letters are probably for SCHmulz, while the last five stand for New England IPA, a beer style known for its fruit juicy flavors, low bitterness, hazy color, and smooth, full body.  There have been other Israeli NEIPA's which don't exactly match these criteria.

SCHNEIPA - Yellow Snowcone IPA:
A thoroughly enjoyable New England IPA
(in spite of what you may think of
the pissing angels).  

Schmulz says that this beer represents his "vision and technique on steroids."  In addition to pale malt, he used unmalted oats and flaked wheat in the mash bill.  This was to give the beer both its haziness and creamy consistency.  He then dry-hopped the beer with plentiful amounts of Centennial, Citra, Mosaic and Taiheke -- to give intense flavor without much bitterness.

Let's see how this played out.

SCHNEIPA pours out promisingly: A murky, yellow-orange color with a small head.  There are pleasant aromas of grapefruit, peach and mango, with some background pine.  The taste is also on-style. The bitterness is mild enough to let the flavors shine through.  We're talking about more citrus, tropical fruit and fresh grass.  Throughout the drink, you get a light crispness and a medium body.  Alcohol by volume is 6.5%.

SCHNEIPA is as close to an NEIPA as I have ever had.  (About the Yellow Snowcone part, that's just Schmulz's very strained sense of humor!  The intriguing label by Nir Kleinman gives you two pudgy angels pissing on the snow.  What else?)