May 19, 2022

Two from the Nomads: Helle in a Bucket (with cardamon) ● Pale, not Poison (with sumac)

The Nomads brewing team of
Yonah Rubin and Jacob Mogerman:
Different style beers with different spices.

The Nomads are a brewing team of Yonah Rubin and Jacob Mogerman who have chosen (so far) to brew their beers each in a different style and each with a single spice.  So their first two beers were a Saison brewed with za'atar (which I wrote about here) and a Kölsch brewed with sage (which you can read about here).      

They have just come out with two new beers in the same line:  A Brown Ale made with cardamon ("Helle in a Bucket") and an American Pale Ale with sumac ("Pale, not Poison").  These beers were brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem, but Yonah told me that the Nomads are now looking for a place of their own. 

"Helle in a Bucket" Brown Ale from the Nomads:
Brewed with cardamon spice.

Let's begin Helle in a Bucket, brewed with the cardamon (called "hel" in Hebrew -- get it?).  The beer pours out a deep red amber color, semi-hazy, with rocky head that stays around a while as a ring of foam.  The aromas are cardamon and minty spice, with the malt adding some bread and brown sugar.  The flavor also has cardamon, which gives the malt a sweet character, and also some floral, fruit and spice.  

Helle in a Bucket is evenly balanced between the hops and malt, and has a semi-dry finish and long, spicy aftertaste.  I wonder how the cardamon would have fared in a beer style different from Brown Ale. 

"Pale, not Poison" American Pale Ale from the Nomads:
Brewed with sumac spice.
Pale, not Poison is an APA made with sumac, a red to purple colored spice used in the popular za'atar blend.  I do not know the taste of pure sumac, but Yonah Rubin described it to me as fruity, citrusy and a little sour.  "We wanted it to bring some tartness to our beer without using a souring yeast or bacteria."

It's a slightly hazy, light amber color, with a thin white head and slow carbonation.  There are aromas of grass, spice and some light grain.  The flavor brings intense spice (either from the hops or the sumac additive), as well as some lemon and a pleasant tartness and sourness.  The balance is towards sweetness, with the malt contributing weak bread notes and even weaker honey flavor.  The finish is crisp and the aftertaste is mid-length.

Pale, not Poison is a good, innovative beer.  The sumac is probably the cause of the beer's unusual spiciness and tartness.  IMHO it works very well.  I'm interested to see if the Nomads continue with their "different spice" beers, or if they move in a new direction.                               

May 11, 2022

Three from the Shevet Brewstillery: Farm Mama ● Twist & Stout ● Rye or Die IPA

The Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna introduced three new beers at the Tel Aviv craft festival: One in its family of core beers (The Farm Mama) and two in the Small Batch Series (Twist & Stout and Rye or Die IPA).  Shevet's Small Batch beers are produced in limited quantities, and when they're gone, they're gone -- unless Brewmaster Felix Magdziarz decides to make them again. 

The Farm Mama joins the core beers produced by
the Shevet Brewstillery: 
A Belgian Witbier brewed with orange zest,
chamomile, coriander and white pepper.

The Farm Mama is a 5.2% alcohol Belgian Witbier, brewed with wheat malt, oats, orange zest, chamomile, coriander seeds and white pepper.  Very few Belgian Wits have been brewed commercially in Israel.  This style is the Belgian version of the popular wheat beers (Hefeweizen) brewed in central Europe.  Wits are usually made just with additives of orange peels and coriander seeds.

The Farm Mama is a fine Israeli way to introduce you to this style.  It's a clear color of pale straw, not too carbonated with a thin head.  The initial aroma is spicy, grassy and lemony, with the hops contributing floral scents, and the malts faint white bread.           

The taste is low to mid bitter.  You should be able to pick out flavors of lemon, pepper and even farmhouse funk.  The beer is crisp and refreshing (good timing with the hot days upon us), thin bodied, dull effervescence, and a mid to long aftertaste. 

[The four other core beers from Shevet are The Ice Man (Helles Lager), The Wee Laddie (Scottish Ale), The Red Knight (Irish Red Ale) and The Hop Guru (India Pale Ale)]. 

Twist & Stout from the 
Shevet Brewstillery is an
Imperial Stout brewed with
cocoa nibs and vanilla extract.

Twist & Stout, a small batch beer of around 2,000 bottles, is an Imperial Stout (11% alcohol by volume) based on Shevet's earlier Small Batch Imperial Stout from 2020 (which you can read about here).  However, Twist & Stout is brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla extract -- and what a difference they make!

The beer pours out a very dark brown, but clear and translucent, with a tan head of mixed rocky bubbles.

The aromas are from the malt and the additives.  You get delicate chocolate, caramel, faint vanilla and light coffee roast.  The taste is skewed towards the sweet, but with a balancing bitterness.  Flavors of roasted malt and dark chocolate are prevalent.  The strong booze is felt in the taste and the alcoholic warmth.  This beer is thick and flavorful, full in body and effervescence.

Enjoy Twist & Stout by itself -- just sip and let the flavors wash over you.  You might also like it paired with a rich and/or chocolaty pastry, hearty macaroni and cheese, or strong aged cheeses like camembert, brie, gouda and cheddar.  

The other Small Batch beer is Rye or Die IPA, 6.5% ABV, brewed with rye and a hop mixture of Simcoe, Centennial and Magnum.  About 3,000 bottles were issued. 

Rye or Die IPA from the
Shevet Brewstillery is an 
India Pale Ale brewed with rye.
This beer looks different from the start.  It's a opaque deep amber, with a creamy off-white head that begins thick, reduces in time but never really disappears.  The aromas were a mix of grass, pine, light citrus and perhaps peach from the hops, with the malt contributing some dark bread.  The taste is bitter with hop flavors of dark fruits, orange, pine and pepper spice -- but balanced by the malt sweetness.  The finish is semi-dry, with a mid to long aftertaste.

The body is medium thick, and the mid to high carbonation is tingly on the tongue.

The aromatics and taste of Rye or Die IPA were different from other IPAs.  All of the elements blended well to produce a beer that I found surprising and enjoyable. 

Shevet (and the rest of us) is fortunate to have Brewmaster Felix, who continues to put his skill and experience into every new Shevet beer.                

May 10, 2022

Jerusalem Craft Beer Fair -- May 11-12

Up until recently, I've been chasing down every local "beer festival" and reporting on them.  I stopped doing that because it was driving me crazy and almost all of them were not really festivals at all, but "marketing events" organized by some importing agency or another.

However, I continue to seek out and report on real festivals -- and one of them is taking place this Wednesday and Thursday, May 11-12, in Jerusalem's First Station. It's being staged by Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center.  They organized a few of these before the corona era and they were all a lot of fun.  Entrance is free, the venue is comfortable and limited, and you are surrounded by local eateries.  This year, there is also live music on each night.

These are the breweries who will be selling their beers:   

Beertzinut, Meltzer, Fass, Hatch, Chalutz Chadash, Srigim (Ronen and Emek Ha'ela), Super Heroes (Six-Pack), Sheeta, Malkat Ha'emek, and Schnitt Brewpub.  In addition, the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv will also have a table to present their whisky and spirits.

For more detailed information (in Hebrew), please see here.     

April 27, 2022

Three additive rich beers from BeerBazaar: Armon HaMelech ● Ooga Ooga ● Aphrodisiac

Armon HaMelech Chestnut Brown Ale
from the BeerBazaar Brewery:
Brewed with chestnut puree.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
We already expect the BeerBazaar Brewery (in Kiryat Gat) to be producing beers which are flavorful and additive-full; beers that send the Reinheitsgebot for a loop.  Here we have three more, with added ingredients including chestnuts, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, blueberries and currants.  Sounds like it would make a tasty dish even without the beer.

These beers are brewed in limited quantities, so they may not be currently available at the BeerBazaar outlets and online store.  But experience has shown that they probably will be re-issued sooner or later.  

I called together Mike and Manny from the IBAV Tasting Team to give us "the people's voice" about these beers.   

The first up is called Armon HaMelech, a play on Hebrew words which means "Chestnut the King," but when spelled with one letter different means "Palace of the King."  But this is a blog about Israeli beer, not Hebrew syntax.

Ooga Ooga Pastry Sour Wheat
from BeerBazaar:
Ingredients include blueberry
and currant purees, wheat,
and lactose.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Armon HaMelech is called a Chestnut Brown Ale, and indeed it does have the requisites for a Nut Brown Ale.  First of all, the color is really chestnut -- clear red-amber with an off-white head that quickly dissipates.  There are aromas of caramel malt and raisin bread, with a sweet and nutty after-aroma (don't know what else to call it).  The taste is basically sweet, hiding behind pretty distinct flavors of hazelnuts and cream.  If you're looking for chestnuts, you will find them.  The mouthfeel is creamy with a little tingle, and the finish is short and bitter-sweet.  Alcohol by volume is 5.5%.

I enjoyed Armon HaMelech more than most, full of moderate though pleasant sensations.  I feel it would accompany a wide range of food, including spicy and hearty dishes, aged cheeses and pastry desserts.  

Ooga Ooga (which means "cake cake" in Hebrew and is also the start of a popular children's ditty) is called a Pastry Sour Wheat.  At a very sessionable 3.9% ABV, it's made with additions of blueberry and currant purees, wheat, and lactose (milk sugar).            

"Then why does it smell and taste like raspberry?" asked Mike.  Good question.

Aphrodisiac White Stout
from BeerBazaar:
Brewed with coffee, cocoa and
vanilla beans.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
 Even the color is closer to raspberry than blueberry or currant:  A kind of a puce (pink and brown).

"This is a very pleasant drink," said Manny.  "Very refreshing fruit with a light sour aftertaste.  But I ask again: Should it be called beer?" 

Mike also thought it was a delicious drink, but found the name very misleading.  "It has nothing to do with cake or pastry, and it's hardly sour.  If I just had to go by the name, I would never had bought it."

We all gave a big thumbs up for Ooga Ooga -- for the drink it was; not for what it said it was.

Aphrodisiac, on the other hand, got it just right.  It's a 5% ABV White Stout, brewed with coffee beans (from Tamati Coffee in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market), cocoa beans and vanilla beans.  Not a beer style you often find, White Stout surprises you by looking like a hazy Amber Ale but hitting your palate with stout flavors like coffee, chocolate and roast.

The roasted coffee aroma was dominant, while the taste also included healthy amounts of chocolate.  

IBAV Tasting Team members Mike, Manny and
Doug celebrate with the three additive rich beers
from the BeerBazaar Brewery:  
Armon HaMelech, Ooga Ooga and Aphrodisiac.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

"I'm not a big fan of stouts," Manny interjected, "but I love this beer's coffee-chocolate finish."

"I am a fan of stouts," countered Mike, "but this is more of a cocktail than a beer.  Still, they got the taste right, so that's some success.

"But I don't think that this Aphrodisiac would turn on a female friend." 

April 14, 2022

Covid, Passover and new beers

After dodging the sneaky virus for, what, two-and-a-half years, it finally caught up with me at the start of April.  The Shabbat of Amitai's bar mitzvah was ending and I started to sneeze and cough.  Over the next few days, it only got worse.  A sore throat developed along with a nagging wet cough day and night.  I slept for only a few minutes at a time -- in the best case.  A home antigen test and a professional pcr test confirmed what I already knew.      

Most of the worst symptoms are now behind me, but the one that persists is bad news for a beer blogger.  My senses of smell and taste are compromised.  There's been some improvement here as well, but I won't begin doing tastings until I feel that my nose and palate are pushing 100%.   

In the meantime, new Israeli craft beers have been piling up and I apologize for that.  As soon as I can, I will join some of the IBAV Tasting Team members to unblock the logjam to bring you background information and reviews of some recent brews.

In addition, I've been gathering pretty much all of the new Israeli beers that were introduced at last month's festival in Tel Aviv.  The Tasting Team will get to all of these as well.  I'm talking only about those beers which have been bottled and are available to the general public.  These include beers from Nomads, BeerBazaar, Srigim, Shevet, Hatch, Malka, Herzl and HaDubim.  

Another project for after Passover is to finally get to the Schnitt Brewpub in Tel Aviv with photographer Mike Horton and do a proper article on this craft beer mecca that has been causing such a stir.  No problem with Schnitt having new beers since they are always being brewed right on location.

Assuming that my smell and taste are back to where they should be, all this begins right after Passover.

This year, Passover and Easter fall on the same weekend, so the old blogger and all the family have a special opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy holiday and a wonderful springtime to follow!   

חג כשר ושמח לכל בית ישראל

March 21, 2022

Sabro hops for HaDubim's third VMASH edition

VMASH Session IPA with
Sabro hops from 
HaDubim Brewery:
The third in the VMASH series.

Rotem and Dagan Bar-Ilan, the brewer-brothers from HaDubim Brewery, have been running a controlled experiment for a number of years.  It isn't taking place in some shut-off laboratory, but right out in the craft beer marketplace. 

Rotem and Dagan introduced what they called the VMASH series, standing for Vienna Malt And Single Hop.  They brewed a basic Session IPA (4.2% alcohol by volume), using a single malt -- Vienna.  That was the control.  The only item that changed was the single hop.  

This method gives center stage to the hop that is used, since any differences in the aromas and tastes of the beers has to be attributed to the different hops.           

The first in the series was brewed with Mosaic hops, which I found gave strong citrus scents, with flavors more in the tropical fruit and floral categories.  [Read what I wrote about that here.] 

The second used Citra hops.  I must admit I missed this one.  It happens sometimes.  However, other tasters reported powerful hop aromatics and flavors such as citrus fruits (grapefruit, orange and lime), tropical fruits and some spice and pine. 

Sabro hops: They may all look the same,
but each hop variety has its own bittering,
aroma and/or flavor characteristics.

The latest in the series is VMASH with Sabro hops.  Sabro is a pretty recent variety, born in New Mexico and grown in the U.S.  It is an aromatic hop, known to impart fruity and citrus flavors, and aromas conjuring tangerine, coconut, tropical fruit and stone fruit.

I found the citrus aroma very strong, perhaps orangy, and some mint.  The taste is also heavily weighted in favor of the hops: More citrus, with passion fruit and guava bringing in more fruitiness.  There is also an herbal or spicy bite.

The body is medium, with a fizzy mouthfeel and a hint of astringency.  The finish is fittingly dry and bitter.

For me, citrus-heavy IPAs are the most enjoyable, so this third VMASH was right up my alley.  I hope HaDubim have not ended their controlled experiment, and we can expect Vienna malt IPAs with different hops in the future.        

February 27, 2022

Not taking sides: Ukrainian beer vs Russian beer

(Photo: Mike Horton)

One of the many hats I wear is that of chairman of the Kiddush Club in my synagogue.  We are a small but dedicated group of serious drinkers who meet after Sabbath services for some good booze and a light repast.  Since one of my other hats is a reputable beer lover, I sometimes bring along an interesting beer or two to share with my fellows.

This past week, I wanted to express Israel's officially neutral stance regarding the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.  Israel has sensitive relations with both of these countries and simply cannot allow either one to deteriorate.  They say it's like walking between the raindrops.

So I brought a bottle of Andriivskiy Golden Ale from the Radomyshl Brewery in the Ukraine, and a can of Baltika Premium Export Lager from Russia.  

"Drink the beer that suits your taste and your sympathy," I announced to the Kiddush Club members.  

Within a few moments, the Ukrainian beer was drained, and the Russian beer remained untouched until I had to bring it back home with me. 

You should not read too much into this.            

February 18, 2022

This year's BeerBazaar OMG is a barrel-aged Baltic Porter

Over the past few months, there's been a run of barrel-aged beers from Israeli craft breweries.    

Putting beer to sleep in wooden barrels is not something new – European breweries have been doing it for centuries – but it is a practice that has been renewed by the resurgence of craft brewing around the world.

The style of this year's barrel-aged OMG from the
BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat is a Baltic Porter,
a stronger version of the traditional English Porter. 
Past OMG styles have included English Strong Ale,
Double Bock, and Imperial Stout.

Maturing a strong-style beer in a used barrel adds depth and complexity to the aroma and flavor, and may also have an effect on the alcoholic content. The beer absorbs the flavors of the wood (normally oak) as well as of the former occupants (normally whiskey or wine).  Beers can pick up flavors such as the wood itself, and chemical compounds that duplicate floral aromas, caramel and vanilla.  The color can also darken. 

Since most of the beers chosen for maturing are high alcohol by volume anyway, the barrel aging makes them even more dark, flavorful and boozy.

The BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat, with brewpubs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv–Jaffa, has released the fifth annual edition of its OMG, a series of strong, barrel-aged beers of different styles.  This year's version is a Baltic Porter, a stronger cousin to the traditional English-style Porter.  It was aged in whisky and rum barrels (from the Golan Distillery) for five months, and is 7.9% ABV.  It is sold in 750 ml bottles, each one numbered and only about 1,000 were released.

The Baltic Porter is a clear deep ruby color, and if poured correctly has a large rocky beige head.  The aromas are not especially complex: I got roasted malt, alcohol and oak wood.  The bitterness comes not only from the hops, but also from the roasted malt, which carries flavors of chocolate and dried fruits.  There is also the taste of oak and booze with a sour note.  You end with alcoholic warmth, spice on the tongue and a long, dry finish.              

February 17, 2022

Jack's Winter Ale: Barrel-aged for the first time

The Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh recently launched its first Barrel Aged Jack's Winter Ale (Special Edition).  Although Jack's Winter Ale has been appearing regularly every winter for 11 years, this is the first time a barrel-aged version was produced.      

Earlier, Shapiro issued its regular Jack's Winter Ale for 2022.  [Read about that excellent beer here.]  But don't confuse them.  That was not barrel-aged.  The barrel-aged version has the words right on the label.  In fact, it is last winter's (2021) edition that slept for 11 months in ex-whisky barrels from the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv.  While it slept, some of the liquid evaporated through the barrel, boosting the alcoholic volume from 8.5% to 10.2%.

This powerful beer pours out a dark ruby color with a thin head and no visible carbonation.  You're overwhelmed by sweet aromas of whisky, caramel, vanilla, and of course, oak wood.  On the palate, there is a balance between the whisky bitterness and the sweet caramel from the hops, backed with flavors of molasses, prunes, raisins, and who knows what other dried fruits.  As the beer warms up in your glass, expect more flavors to emerge. 

The mouthfeel brings a medium body, still carbonation and alcoholic warmth, fading to a lingering, smooth, whisky-bitter finish.  People tasting this beer for the first time may find it inexplicable, but it is to our pride that such beers are now made in Israel.                          

February 11, 2022

Alexander Barley Wine, 2021 edition

From the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer comes the 2021 edition of their Barley Wine, among the strongest beer styles known.  This one is 11.2% alcohol by volume, indeed similar to the alcoholic content of wine. 

This is the fourth annual edition of Alexander's Barley Wine, and the first to be aged in barrels.  It slept for six months in ex-bourbon barrels, and 3,900 numbered bottles were released.    

It pours out a slightly hazy reddish-copper color, with no head and no visible bubbles.  The aromas and flavors are full and complex.  You get the bitter and the sweet in good balance, with oak wood, whisky, coconut, vanilla, dark fruits and dark chocolate.  The texture is full body and creamy, heated by the alcohol.

This is a beer you should drink in little snifter glasses like brandy, and at room temperature.  It should go well with especially robust foods, strong cheeses and even creamy desserts.

(Read about the first Alexander Barley Wine -- 2018 version -- here, and the 2019 version here.)

February 10, 2022

Three barrel-aged brews from Malka, Negev, Herzl

The Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Area, in the north of Israel, is home to three brands: Malka, Negev and Herzl.  The brewery just marked the 100th anniversary of        Hacarem Spirits Ltd. by issuing three different barrel-aged beers, each bearing the name of one of those brands.   

(Hacarem is a major importer and marketer of beer, wine, spirits and food, as well as holding interests in Malka.  During the past year, Hacarem's centenary was also marked by two collaboration beers: Negev with Denmark's Mikkeller, and Malka with Belgium's Achouffe.)        

The three beers aged for five months
in barrels that once held
Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky: 
Imperial Porter by Negev,
Strong Scotch Ale by Malka,
and American Barley Wine by Herzl. 

(Photo: Brew Shop Israel) 

All three of the beers were aged in oak barrels that previously held Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky.  The beers were aged in the barrels for five months and were bottled by hand in numbered 750 ml bottles, before packaging in specially designed cartons.  Only 2,200 bottles of each beer were produced.  All three are powerful beers, both in taste and in alcohol by volume, which is 10%.  The strength and the style of each one make them suitable for aging.

I tasted these three beautiful beers with Manny and Mike, members of the IBAV Tasting Team and upholders of popular tastes.

The beer from Malka is a Strong Scotch Ale, a style where the malt aromas and flavors far outweigh the hops.

The color is a clear dark amber with crimson highlites; the head is thin and the bubbles are fine.  We smelled the whisky and strong chocolate and caramel from the malts.  "An inviting scent; it's certainly been in the barrel" said Mike.  Manny detected not only the Scotch, but also an aroma of Port wine.  

Another 100th birthday surprise from 
Hacarem Spirits Ltd.: 
IBAV Tasters Mike, Doug and Manny
enjoyed the three barrel-aged beers from
Malka, Negev and Herzl in a shady clearing
'neath the waterfall.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 
The malts also controlled the sweetness in the taste, alongside flavors of whisky, caramel and raisins.  Manny also tasted chocolate.  The barrel aging was evident from the oak taste.  A full body completed the picture.

"A very drinkable beer," Mike concluded.  "Even Whoopi Goldberg would enjoy it."

The Negev beer is an Imperial Porter, also among the strongest beer styles, with high bitterness and flavors of roasted malt.

The beer is the blackest opaque black topped with a thin brown head.  I let the aromas and the flavors blend into a rich symphony.  Alcohol was conspicuous, of course, but also some oak, dark chocolate, caramel, roasty malt and molasses.  It is full-bodied with a long and bitter aftertaste.    

Manny appreciated the beer's "freshness," but found it too boozy for his taste.  Mike had only praise for this Porter, a beer style born in and associated with his native London.  "I must have had some Porter in my baby bottle," he laughed.  "It's a shame I don't have enough British friends here to drink it with."               

Herzl Beers' contribution to the trio is an American Barley Wine, hoppier and more bitter than the original English version, combined with sweetness from the malt.   

This Barley Wine is an attractive hazy copper color, also with a skimpy head and bubbles slowly rising.  You get aromas of malt, dried fruits, whisky and sugar/caramel.  Like most Barley Wines, the initial taste is sweet (in this case, with flavors of caramel, raisins and alcohol), before ending in a bitter, whisky finish.

"This would be great with a hearty cholent," said Manny.  We all agreed that this was our favorite of the three -- at least during this tasting!         

January 21, 2022

Shapiro Jack's Winter Ale returns to Jack in 2022

If I'm counting right, this is the 11th winter(!) that the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh has produced their Jack's Winter Ale. My, how time flies when you're enjoying good beer!

Jack's has quite a following of beer lovers in Israel (including yours truly), who wait for each new seasonal edition as the harbinger of a new year.  It's a perfect winter beer:  Dark, flavorful and boozy.  These are the features you're looking for in a beer when the days are cold and the nights are long. 

Since its first appearance, Jack's (as the name implies) was flavored and fortified with Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, usually oak chips which were first steeped in the whiskey and then placed in the beer for a two-week maturation period.  The 2021 edition changed this by using whiskey chips from the local Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv.  This year, Shapiro returned Jack's to the real Jack.

So what do we have?

This 2022 edition is a clear crimson brown, with no head to speak of.  The aromas?  Well, you don't even have to drink it; just inhaling the aromas is a pleasure.  Oak wood is prominent, plus heated brown sugar, prune juice, vanilla, whiskey and dark malts.  On the palate you get the full taste of rich malts, bourbon, sweetened oak, toffee and sugared dried fruits like prunes and raisins.  The mouthfeel brings alcoholic warmth (alcohol by volume reaches 8.5%), a full body, and low carbonation but still tingly.  There is a sweet aftertaste, but a lingering bitterness.              

One beautiful beer.

P.S.  I have some friends who like to compare the different annual releases of Jack's Winter Ale.  Which years are maltier than others; fruitier, creamier, more boozy, etc.  Some of them remember Jack's from ten years ago, God bless them.  I can't tell you what I had for breakfast.

But I did write about four earlier versions of Jack's, and if you're interested, you can read them here by clicking on the year:





January 16, 2022

Two sours and one bitter: Cosmo, Amaretto, and Paddington

An expanded IBAV Tasting Team came together
to consider two cocktail sours from Birateinu 
and one Extra Special Bitter from HaDubim.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
An expanded IBAV Tasting Team got together to drink three new beers:

Cosmo and Sour Bourbon Amaretto ‒ Two "cocktail" beers from Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center.

Paddington ‒ An Extra Special Bitter (ESB) from HaDubim ("The Bears").

I know it's a strange combination, but that's how the cookie crumbled in early January.  The IBAV Tasting Team met in not-so-solemn assembly: Mike, Manny, Bob and yours truly.  The day was perfect for beer tasting.  Not too cold, not too hot.  Not too bright, not too depressing.  No smog to distort our perception, no pollution to foul our senses.   

Cosmo cocktail sour
from Birateinu:
Brewed with
cranberry juice and 
fresh orange juice.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

We began with the cocktail beers, brewed at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.  These are actually the second and third cocktail beers from Birateinu.  Last year, Birateinu partner and brewer Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky released his Bloody Mary Berliner beer (which you can read about here), and just now brought out a new version, which they say is closer to a real Bloody Mary.  But that will have to wait. 

All of the cocktail beers are based on the Berliner Weisse style, a tart and fruity wheat ale.  The sourness is introduced in the kettle in one of several ways.  The "cocktail" ingredients were then added during fermentation. 

First up was Cosmo, based on the Cosmopolitan cocktail, with added cranberry juice and fresh orange juice; alcohol by volume is 7.3%.  It was a hazy amber ("murky" was Mike's word), with a wafer-thin head and little noticeable carbonation.  The aroma was definitely sour with the fruit in the background.  The taste was mildly sour; no one thought it was too harsh.  Bob was able to perceive the fruit more than the rest of us.  Mike thought of canned cranberries, but was unimpressed.  "It's more of a fruit juice," he averred.  Manny admitted that it made a good cocktail, but questioned if we should treat it as a "beer."  That, in fact, was our unanimous verdict.

Sour Bourbon Amaretto
from Birateinu:
Bourbon-steeped almonds
and lime peel.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
With the Sour Bourbon Amaretto, we enjoyed more defined and complex tastes.  It is made with almonds steeped in Jim Beam bourbon whisky, and lime peel.  ABV is 5.9%. 

We all smelled the almonds, just like the Amaretto liqueur for which it is named.  The sourness was likewise very subdued.  On the palate, too, the almond flavor was dominant, backed up by the whisky.  Very cocktail-like indeed.  "It has more dimensions," Bob said, "but I still don't call it beer."  Manny agreed, adding, "It's good we're having food with it."  

I think we found our beer-tasting beer with Paddington, a classic Extra Special Bitter, also known as an English Pale Ale.  Unlike what the name leads you to expect, ESBs should be well balanced between the hop bitterness and the malt sweetness.  The HaDubim brewer-brothers Rotem and Dagan Bar-Ilan made this beer at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kirat Gat.  ABV is 4.5%.  They brewed an ESB many years ago called Oketz ("Sting") and the recipe for Paddington differs only slightly.                      

Paddington is the name of the famous railroad station in central London, and of the fictional bear who was found there.  The link with things British and with HaDubim ("The Bears") is a perfect fit. 

Paddington Extra Special Bitter from HaDubim:
With Paddington the bear's statue in
London's Paddington Station.

(Photo: Mike Horton)

We poured out the clear golden beer and were immediately enamored with the sweet malt and yeasty aroma.  "Very bracing," said Manny, as we all nodded in agreement.  "This is good beer," declared Bob, with his first sip.  "The bitterness is very clean, and there are also sweet flavors of malt and caramel."  Mike appreciated the "nice round flavor," and said the beer reminded him of the Elephant & Castle ale from his London childhood.  (How early did he start drinking beer, I wonder?)  

I thought it was a proper ESB, showcasing a vegetal bitterness balanced with mild, sweet flavors of honey and malt.  Another fine and very drinkable beer from the HaDubim brothers.              .   

January 2, 2022

The Beard's second beer ► The Last Brunch

The second beer from 
Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky:
The Last Brunch, 
an Imperial Rauchbier.
The second beer bearing the "Brewed by the Beard" label is, of course, as far-out as the first one.  If you appreciate Israeli craft beers and you haven't been hibernating for the last three years, you should know that the The Beard is Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky, partner and brewer at Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center.

Schmulz produced the first beer under his own label several months ago: 5G Stoned Steinbier (which you can read about here).

His second beer is called The Last Brunch, an Imperial Rauchbier, which means "smoked beer" in German.  These beers get their smoky aroma and taste from the smoked malts used in the mash.  It was brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.  

The name is Schmulz's way of letting us know that even though this might not be your typical breakfast beer  like a Breakfast Stout, for example  it's perfectly suitable for brunch.  Why the "Last" Brunch?  I'll get to that later.            

Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky, aka "The Beard,"
in his natural habitat,
Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center.

The Last Brunch pours out a dark brown to black, with no head and almost no fizz.  The aroma is smoky; well, they tell me actually smoked meat.  Very powerful, but there's also some underlying sweet substance.  This also comes out in the taste: Smoked meat and smoked chocolate(!) plus caramel, alcohol and some wood.  The finish is also sweet and smoky.  The mouthfeel is a bit astringent, full-bodied and alcohol heat.  It's even on the verge of being a little viscous, clinging to the glass.   

There's nothing wrong with the taste  if you're a fan of smoky beers.  At 10.3% alcohol by volume, it's not easy to drink a lot of it, but to enjoy The Last Brunch, even drinking a small measure is enough. 

Nir Kleinman's label for The Last Brunch:
Baroque themes of chaos and cannibalism.

 A few words about the label, designed by Nir Kleinman.  It's an irreverent and profane parody of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.  Michal Moussaffi, who is Schmulz's wife and a student of art and literature, wrote that it had Baroque themes with movement, broken diagonals and chaos.  The participants in the "meal" are breaking limbs and engaging in cannibalism, while on the table are foods whose taste can be found in the beer (though I can't identify them).  Michal even ties the art to the flavors in the beer:  Chaotic and wild, yet somehow balanced and smooth in the throat.   

When table manners where more refined:
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.

Heavy stuff for a beer label.

The Last Brunch is available at Birateinu and in their online store (at this link), and also at Beit Habira (The Beer House) in Beersheva, Kishkashta in Rishon LeZion, and Biguns, the Center for Culinary Hobbies, in Karkur.  Additional stores will be added.  Tell your taste buds that they should be ready for something "different."