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."