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.