March 25, 2023

Oak & Ash Experimental IPAs ➯ Number 4: Blackcurrants

Oak & Ash Experimental IPA No. 4,
"Blackcurrants": Tart and fruity.

Experimental IPA Number 4 from the Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh has a bit of a silly name in Hebrew, but most folks are simply calling it Blackcurrants.  The fruit, also known as cassis, is a very dark purple, almost black, that is used for making jam, savory dishes, and juice drinks.  It is especially high in vitamin C.  I read blackcurrants taste tart like passion fruit with a dark berry flavor.  Their growth is banned in New York state and some western counties because they carry a fungus which can destroy pine trees. 

Blackcurrants beer pours out an opaque purple.  It has aromas of sour fruit (maybe blackberries), grass, and some herbal character, most likely from the hops.  It has a slightly tart taste, though pleasantly fruity.  Whatever bitterness there is, is trumped by the sourness.  You get the sense of berries, but I wasn't able to pin it down any closer, certainly not blackcurrants. 

Blackcurrants jam is fruity and delicious,
really unique.
On the drinkability scale, Blackcurrants rates high, full-bodied and juicy, but I can't imagine it going with any food.  An interesting member of the beer family, by itself. 

[Read about the first three Experimental IPAs from Oak & Ash here and here and here.]                    

March 21, 2023

Holy Brew ➯ A cocoa infused ale from the BeerBazaar Brewery

Holy Brew cocoa infused ale
from the Beer Bazaar Brewery:
Tastes of chocolate, caramel,
hazelnuts and bread.

Holy Brew from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat delivers what it promises.  No doubt.  It's called a "cocoa infused ale" (5.5% ABV), brewed, fermented and matured with cocoa and cocoa bean shells from the Holy Cacao artisanal chocolate factory.  Other ingredients include oats, vanilla and maltodextrin, a food additive that improves the texture and mouthfeel of beverages (among other uses).  

Whatever is in the mix, it works.  I had Holy Brew along with fellow IBAV Tasters Bat Sheva, Manny and Oded, and this is what we had to say.

The beer pours out a dark amber color, and Oded immediately smelled roasted coffee.  Wait, coffee?  Yes, we agreed that the first whiff into our nostrils was coffee, not cocoa.  Maybe a little weird, but pleasant.  The taste, however, delivered on strong chocolate, caramel,  hazelnuts and bread.  

Bat Sheva averred that the cocoa blended well with the beer flavors, and I could only agree.  I found this an enjoyable and balanced cocoa beer.  Oded said that it was not to his taste, but admitted that it successfully delivered what it should.  "This is a high quality beer," he added, "well made, even though I don't particularly love it."              

Manny, too, "appreciated the quality, but it's not the beer for me."

So that's our verdict.  If you are a fan of chocolate porter, chocolate stout, chocolate anything beer, you're going to take great pleasure in BeerBazaar's Holy Brew.

March 16, 2023

Shevet Bourbon Barrel-Aged Coffee Imperial Stout

Barrel-Aged Coffee Imperial Stout from the
Shevet Brewstillery: Dark, strong and
full of flavors.

The first barrel-aged beer from the Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna was a Doublebock from 2021.  I put my bottle away to mature and just had it a few months ago.  You can read here what I had to say about this impressive beer.

Shevet ("Tribe") recently released their second barrel-aged beer, an Imperial Coffee Stout, matured for ten months in ex-bourbon barrels and brewed with added coffee beans.  Only 580 numbered bottles were produced, signed by Shevet CEO Neil Wasserman and Brewmaster Wally Colgan.  This time I got two bottles, one to put away and one to drink now.

I didn't drink alone.  I was joined by IBAV Tasters Oded, Bat Sheva and Laurent.

The beer is a stoutly black, blocking all light from shining through.  The aromas that reached us were actually more chocolate than coffee, along with whiffs of alcohol (not surprising since ABV is 11.5%).  Bat Sheva also smelled tangerines, which led me to think of chocolate covered orange peel!  Oded also found some aromas of hay.    

The taste of strong coffee and 
chocolate-nut brownies is how one of the Tasters 
described the Imperial Coffee Stout
from the Shevet Brewstillery.

The flavors were rich and complex, but once again, bitter chocolate was dominant, followed by coffee, toffee, and nuts.  Oded tasted chocolate brownies, which would seem to combine the chocolate and the nuts.  Most of us thought it was well balanced, with Laurent casting the dissenting vote that the roasty taste of the stout obscures the other flavors.

On the other hand, Laurent said that he would buy and drink the Imperial Coffee Stout again, "because it's such a  pleasure by itself."

The three other Tasters were more hesitant.  Although we enjoyed drinking this excellent beer, we thought it was so strong and so robust that we might wait a while before having it again.  I'm hoping that my second bottle becomes even better as it ages.  When that happens, I'll taste it again and tell you about it. 

[You can order Shevet's Imperial Coffee Stout by clicking on the link here.]             

March 15, 2023

While the nights are still cold: Two Shapiro beers ➯ Jack's Winter Ale (2023) & Double IPA (2023)

Jack's Winter Ale 2023 from Shapiro Brewery:
Matured with oak chips steeped in 
Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey.
The Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh brought out its two seasonal cold weather beers a while ago. I'm a little tardy in bringing them to my blog, but I'm sure we still have more than a few chilly days and nights ahead of us before the spring thaw sets in.

The first out was the 2023 version of Jack's Winter Ale.  This is a strong (8.5% alcohol by volume), dark reddish-brown ale which is matured with wood chips soaked in Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey.  Shapiro has been issuing this beer every winter since 2012!  It's something I look forward to.

I opened a bottle, making sure it was approaching room temperature, with fellow IBAV Tasters Bat Sheva, Oded and Laurent.   

Udi Katzman)
This year's version has rich aromas of roasted malt and dark toast, with whiffs of bourbon and oak wood.  Bat Sheva opined that the smell reminded her of strong Belgian ale, while Laurent recalled the aromas of pre-fermented beer ("wort") while visiting a brewery.  

On the tongue, it remains a sweet and richly flavored beer: Raisins and dried fruits, toffee, caramel, and roasted malt.  Oded tasted chestnuts.  We also tasted whisky, but surprisingly, little wood.         

The finish was roasty, according to Oded, and not complex.  We all enjoyed this beer very much.  It's the kind you sip through the cooler evenings (and days), either by itself or with a piece of cake or cheese.  

There are people who say they remember the previous 11 versions of Jack's Winter Ale and can compare them with this one.  That's not me.  I can't remember what I walked into a room for!  But if you'd like to read what I wrote about the ones I tasted, here are the links to those years:   






IBAV Tasters Manny and Bat Sheva joined 
the old blogger at the launch of 
Shapiro Double IPA 2023.
A short while ago, Shapiro issued its other annual winter beer: Double IPA.  Now IPAs, with their crisp and fruity and bitter tastes, are generally associated with summertime drinking.  But a Double IPA has the intense flavors and alcoholic punch to make it more than suitable for the colder seasons.

Shapiro has brewed Double IPA in 2020 and 2021, skipping 2022 for some reason.  Each time different hops were used to vary the flavors.  This year, it was American hops Talus and HBC-586.  These are believed to give aromas of pine and citrus fruit, in addition to a good dose of bittering.  

Shapiro Double IPA for 2023:
Strong and bitter, with 
aromas and tastes of citrus,
pine and malt. 
The beer pours out a slightly hazy golden orange color.  And wow, the fruit aromas are there.  In addition to citrus (grapefruit and orange), we also got tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, as well as pine and a malty backbone.  The flavors are balanced and complex, with the hop bitterness balancing the fruit sweetness: Mostly grapefruit, with other citrus, malt and pine.

The 8.2% alcohol by volume provides the warming mouthfeel for this Double IPA's cold weather enjoyment.  Even after the days warm up a bit, this is a strong and flavorful beer that reaches where other IPAs don't.

[Read about the earlier Shapiro Double IPAs here:  2020    2021 ]              

March 12, 2023

Aruchat 22 ➯ An Imperial Pastry Stout from Chalutz Chadash

Aruchat 22 from the Chalutz Chadash Brewery
in Beersheva: A peanut butter, strawberry and
chocolate cake in a bottle.  

A beer for fun has come from the Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer") Brewery in Beersheva.  Even the name is a pun on the 10:00 a.m. mid-morning snack enjoyed by many Israelis.  Its Hebrew name means Ten o'clock Meal, but in this case 10:00 p.m. (22:00)  Aruchat 22.

This is an Imperial Pastry Stout  a beer sub-style that should remind you of eating a sweet pastry.  In fact, Aruchat 22 is made with aroma and flavor concentrates to give it tastes of chocolate, peanut butter and strawberry jam!  I shared a bottle with my drinking partner Moshe, and we both took pleasure from the experience.

It pours out a dark brown to black color with a ring of brown foam.  We got whiffs of peanuts, chocolate fudge cake, caramel and vanilla.  Is this a beer we're about to drink, or a cake?

If it really was a cake, Aruchat 22
would look like this:
Peanut butter, strawberry and chocolate.

The taste answered us.  Although it's sweet with rich flavors of chocolate cake and strawberries, there is enough hop bitterness to remind you that this is a real beer.  The peanut flavor comes as an aftertaste.  Moshe also tasted some hazelnut.  "This is like an extreme snack," he added.

The peanut, strawberry and chocolate flavors blend deliciously, like they should in any well-baked cake.

As expected, the mouthfeel is thick, even chewy.  There's some alcoholic warmth from the 9.45% ABV.        

We concluded that Aruchat 22 is a wonderful dessert beer, meaning, it itself is a dessert.  There's no need to have it with anything else.  Gilad Ne-Eman of Chalutz Chadash has brewed a pretty extreme beer that's fun to drink and fun to talk about.                 

March 10, 2023

The 2023 version of OMG from BeerBazaar ➯ Barrel-Aged Barley Wine

This year's OMG from the BeerBazaar Brewery
is a Barrel-Aged Barley Wine, sweet with flavors of
caramel, vanilla, dried fruits, wood and whisky. 

On one end of the beer spectrum  the intense and strong end  stands Barley Wine.  This is one of the most extreme beer styles.  Its name probably comes from the fact that the alcohol levels reach those of wine, 8%-13%.  

Every winter for the past seven, the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat has been issuing a new OMG.  Each one has been a different style of barrel-aged beer.  Past OMGs have included Baltic Porter, Imperial Stout, Doublebock and English Strong Ale.  This year it was Barley Wine.    

As is my wont, let's look at a little history first.  Barley wine originated in England in the 19th century, but around a century later, American brewers introduced their own version of this powerful style.  Whereas English barley wines tend to be malt forward with very little hop flavors, the American versions are heavily hopped, giving them all sorts of fruity and spicy flavors, and increased bitterness.

The 2023 OMG Barrel-Aged Barley Wine from the
BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat:
Bottles and sets can be ordered from the 
online store on the BeerBazaar website (Hebrew only).   

The OMG 2023 Barley Wine is more in the English tradition.  It was even aged in barrels which held Scotch whisky from Islay island  although barrel-aging is not a requirement for barley wine. 

I tasted it (from bottle number 468 of 1,000, signed by BeerBazaar Head Brewer Dan Taub) with fellow IBAV Tasters Oded, Bat Sheva and Manny.

It pours out a semi-hazy light amber color, with a sweet aroma from the malted barley, plus scents of toffee, whisky and yeast.  The flavors are complex and wrapped in a sweet blanket: Caramel, vanilla, dried fruits, wood and whisky.

Barley wines are one of the 
strongest ale styles, bringing
rich and complex aromas and flavors
from the malts, hops and yeast. 
Manny, our resident wine connoisseur, said right
off that it resembles a fine wine, while Bat Sheva pronounced that it was very balanced, "starting out sweet, and then you get the wood."

Oded found two layers: "First the rich tastes of toffee, caramel and whisky  among the richest I've ever had in a beer  and then the 'Oh My Goodness' hits you with the aftertaste."

The mouthfeel brings a full body and a nice dose of alcoholic warmth from the 10% ABV.

About food pairings, we say beware.  Like most barley wines, this OMG easily overpowers most dishes.  Perhaps some rich desserts and aged cheeses would stand up well.  Ideally, OMG Barley Wine is best enjoyed being sipped slowly by itself -- or, as Oded concluded, "It would go well with salty snacks to break up the sweetness and the alcohol."

OMG Barley Wine is an intense and flavorful example of this style, and well worth a try by all beer lovers.      

March 5, 2023

Oak & Ash Experimental IPAs ➯ Number 3: "Matcha Doing Later"

Oak & Ash Experimental IPA No. 3,
"Matcha Doing Later": 
Citrusy and spicy.

The third "experimental" IPA from Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh is called Matcha Doing Later, a single hop (Cascade) IPA with 5.6% alcohol by volume.  

The name refers to one of the additives -- Matcha, a powder made from specially-grown green tea leaves.  There's also yuzu fruit (a sour citrus fruit that some people say resembles grapefruit, mandarin orange or lemon) and cucumber(!) in there.  Sounds interesting. 

Matcha Doing Later pours out a slightly hazy light orange color, with a head that holds its own.  You get defined aromas that are on the IPA spectrum: Citrus (orange and lemon) with a spicy background.  Interestingly, there is also a slight yeasty or bready smell.  

The taste is mid-bitter and slightly sour, dominated by lemon drops, tea, lemon grass and some herbal flavors.  I did taste some of the cucumber, but it was probably because I was expecting it.  The body is medium, with a tingly, well-carbonated mouthfeel and a sour lemon aftertaste.  

Yonina Friedman was part of the brewing team 
that made the four Experimental IPAs at the
Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh. 

Matcha Doing Later may not be your typical IPA, and you may never drink anything like it again, but I'm glad that the Oak & Ash team (brewer/partners Asher Zimble and Leiby Chapler, and production worker Yonina Friedman) did this "experiment."  

February 26, 2023

Hatch launches four new beers

The air was cold but the atmosphere
was hot: Hatch Brewery's 
"Connect to Craft" event. 

The Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem was the scene last week for the launching of four new beers.  It was cold in the brewery building, but the atmosphere was warmed up by the good beer and food, and the conviviality of the 50 or so guests.  

Thanks go to the Hatch team for preparing this evening: Owner Ephraim Greenblatt, Production Manager Yisrael Atlow, Brewmaster Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky, Chefs Yisrael Feivish and Mordechai Cohen, and Avi Levy-Stevenson, social media and marketing manager.  Photographer Idan Goor was also on hand to explain his work and the photographs which were chosen to illustrate the new Hatch beer labels.               

Ephraim explained the concept behind the name of the event, "Connect to Craft."  There will be more such events, he promised, aimed at building the connection between the beer-drinking public and Israeli craft beer.  In fact, the Hatch Brewery will be using "Connect to Craft" as its tagline.  

The assembled guests didn't just drink the beers.  As each beer was presented, it was paired with a food item. 

So we began with Training Session, a 4% ABV Session IPA.  It isn't very bitter for an IPA, with aroma of citrus fruit and hops.  The taste brings a very quiet lemon and some toast.  The beer was paired with a delicious artichoke soup, which balanced out whatever bitterness was in the beer.  Quite successful.

Hatch Training Session IPA:
Hoppy and citrusy.

(Photo: Idan Goor)

The photo on the label was surprisingly a rain forest that Idan photographed in South Africa.  Says the label: "The denseness of the trees and the limitless expanse reminded us of the appearance of hops, but especially their versatility.  So based on the photograph, we made a Session IPA that's (almost) suitable for every occasion, that reminds us that there's a huge and spectacular world outside that's just waiting for a good opportunity for a beer."      

Hatch Blizzard Bay
Hoppy Winter Ale:
Roasted malt, chocolate,
caramel and pine.

(Photo: Idan Goor)
Next up was Blizzard Bay, a Hoppy Winter Ale, at 7.9% ABV.  It was the darkest brown.  The hops (Simcoe from the U.S. and Taiheke from New Zealand) were stronger in the aroma than in the taste.  This is a beer that's maybe halfway there to  be a stout, with flavors of roasted malt, light chocolate, rich caramel and pine, and alcohol in the aftertaste. 

This was paired with portobello mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in a rich sauce made with the spices used to cure pastrami. It was a delicious match. Both the food and beer were flavorful, but complementary rather than clashing.

The photo on this label is a suitable snowy scene that Idan Goor took in the Austrian mountains.  "In this photo," explains the label, "you can make out a bicycle rider disappearing into the snowy horizon.  Like the rider who is on his way to an adventure, this beer is a snowy trip that reveals wonders to us at every stage."               

Hatch Choppin' It Up
Barrel-Aged Belgian Triple:
Sweet with spiced, lemon
and wooden barrel flavors.

(Photo: Idan Goor)
The third and last new beer from Hatch is called Choppin' It Up, a Barrel-Aged Belgian Triple Ale, strong at 9.4% ABV.  It was aged in barrels from the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv which previously held za'atar-flavored gin.  Whatever flavors came from the barrel, they only made things better.  There was a light sourness in there combined with a sweetness that Schmulz said came from the Belgian yeast.  Spice, lemon and wood rounded out the flavor profile.  This was one of the most enjoyable made-in-Israel Belgian Triple Ales I have ever had. 

The label was Idan Goor's photo of an outdoor wood chopping scene from Georgia (the country, not the state).  Outwardly, you don't get the connection of rural Georgia with a Belgian beer!  But the label helps you understand:  "The people living there have no connection with the state.  The build homes for themselves, grow vegetables for themselves.  They pay no taxes because they receive no services from the state.  This beer was made at the brewery, but at the moment it entered the barrel, it took care of itself, and in the course of months, absorbed the flavors of the wood."   

Hatch Brewmaster Shmuel Naky,
AKA Schmulz, struck a 
majestic pose at the event.

Choppin' It Up was paired with a sweet semi-main dish made with onion, potato, carrot and dried fruit, spiced with red wine, fennel, cardamon and cinnamon.  This I found to be less successful, since both the dish and the beer were quite sweet to begin with, and together really too much. 

For dessert, we had the first beer Schmulz has brewed under his own label  "Brewed by the Beard"  since he started working at Hatch.  As expected, it was over the top, or under the table  depending on your perspective.  Schmulz named it Baklava, after an ultra-sweet Middle Eastern (and Persian) pastry.  It's full title is: "Double Peanut-Layered, Pistachio-Laced, Cardamon-Spiced Imperial Persian Ale."  None of those flavors was missing.

This is a black and thick dessert beer, with aromas of chocolate, some coffee, cardamon and other spices.  The flavor is peanuts and chocolate, with salted pistachio in the background.  It has far more flavors than your typical baklava pastry.  

Baklava, "Brewed by the Beard," is among
the best "Double Peanut-Layered,
Pistachio-Laced, Cardamon-Spiced
Imperial Persian Ales"
I've ever had.

The beer went beautifully together with the non-dairy ice cream served with it.  Someone suggested that I put some ice cream into the beer, which was a mistake.  Keep them separate and you won't be sorry.

Thanks again to the Hatch crew for this evening and for the "Connect to Craft" idea.  I'm looking forward to more events like this one.   


February 7, 2023

Oak & Ash experimental IPAs ➯ Number 2: "Fruit Salad"

Oak & Ash experimental IPA Number 2,
"Fruit Salad": Juicy, tropical fruity,
bitter and delicious.

Beer Number 2 in the new four-pack of "experimental" IPAs from the Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh is called "Fruit Salad."  Why?  Because it's brewed with additives of passion fruit, mango and pineapple.  

[You can refresh your memory about Beer Number 1 and the whole experimental IPA project by reading my earlier article here.] 

"Fruit Salad" definitely has the appearance of a New England IPA: Opaque and juicy looking, a little darker than the Florida orange juice I'm used to, with a minute head of foam.

The aromas all seem to be from the additives rather than the hops: Tropical fruits, mainly passion fruit and pineapple, with some malt in the background.

"Fruit Salad" has the taste of tropical fruits  passion fruit and mango for sure  wrapped in a bitter package.  Here, too, the flavors are from the added fruit, while the bitterness comes from the hops.  There's a strong herbal aftertaste and an alcoholic buzz even though the ABV is only 4.5%. 

The four "experimental" IPAs
from the Oak & Ash Brewery
can be ordered from the online store.

"Fruit Salad" is a little too bitter for the New England IPA style.  But put that aside and enjoy it for the tastes and the drinkability.  If Oak & Ash wants to call this beer an "experiment," I would call it successful.

One note: A few of my interlocutors have noted that you can still order the four experimental IPAs from the Oak & Ash online store ( and that the delivery time is very fast.  The four-pack now sells for 80 shekels, which includes free shipping.  

Another important thing to remember: Like all IPAs, these beers should be drunk as fresh as possible, before the hop aromas and flavors deteriorate.  So if you want to taste these beers as they should be, don't waste any time before ordering.     

February 5, 2023

Yeti Super Saison from BeerBazaar

The Yeti, the abominable snowman of
the Himalayas, has lived in man's
imagination for hundreds of years.

The BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat (with pubs and retail outlets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) has introduced a limited edition Saison beer named Yeti, the abominable snowman of the Himalayas.  They actually call it a "Super Saison," spiced with additives of orange peels, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.   

Whatever the recipe, it works.

But first, a quick review: Saison beers were traditionally brewed in the French-speaking regions of Belgium in the winter, for drinking in the spring and summer.  (Saison, as you might have guessed, means "season" in French.)  They are in the category of "farmhouse ales" because, well, that's where they were brewed.  The farmers generally used whatever ingredients they had at the time of brewing: Different grains as well as herbs and spices.  Therefore, different Saisons could smell and taste very differently.  Modern Saisons, however, tend to be fruity and dry, of moderate alcoholic strength, with low to medium hop aroma, and medium-high hop bitterness.  

Yeti is a "Super Saison" from
the BeerBazaar Brewery in
Kiryat Gat:
Flavored with additives of
orange peels, cinnamon, ginger,
nutmeg and allspice.

Yeti is "super" because the additives reinforce the traditional hop and yeast aromas and flavors.  

It pours out clear and golden orange.  The spicy aromas are prevalent -- with cinnamon and cloves (a yeast phenol) in the lead.  The taste is on the sweet side, with flavors of bread and rich malt, spice on the tongue, cinnamon and pepper.  My drinking partner Moshe and I weren't able to pick up any orange flavor, but he tasted some "melon."           

Yeti has a medium body, and you can feel rather than taste the alcoholic warmth.  (Alcohol by volume is a healthy 7.5%.)

Moshe pronounced that Yeti is a "great beer," and compared it to a "spiced holiday lager."  I said that the Saison quality comes shining through, and is even enhanced by the fruit and spice additives. 

Yeti was brewed in limited quantities, so it may not be currently available at the BeerBazaar outlets and online store.  But experience has shown that Brewmaster Lior Weiss may decide to bring it back sometime in the future.  Whether it's here and now, or there and then, I recommend you buy it and try it.      


January 30, 2023

Artzi Moladati ➯ A New England IPA from Chalutz Chadash

Artzi Moladati, a New England IPA
from the Chalutz Chadash Brewery:
Like all IPAs, it should be drunk 
as fresh as possible. 

The second "Protest Beer" I drank from the Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer") Brewery in Beersheva is named Artzi Moladati ("My Country, My Homeland").  It's called a New England IPA, leading the drinker to expect a very cloudy appearance, powerful fruity hop aromas and flavors without much bitterness, and a creamy or "juicy" mouthfeel.        

(You can read about the first "Protest Beer" I drank, Bira v'Am Ha'aretz, and what these beers are protesting, by clicking here.) 

Here again, Chalutz Chadash owner and brewmaster Gilad Ne-Eman uses the label to impart some of his philosophy:  "A generation comes and a generation goes . . . and there is nothing new under the sun.  London doesn't wait for me, and neither does Tel Aviv."

In the lower corner of the label, it says, "Sarah was here," referring to Gilad's great-grandmother Sarah Glickleich, an educator and leading figure of the Jewish community in Israel before statehood.  The beer was made at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.

All well and good, but what about the beer inside the bottle?  

From New England has come a
beer style which should be 
very hazy, full of fruity hop 
aromas and flavors, not very bitter,
with a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.

The appearance has the promise of a NEIPA: A very murky, almost opaque orange to beige color with a frothy head.  Gilad had warned us that the original color of this NEIPA was quite light, but due to the oxygenation of the hop oils, it had darkened.   

The aromas, too, might have been affected by the beer being less than completely fresh when I drank it.  The were scents of pine, perfume and citrus (grapefruit), but not very powerful.  The taste was very bitter (also not within the style guidelines), with indistinct flavors of citrus, herbal and onion.  Alcohol by volume is 5.9%, and it makes itself noticed.  The finish is long and bitter.  

All IPAs should be drunk as fresh as possible, due to the rapid deterioration of the delicate hop oils which give the beer its aroma and flavor.  I think in this case I got on the train too late to fully enjoy all that Artzi Moladati had to offer.                    

January 26, 2023

Oak & Ash Experimental IPAs ➯ Number 1

The four "experimental" IPAs
from the Oak & Ash Brewery:
On sale only in this four-pack.

It's been quite a while since the Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh has come out with a new beer.  Brewer partners Asher Zimble and Leiby Chapler have concentrated on producing their core beers as well as Buster's ciders and mixed drinks.  Asher told me that this a situation brought on by the "economics of wholesale," meaning, you have to be sure that what you brew will sell.

Now, exploding out of nowhere, Oak & Ash has produced a very limited edition of four "experimental" IPAs that were brewed without thinking too much about the commercial side.  

"The concept here," continued Asher, "was to make cutting-edge beers to sell directly to people who are looking for new and interesting beers.  We didn't even set a budget for this brewing.  We put in as much fruit or tea or spices as we felt necessary to get the flavors we were looking for."

Only a few hundred of these four-packs were produced.  They are selling now for 80 shekels ($23.50) on the brewery's online store (                

IPA No. 1➯"Leiby Dreams of Peaches":
Brewed with white peach puree,
rosemary extract and vanilla.
The bottles are not sold individually, but only in the four-packs, where they are simply numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4.

I thank Asher and Leiby for sending me one of the first of these packs off the bottling line.  Now it seems that every beer lover (or at least beer geek) in Israel is ordering one for Fear Of Missing Out.

So let's begin with Number 1 -- "Leiby Dreams of Peaches," referring of course to Leiby Chapler.  It is a hazy IPA with additives of white peach puree, rosemary extract and vanilla.  For the 300 liter (80 gallon) batch of beer, 120 kilograms (265 pounds!) of peach puree was added.    

It pours out completely opaque, the color of peach juice, a kind of greyish orange juice.  There is no lasting head, but you can see flecks of fruit floating in the beer.

120 kilograms of white peach puree
were used to brew IPA No. 1:
"Leiby Dreams of Peaches."
Unripe peach is the dominant aroma, supported by a grassy/earthy scent, strong herbal and some vanilla.  The initial taste is stark bitterness, but with flavors of peaches, vanilla and a lingering spice that could be rosemary.  It's not the rosemary you cook or spice foods with; somehow the brewing process has changed the flavor.  There's also a slight sour tinge.  The body is full, with a juicy mouthfeel.  The 6.4% alcohol by volume was hardly felt.

In short, Number 1 was not to my taste, but I'm glad I didn't miss the experience of drinking it.  Oak & Ash should be appreciated for making these "experiments" and bringing them to the public.

Up next: Number 2.  Stay tuned.        

January 23, 2023

Veratiserum coffee beer from Birateinu

Veratiserum coffee beer from Birateinu:
An honest and true beer named after
an honest and true dog.

One of the more recent beers from Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, is called Veratiserum.  It's not as way out as some of the earlier beers from Birateinu that were brewed while Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky was still there, but it's good in its simplicity.     

Let's get the name out of the way first.  Birateinu beers always have convoluted names.  The label calls it "an honest and true beer, like our dog Vera."  It also quotes from the Talmud: "When wine goes in, secrets come out.  We're pretty sure this also works with beer."

So we have a beer named Verity Serum, although spelled more poetically for the dog's sake.

Veratiserum is a coffee beer, made at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.  Alcohol by volume is 4.2%.  Although most beers made with added coffee are porters or stouts, others can be lighter beers, like IPAs or cream ales.  Veratiserum is the latter.

The coffee flavor in Veratiserum blends well
with the cream soda background and
is not overwhelming.

It pours out a clear light brown color, with no head and no visible carbonation.  You get aromas of mild coffee, biscuit and white toast.  (The next time you toast white bread, give a sniff and you'll see what I mean.)  The taste is light coffee with cream, yes cream, or perhaps a better description would be a combination of coffee and cream soda.  I actually found it quite delicious.  The coffee flavor is not overwhelming, as these coffee beers can be, and the cream soda background blends perfectly with the coffee.

The mouthfeel is light, practically watery, with a mild tingly carbonation.  But the flavor is what makes this beer, and I'm a believer.  It would pair well with any dessert that goes with a cup of java, sweet dishes like vanilla ice cream, or semi-hard cheeses.                        

January 20, 2023

Bira v'Am Ha'aretz ➯ A real West Coast IPA from Chalutz Chadash

Bira v'Am Ha'aretz ("Beer and People of the Land"),
a West Coast IPA from Chalutz Chadash Brewery:
Bitter, fruity, citrusy and piney.

Gilad Ne-Eman, owner of the Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer") Brewery and of the Brew Shop in Beersheva, has brought out three beers which he calls the "Protest Series."  What are they protesting?  The forgotten businesses in the Old City of Beersheva, which have fallen by the wayside in the name of progress.  The labels of the three beers depict the walls of abandoned buildings in the Old City.

I missed the first "Protest" beer, named very strangely Isra-Trash, but I was able to obtain the next two.  Of these, the first one released is called Bira v'Am Ha'aretz, a Hebrew phrase which means "Beer and People of the Land."  In the Bible, People of the Land originally meant something like the landed gentry, people of substance.  Over the years, it has come to mean ignoramus, common people.  Each of us may decide which definition Gilad had in mind when he named the beer. 

What we think of when we hear West Coast IPA . . .
Gilad also uses the label to tell us: "The times are changing and the beer is strong, almost like reality, and it really is boring to prepare boring beer."

And if that doesn't give you enough existential angst, read the bottom line:  "Not the old elite, nor the new.  Not the liquid on the bottom of the bottle.  What remains is us.  Just a broken picture of all that we wanted to be."             

Not the best mood to be in before you drink a new beer!

 . . . but perhaps we should 
think locally when we drink  
an Israeli West Coast IPA.
Bira v'Am Ha'aretz is called a West Coast IPA -- an established beer style known for its high (some would say aggressive) bitterness, and bold hop aromas and tastes, notably citrus and pine.  In short, a perfect style for that band of beer lovers known as "hopheads."  Bira v'Am Ha'aretz is brewed at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.  Alcohol by volume is 7.5%. 

The beer's appearance itself is quite enchanting.  A clear, reddish copper color, with little bubbles rising up to form a small but tightly packed head of foam.  The aromas are right there on the West Coast where they should be.  Citrus and other fruits, including pineapple, inside a blanket of what I have to call fresh cream.

The taste is very bitter, but not so much as to hide the flavors of blended fruits, tropical and citrus.  When you breathe out after you swallow -- the so-called retronasal effect -- you can even detect some malt sweetness.  

The finish is long and bitter, with fruit and pine.  The beer is not so much well balanced as well structured.  I believe that it's a real West Coast IPA -- and Chalutz Chadash has reminded us that Israel also has a West Coast.                   

January 6, 2023

New beer marks 400th anniversary of Danish Jewish community

Who let the Jews in?
It was King Christian IV.
(That's him in the picture.)

The Jewish community in Denmark has been marking its 400th anniversary. Yes, it was in 1622 that good King Christian IV invited a few dozen entrepreneurs into his kingdom to give the economy a boost. Among them were a few Jews – the founders of the community.

To help mark this historic occasion, the Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen commissioned the brewing of a special anniversary beer. Simply called “400,” it is a strong lager, similar to a bock beer, brewed at the Ørbæk Brewery on the island of Funen.

Museum Director Janus Møller Jensen said that “this isn’t a historical beer, but a beer that communicates history. For example, it comes in bottles of 750 milliliters, which by Danish tradition is four ‘units’ of beer, each unit representing one century.

“The beer is also brewed with additives of cane sugar and Chinese Keemun tea – products that were imported into Denmark by Jewish merchants in the 18th century.

The label of 400 beer shows
light and darkness:
Danish Jewish history has known 
periods of both. 

“Even the label was designed with a purpose. It shows both light and darkness, both of which have characterized Danish Jewish history. Despite periods of persecution and explicit antisemitism, the Jewish community has generally been protected by the Danish government. This culminated under the Nazi occupation in October 1943, when 7,550 Jews, almost all of the community, were ferried by the Danes to safety in neutral Sweden,” concluded Møller Jensen. 

The museum director also reminded me that one of the founders in 1873 of Tuborg, the great Danish brewery, was a Jew named Phillip W. Heyman. Tuborg has been brewed in Israel under license by the Israel Beer Breweries Ltd. since the 1990s.

In addition to sponsoring the beer, the museum is marking the 400th anniversary with an exhibition on the history of the Danish Jewish community (traveling to seven cities besides Copenhagen), publishing a map on Jewish Copenhagen and a book, and many talks and lectures. Three months ago the museum inaugurated a main entrance designed by the noted architect Daniel Libeskind.

In October 1943, almost of the Jewish community
were saved from a Nazi roundup, when fellow Danes
ferried them in small boats to neutral Sweden. 

Today, there are about 6,000 Jews living in Denmark (almost all in Copenhagen), although only 1,800 are formally members of the community. A majority are secular and well integrated into Danish life, but maintain a cultural connection to Jewish life.

But let’s get back to the 400 beer. Andreas Falkenberg, production manager at the Ørbæk Brewery, told me that it was brewed with five organic malts (three of them caramelized) and three different organic hops.

“The addition of the tea,” he explained, “was meant to round out the fruity and spicy tastes of the hops, and give a more pleasant mouthfeel. These elements balance out the relatively high alcoholic volume, which is 8%.”

In this rare photograph, the old blogger is seen
contemplating the color, aromas and flavors of the
400 beer from Denmark.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 

To enable me to find out for myself, Møller Jensen was kind enough to send me some bottles here in Jerusalem. And some friends were kind enough to drink it with me. They were glad they did.

The 400 beer pours out a beautiful red copper color with a thick and foamy head. The aroma is sweet and malty, like leavened bread, with the hops contributing notes of fruit and spice. The flavor is truly delicious: We compared it to dark chocolate, dried fruits, and sweet spice. The mouthfeel is full, with alcoholic warmth, and the finish is sweet.

 If you're lucky enough to get hold of 400, you should take it out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for 15-20 minutes before you drink it.  This is true for all strong and flavorful beers.  

It would pair well with any rich, roasty or spicy food, oriental dishes, and chocolaty desserts.

All of my tasters said that this was an excellent beer, a superlative example for a country that has a long and respected brewing tradition – and a fitting way to commemorate this festive anniversary of Jewish life in Denmark.

                                  [This article first appeared in 

                                 The Jerusalem Post Magazine

                                    on Friday, January 6, 2023.]     

January 5, 2023

Two barrel-aged doublebocks for two special occasions ➯ OMG Bourbon Barrel-Aged Doublebock (2019) from BeerBazaar & Barrel-Aged Doublebock (Vintage 2021) from Shevet

If you're like me, you've been putting away stronger beers, beers that can age well, for "special occasions."  Only, most often, the special occasion is slow in coming, if it comes at all.

So we have to decide to make our own occasions special.

I did that recently to drink two barrel-aged doublebock lagers ("Doppelbock" in the original German) that have been waiting patiently for me to make up my mind.  

Shevet Brewstillery's Barrel-Aged Doublebock:
Aging in the bottle does it good.

The first was the Barrel-Aged Doublebock, Vintage 2021, from the Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna.  The label was signed by Neil Wasserman, CEO of the brewery, and by Brewmaster (at the time) Felix Magdziarz.  It is bottle number 320 of 437.  The alcohol by volume was 8%.  

The occasion was a synagogue kiddush (post-service repast) which was held on the Sabbath of the holiday of Sukkot.  I decided it was enough of a reason to open the bottle. 

Because of religious restrictions, there were no photographs nor written notes taken.  But I remember the beer and the reactions to it.  Both were exceptional.  

The participants at the kiddush were no strangers to alcoholic beverages, but they had never experienced a beer like this -- or even known that such a style existed.

The Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna
uses whisky barrels to age beer,
and beer barrels to age whisky.
I had foolishly expected that my 750 milliliter bottle would be more than sufficient for the few sips that everyone would try.  But they wanted more -- and more -- and there was widespread disappointment when the bottle soon was emptied.  

What so excited their tastebuds?

Back when the beer was first put on the market, Brewmaster Magdziarz had told me that the original doublebock beer was brewed in January 2020, fermented in steel tanks, and then just a portion of it (500-600 liters) was aged in new American oak charred barrels for six months.

"After six months," Magdziarz continued, "we blended a few of the barrels, added carbonation, and bottled.  The beer was released in April 2021."

What should we be looking out for?, I remember asking.

Neil Wasserman, CEO of the 
Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna.

Magdziarz answered that after barrel-aging, we can expect the beer to be "a little sweeter and a little darker than the original doppelbock, with flavor notes of vanilla, oak, nuts, and some smoke from the charring."     

The close to two years that the beer has been aging in my closet has probably mellowed out the original flavors, but they were still unmistakable.

The color was a soft red amber and, not surprisingly, very little carbonation was left.  My fellow kiddush participants noted several different aromas and tastes: Caramel, vanilla and wood (from the barrel), some strong alcohol, and even a dash of coconut.  The body was full without being heavy.  

These are all good, warming sensations you should expect from a strong, barrel-aged beer. 

I noticed that some of the reviews of the beer when it was launched mentioned a strong taste of apples, an indicator of acetaldehyde, which is an off-flavor resulting from incomplete fermentation.  Aging a beer is a good way to get rid of acetaldehyde -- and this was one of the benefits we all enjoyed by letting my Shevet Barrel-Aged Doublebock have a long sleep in the bottle.  Apparently, the smoky flavors also dissipated.  

The old blogger and his three sons toasted the 
first night of Hanukka and the
final game of the Mondial World Soccer Cup 
by opening an aged bottle of 
OMG Bourbon Barrel-Aged Doublebock
from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  

My second doublebock was sleeping in my closet and fridge even longer.  It was BeerBazaar's OMG Bourbon Barrel-Aged Doublebock from 2019.  This bottle was signed by BeerBazaar Brewmaster Lior Weiss, and was bottle number 317 out of 498.  Alcohol by volume was 7%.

The BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat has been issuing annual editions of OMG (Oh My Goodness!) beers since 2019, each one a different barrel-aged style.  

(You can read my earlier posts on previous OMG beers, including the 2019 Doublebock, by clicking here and here and here.)

I opened this one with my family around me -- wife, sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids -- as we watched the final game of the Mondial Soccer World Cup, which saw Argentina beat France.  It was also the first candle-lighting night of Hanukka.  I thought the intersection of two such memorable events made it a "special occasion."

The Bourbon Barrel-Aged Doublebock (2019) from
the BeerBazaar Brewery was the first of the
OMG series of barrel-aged beers.

We all gathered around as I opened the bottle of OMG Doublebock -- and the beer promptly gushed out.  Luckily we were near a bowl when this happened, so it didn't cause too much of a mess.  Beer that has been aged in bottles often foams over, especially if it's being served at room temperature, as we were doing.

It didn't affect the quality of the beer, though.  The golden orange liquid, only slightly hazy, gave off rich aromas of bourbon, vanilla, burnt sugar and oak wood.  The sweet taste was rich with more booze, chocolate, caramel and oak.  The mouthfeel was surprisingly smooth, without much alcoholic heat.  

The OMG Doublebock gave me and the sons just the right feeling for this special occasion.  In fact, that's what helped make it a special occasion!