September 6, 2023

New Ziland Red ➯ A memorial ale from Chalutz Chadash

New Ziland Red, an English Bitter-style ale
from the Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer") Brewery:
Malty aroma and flavor with a dry, bitter finish.

The Chalutz Chadash ("New Pioneer") Brewery in Beersheva has issued New Ziland Red, a Memorial Ale honoring the New Zealand troops who fought in the battle of Ayun Kara (today near the city of Rishon LeZion in Israel) against the Ottoman army on November 14, 1917.

This isn't the first time that Chalutz Chadash owner Gilad Ne-Eman has honored the ANZAC forces who fought here in World War I.  A few years back, he brewed Bill the Bastard, an Australian Pale Ale named after one of the cavalry horses that took part in the battle of Beersheva.  Here too, Australian and New Zealand troops attacked and defeated the Ottoman army.

(Read about Bill the Bastard here.)  

The beer honors the New Zealand soldiers and 
Mounted Rifle cavalrymen who fought
in the Holy Land in World War I.

New Ziland Red is called an English Bitter on the label.  It pours out a brownish red or dark amber.  The aroma is malty and earthy, with my fellow IBAV Taster Oded adding "burnt caramel."  The taste has a similar nutty maltiness along with bread and caramel.  

Taster Bat Sheva said that she would categorize it as a Brown Ale rather than a Bitter.  "The taste is rather flat," she surmised, while Oded found it "watery."

The hop bitterness makes itself felt in the finish, so the English Bitter quality is maintained. 

New Ziland Red was brewed at the Sheeta Brewery in Arad, and alcohol by volume is 5.1%.  It is available in beer specialty stores, and can be ordered from the Chalutz Chadash website (Hebrew).

August 20, 2023

Malka Brewery opens Israel's first craft beer canning line

Israel's first craft beer in cans:
Malka Hoppy Wheat,
IPA, Blonde Ale and
Pale Ale.

(Photo montage by 
Bat Sheva Yanir)

You might not have noticed, but beer from the Malka Brewery has been available in cans for the past month or so.  Of course, why would you notice something as axiomatic as craft beer in cans?

But this is a big deal.  The Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Park (way up north) has installed Israel's first craft beer canning line.  

The Israeli mega-brewing duopoly –Tempo Beer Industries in Netanya, and Israel Beer Breweries Ltd. (IBBL) in Ashkelon – have been selling their beers in cans and bottles for decades.  And I can think of two collaborative beers which were brewed and canned in a foreign brewery before being shipped to Israel and marketed: Desert Haze (brewed in Belgium by Mikkeller and Negev Brewery) and How's It Hanging? (brewed in Norway by Lervig and Schnitt).

But this is the first time our craft beers are being "canned in Israel."

Now I know people who don't drink beer out of cans, believing that it's somehow inferior to beer in bottles.  Bottles have a higher status than cans.  They also have more "heft" when you hold them in your hand.  

But cans are actually better for beer in a number of ways.  Here are some:

Two big enemies of beer are light and oxygen, and cans keep them both out better than bottles do.  The third enemy is heat, but in this regard, cans are no better than bottles.  However, aluminum cans cool down faster than glass bottles, allowing the beer inside to chill quicker when placed in the fridge.

Aluminum cans have many advantages
over bottles for containing beer! 

Cans are easier to take with you.  They're lighter than glass bottles, they don't break and they're easier to store.

For those interested in ecological sustainability, aluminum is much more recyclable than glass, and its lighter weight requires less energy for transporting.  

And then there's the issue of Israeli beaches: Cans are allowed; bottles are not!

Malka CEO Gilad Dror told me that the cans give the brewery an opportunity to refresh the brand with more space for new colors and designs.  "We are also making a statement," he continued, "that Malka is a state of the art brewery with the most advanced machinery, and we will always strive to be at the top of technology and quality." 

One final reminder:  Even though you can now buy and keep Malka's four core beers in cans (Hoppy Wheat, IPA, Blonde Ale and Pale Ale), don't drink the beer directly from the can.  Always pour it into a glass first.  First, because the metal touching your lips will affect the taste of the beer.  But more important, the narrow opening of the can prevents you from enjoying the aroma of the beer, which everybody knows is an important part of the craft beer experience.

August 16, 2023

Belgian Tripel from the Sheeta Brewery

Belgian Tripel Ale from the
Sheeta Brewery in Arad:
Strong, malty, flavorful –
and gift wrapped! 

A new Belgian Tripel beer has been brewed and introduced by the Sheeta Brewery in Arad.  Instead of a label, it's gift wrapped with the name, Strong Beer in the Belgian Tripel Style, so I guess that's what it's called.

The Belgian Tripel style has not often been brewed in Israel, and then only as a seasonal offering.  In fact, the only Tripel that I know of which is a core beer is from the Emek Ha'ela Brewery in Srigim.  Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva calls its 8.8 beer a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, but it's as close to a Tripel as you can get.   Well informed readers will correct me, please.     

What makes it a Tripel?  To answer that, a few words about Belgian beers are in order.  Four of them are named after multiplicative adverbs (single, double, triple, quadruple, etc.). They got these names when they were first being brewed by monks in the monastery, usually from the Trappist order. The Double beer simply was brewed with more malted grain than the Single (it didn't have to be exactly double), the Triple even more, and the Quadruple, wow!

The Single ale was usually drunk only by the monks themselves and was not marketed outside the walls of the monastery. Even today, Belgian Singles are rarely seen for sale, although they are probably similar to the Belgian Pale Ales we do know.

Neta and Jean Torgovitsky, owners and brewers
of the Sheeta Brewery in Arad (Northern Negev).

Double (or Dubbel) ales jump to dark color, with a malty sweetness and flavors of dark fruits and chocolate. Alcohol by volume can be 6.5 - 9%.

Triple (Tripel) ales jump back to a pale or golden color, with typical Belgian fruity esters and spice from the yeast. You guessed it: Banana and cloves. ABV reaches 7.5 - 10%.

Quadruples (Quadrupels) are back to very dark, strong and flavorful and malty, with flavors of dark fruit, molasses, brown sugar and more. ABV is 9 - 12%, and even higher.

Interwoven among these are other Belgian styles such as Pale Ale, Strong Pale Ale, Blonde Ale, Dark Ale and Strong Dark Ale – so you can begin to understand the very varied and wide world of Belgian beer. And we haven't even included the wheat beers (Witbier), the sours (Lambic, Geuze, Flanders Red and Oud Bruin), and the Farmhouse Ales and Saisons. 

The Belgian Tripel ale style is known for
its fruity and spicy aromas and flavors, 
mid bitterness and high alcohol. 
But let's get back to Sheeta's new Belgian Tripel. I enjoyed it with my fellow IBAV Tasters Oded and Bat Sheva.

It poured out a rich amber color, true to style. The aroma was based on what we would call Belgian malt and yeast: Some dark bread, pepper spice and, according to Oded and Bat Sheva, cherry! The taste was mild bitter, with a definite touch of banana, toffee and malt.

The mouthfeel was medium bodied with alcoholic warmth (ABV is 8%), and the aftertaste was dry and bitter with a touch of cherry.  Oded added that although the mouthfeel was alcoholic, it was "refined."

Final tally: Bravo to Sheeta brewers Jean and Neta Torgovitsky for giving us a fine example of a very famous and popular Belgian-style beer.  I suggest you get a bottle while they're still available.   

August 1, 2023

Israeli craft brewers embrace packaging: 4-, 5-, 8-, 9-, 12-packs

Craft brewers in Israel are giving more attention to marketing and packaging, I've noticed.  It's not uncommon to see Israeli crafts being sold in special die-cut cartons printed in full color.

A photographed a few which have come my way, though there are many more such examples now on the market.

From left: A four-pack from Oak & Ash; a five-pack from Alexander; an eight-pack from Alexander; a nine-pack from Six-Pack (Super Heroes); a 12-pack from Shevet.  

July 27, 2023

Shapiro introduces its 2023 version of Session IPA

IBAV Tasters Manny and Bat Sheva
join the old blogger for their first taste
of Shapiro's Session IPA for 2023.

Last week, the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh launched its 2023 version of Session IPA at the child- and pet-friendly Silo Café, right here in Jerusalem.  Your old blogger was there, joined by IBAV Tasting Team members Bat Sheva and Manny, to give you our first-hand report.  

Amid the sprinklers and the wading pools which were there to refresh the guests on this steamy day, we quaffed down our draft Session IPA with complimentary bread and watermelon.  

This is the second summer in a row that Shapiro has brewed and marketed its Session IPA, whose low alcohol volume (4.3%) and light, refreshing taste make it a wonderful beer for the season.  

Tamar Shapiro, one of the partner/siblings who was at the launch, told me that this year's version is brewed with four(!) hop varieties: Idaho 7, Azacca, Simcoe and HBC 586.  (That last one is an experimental hop variety that hasn't even been named yet.)

The 2022 edition had Mosaic, Amarillo and Citra -- and you can read about that one here.

The 2023 version of Session IPA from the
Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh:
Refreshingly bitter with aromas and flavors of 
grapefruit, lemon and pine.

The yellow-colored beer has only a hint of haze.  Our beer from the tap had almost no head and was very mildly carbonated.  (When I drank a bottle of the beer later on, it was much more carbonated and had a large foamy head.)  The aroma was citrus hops, predominantly grapefruit, and pine.  The taste had a bite of refreshing bitterness, grapefruit rind and lemon zest.  The finish was bitter, dry and refreshing.  

The Tasters did not think the Session IPA was a "wow" factor beer, but we had no difficulty enjoying every drop on this scorcher of a Jerusalem summer day.                   


July 19, 2023

Oh Saizonna ➯ A dry-hopped Saison from Shevet Brewstillery

Oh Saizonna Dry-Hopped Saison
from Shevet Brewstillery: 
An earthy and flowery Belgian ale.

The latest Small Batch beer from the Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna is a dry-hopped Saison-style beer named Oh Saizonna.  It is brewed with wheat malt and spelt, and the alcohol by volume is 6.2%.

[Read about two earlier Small Batch beers from Shevet, West Coast Cruising and Groovy Doovy, here.]

Israeli brewers do  not often make Saison, yet it has a rich history and many admirers.  The name in French means "season," harking back to its origins in southern Belgium and northern France, when it was traditionally brewed during the winter months (the "season") for drinking in the summer.    

Saison is also known as Farmhouse Ale and is a close cousin of Bière de Garde, which shares a similar history and taste profile. The ingredients often differed, being taken from whatever was available in the farmhouse.  

Saison or Farmhouse Ales were
traditionally brewed with
whichever grains and ingredients 
happened to be in the farmhouse.
I drank my Oh Saizonna with fellow IBAV Tasters Oded and Bat Sheva.

It pours out a dark gold color with a thin head.  We got earthy and flowery aromas, with Bat Sheva also detecting a sweet scent.  We concurred that the taste was very mildly bitter, with the typical Saison herbal, grassy and black pepper flavors.  Oded and I also tasted pine resin at the end, while Bat Sheva said it reminded her of a "clean forest."  The finish was dry and bitter.  

This is an excellent and complex Saison-style beer, with the dry-hopping adding even more aromatics and flavor.


June 28, 2023

Alexander Fest Lager ➯ In the true Festbier style

Alexander Fest Lager:
Malt aromas and 
bready, toasty flavors.

The new beer from the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer is called Fest Lager.  It is described as a Festbier, the most-served style at the gigantic Oktoberfest, held every September in Munich.  The label promises a "nostalgic flashback" to all those who have ever attended the Oktoberfest. 

Most Festbiers are in the lager family which includes Märzens and Munich Helles styles, and the Alexander Fest Lager is right in there.  In fact, when  Alexander first brought out this beer, ten years ago, it was called a Helles Bock or Maibock, another lager style which is a little darker but similar.  

I had the new Fest Lager with my IBAV Tasters Oded, Bat Sheva and Batya.        

The color was a clear mid-amber –  right in the middle, I would say, of the Oktoberfest lagers.  The aromas brought spice and malty bread.  Oded also smelled some hay.  The taste was moderately sweet (malt forward) but well balanced by the hops.  We all thought the flavor of toasted bread was the strongest, while Batya also tasted lemon.  The body was light to mid, with a clean, dry finish.  Alcohol by volume is 5%.

Hands down, the biggest beer festival in the world:
The Oktoberfest in Munich.

All of the Tasters gave Fest Lager a big thumbs up.  A very drinkable beer, good with food, good with snacks.  Even though none of us have ever been to the Oktoberfest, we enjoyed the good memories that this beer gave us.      

June 27, 2023

HaMishteh from Shikma Brewery: Made with a 3,000-year-old yeast strain

    Dr. Ronen Hazan (right), a microbiologist at
Hebrew University-Hadassah 
School of Dental Medicine, introduces 
the ancient yeast project to the press.  
(Photo: Mike Horton)

Four years ago I was at a very boozy press conference at Birateinu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, for the official introduction of a beer fermented with a 3,000-year-old yeast strain.  The yeast was found in Philistine pottery shards from the Tel es-Safi (Gath) archaeological site.

The story caught the public's imagination and Birateinu was mobbed with journalists and photographers.  Of course, I also wrote about it, and you can read my article here.  It gives the complete background to this amazing story.     

Almost immediately, the team of archaeologists, microbiologists and brewers that succeeded in revitalizing, nurturing and brewing with the ancient yeast strain, began exploring possible commercial ventures.  

The original team of microbiologists, archaeologists
and beer brewers who revitalized, nurtured and
brewed beer from the 3,000-year-old yeast strain.

(Photo: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the
Israel Antiquities Authority) 

In fact, they created an Israeli startup named Primer's Heritage Yeast, headed by Itai Gutman, one of the founders of Herzl Brewery and now living in Berlin. 

The first customer for the 3,000-year-old yeast was the Shikma Brewery in Ashkelon.  Last month, they introduced Hamishteh ("The Feast") beer.  Working closely with the Heritage Yeast team, the Shikma brewers were able to devise a recipe for their beer that allowed the aroma and flavor of the yeast to take center stage.  This means that the malt and hops were kept very mild so as not to overpower the yeast. 

Unusual for any Israeli beer, the barley for HaMishteh was grown in Israel. 

HaMishteh Beer from the Shikma Brewery:
Fruity esters and spicy phenols
like a Belgian ale.

When I tasted this beer, my first impression was to draw comparisons with Belgian ales and German wheat ale (hefeweizen).  Both of these styles get flavors from the yeast – fruity esters including banana, and clove-like phenols.  This is what I tasted in Hamishteh. 

It is an enjoyable, balanced beer, aromatic and flavorful, fun to drink, with a very modest 4.7% alcohol by volume.  

Gutman explained that we shouldn't be surprised to find Belgian yeast characteristics in the 3,000-year-old strain.  "Belgian brewers have been using traditional yeast cultures for hundreds of years.  These are closer to our ancient yeast varieties than the more modern and 'domesticated' strains that are used in the popular lagers and ales around the world."

It's no wonder, then, that Hamishteh, brewed with yeast from the Philistine city of Gath, actually tastes similar to Belgian ale.

The old blogger is joined by his
archaeologist son, Dr. Aharon Greener,
at the launch of HaMishteh Beer
at the Israel Museum. 

Primer's Heritage Yeast will be available for sale later this year to anyone who wants to use it, according to Gutman.  It can already be pre-ordered on the website.

"We decided to sell the yeast rather than the beer," says Gutman, "so people can use it to make whatever they want.  We don't want to stop at beer.  We hope our ancient yeast strains will be used, for example, by bread bakers, winemakers, mead brewers, even for cheese and other dairy products."

All that is planned for the future.  What you can buy and drink today is a beer made with the same yeast strain used 3,000 years ago. 

Even if it isn't the same beer that warmed the heart of the Pharaohs, Cleopatra or Goliath.

June 9, 2023

Schnitt (Israel) and Lervig (Norway) collaborate in brewing How's It Hanging and Asli Oslo

Collaboration beers give the two (or more) brewers a reason to celebrate.  There's normally a story behind the collab, so a launch party is a good opportunity to get the word out to the pubic – or at least a few influential beer drinkers.

How much more so if it's a collab between an Israeli and a foreign brewery, which doesn't happen very often.  

The Schnitt Brewpub in Tel Aviv recently got together with the Lervig Brewery in Stavanger, Norway, to produce a Hazy IPA named How's It Hanging.  (It makes sense when you know that the Schnitt logo is a hanging sloth.)  The old blogger was at the launch where this and other Lervig creations were served, along with a delicious vegan meal!  It was also fun to explain to Hebrew speakers the original meaning of "How're they hanging?"  

AK Craft partners Kenneth Pepels (left)
and Amel Bounila (right) came to 
Israel from Amsterdam for the launch
of How's It Hanging. 
The collaboration was matchmade by a Dutch company named AK Craft which does exactly this: Finds new markets for craft beers around the world. The partners Kenneth Pepels and Amel Bounila were here for the big event.    

Schnitt partner Amir Neuman explained that the collaboration with Lervig was done long-distance, through the internet.  "It began with the exchange of ideas," he said, "continued with suggestions for the recipe, and then progressed to production, launch schedule, and naming."

"For us," he continued, "collaborations should be fun, with both sides learning from the other.  We all have differences in working methods, equipment, raw materials and the general market environment.  The collaborations also stimulate our creativity, and generate interest among our customers."   

From Schnitt Brewmaster Alon Schwartz, I learned that the two breweries originally discussed making a New England IPA, but eventually decided on a hazy pale ale, "based on the NEIPA style."  

Schnitt Brewmaster Alon Schwartz (right) was
instrumental in preparing the two collab beers
with Lervig Brewery in Norway:
How's It Hanging and Oslo Asli.

(Photo: Mike Horton) 

The beer was actually made at the Lervig Brewery in Norway, canned and shipped to Israel.  This in itself makes it highly unusual, since there are no craft beer canning lines in Israel (yet!), and all local craft beers are sold in bottles.  

[The first and only other time (that I remember) an Israeli collab beer was brewed abroad and sold here in cans was in 2021, when the Negev Brewery and Mikkeller, the Danish-based gypsy brewer, produced and marketed a Pale Ale called Desert Haze.  It was brewed and canned in Belgium.]   

Getting back to How's It Hanging, I drank quite a bit of it at the launch, enjoying every sip, and also brought home some cans to share with IBAV Tasting Team members Oded, Bat Sheva and Batya.  

It's called "hazy" and it is – an attractive hazy yellow.  The aromas are not overly distinct: Batya was reminded of "summer fruits" in general, while Bat Sheva recalled guava and perhaps lychee.  We agreed that the taste was deliciously bitter, with Oded adding that he tasted pine resin and loquats.  

According to Batya, the flavors do not live up to the promises of the aromas.  Bat Sheva added: "It's bitter and then rather prosaic."

Nevertheless, we were unanimous in enjoying this beer, giving it high marks all around.  "Lighthearted and fun," is how Oded put it.

Schnitt and Lervig also collaborated on a second beer that was brewed at Schnitt and sold only there from the tap.  It's called Asli Oslo, a hazy pale ale which combines ingredients from the north (Simcoe and Mosaic hops, and blackcurrants) and from the south (mango).  It was also served at the launch, where it went very well with the food.

Asli Oslo is a cloudy pale red color, with fruity aromas reminiscent of tropical fruits and citrus without being more specific.  It tastes tart and a little sweet, with more fruits and berries.  The bitterness is mild.  This is a very interesting and refreshing beer.

I look forward to more collaborations between Israeli and foreign brewers.  If AK Craft can make it happen, more power to them!  

May 21, 2023

Oak & Ash Experimental Dark & Heavy ➯ No. 1: "Bock Me All Night Long"

"Bock Me All Night Long": 
A barrel-aged Doppelbock beer from the
Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh.

Following their four-beer set of Experimental IPAs, the Oak & Ash Brewery in Beit Shemesh has brought out four Experimental Dark & Heavy beers.  The first is a Doppelbock beer aged in ex-Islay whisky barrels, amusingly named Bock Me All Night Long.  Alcohol by volume is a hearty 10.5%.

Doppelbock (which simply means "double bock" in German) is a stronger version of the popular Bock lager beer.  Light sweetness from the malted barley is what characterizes this style, along with full and rich flavors.  The German monks who first brewed this beer called it a "liquid bread," and drank it during periods of fasting from solid food.

Bock Me is a lovely dark burgundy-brown color with a light tan head.  The aromas are also lovely: Rich malt, caramel, spice and behind it all, oak wood from the whisky barrels.  The taste is indeed sweet, enveloping flavors of caramel, dried fruit (raisins), butterscotch, cinnamon, and more oak.  There is also a mild smoky taste from the peated whisky that formerly occupied the barrel.  The aftertaste is flavorful and, even more fortunately, long-lasting.

Bock Me is a wonderful example of the Doppelbock style.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  

Stay tuned for my tasting notes on the other Experimental Dark & Heavy beers.     

The four-pack of Experimental Dark & Heavy beers is available for purchase on the Oak & Ash online store for 80 shekels.                        

May 18, 2023

Kabir Hoppy Lager from Six-Pack Brewing and BeerBazaar

The 2023 version of Kabir commemorates 
Israel's 75th anniversary of independence:
A collaboration between Six-Pack Brewing and
BeerBazaar Brewery. 

This is the third year in a row that Six-Pack Brewing (also known as Super Hero Beer) has brought out a new version of Kabir to commemorate Israel Independence Day.  It was brewed at and in collaboration with the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat. 

Kabir, which means "great" in Hebrew, was the name of a brewery established during the Mandate in 1942, and each year the label is dedicated to a different army unit which fought in the War of Independence.  This year, for Israel's 75th anniversary, it's Samson's Foxes, the legendary mechanized patrol of the Givati Brigade that operated in the Negev and the southern front.  

Samson's Foxes was a mechanized patrol
that fought in Israel's War of Independence:
Commemorated on the label of this year's Kabir beer. 
The label includes a photograph of one of the unit's jeeps and a few words of the Samson's Foxes hymn written by Uri Avnery.  The breweries donated ten cases of Kabir to the Independence Day party held at the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of  Michael Levin in Jerusalem.            

History aside, the Kabir for 2023 is a Hoppy Lager, a light style of beer, but hopped with several varieties to give it more aroma and flavor.  ABV is 4.8%.

Kabir is a clear, golden color with a long-lasting head.  It gives off lemon and herbal aromas.  The taste is mildly sweet, with lemon in the forefront, though it's not sour.  There is also some bread in the flavor, and a long bitter and lemony finish.  Crisp and refreshing, a good summertime beer.       

May 17, 2023

Shanty Bounty ➯ A Coconut Porter from Herzl

Shanty Bounty from Herzl Brewery:
A Porter beer with roasted coconut.

Shanty Bounty from the Herzl Brewery (in the Tefen Industrial Park) is a Porter-style beer, known for its dark color, roasty taste and full body.  The name comes from 18th century London, where it was a favorite of the hard-working porters.

It's the same base beer as an earlier Porter from Herzl, known as Embargo because it contained tobacco leaves from Cuba!  

[Read about the original Embargo here.]  

Shanty Bounty is tobacco-free, but is brewed with roasted coconut and oatmeal.  In fact, the name Bounty comes from the popular chocolate-coated coconut candy bar sold in Israel.  (In the U.S., it's called Mounds.)  ABV is 6%.  

Being a generous soul, I shared a bottle with fellow IBAV Tasters Oded, Bat Sheva and Manny.

The original chocolate-covered coconut candy bar:
The namesake of Shanty Bounty 
Coconut Porter beer from Herzl Brewery. 

The color of the beer is very dark, as befits a porter, and the aroma is unmistakably roasted coconut, with some background caramel and malt.  For Bat Sheva, it was the "aroma of summer," since she was reminded of the coconut-smelling suntan lotion that is so prevalent on Israeli beaches.           

It tastes very sweet, giving center stage to coconut and vanilla.  Oded opined that it was too sweet for his taste, but was a "good idea."  Manny too, called it "a tasty beer, but not for me."

I am also not a fan of sweet beers, but I love coconut.  If you like both, have I got a beer for you!

Oatmeal IPA from Malka Brewery

The Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Park has introduced a new India Pale Ale called Oatmeal IPA.  Why oatmeal?  Well, adding oatmeal to a beer's brewing process has traditionally been used to impart a smooth and silky texture, in addition to a hazy look.  The brewers say they also added huge amounts of bittering and aromatics hops: First Columbus and Citra in the boil, and then dry-hopped twice with Idaho Gem and Galaxy.  ABV is 6%. 

Oatmeal IPA is indeed very cloudy, reminding me of unfiltered apple juice!  You get aromas of pine, citrus, guava and other tropical fruits.  It's mildly bitter, with all of these fruit flavors in there, including an aftertaste of grapefruit.  The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, so the oatmeal did its job.  Style experts would call this beer a New England IPA.  It is very drinkable and delicious. 

May 14, 2023

Mangolicious from the Negev Brewery ➯ mango and hot pepper

From the Negev Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Park (sharing facilities with Malka and Herzl) comes Mangolicious, a sweet beer with a hot kick.  It's made with mango puree and scorpion pepper extract, one of the hottest peppers in the world.  Alcohol by volume is a modest 4.5%.

Mangolicious was introduced on tap at the Tel Aviv Craft Beerfest, but only later were bottles put on sale.  After I got some, I met with fellow IBAV Tasters Oded, Bat Sheva and Manny to try it and bring you this report. 

It pours out a semi-hazy yellow color.  The aroma is mango – strong, fresh and sweet  but little else.  Manny especially appreciated the smell, which he compared to an outdoor orchard.         

The first sip brings a more balanced fruit taste – and then the pepper hits your throat like a jolt of tabasco.  Bat Sheva thought that the mango taste was less sweet than the aroma – "an improvement."  We all liked the playful about-face from the semi-sweet fruit to the burning pepper, although Manny felt that a higher alcoholic volume would have improved the beer.      

Oded pointed out that Mangolicious promises mango and hot pepper, and that's what it delivers.  "It's a tasteful beer, but it needs something more," was his final pronouncement.   

May 9, 2023

Peachy Sour from the Shapiro Brewery

Dani Shapiro, Assistant CEO of the
Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh,
holds bottles of the 2023 Strong Sour
and the Peachy Sour,
at the Tel Aviv Craft Beerfest.

The Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh introduced Israel's first commercial sour (or "spontaneously fermented") beer in 2019.  It's called Strong Sour and the brewery has been bringing out annual versions of it ever since.  [You can refresh your knowledge of Strong Sour here and here.) 

This year, along with the fifth Strong Sour, Shapiro introduced their Peachy Sour at the Tel Aviv Craft Beerfest in late March.  

Assistant CEO Dani Shapiro told me it's their Strong Sour beer with some 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of peaches added after the initial fermentation.  It was then matured in oak barrels for 14 months.  Alcohol by volume is a strong 7.1%.  

It's sold in bottles of 750 milliliters, and you can purchase it at Shapiro's online store for 89 shekels.  Only 1,800 bottles were produced.  

Dani Shapiro also said that Peachy Sour is very suitable for aging, which will introduce a wide range of new and diverse flavors.  The label gives the "Best by" date as January 2028!                   

I didn't want to wait that long, so I brought home a bottle from the Craft Beerfest and invited over IBAV Tasters Oded and Bat Sheva to join me in drinking this special brew. 

I would describe the color as golden yellow; it looks like a white wine.  The aroma is sour, with some fruit and alcohol in the background.  Oded also smelled honey.  It's only in the flavor that you get the real peaches, very much so.  Oded called it "flowery" as well, while I noticed the taste of wood, light vinegar and lactic sourness.  "It's the flavor of a tart peach," said Oded.  Bat Sheva felt the actual fruit in the beer.  

Compared to other sour beers, Peachy Sour is quite moderate.  It may pucker your face a little bit, but if you're new to sour beers, it's a good choice to make the introduction.  And I can see where aging would make it even more enjoyable.        

April 30, 2023

Shevet introduces West Coast Cruising & Groovy Doovy

Neil Wasserman, CEO of the 
Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna,
holds his new beers at the 
Tel Aviv Craft Beerfest.  

The new Brewmaster at the Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna, Wally Colgan, has created two new beers in their Small Batch series – which means that no more than 4,300 bottles of each are produced.

They were first unveiled to the public last month at the Tel Aviv Craft Beerfest.  I succeeded in bringing bottles of the two beers home with me, where I opened them with my fellow IBAV Tasters, Oded and Bat Sheva.

First we had West Coast Cruising, a West Coast IPA with a 7.2% ABV.  This style, as my readers must be aware, is known for its aggressive bitterness, powerful hop flavors, and relatively high alcoholic volume.  

West Coast Cruising delivers on all counts.

It pours out a clear light amber color.  There are aromas of pine and grapefruit, on which all the Tasters agreed.  The taste was very bitter, but with bright flavors of more grapefruit and pine.  Bat Sheva also tasted tangerine.

West Coast Cruising, the new West Coast IPA
from Shevet Brewstillery: Bitter with
aromas and tastes of grapefruit and pine.
"The first sip brings sweet fruit," she said, "but later the bitterness takes over."

We all felt that West Coast Cruising is true to the style, even though Oded found the bitterness too strong for his taste.  

Expressing a truism that more beer drinkers should understand, he added: "We should be able to admit that there are beers we may not like personally, but which are well crafted and excellent by their own standards.  This is how I feel about West Coast Cruising."

Groovy Doovy, the other new beer from Shevet, is a sour wheat beer flavored with cherries.  Brewmaster Colgan told me that the beer is soured by the use of Philly Sour, a wild yeast strain that produces lactic acid during fermentation.  "We let the yeast work on the cherries for eight hours," he explained. 

Groovy Doovy is a new sour
wheat beer with cherries from the
Shevet Brewstillery.

Groovy Doovy pours out a pale pink color that makes you stop and take notice.  The aroma is sour but without any distinguishing fruit.  The taste, however, brings on sour cherries, quite delicious and not overwhelming, and a lactic tartness like yogurt.  Bat Sheva interjected that it tasted a lot like fruit cider.

"It's interesting," she said.  "The color makes you think it's going to be sweet, but when you drink it, you get this delicious sour taste."

Oded loved the sourness and the mouthfeel.  "It's a beer that fills your mouth," he said. 

Our session with these two new Shevet beers was a good one, and we agreed that we should repeat it sometime – just for the fun of it!    

April 27, 2023

HaGibor introduces Dark'le Dark Ale & Flora Passion Fruit Wheat

Ofer Bolka, Sales Manager of
HaGibor Brewery, introduces the
two new beers at the 
Tel Aviv Craft Beerfest.

The HaGibor ("The Hero") Brewery in Carmiel has brought out two new beers  officially launched at the Craft Beerfest in Tel Aviv last month.  They are as different from each other as two beers can be.  

The first is named Dark'le, a Dark Ale brewed with no more than the traditional four beer ingredients: Water, malted grain, hops and yeast.  Yet, with just these, Brewmaster Dekel managed to produce a flavorful, classic beer.  Alcohol by volume is 5.5%.

I drank Dark'le with fellow IBAV Tasters Oded and Bat Sheva.

Like its name says, Dark'le is an opaque brown, with red highlights revealed when you hold it up to the light, and a very long-lasting head of tan foam.

The aroma is very roasty malt and some pine.  Oded also smelled toasted bread, while Bat Sheva picked up notes of alcohol.  

The taste is very bitter, as it should be, with more strong roasted malt, bordering on the burnt.  Bat Sheva said that the bitterness was that of citrus rind, but she was alone in that opinion.  Oded said that the finish was long and bitter, and on this there was agreement.  He loved the beer, he said, even though he thought it was "boring."  

Dark'le, the new Dark Ale from 
HaGibor Brewery in Carmiel:
Bitter, with roasty and piney 
aromas and tastes.

To me, this was a beer, like other Dark Ales, which was mid-way towards being a stout.  While it had many of the characteristics of a stout, including the bitterness level, it still lacked the interesting chocolate, coffee, licorice and/or dried fruit flavors that are part of the stout profile.  

But so what?  It isn't supposed to be a stout, but a Dark Ale  and it's a good one at that!  

The other beer is named Flora, a sour wheat beer brewed with passion fruit.  ABV is 5.8%. 

When we read the list of ingredients, we were frankly shocked.  Beyond the four standard ingredients of every modern beer plus passion fruit seeds, the following were listed (in order):

Flora, a tart wheat beer
brewed with passion fruit,
from the HaGibor Brewery
in Carmiel. 

Sugar, modified starch (corn/potato), glucose syrup, hydrogenated coconut oil, emulsifier ((E472e), stabilizers (E340ii, E466), anticaking agent (E551), flavorings, food coloring (beta carotene).

However, HaGibor CEO Eran Grunwald assured me that these were the ingredients of the passion fruit puree that was used in the brewing.  By law, these too have to listed on the label.   

But the proof of any beer is in the drinking.  The nose and the tongue cannot read labels.   

Flora is a semi-hazy yellow color.  There are aromas of sour fruit, wheat and dough.  The passion fruit comes alive in the taste, which is mildly sour.  Bat Sheva also tasted pineapple and guava.  "It's like a dry cider," she said.  Oded agreed with that.  To me, it was a successful fruited sour beer, with the passion fruit a good choice for achieving this.

As I said, two very different beers from HaGibor, each giving a very different drinking experience.           


April 23, 2023

PR agencies promote beer for Israel Independence Day

Alexander Beer and Krombacher Pils
gift packages on sale at my 
local supermarket.
A big thanks from the old blogger to Mossi Ida of the Stern Ariely Saar PR agency.  They handle the publicity for several breweries, including Alexander and Jem's in Israel, and Krombacher, the best selling beer in Germany.

Before the Passover holiday, Mossi sent me two gift packages that Alexander and Krombacher are offering for sale in Israel.

From Alexander comes a gift carton of five beers (4+ 1): Two each of Alexander Blonde and Israeli Wheat, plus one bottle of the 8% Strong Beer, which also uses Israeli-grown non-malted wheat in the grain bill.  The suggested retail price is 48 shekels, though I saw it today in my local supermarket (Machsanei Hashuke) for 39.90 shekels.

[You can read what I had to say about Alexander Blonde here, and about Israeli Wheat here.  I still have to try the 8% Strong Beer.]      

Jem's Blueberry Ale:
On sale only at
Jem's restaurants.

The gift carton from Krombacher contained six bottles of their Pils plus a branded Pilsner glass.  The suggested price is 32.90 shekels, but it was 37.90 shekels in my supermarket, right next to the Alexander gift carton!

Also from Stern Ariely Saar was an announcement of a new beer for Israeli Independence Day from the Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva: Blueberry Ale, made with fresh blueberries.  Bottles are for sale only in the chain of Jem's restaurants around the country.

Michal Oren from the Jonathan Wolf PR agency sent me a press release about this year's specially labeled beers for Independence Day from the Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Area.  In past years, these labels have included great leaders of the nation, Israeli birds, and comic book characters.  

Malka Beer's five specially labeled
bottles for this year's 
Israel Independence Day:
Patriotic posters from the 1940s. 
This year, the labels are five patriotic posters from Israel's early years.  The posters were designed by the famous Shamir brothers (Gabriel and Maxim), graphic artists who worked in Israel from the mid-1930s to the early 1990s.  They appear on the bottles of Malka's regular core beers: Hoppy Wheat, Stout, IPA, Blonde Ale and Pale Ale.

The announcement stated that the five bottles are available in a special gift package for 69 shekels, but my local supermarket was selling six bottles for 50 shekels.  

Bottom line: Make Israeli craft beer a part of your Independence Day celebration  and it pays to shop around.                        

April 18, 2023

Two new beers from Nomads ➯ Shah of Sunset & Forest Fire

Yonah Rubin, partner/brewer of Nomads,
introduced Shah of Sunset and
Forest Fire at the TLV Craft Beerfest.
Yonah Rubin and Jacob Mogerman are the brewing duo known as Nomads.  They have contract brewed at several locations, most recently at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.  

Nomads unique selling proposition is the use of different local ingredients in each of their beers.  So far, they have used Israeli za'atar, sumac, cardamon and sage in their beers.  [You can read about the za'atar beer here, the sage here and the cardamon and sumac here.] 

Keeping this tradition, the Nomads unveiled two new beers at the recent Craft Beerfest in Tel Aviv.  I drank them with my fellow IBAV Tasters Oded, Bat Sheva and Manny, and this is what we have to say.

The first beer is Shah of Sunset, and it is made with dried Persian lemons and rice flakes.  It is a very low alcoholic and sessionable, 3.3% ABV.    

The Persian lemon (or Persian lime) is actually quite a common variety of lime.  It has a smooth skin and no seeds, gives a lot of juice which is very acidic.  In short, what you're looking for in a lime.  Yonah and Jacob use the dried lemons in Shah of Sunset.  "It imparts a citrus sourness to the beer," explains Yonah.   

The rice flakes lighten the color and body of a beer, resulting in a cleaner and crispier flavor.  They are a very popular additive to light lagers, like those in America, Japan and elsewhere.  
Dried yellow Persian lemons are used
in the brewing of Shah of Sunset beer
from Nomads.  

We poured out Shah of Sunset and immediately noticed its color: A whiter shade of pale straw, with little carbonation.  Manny, our resident wine gourmand, said it looked like white wine.  The aroma was of grass and very mild lemon.  The taste also had lemon, but was quite bland.  Bat Sheva detected some mint in the background, while Oded compared it to 7 Up and noted that there was an aftertaste of dough.  

The mouthfeel was flat, with a light (even watery) body.  Bat Sheva pronounced it a "unexciting," and we pretty much all concurred. 

Shatta peppers are among the hottest in the
Middle East, and you feel them in the throat
when you drink Forest Fire smoked beer
from Nomads. 

Very different was Forest Fire, called a smoked beer with added shatta peppers.  Shatta is a middle eastern hot pepper -- and it is really hot!  Let's see what it does to a beer.

Forest Fire is a hazy yellow-brown with a smoky aroma (from the smoked malt) that recalls smoked meat, maybe pastrami.  The taste also brings smoke along with some fruit, and of course, in your throat, the hot peppers.  Oded said it was not his kind of beer, but called it "fun" and respected the craft that went into it.  Manny enjoyed the smoke and spice together.  He found Forest Fire to be a heavy beer and very filling.  (ABV is only 4%.)  "This would go great with some hard cheese," he pronounced.  

I think it would also pair well with any dish that would benefit from a charcoal taste and some hot spice.  It might be interesting to crack open a Forest Fire with veggie burgers, roasted vegetables like eggplant and mushrooms, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, even scrambled eggs!  Don't be shy.