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."