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.                                                            

April 10, 2023

Hatch unveils three new beers at the TLV Craft Beerfest

Ephraim Greenblatt, CEO of the 
Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem,
proudly displays his three new beers
at the TLV Craft Beerfest.

A few months ago, the old blogger was present at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem when they unveiled three of their own beers, plus a fourth bearing the "Brewed by the Beard" label of Hatch Brewmaster Shmuel ("Schmulz") Naky.  (Read about that event and those beers here.)    

As proof that Schmulz is certainly keeping busy, Hatch unveiled three more new beers at the recent Craft Beerfest in Tel Aviv.  I was able to bring these home with me and enjoy them with fellow IBAV Tasters Oded, Bat Sheva and Manny.

The first we had is called After the Storm, a Cold IPA at 6.4% ABV.  In a post six months ago, I explained what Cold IPA is all about, and you can go back and read that here.  Basically, it's brewing with lager yeast, yet fermenting it at the higher temperatures associated with ales.  The yeast are more active and eat more sugars.  When dry-hopped, the resulting IPA should be hop-forward with bold flavors, light bitterness, and a clean, light body.  

The label of After the Storm uses a photo by Idan Goor (as did the first three beers).  It was taken in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and shows a cenote, a natural cave resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.  It is believed the cenotes were formed when a meteorite hit the Yucatan 66 million years ago!  

Idan Goor's photo of a cenote cave in Mexico
was used on the label of 
After the Storm Cold IPA from the
Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem. 
If that's the storm they're talking about, it's a good thing we're after it.

The beer is a clear, golden orange color, with aromas of citrus fruit and flowers.  Lots of flowers.  A pleasant change from all the citrusy and tropical IPAs.  However, the first sip convinces you that the hops give more to the aromas than to the flavors.  Oded said that the taste was bitter, with mild flavors of citrus and tropical fruits, some apricot, and perhaps melon in the aftertaste.  Bat Sheva tasted grapes.  

Manny said that however you define the fruit flavors, they more than balance out the bitterness.  "This is a great summer drink," he added.  Bat Sheva also appreciated the beer's balance and avoidance of extremes.  "It suits its name, 'After the Storm,'" she said.

The original Hotel California.
We all enjoyed this beer, and deemed it very successful and drinkable. 

Next up was another IPA, this time a West Coast style -- Hotel California.  West Coast IPAs are the hoppiest, bitterest and most alcoholic in the IPA family.  (Hotel California is a hearty 7.3% ABV.)  The aromas and flavors tend to be citrus and pine.                    

Even though it looked different from After the Storm (a dark amber), it had similar aromas, according to the Tasters.  Bat Sheva said that she was expecting the aromas to be more aggressive, as suits the style, "but they weren't."  

The flavors, however, were very different: Bitter grapefruit, opined Bat Sheva; grapefruit, tropical fruits and oak, said the rest of us. (Which was surprising since it was not matured with wood!) Oded and Bat Sheva both tasted the alcohol, although very mild. Manny, probably hungry at the time, thought that this beer would pair very well with a variety of foods.

The original No Man's Land. 

After drinking the first two IPAs, we Tasters agreed that Hotel California was a pleasing beer, but we unanimously preferred After the Storm. More flavors, more balanced, more enjoyable. But that's just our opinion. Doesn't have to be yours.

The third new beer from Hatch is a Peach Sour Bragot named No Man's Land.  Bragots are hybrids combining beer and mead, with fermentation coming from both grain and honey.  No Man's Land has an ABV of 6%, and is brewed with additives, of course, of honey and peaches.  After reading the description, the Tasters couldn't wait to get some in their glasses.  

The three new beers from the Hatch Brewery
unveiled at the TLV Craft Beerfest:
After the Storm Cold IPA,
Hotel California West Coast IPA, and
No Man's Land Peach Sour Bragot. 

It pours out a cloudy orange color with a creamy head.  We got aromas of peach and some yogurt.  That was not strange since the lactobacillus bacteria probably used to sour this beer is also used to produce yogurt.  

But when we took a sip, everybody reacted, "Oh, how sweet!"  The peach taste was there, with a little sourness, but it was mostly sweet.  Bat Sheva thought it tasted more like juice than beer, and Manny concurred, calling it "an alcoholic soft drink, but not beer."  

Oded and Bat Sheva both thought that No Man's Land would be much better if it were drier.  The honey, they said, should have been given more time to ferment (attenuate).  This means that the yeast would have more time to convert the sugars into alcohol, making the bragot less sweet.

We can say that it's often unpredictable trying new Hatch beers.  We may not always be satisfied, but we're never bored.                 

April 5, 2023

Why did I bring home 14 beers from the TLV Craft Beerfest?

This year, as a blogger, journalist, influencer, whatever, I was invited to the TLV Craft Beerfest, organized quite proficiently by Shachar Hertz of Beer & Beyond.  It took place March 29 and 30 at the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv.  There were by my count 14 Israeli brewers represented, plus 11 from abroad and the Milk & Honey Distillery from Tel Aviv.  (M&H, by the way, just won an award for the World's Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards.  You read that right.  Up against the Scottish and the Irish and the Japanese and every other country that produces single malt whisky.  Israeli booze is on the map!)  

All of the brewers were required by the organizers to introduce at least one new beer at the show.  Five of the Israeli brewers did so in bottles, which will later be on sale to the public.  I brought these bottles home, 14 in all, and I will be tasting and reviewing them on my blog right here, Israel Brews and Views, and on the more than 30 Facebook groups I participate in.  

Well, full disclosure, I tasted most of these beers at the Beerfest, and as a group they were memorable.  But I want to do it right, accompanied by my fellow IBAV Tasters, and will then report back to my readers.  

We'll take a break for the Passover holiday, when the old blogger refrains from drinking grain fermented beverages, and get back to you then. 

Have a Happy Passover.

!חג כשר ושמח