The Beer Gatherer

Blogging about Israeli beer in general and Israeli craft beer in particular, following 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die and other beer musings.

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

He Brew He’Brew

Not that I care much about the holiday, but I guess that the 8th day of Hanukkah is a good time to share tasting notes from the two bottles of He’Brew that the fluffy angels of  Beer of The Month Club sled down our chimney wrathful prophets from Beer of The Month Club nearly smashed in our fridge.

I’ve wanted to taste Schmaltz’ creations for a quite a few years now and even got my brother to get me a bottle from the Coney Island series from his visit to New York – a bottle that’s patiently waiting for a certain beergeek to find the time for tasting.

Anyway, a couple of days ago The Secret Agent and I drank those BOTM bottles. A good beer label, one that tells a story, wins points in my book and Schmaltz’ colourful and informative labels did the job: tons of ingredient info and background. The Hop Manna IPA’s label teaches you Goyim the legend of Manna that sure reads like an hallucinogenic I’d try. Heathen hopheads can learn that the beer contains 6 different types of hops and  is dry-hopped with Cascade and Centennial.

The copper-amber beer typically smells of grapefruit and rock candy and tastes bittersweet accordingly. It is an extremely balanced IPA, softly carbonated and pleasant to drink.

The second beer delivered in this batch was Reunion Ale – A Beer for Hope, a collaboration between Schmaltz and Terrapin Beer Company from Georgia. That’s a series that Terrapin brews once a year in memory of  their friend and partner Virginia MacLean, who died of Multiple Myeloma in 2007. The Reunion Series is a fund and awareness raiser on behalf of The Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research.

The American Strong Ale is predictably opaque black and pours a small head. I smelled bittersweet chocolate, some vanilla and roasted malt. The beer has a dominant chocolate taste with some sting in the end. I left my glass on the table and returned after 15 minutes to find vanilla taking over the aroma and the chili making appearance in the mouth – that was pretty cool. Finish is long and sweet and very chocolatey. It was a nice ending for a long and cold day but I am still on the lookout for the perfect chocolate beer.


Hannukah Beer

I actually didn’t plan to post something today, but after logging in to Ratebeer and seeing all that red-and-white in the front page I decided to join the party and write about the seasonal I drank on Thursday and then on Saturday evening.

Being my current Local, I believe that The Dancing Camel brewpub and the beers brewed in its premises will be covered quite extensively in this blog. On top of the ~4 regular beers on tap, David the owner is all about seasonal and festive beers. Hanukkah’s is Cherry Vanilla Stout. Heavy, sweet and inspired by the traditional jelly donuts that are becoming rather scarce, with fancy coatings and fillings taking up their space on bakery shelves and in people’s bellies. The Secret Agent and I met at the Dancing Camel on Thursday after work for a quick pint before a show we ended up not attending. It was the first time I tried the brew black, opaque liquid that smells heavily of vanilla and a little of espresso, but just a little. The flavours are rich and heavy as well.

I was a little overwhelmed on Thursday and took sips from The Secret Agent’s APA – it was just too sweet and too heavy for me. Then on Saturday night we dropped by again for a second chance. I liked it better yesterday, maybe because I had already known to expect a vanilla blitzkrieg.



My Year of Beer

or rather

It all started last March, when The Secret Agent, aka my partner, lover, roommate, BFF and husband of 9+ years and I drove to Mate’ Yehuda Craft Beer Fest. We went to say hello to our friend, brewer/ liquor maker/ cheesemaker Aram from Abeer Ha’Ella brewery and he introduced us to the guy at the nearby stall. It was Shachar Hertz, owner of Beer and Beyond, who was selling a small book he had recently published: Beer Brands in Israel 2011 (Hebrew alert!).

I knew of the book before – a friend or two liked its Facebook page, but it was the first time I saw it. Schachar was nice, I was probably already in a good beer mood so I schlepped some of my beer money and bought us a copy.

Later that day at home, The Secret Agent and I looked through the book. Some 250 beers that are commercially sold in Israel (at the time of editing, as we learned later) are catalogued there, about 35% of which we had already drank before. I thought it would be cool to drink them all by the end of 2011. I also thought it would be cool to blog about it and (Hebrew alert!) was born.

Thus began our Year of Beer (or 9 month, which led to the birth of this very blog, if you wish), a year in which we took the one-way-ticket to Beergeekdom. We drank from tap and at home, in brewpubs and mall bars; drove 100 miles to a small southern town just to drink draught Goldstar; crossed grim checkpoints to taste freshly-brewed Taybeh; invited friends over for cross-tasting of some 9 Baltikas and learned that it’s ok to pour beer that sucks;  walked into Russian mini marts with lists in our pockets; and learned that true happiness is a dusty, out of date bottle of mediocre lager that is no longer imported to the Unholy Land on the back of a bottom shelf in walk-in fridge at a gas stop somewhere in the north.

And then, without us noticing, it just wasn’t enough. We joined a Beer of the Month Club and then another beer club. I signed up to Ratebeer “just for the ticks” and then “maybe for place rating” and then I found myself drinking with a notebook yet without much time to transfer the tasting notes to the site. We organized tastings, were invited to tastings (a memorable one being a blind tasting of all Bavarian-style wheat beers available in Israel and then some – what was it? 19 beers in 2 hours?) and in October took a 2-week trip to Southern Germany and Belgium where we shared 100 beers in cool cafe’s and classic Brauhausen (can any German in the crowd correct this?). The Secret Agent and I were enjoying the ride and had no intention to stop once the year and the Beer Brands in Israel 2011 book end.

A Comparative Literature undergrad, reference books and bibliographies are my comfort zone. In order to stay focused I bought us a new companion, that unlike the compact Israeli book that was easy to take along, sits at home, near the computer or on the coffee table: 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die (of liver failure?). This time, no deadline. The Journey is the destination. Since the Israeli beer market is tiny I thought it would be a good idea to document this phase in English, so here we are, in the world of liquor stores and mail-orders, road trips and begging. Trading too, maybe. I will also use this blog to share notes from the emerging local beer scene – tasting notes, brewery visits and general thoughts and when I get a raise and more paid holidays you’ll get to read about Beer Abroad.

So here it is and here I am.

Enjoy the ride,

MK Keren.

Bush 12% and Quintine Blond @ Vieux Moulin, Ecaussines, Belgium. October 2011

Bush 12% and Quintine Blond @ Vieux Moulin, Ecaussines, Belgium. October 2011

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