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 “July, 2012”

Israeli Beer Tax

I was going to write about the tasting that took place last Wednesday, but drinking notes has been the last thing since this tasting. As we were gathering, the newsflash appeared on the smartphones screens. Israel arrogant Prime Minister and his puppet Minister of Finances raised the tax on beer production.

Raised? Nearly doubled.

Why beer? Because they can, I guess.

See, wine making isn’t taxed. Why? because they can’t. Wine has a powerful lobby backed by kiddush-saying voters.

This came as a shock to the small, expanding, thriving beer community here in the country. To the people who put their love and money on equipment and facilities. To those who grew and needed to hire workers and provide income to more people. To their families. To the tourism and hospitality industries, small retail stores, and fans of craft beer.

Pioneer brewer David Cohen from the Dancing Camel Brewing Co. posted the following words in PM Netanyahu’s Facebook page. David makes great beer and owns the coolest pub in Tel Aviv and I’m shamelessly copying his letter to this blog. We don’t see eye to eye on most sociopolitical issues and some of the sentiments expressed in his letter are far from anything Your Humble Servant stands for, but please read. Change a word here, a sentence there, and you’ll get the story of more than 20 craft brewers and and an unknown number of homebrewers who are eager to join the local craft beer revolution.

July 29, 2012

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

My name is David Cohen. I made Aliya from New Jersey nine years ago. Six years ago I founded the Dancing Camel Brewing Company in Tel Aviv, Israel’s first production microbrewery. I asked for no government subsidy, I received no government handout. I invested my own money – every last penny that I saved from working for 20 years as a CPA in New York. I brought additional investment – from the US, from Russia, from people who were excited about the mission of the brewery – to reestablish a culture that traces its roots in Judaism back thousands of years.

It has not been easy, Mr. Prime Minister. Whether from the language, the business culture, or the stifling beauracracy, I have endured obstacles at every stage of the way. I have endured personal traumas as well, including a divorce that stemmed from our Aliya and the loss of my children as a result. I have done this because I refused to be shaken from the belief that this is my home and that this is where the history of the Jewish people will be written for the next 2000 years. My father ז”ל used to refer to Israel as a “Tiny Dam” with torrents of water pushing from all sides. One more person pushing on the wall could be the difference between the wall collapsing or the wall standing firm for our children.

Mr. Prime Minister, I know that you are responsible for the well-being of the entire nation. I know that you have a monumental task in trying to keep the Israeli economy healthy while the rest of the world is in shambles. I voted for you because I believed in you and I share your philosophy of fiscal restraint. And I am prepared to shoulder my burden, as I’m sure most of the Israeli public is, when it comes to income tax, VAT and any other tax that falls uniformly on the population. However, last week, your finance-minister’s office levied a tax on beer production that will quite frankly, shut my business. I can not absorb a tax increase that literally doubled overnight since my business is struggling as it is. I will be forced to pass this tax on and as a result, sales will fall. I will be forced to fire our workers and shut our doors. I will be left with nothing after nine years of Aliya, other then the staggering debts which I have personally accumulated.

I am not alone, Mr. Prime Minister. The Boutique Beer industry in Israel is only just now getting off the ground. With over 25 licensed breweries, we have brought tourism, employment and national pride to a global industry that traces its very roots to this region. These breweries have been started, largely by individuals with similar stories to mine. People with a dream, a passion and the drive to build something from their own sweat and money, where nothing previously existed. I ask you Mr. Prime Minister – are these the type of people you want to drive into bankruptcy?

Bibi, I am imploring you, I am begging you, for my own well being but also for the well-being of the country, don’t cast away people like us. You know that back in the US I would have 100 congressmen clamoring to sign a petition. Here, I do not know where else to turn.

Very truly yours,

David Cohen
The Dancing Camel Brewing Co., Ltd.

Fulfilling Fuller’s

Tuesday night.  The flat is dusty. A new air conditioner, more potent, less energy consuming was installed earlier. I’m back from work, The Secret Agent is knackered after minding our place and cleaning as much as possible. I jump in and start wiping dust. We are hungry. He wants to go out, to Porter & Sons, for beer and pasta. Comfort night food, after a long, hot day. He takes a shower and we go out. I order London Porter, because they have it on tap and I haven’t drank it in months. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a Fuller’s beer, what there’s not to like? Coffee, toffee roast, wood and even bonfire potatoes in the nose, bitter and chocolate in the mouth. Medium body and a rich chocolate finish – this is a comfort drink, just what we needed.


Beer in the Suitcase

I’ve been trying not to feel guilty about the infrequent updates, about falling behind and about pretty much neglecting one of the main reasons I started this blog: writing about Israeli craft beer. It’s not like I report to anyone but myself or get paid to run this project and some important stuff’s been going on lately, like failing statistics, a new semester, busy busy schedule at work and some social life. I’m not the only one. It’s summertime and people are busy. Unlike yours truly, who’s been developing arthritis, overusing the calculator, The Beer Gatherer’s buddies have been breathing recycled airplane air, hunting for beer in more attractive locations than the filthy streets of Jaffa in the middle of the heat wave.

A couple of weeks ago we met at Midi-Bear’s place. Him, The Peaceful CEO and The Long Distance Runner returned from the American Homebrewers Association conference in Seattle; Troubles is a regular on TLV-Rome route; The Beer Greek, poor him, was sent to a beer marketing conference in Copenhagen not too long ago and The Guy With The Oh-So-Fluid Nickname has just returned to Israel. There were plenty of good bottles on the table, as well as some horrendous ones, and not-quite-by-accident, a bunch of them are listed in the book.

The Secret Agent and I shared with the bunch a bottle of Black Hawk Stout brewed by Mendocino Brewing Company from Hopland California. Now a beergeek can’t just mention that a brewery is from a place called Hopland and move on, so I wikied the place, population 800, and learned that Mendocino’s brewpub in Hopland was the first of its kind in California.  And yes, “The town gets its name from the fact that from the 1870s to the mid-1950s, much of the region’s economy was based on the growing and drying of bitter hops” – cool! Black Hawk is categorized as dry stout and dryness is apparent in its long, coffee-like finish. It pours reddish brown with an off white head and smells like sweet-chocolate and soy. Some soy is also apparent in the mouth, which is dominated by bitterness and roast that I’m always happy to meet. It was a decent beer.

The Beer Greek keeps bringing to the tastings stuff from the list I had emailed him while he was in Denmark. He shared a bottle of Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast that he bought in Barleywine, a craft beer shop in Carlsberg Land (here‘s The Beer Greek’s  Hebrew blog about the place. Also, google for pics – looks so bright and inviting with those white, IKEA(-like?) shelves). Mikkeller beers are almost a staple in our tastings, but it seems that most of the crowd hunts for the rare and special edition stuff, so it was extra nice of The Beer Greek to bring a “generic” Mikkeller. This one was drier, darker and more condenced than the Black Hawk Stout, roasty all over and fun. A great beer.

Bear Republic is a brewery I’ve been getting to know and like in the past couple of months. We drank  Racer 5 and Pete Brown Tribute Ale not too long ago.  In the latest tasting Midi Bear opened a bottle of Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, that was hoppy with grapefruit and evergreen aroma, dry and bitter taste and a little alcoholic finish that did ruin the beer. I loved this one.

When The Guy With The Oh-So-Fluid Nickname (oh my, by the time I finish the 1001 mission, he’ll have 2000 different nicks probably! Matching him with a permanent nick is one of this quarter’s missions) returned, he asked me if Innis and Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer is in my book. Well, the book lists the standard  Innis and Gunn Oak Aged Beer, but special editions count too and they are even better, especially special edition that have rum in their title and had rum in the barrels. I love rum. This is my other alco-love. The Secret Agent and I actually drifted to beer because rum is even less available in Israel than beer, let alone decent rum-based cocktails. Now this beer’s a gem: clear dark brown with beige head and fun, fun, fun aroma: butter, vanilla, cask, wood, sugar and cherry are what my receptors caught. The beer’s sweet and alcoholic and matches the aroma and light for its 7.4% abv.

Tomorrow we’re hosting another tasting, launching our new air-conditioner. Meanwhile, these were beers #87, #88, #89, #90 I Must Try Before I Die. I predict #100 will be drank in the next 2 weeks.

The History of Beer in New England

Last month I got to drink Gearys Hampshire Special Ale that turned out to be a disappointment. My beer buddies, who have tasted the beet before claimed that the bottle I shared with them was old and that it’s actually an alright beer. Since that tasting I shared another bottle from  D. L. Geary Brewing who are based in the beautiful city of Portland, Maine that I haven’t got to write about yet and then, a couple of weeks ago, bottles of Hampshire Special Ale and Summer Ale arrived via Beer of the Month Club. All these bottles call for a more thorough entry about Geary’s beer.

Pretty pretty

Plenty of the beer I drink is uncontextualized. I have a Google Spreadsheet with an alphabetical list by country of all the beers in the 1001 book and when I look for beer to order/ scam from traveling friends, I usually just randomly schlepp whatever I haven’t yet drank. I don’t bother reading about the beer, look at reviews etc. I would have, but I just don’t have the time for it really. Also, we don’t get to choose what Clubs of America decides to send each month and that’s another surprise. But a couple of minutes ago I put a context to Gearys. According to their website, they are New England’s first microbrewery. To those who wonder whether Boston moved down south and parted with New England, D.L. Geary Brewing Company was incorporated in 1983, whereas Boston Brewing Company, that’s Samuel Adams for you, was founded in 1984. Yet, the first pints of Gearys were sold in December 10 1986, some two weeks before Status Quo took the #1 chart in the Israeli annual top 40 with In The Army Now. I’m not a historian and not the one to judge here. I’m a drinker. I drank Gearys Pale Ale and thought it was a nice beer. English Pale Ale in style,  Clear-to-hazy dark orange liquid with white head that smelled of pear, flowers and some alcohol and was delicately bitter.  It was lightly carbonated, had a soft, hoppy finish and a light body. The brewery states that Gearys Pale Ale is their flagship beer and out of the three I drank  it is indeed the best.

Whaaat? Here it says est. 1986. I’m puzzled.

The Secret Agent and I opened our bottle of  Gearys Summer Ale in a hot and muggy summer night, hoping for something light and refreshing. It started promising: clear golden-honey colour, small white head. It lightly smelled of  honey and also had apricot and bubblegum notes. Taste was sweet and somewhat alcoholic. Medium bodied, sleek texture, alcoholic finish. This is also a nice beer, but whereas the sweetness and alcohol may be suitable to summertime in Maine, it is just too heavy for Tel Aviv’s heat and humidity.

the label isn’t that pretty.

Last night we drank the Hampshire Special Ale again. I’m glad to say that my buddies were right and the beer is alright, but with Sweet malt caramel, ripe fruit aroma and a medicinal, alcoholic bitterness with hints of acetone in the mouth, it’s nothing more than that.

Conclusions? Don’t have any. Those beers are OK to drink if they are available in your area. Unless you are on a mission, don’t waste too much time or energy hunting for them.

Geary’s Pale Ale is beer #86 I must try before I die.

Super Bock, Super Fail.

The night before the Epic Failure also known as the Statistics exam, we fixed a quick supper that demanded to be accompanied by a light beer. For a bulgur-tomatoes-cucumber-chili-chickpeas salad,topped with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon and cumin, even the American summer ales we have in the fridge would’ve been too heavy and complicated. We wanted a cool, brainless beer, and the bottle of Super Bock Classic scored last week seemed like a good choice.

Alas, it wasn’t. It smelled synthetic, malty and a little grassy, tasted bitter, somewhat metallic, and its high alcoholic content (5/8%) and artificiality became apparent the more we drank. We needed a second round of something better, but as I was already in the loser mod, in preparation of today’s Epic Failure, I opted for the second Super Bock bottle, this time Super Bock Stout, that’s also in the book. I had no expectations, just wanted to get rid of that Portuguese stuff and feel like I actually did something productive during that evening – if not figuring out Statistical hypothesis testing, at least cross another beer from the list. Well, the stout is slightly better than the classic. Smells like sugared black coffee and faint roastiness and tastes a little bitter and somewhat artificial.

We have drank worse beer than those two, but there’s no reason to drink them again. They taste industrial and artificial and aren’t really worth the liver cells. Super Bock Stout is beer #85 I must try before I die. Statistics is the first re-test in my MBA test. Hope your summer is more exciting than those beers and my academic activities.

Meta beering.

Ever since I started working at the office I’ve been nagging Hannah, my Ethiopian colleague about Tella, traditional, low-alcohol home-brewed beer. She sometimes brews this at home but has yet to bring any. However, DSG fetched me a bottle of Meta Beer, commercially-brewed stuff from Ethiopia, available in his neighbourhood, where lots of African immigrants, mostly Sudanese and Eritrean, I think, live.  There are two Ethiopian beers in the book, and Meta is one of the cases where geographical diversity overrules  connoisseurness. Otherwise, why including this generic pale lager in the book? “[…] conjured from the holy waters of St. Abo” is not a redeeming quality, is it? Well, the book states that the unfiltered version, available at the brewery and in Addis Abab, is the best way to sample the beer. Here in sweaty Tel Aviv it pours clear straw golden and bears thick fruit syrup aroma that most likely hints about the bottle’s old age. It also tastes a little syrupy, although bitter as well.  Its body is light and it’s easy to drink, but there are so many beers like that all over the place, seriously. That’s beer #84 I must try before I die, but believe me, you mustn’t.


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