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 “February, 2013”

Somebody Put Something in My Drink

Water, yeast, malt and hops are fun, but an unexpected ingredient (that is NOT Special-K) can take the beer to new and interesting directions. Over the past year we drank a bunch of beers with fun additions,  here are a few of them:

The first on the list is Elysian Avatar Jasmine IPA that Dagan brought back from AHA that took place in Seattle, Elysian Brewing Co.’s hometown. This is a beer flavoured with jasmine flowers. It tastes bitter, but in a jasmine tea sort of way (assuming you don’t add sugar to your herbal tea; if you can tolerate bitterness in beer, you should enjoy your tea as is), very mild. The beer smells like white tea with jasmine and that sweetish soda aroma. The truth is that I didn’t like it that much.

Hell or High Watermelon Wheat by 21st Amendment is the brewery’s summer beer – a wheat beer brewed with 200 lb. fresh watermelon. Not sure whether they add whole watermelon or if they get rid of the rind and only add the red fruit, but its aroma reminded me of the inner part of the rind, the white part. It’s a bit tarty, a bit fruity, slightly bitter and quite refreshing. Note the beautiful, detailed illustration on the can.

Pietra is a Vienna lager from the island of Corsica, France, where chestnuts grow and milled into flour. Chestnut flour is added to Pietra’s mash and provides a unique, local twist as well as fermentable sugars. The result is quite pleasing, with chestnut aroma and sweet, nutty taste. Yet there’s something very ordinary in this beer and despite the unusual ingredient Pietra is a decent session beer.

The book lists a beer brewed by California’s Nectar Ales: Hemp Ale. Here, sterilized, THC-free hemp seeds are added to the mash. You won’t get high drinking this beer, but nevertheless you may face difficulty when searching for it. The label on my bottle reads Humboldt Brown, with a secondary title in small typeface “ale brewed with hemp”. The six-pack package proudly states the original name. Maybe it’s a regulatory/ moral compromise? Anyway, this beer is far from being a gimmick. It has a rich malty, cocoa aroma and tastes hoppy and sweet at the same time with chocolate finish.

And lastly, a beer I’ve been looking forward to try since I opened the book for the first time. Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer. Garlic, tomato, oregano and basil in a liquid form? Hell yeah! We sampled it in a ‘specialty beer’ tasting in December. This beer has light body and its special ingredients are very apparent: garlic and oregano aroma and dominant spicy taste that doesn’t leave much room for beer itself. No hops, no malt. It’s a cool gimmick, but not much.

Finally, a much-appropriate song:

Avatar Jasmine IPA, Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, Pietra, Hemp Ale and Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer are beers #182, #183, #184, #185 and #186 I Must Try Before I Die.

Motherless Brooklyn


Seems like I’m in a literary mood as of late. Last weekend I finished the second volume of George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and before diving into the 3rd part of the series I’m taking a break in order to read literature. This must be the reason for today’s and yesterday’s titles.

Anyway, NYC Beer Week starts tomorrow. REL will represent us Israeli beergeeks over there, untapping, foursquaring and instagraming every glass. I wonder if my Excellent Little Brother will go out and try some of the local brews. If he does, I bet he’ll opt for Shmaltz stuff, because they are almost as whimsical as he is.

Anyway, not too long ago we drank Brooklyn Local 1, brewed by Brooklyn Brewery and distributed locally, in 247 locations in greater NYC area: bars, restaurants and shops, among them is Wholefoods in Columbus Circle, where The Excellent Little Brother grabbed the bottle for us. 100% bottle re-fermentation, 9% abv. cloudy amber in colour and Belgian aroma: yeasty and floral. The beer tastes delicately bitter but I also noted pickled gherkin water – that’s Brooklyn for you! The beer has full body and soft fizz. Nice, not amazing and certainly not the best that came out of Brooklyn Brewery.

Brooklyn Local 1 is beer #181 I Must Try Before I Die. New Yorkers, enjoy the beer week!

Little Birds Sit On Your Shoulders


With the way SEO goes, there’s a good chance that the next person who’ll look for Kenneth Patchen’s haunting love poem will land here, in this geeky beer blog. The link is for that person, but hey, you are welcome to stay and read about beer too!

Today’s catching-up menu consists of Japanese beer that comes in the cutest packaging ever. So cute that when my Excellent Little Brother unwrapped/ unsocked them, his BFF, esteemed illustrator Shimrit Elkanati said that at first glance it looks like a bottle of pop,with its bright colours and owl, and that only the neck label indicates that there’s beer in the bottle. Yup, it’s Hitachino Nest beer I’m writing about today. A beer that its branding screams of kawaii; look at the website, it’s so, so pretty ^___^

The Excellent Little Brother brought 2 bottles from Wholefoods in New York and The Beer Greek shared a third at a tasting.

The first beer I tried is Hitachino Nest White Ale – probably the brewery’s most popular beer. This is a Belgian Witbier  that pours murky light blond  and smells of ripe apricot – typical of Belgian wheat beer – but also of roses and nutmeg; all nice and aromatic. It tastes lightly sweet with a hint of apricot sourness. A delicate, tasty and juicy beer and the best of the three.


Hitachino Nest XH is another Belgian ale of the strong kind (eXtra Heavy?) that is distilled in sake barrels. The sake is apparent in the nose, along with grapes and summer fruit. It tastes sweet, like dessert wine, has a delicate fizz and is a rather satisfying beer with a light body despite the 8% abv.

The Beer Greek brought a bottle of Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale, also from New York. We began cooking red rice only recently and I love its taste, texture and flexibility, on top of its nutritional values. The bottle was probably infected, with a weird aroma of olives and paprika – two things that go well with red rice, but probably weren’t supposed to go with this beer – and slight bitterness with hints of black pepper. Again, the beer was probably spoiled.

Still, my curiosity about the other beers from the brewery remains, as well as the desire to collect their merchandise.

Hitachino Nest White Ale and Hitachino Nest XH are beers #179 and #180 I Must Try Before I Die.


Catching Up With The Czechs.

Shachar organizes beer tours to beer countries: Belgium in the spring and Czech Republic and Germany in the fall. The lucky bastard’s work actually includes traveling to beer countries. Well, what can I say? At least to some extent one is responsible to one’s destiny, right? Anyway, he always brings beer from his trips and like the others in the beer crew, he too is granted an access to the 1001 list. Here are a bunch of stuff from that book that Shachar shared with us lately:

Chodovar Zámecký Ležák Special is a bohemian pilsener, Clear, bubbly and headless with a sweet malty aroma that bears grain and laundry detergent notes as well. It tastes bitter, metallic and a little watery. It has a light body and sweet finish and it’s far from being amazing – time and travel probably didn’t do her good.

Pardubický Porter is a baltic porter dated back to the late 19th century. It pours dark brown with tan head, has a sweet, malty, somewhat liquorish aroma. It tasted bitter and malty and has a medium body. Nothing too exciting.

Last beer for today’s entry is Svijanský Rytíř Bitter that despite its name is another pils. Not that it’s a bad thing. Quite the contrary. In the long Israeli summer few things are more enjoyable than fresh Czech pilsner slowly poured from the tap. Well, this is a bottled beer sampled in a (relatively) cold night in January. It wasn’t bad, mind you. Clear, dark golden in colour, citrus pulp, sewage and artificial banana aroma and sour taste, but in a good way, like lemon juice. Then comes malt, but for a short visit. Light body and a surprising spicy finish – I sensed some cumin.

So here we have it, 3 Czech beers, none is too amazing (or at least the bottles we put our hands on weren’t), but, well, they’re listed. Chodovar Zámecký Ležák Special, Pardubický Porter and Svijanský Rytíř Bitter are beers #176, #177, #178 I Must Try Before I Die, they say.

Put On Your Topee

Exotica and porcelain friends by Fugi Naim

Exotica and porcelain friends by Fugi Naim

We drank these two beers from Thornbridge Brewery on the same tasting. Troubles and The Beer Greek brought them – they were both on (separate) business trips to Greater London lately, and got a hold on bottles from this 8 years old brewery from the heart of England, some miles south west of Sheffield. Their names and styles put you right in an exotic mood that makes my beer drinking self smile and my culturally aware self frown all at once: Thornbridge Jaipur is an India Pale Ale and Thornbridge Kipling is defined by the brewery as South Pacific Pale Ale, but Ratebeer classifies it as an APA so so will I. The former has a hazy, light golden colour and smells hoppy and malty at once with piney dominance. It has a stingy, bitter taste, great fizz and piney finish. The latter pours clear golden and smells of grass, lemon peel and a little malt. It tastes lemony, bitter and has apparent maltiness in the mouth as well. It is light-bodied and refreshing.

Both are great beers and I’m glad I’d two friends sharing cups and cakes good beer with me.

Thornbridge Kipling and Thornbridge Jaipur are beers #174 and #175 I Must Try Before I Die.

Here We Meet Again

The idea to start an English blog that follows the 1001 Book first came to mind during a beer trip to Belgium and Germany that took place in October 2011. I must have mentioned this trip before: during a 2 week period we drank – not sampled, drank – 100 beers. Some were good, some were bad, some were shitty. Many of them – great beers and overrated alike – are listed in the book and among them is Pannepot, a magic potion created by De Struise Brouwers, one of Belgium’s most interesting breweries.  IMG_1688It was at De Bierboom shop in Brugge where we first drank Pannepot, which became one of our favourite Belgian beers on the trip, yes, more than Westvleteren XII.

After receiving our copy of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die we were a little disappointed (but at the same time proud) that there are so many hard-to-find for us beers that we’ve already drank and need to get again, but were happy at the opportunity and excuse to put our hands on another bottle of Pannepot.

When Nimrod from The Attic heard that Alma7 got us a bottle when she visited her husband in Brugge, he said he wanted to compare our 2010 vintage to the bottle of Pannepot Grand Reserva 2008 he brought from a trip to the brewery. It’s one of those offers one can’t let down, so a few weeks ago we met and compared.

We started with Pannepot 2010 that pours very dark red and opaque and smells of raisins, chestnut and a little alcohol. It tastes alcoholic, liquor-like and roasty and has a full body, smooth and delicate carbonation and a great long, roasty finish. I like this beer alot, but my short and general tasting notes from that trip state that I once loved it and thought it nothing short of amazing.

We then opened Nimrod’s bottle that poured nicer, with a lovely tan head. It had more wood in the nose, as well as resin, acetone and a little alcohol. It tasted pleasantly liqourish and left a warming sensation in the tummy. No carbonation at all, full body though a little thinner than the previous bottle and a somewhat of a syrupy texture. Aging does good to this beer.

Struise Pannepot is beer #173 I Must Try Before I Die. Expect more entries this week.

Beers that Travel

empty bottles and bottle caps

empty bottles and bottle caps

After Wednesday’s Exam from Hell we headed to the Dancing Camel Brewpub for a beer tasting. Here are two of the beers we shared:

Hue Beer from Vietnam. Imported to Austin, bought in California, delivered to Tel Aviv. Xingu Black Lager is brewed Brazil, imported to Massachusetts, bought in New York and again, delivered to Tel Aviv.  The bottles had their share of mileage and we expected them to taste a little weary.

A little exotica and trivia: Hue Beer’s the first Vietnamese product to be exported to the US after the end of the embargo. I hope that in this case first does not mean the best, because this beer’s a rather turn off. It’s a pale lager that smells corny and tastes corny with that standard unexciting pale lager bitterness, has a thin, watery body and malty finish.

The story behind Xingu is a little more interesting: it’s a homage to pre-colonial beer brewed by the indigenous tribes of the Amazon. Whereas historically the indigenous beer was fermented with wild yeast, Xingu isn’t. There’s nothing special about this Schwarzbier. It’s sweet and malty both in the nose and in the mouth, has some hints of cocoa and really reminds me of malt beer. Now malt beer’s my favourite soft drink, but I look for different traits in fermented beer. The beer’s unamazingness  can be probably attributed to its age, but chances I’ll get to drink a new bottle in the foreseeable future are slimmer than slim.

Hue Beer and Xingu Black Lager are beers #171 and #172 I Must Try Before I Die. stay tuned for more excitement in the lager front.

American Classics

Between now and the third week of March this blog will be all about Getting Things Done. I’ve written before that I drink more than I write – that’s the way it should be when it comes to beer blogging – but this results in an undesired lag of dozens of beers. Why the third week of March? Because we’re going on a holiday and when we return we might want to write about our holiday beer experience.

I’m starting with beers from three breweries that gained a fair coverage by the editors of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You die: Victory Golden Monkey is the 4th and last Victory beer in the book; There are 6 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. beers in the book. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the 4th I write about; Out of the 5 representatives of Anchor Brewing Co., this entry that records Liberty Ale tasting notes covers 80% of them. Also, besides what I blog about, I have drank a few more releases from each of these breweries. Their availability and credibility makes them perfect nominates for well-meaning friends and relatives who want to gift you with craft beer from their visit in the and that’s fine with me. Whereas these three breweries are not the first you turn to when searching for innovative, extreme drinks, they do what they do pretty well.

I had two bottles of Victory Golden Monkey. First one was weird-tasting. It was probably an old bottle. Second was much nicer. That’s a heavy, Belgian-style beer, 9.5% abv. heavily spiced with coriander, caraway and orange blossom and a little alcoholic.

The Beer Master brought us a can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from his trip to GABF last fall. Ignoring aesthetics, cans do good to beer. They are lighter to pack and immune to sunlight and that’s important in a place like Israel. This is a hazy amber beer filled with hops: pine in the nose, soft bitter taste and a long lasting hoppy finish.

Heavily Cascaded Anchor Liberty Ale is another drinkable and fun APA. Citrus, mainly orange, in the nose (I also spotted sour bubblegum) and simple, crisp bitterness in the mouth. You don’t need more than that to enjoy beer, do you?

So… Victory Golden Monkey,  are beers #168, #169 and #170 I Must Try Before I Die. Will there be 200 by Mid March?


Weekend in Switzerland Part IV: Innovation

Now that’s what we were really looking forward to in that Swiss weekend of ours 2 months ago: the promise that the border with Italy brings. New, challenging, hoppy brews like the ones our buddy troubles shares when he returns from business trips to Rome and Milan. It was a bottle of Bad Attitude he once brought that made me fantasizing about a funky beer paradise that has the best of both worlds: traditional German-style quality lagers and those contemporary ales. In fact, I’ve been drooling over the scrapbooky website for weeks before our departure date, fantasizing about Hobo and Bootlegger and Rudolph the winter warmer. Alas, their distribution map and also Ratebeer spotting revealed that in order to drink these sought-after brews we have to change our plans and head to the Southern, Italian cantons. Despite what it sounds, we weren’t planning a beer trip – it was The Young Gods’ show that brought us to Switzerland. Being quite persistant when it comes to beer, a couple of days before we took off I contacted Bad Attitude via their facebook page and asked if their beer is available anywhere in Basel. Turns out it does, but nowhere in Ratebeerville: All Bar One, centrally located in a pedestrian street in the city center. This smart, modern-looking bar serves top-quality alcohol, be it wine, liquors, cocktails (not sure about their quality, and I’m the world’s worst cocktail snob, but still…) and beer. Some from tap, some bottled, a bunch of international in the line of Sierra Nevada, Brewdog and Fuller’s. sounds dull but in a city dominated by local breweries and multinationals, this is a fresh change. Oh, and there were also the Swiss-Italian beers, the reason for our visit.

oh hops, oh joy!

oh hops, oh joy!

There were a bunch of BA brews on the menu, including the great Two Penny Porter which we drank before. Since we heard good things about The Dude Double IPA we ordered this one. There were other Swiss beers on the menu which we haven’t heard about before, so we opted to try one of them instead of another bottle of BA, which I have a feeling we’ll get to drink again in the future. The bartender recommended La Rossa by by Birra San Martino, that after a through investigation I learned that this is where BA contract-brews their beer. The dude was nothing short of awesome. Tropical aroma of mango, pineapple and lychee, fresh bitter taste with a little malt and biscuits and a fruity aftertaste. Quite the opposite of the other Swiss beers we sampled during that weekend. La Rossa is a strong amber ale, 6.7% abv. with more malty dominance: sweet biscuit, grain and yeasty fruitiness in the nose, bitter, dry and starchy in the mouth. Quite alright but nothing like The Dude. These two beers cost more than other domestic brews: we’re talking 8-9 chf per can/ bottle!

We found our favourite beer spot in Zürich where we least expected to find it: we googled it. Yup, it wasn’t listed on Ratebeer and wasn’t even reviewed by Bov. Desperate by finding nowt that resembles anything edgy in these sources I turned to Google and found Fork and Bottle. Opened in 2012 and located off the beaten path this lovely bistro (and beer garden in season) serves food, Italian wine and most importantly – Italian craft beer! Keep in mind that Zürichi s a relatively small town. Off center means a 10 minute train ride from the city center, then 3 minutes short walk under the freeway in a safe and quiet tunnel.

Before we asked about beer, we inquired if there’s anything to eat. I wasn’t too hungry myself and didn’t really count on stuffing myself there – my experience in omni eateries in Switzerland had so far left me with pretzels. However, there was a veggie burger on the menu which was actually vegan! and the brilliant, garlicky tomato soup was vegan too! The owner, an American, told us that there are plenty of VEGetariANs among the regular patrons and that when  ordered in advance, more vegan dishes are available – tres cool!



Anyway, we’re here for the beer, right? Get this: with the exception of Bad Attitude, Fork and Bottle curates around 30 Italian craft beers, selected by the owner, Mr. Mike Goguen, on his travels to Northern Italy. The beer menu is divided to sections that both beergeeks and newbies understand (session, light, semi-bitter, sweet, bitter, Belgian-style triple, hoppy and cask-aged). As strange as the  beers on the menu were to us, as much as we wanted to sample them all. Due to financial and temporal restrictions – we were on our way to the Rote Fabrik to see The Young Gods (remember? The reason for our trip to Switzerland on the first place), we planned to stay for one round only and asked Mike to help us choose from the menu.

IMG_2795Oh, of course I chose Elav‘s Punks Do It Bitter myself – can’t resist a brew with such a title! Luckily, this hazy golden English Pale Ale was just the right thing: pine, pineapple and that hoppy mango thingy in the nose and bitterness, slightly hoppy-fruity in the mouth. Light bodied, balanced and well made. Great name for a great beer.  Mike hit it right by recommending Grado Plato Sticher – a variation on Altbier that The Secret Agent was eying. An easy to drink beer with and aroma that hints of roast, some wood and cocoa beans  and a roasty bitter taste with, again, hints of cocoa. It’s a medium-bodied beer with a smooth and sweet finish – good choice here.

The clock was ticking but we were having such a good time at the Fork and Bottle, so we opted for a second, quick round. Mike picked another beer from Elav, Grunge IPA, and Stradaregina Imperial Hop. Grunge IPA is a clear ruby-bronze brew with a floral, grapefruit aroma and a bitter taste that isn’t dry and is just a little burning and alcoholic. It was pretty yummy, smooth and light-bodied. The Imperial Hop was the weakest link in this session, but only because the other 3 beers were so good. Clear to hazy ruby-brown colour with and and off-white head. Wooden aroma, some pine and cooked veggies as well and a very bitter, dry taste.

I’d drink any of these beers again.


By far, the Fork and Bottle was the best beer experience we had in our short getaway to Switzerland. It was clear that the owners love their beer. A must stop for any beer lover who visits Zürich, especially to those who don’t make it to Italy or the Italian Swiss cantons.

beautiful display - I want them all.

beautiful display – I want them all.

It took us 2 months to complete this field report. We hope that readers and googlers who plan to visit Basel and Zürich find it useful. Our next destination seems to be Romania. It’s gonna be a family trip but we’re sure that we’ll find time for beer. The Secret In-Laws have already asked if we started looking around for beer locations in our itinerary. Til then I plan to do a major catch-up with project 1001. I’ve accumulated a few dozen beers and notes that have yet to make it to this blog for one reason or another, so February will be dedicated to clear the to-write list.

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