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 “June, 2014”


This entry covers 25% of the Polish beers that were chosen to be listed in the 1001 beer book, this means two beers. Both beers arenamed Zywiec and belong to the Zywiec/ Heineken group, but whereas the first beer is from the Zywiec brewery, located in  a town aptly named Zywiec – or is it the other way round? – the second is from Bracki Browar Zamkowy in Cieszyn.  The first beer is Zywiec Jasne Pelne, the brewery’s pale lager which can I shared at a tasting back in February. Pours clear gold with white head. Sweet and slightly sugary aroma, sweet and slightly alcoholic taste. Light body, sweetish finish. Pale lager. Thirst quencher.


Zywiec Porter is a real treat and quite the opposite of the mediocrity of the pale lager. It’s a rich, robust Baltic Porter that smells woodsy and a little roasty with a little dark fruit too, tastes bitter, with a little dry and roasty sensation in the mouth. Body’s medium-full, texture’s a little syrupy and there’s a roasty aftertaste. All these make one fine brew that I’d be happy to drink again.

Zywiec Porter
Zywiec Jasne Pelne and  Zywiec Porter are beers #333 and #334 I Must Try Before I Die. Hey, the first third of this journey is covered!

Dead Swedish Girl reaches 5555 ratings!


Above is a picture of the Dead Swedish Girl drinking The King of Beers, to celebrate my 200th beer from The Book and his 1000th American beer rated.

Not to discredit anybody, but Dead Swedish Girl is the reason why us local beergeeks taste and try so many brews; he is the one passionate about trades, obsessed about weekly tastings, beer travels, scoring shitty imported lagers from remote supermarkets and buying (sometimes shitty – I gotta admit) rare lambics and sharing with the rest of us. You want the proof? Stalk me on Ratebeer and see just how many of my notes begin with “Bottle sampled at a tasting at ___’s place. Thanks DSG”.

We decided to commemorate his 5000th rating in an honorable tasting with friends and admirers, but as he reached the number while attending CBC, 5555 was the next best number. T-shirts were printed, a large space located (thank you Evyatar Sadan from Sar Ha’Mashkaot/ Minister of Drinks store in Ramat Gan, for letting us use the second floor and the wine tasting table!). We checked his ratebeer progress, collected a bottles he has yet to rate and on Wednesday, June 18th, gathered around to surprise him, all wearing a t-shirt with a print of the image below:


What is Maran? Wikipedia can teach you that “[it] is a title for exceptionally respected rabbis. […] It is an Aramaic word used frequently in the Talmud which means ‘our master’ (מָרַן, māran, ‘our master’). Most often, as the translation indicates, it is given to rabbis who are considered influential teachers and leaders.

Kudos to The Secret Agent for coining this Term and to Rotem the Big Bear for the design. As a true Maran, DSG quickly overcame the shock and lack of control about the happening and organized the bottles according to the proper way of tasting: pale lagers first, the gose and IPA’s, followed by sour, and Belgian beers and finished with the heavy stuff. We had 21 ratable beers in that tasting – a record as far as I recall – followed by a couple of great homebrews. The Secret Agent and I shared a Rhodian pale lager a colleague brought me from a holiday, and two big beers listed in the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book, that DSG hasn’t sampled yet.

the traditional pose, with the notebook and the bottle opener that doesn't ruin the caps.

the traditional pose, with the notebook and the bottle opener that doesn’t ruin the caps. photo taken by troubles and stolen from the secret Facebook chat about the 5555 celebration.

collaboration-not-litigationCollaboration Not Litigation by Avery Brewing Co. is a wonderful example of the spirit of craft beer business – the ideal spirit of craft beer business if you wish. When Avery and Russian River discovered that they both named their Belgian-style brews “Salvation”, they decided to blend the two brews. Collaboration… is therefore a mix of two recipes – brewed in Colorado with half of the ingredients shipped from Russian River. This 8.9% abv. Belgian Strong Ale is bronze in colour, smells of ripe fruit and then diluted date honey. It tastes sweet and very fruity, has full body, soft carbonation with long, sweet finish.

smuttynose-wheat_wineSmuttynose Wheat Wine Ale is an 11% abv. barley wine made with plenty of malted wheat too. That’s the beer that closed the ratable part of the tasting. Hazy amber in colour with a brown-beige head, candy, malt, a little dried apricot and old hops aroma are followed by a slightly bitter taste of stale hops and some chocolate. Body’s as full as you’d expect from barley wine – full and heavy. However, other than the apricot notes in the nose and probably the big head, I didn’t feel much wheat in it.


Collaboration Not Litigation are beers #331 and #332 I Must Try Before I Die. Many of the next 669 will be drunk with or thanks to Maran.

Old Beers Don’t Die. They Don’t Kill You Either.


Marketed in Israel as Grolsch Premium Lager, Grolsch Premium Pilsner is listed in The Book,  perhaps because the editors share my weakness to this classy flip-top clear green bottle.

I must have seen and drank this beer for the first time when I lived in England in the 90’s, either in the city where I lived – a place with a fair share of CAMRA-certified pubs where I got drunk on Hooch and what my ex used to order at the pub – lager, any lager – or in our miserable, rainy trip to the continent in the summer of 1997.  I do remember buying bottles, 3 or 4 bottles for 10nis, in 1998. That’s 2.3 Euro in today’s currency, please don’t ask me for its price in Guilder at that time. I found it at a store in Tel Aviv’s central bus station, skid row then and now, on my way to visit my self-destruction peer who was recovering from a bad car accident he was involved in back in Minneapolis. Neither him nor me knew anything about beer, but we liked getting drunk and these embossed Grolsch bottles looked fancy and fun and they were really cheap for fancy import beer. Only at B’s parents’ place did I looked at the best before date and learned that the product is expired. We didn’t know much about beer but had the common sense to drink it anyway – a year old beer wouldn’t kill us, we thought, and indeed it didn’t.

Years later and drinking expired beer is a part of the routine. They die on their way to Israel from wherever, they die in storage while waiting to be consumed, they die because of less-than-optimal storage conditions, but nevertheless they are consumed, because rating and ticking is my thing and it has nothing to do with imbibing.

For this entry/ ticking I drank an unexpired bottle. I won’t bother sharing my tasting notes with you, my dear readers. Chances are you’ve quenched your thirst with this one before. Bottle’s nice and after cleaning it thoroughly it can be used to store all kinds of things, like simple syrup for your cocktails.

So Grolsch Premium Pilsner is beer #330 I must Try Before I Die.

American Imperial Stout and Barley Wine Recap

Just a few US Imperial Stouts and Barley Wine I drank recently. “Recently” is kinda stretching it, as you’ll see.

blackchocolatestoutBrooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – poured from bottle, one night at home. Turns out I drank it like two days before starting this blog, so I had to drink it again in the 1001 Beers context. The Winter 13-14 edition that The Secret Agent and I shared had a slightly sour and cucumber aroma that beneath it some chocolate, soy and cherry can be found. It tastes a little roasty, rich bitterness, with some caramel. Full-bodied, burnt and sweetish finish. Pretty good winter beer and robustness and ABV (10%) that demands sharing.

GooseIsland-BourbonCountyStout  A 2012 vintage Goose Island Bourbon County Stout was shared by The Beer Greek at a tasting in the winter. With 15% abv. it is no surprise that this beer felt really alcoholic, but after a few minutes of rest in the glass vanilla popped up. The finish showed some chocolate. It’s a very smooth and round imperial stout, ideal for aging. Goose Island experiments with this beer and in the tasting I reached 2K ratings on, Dead Swedish Girl opened a bottle of Proprietor’s 2013, aged in Templeton Rye barrels with toasted coconut. I liked this version even better: plum, a little alcohol, vanilla, a little roasty, chocolate and nuts aroma, smooth chocolatey taste and some Frangelico liquor. Full-bodied, smooth, a wee-bit alcoholic, long, sleek finish. Dead Swedish Girl shared his bottle of Backyard Rye in this tasting, too: deep aroma, a little ink and blueberries as well as cherries. Deep taste, a little sweet, some raisins and chocolate. Smooth, full-bodied, long maple finish with prune, berries and chocolate. Being the cocktail nerd that I am, I’d love to try the Manhattan Barrel version, “aged in a 2nd use Heaven Hill bourbon barrel (10-16 years) that was previously used to aged barrel-aged Manhattan cocktails (composed of Weller 107 Bourbon, Punt e Mes Italian Vermouth and Angostura bitters)”.

Foothills-Sexual-ChocolateI was almost certain that Foothills Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout would be one of the holy grails of this blog/ journey; it is brewed once a year and only a limited number of bottles are sold. Dead Swedish Girl scored the amazing  2012 vintage barrel aged version of this beer; soy, vanilla ice-cream and very rich in the nose, chocolate syrup, very dark and rich and a little alcoholic in the mouth, smooth, a little carbonated, full-bodied and cocoa-bourbon finish.


Next, Barley Wine. Only one American drank and not reviewed:

old foghorn

Anchor Old Foghorn – drunk and cherished at home one mild winter evening. Vinous, chestnuts, a little chocolate aroma, deep alcoholic sweetness and a little cocoa in the mouth. Full body, no carbonation, smooth texture, raisins finish.




Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Foothills Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout and Anchor Old Foghorn are beers #325, #326, #328, #329 I Must Try Before I Die.

Traquair House Beers


I love, love, love Scottish beer. Basically, I love anything Scottish – be it their banknotes that are different from the ones printed in England, their soft drinks – how can you not like IRN BRU – orange-coloured, spicy bubblegum taste and domestic sales that surpass Coca Cola? If not the taste, you gotta love the concept! Then there’s Irvine Welsh’s early work that’s pretty much the reason I pursued my English Linguistics and Comp Lit degree (some of his latest work is quite good too – check out Skagboys, Trainspotting’s prequel), and The Rezillos and Ex Cathedra whose music make the ride to work a little bit more fun, and Glasgow’s tough but honest vibe and the imbibing goodness that is beer and whisky. In fact, Scottish whisky is the reason for this blog’s slowdown over the past year: one year ago I started working as Spirits Brand Manager for Pernod-Ricard’s local distributor. For 6 months I managed most of the whisky portfolio, that consists of Jameson Irish Whisky and the wonderful Chivas Brothers brands Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet, Scapa (my personal fave!) and Aberlour. I now work mainly on Gin and Rum but I also manage Ballantine’s range of blended scotch, so I actually contribute to Scotland’s economy on a day-to-day basis, and this excludes whisky tasting and the small bottle collection The Secret Agent and I started building.

And then there’s Scottish beer, that a part from Brewdog does not seem to enjoy the latest craft beer hype, but I find it rich, interesting and varied nonetheless. There are 23 Scottish beers listed in 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die and I’ve already reviewed 12 of them. Today’s post is about two more, that come from Traquair, that is said to be the oldest inhabited house in Scotland – some 30 miles south of Edinburgh. It’s been occupied since the 12th century and beer was brewed there since the early 1700’s, for domestic use. The commercial brewery opened in the 1960’s and their ales are distributed worldwide. Their two wildly known beers are listed in the book and we shared them at a group tasting last month:
Traquair House Ale – we got our bottle from a distributor in New York State. 7.2% Scotch Ale, vinous, date honey in the nose , a little bitter, a little sweet and inoffensively alcoholic. Hardly any carbonation, vinous finish and rather good.

Traquair Jacobite Ale – bottle bought at Beermoth craft beer shoppe in Manchester, on the last day of our real-ale trip which I must write about one of these days. This one is heavier on the alcohol, with 8% abv. and other than that date honey aroma (that maybe remained in the glass from the Traquir House Ale), I smelled wood, black pepper and moss. It has a deep fruity taste, like cooked fruit, long fruity finish, very soft carbonation and a full body. It’s a great beer that should be sipped slowly and due to its heaviness is ideal for sharing.

traquaire house traquire jacobite

There are two other beers in the range, one is sold only during the summer months from draught at the brewery – which makes Traquair House another must visit in my ever-expanding must-visit-in-Scotland list. Well, ignoring the scenic coastal road, that’s practically on the way between the Barbour factory outlet store and Edinburgh, so there’s a good chance we’ll make it there sooner or later.

Traquair House Ale and Traquair Jacobite Ale are beers #323 and #324 I Must Try Before I Die

Beers I drank in Spain

Did I mention the crazy backlog in this blog and list? Of course I did. There’s one beer missing from last year’s Romania Field Report, not a word was written about September’s Real Ale Trail in Yorkshire and Manchester and I kept silent about the Birthday Mayhem in Prague that took place in a sunny January weekend. Between these two beer-centric getaways there was a business trip to the Canary Islands – a long weekend of surfing lessons, shows, parties and so many glasses of Jameson ginger ale that it shows in Irish Distillers annual reports. But it was business, tough job and somebody had to do it. There are no direct flights from Tel Aviv to Lanzarote. I had to arrive at the island a day before my guests – ~90 bar and restaurant owners, bartenders, local celebrities and fellow employees – to watch the production. Thus an afternoon flight and an overnight stay in a hotel in Madrid were booked, and I logged in to, to do business. To make a long story short, I landed, checked in at the airport hotel, dropped my bags and rushed to the bus to the city center. By the time I arrived, 11p.m on Wednesday night, a casual hour in Tel Aviv, the bars I was aiming at were not admitting new patrons. Begging, saying I’m a beergeek who came all the way from Tel Aviv and that I just want to tick/ grab a takeaway,  didn’t help.

It was late, I was tired, but decided to take a walk around the block before hailing a taxi back to the city outskirts. Beer Karma came to work and I bumped into a corner bar, that bears the cheesy name La Casa De La Cerveza.

The Pilsner Urquell and Guinness signs in the streets, the name of the place and the beams are deceiving: behind the touristic facade there’s a nice bar with a decent menu that lists dozens of European and American brews: from Belgian ales to bigger export US craft beer, with a good amount of German and English stuff in between, and 7 taps as well. The bartender fixed me a vegan sandwich and I read the beer menu, picking stuff from the 1001 Beer book: Gouden Carolus Classic was imported to Israel in the past and used to be one of my favourite beers when I got into craft beer, but my palette has changed and it tasted too sweet and stuffy. Condensed fruit, lots of sugar and full body. It wasn’t the ideal beer for my tired body, apparently.  Duchesse de Bourgogne is a Belgian sour beer that The Secret Agent and I drank in Namur. I love the gothic  label, but the beer’s a little too sour to my taste. Its aroma begins sweet and then becomes pungently fruity-mango-yogurt-like. The tastes is sweet at first, then becomes  lactic. Full-bodied, yogurty finish and rather smooth texture, but not really my kind of brew. Despite the obsessiveness, I asked the bartender to recommend me something Spanish, and he opened a bottle of Copper Ale by VG Noster from Basque Country, a sweet, fruity amber ale. Not much to write about it. It was getting late, I was getting drunk, so I grabbed a bottle of Achel Bruin to drink later in the trip (7 months later and it’s still in our fridge. It’s a Trappist ale so I’m not worried).


There is not much to write about beer in Lanzarote – bars pour macro lagers mostly and the supermarkets stocks them and they are really cheap and cater for those A Place In The Sun expats. I did grab a bottle of Mahou Negra, a popular Spanish dark beer from the Carlsberg group, that tastes sweet, like chocolate milk almost and is still rather light-bodied. It is now available in Israel and served on Tap in the Cervezeria, a Madrid-style Tapas bar in the heart of Tel Aviv. We go there for Gin and Tonic or Rum but draught Negra is our in-between rounds drink.

no beer to write home about, but look at the view!

On our way back home we had a 4 or 5 hours layover in Madrid Airport, that was going under renovation; they’ll have some fancy shops in the future, but for the time being, other than Cafeterias that sell San Miguel (yup, tried the non-alcoholic one on my way to Lanzarote), and an OK spirits section at the duty-free shop, the options are limited. However, daytime, metro to the city center, a map and mucho determination, brought me to Plaza Bilbao, where I landed several nights before, only to find it thriving. Grabbed a bag of chestnuts – a mandatory part of any visit in Europe in the fall or winter – and ran to Bar Animal, that was friendly and inviting. 10 taps, a fridge full of goodness and this fridge door:

Bar Animal Madrid

In a little over an hour I drank 6 beersm some with the help of two nice beergeeks that were sitting on the bar too. Two of these beers were from the book: Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout and Haandbryggeriet Dark Force. The former’s a pretty cool beer: slightly smoky, chocolate aroma, with chocolate sweetness and a little dry bitterness in the mouth. Bitter, chocolate finish, hops, full body, and smooth, very mild carbonation. The latter, that hails from Norway, pours black, opaque with a mocha colour head and smells amazing: slightly peaty, dry ash and prunes. It also tastes awesome:smoky, bitter, ashtray dryness in the mouth with a full body and slightly dry and ashy finish. I like my beer to be smoky/ peaty/ roasty/ burnt and Dark Force did the job just fine.

shakespeare dark_force

I also drank/ sampled De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis Wild Turkey Barrel, Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2013 and To Øl Ridiculously Close To Sanity – all three great and from tap.

Following my drinking partners’ recommendations I ordered an APA by Spanish brewery Naparbier, that’s located near Pamplona. The 5 Titius Anniversary is quite alright – definitely better than most of the Spanish craft beer I’ve tried before or after, with fresh floral – jasmine – hoppy aroma, and hoppy bitterness. turns out that one of these guys illustrated a label for Naparbier, so I took a bottle of this beer and shared it at the airport with two members of our group – bar owners from Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion, before checking in. Naparbier The IV Beer Riders was piney and skunky but in a good way. Drank straight from the bottle and in a rush – I had to stop at the duty free to grab a bottle of rum for the home and that mandatory bag of candy for the office.

Rating Naparbier at Bar Animal

Rating Naparbier at the airport

Gouden Carolus Classic, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Mahou Negra, Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, Haandbryggeriet Dark Force are beers #318, #319, #320, #321, #322 I Must Try Before I die

Threat is the Best Treat


Last Saturday I attended a tasting at the Dancing Camel Brewpub, and Teva Boy made a rare appearance. He got a weird promotion that includes many long visits to Germany and Croatia; a bunch of beers for me to taste and tick and little time with his family. He told us on Saturday that he’s gonna start flying to Milan – good news! One of the best countries for beer these days that has plenty of representatives in the 1001 books that I follow even if I don’t have the time or the inspiration to blog. Well, Teva Boy pretty much warned me that I won’t be getting any help from him unless I return to blogging. It’s blackmail, but hey, it works, here I am, at 8 am, typing instead of catching up on Facebook with my morning coffee, and believe me, with a 100+ beers backlogs, it’s easier to just sit in front of Facebook. I’m trying, can’t promise where it’s gonna take me, this massive catching-up I’ve been planning to do for ages, but let’s see.

I opened the Google Spreadsheet and filtered the list by country. In order to underwhelm myself I omitted all the big beer countries: US, England, Germany, Belgium and then Italy, Scandinavia, the Baltic countries and a few more, to be left with a small list filled with turquoise – the colour code for drank-not-blogged items. This way that Hayward 5000 – a 7% malt liquor from India we drank in December, popped up. It enjoyed a more adventurous journey than those IPA’s exported to the subcontinent by the Empire, that’s for sure: from India to New York state and then, by ship, to Israel. Not that consuming it fresh would have been making it any better: just another nasty, light-bodied, alcoholic malt liquor with a metallic aftertaste.

A little down the list, a turquoise spot under Japan – that’s Kirin Ichiban that I finally rated and marked in March. Not much to write about this pale lager. It’s dryish and drinkable and Ichiban is one of my favourite words in the whole world. I decided to cross it off here and not wait for more Japanese beers to write about because it seems that this entry is all about commercial lagers, so be it.

Staying in the region I conveniently refer to as east of Amman, Jordan, there’s also the can of Hite Prime Max that Guy, Whimsical Shira’s partner brought me from a last-minute business travel. Yet another pale lager from Southeast Asia. We drank the regular Hite lager and Cass fresh that The Secret Agent’s parents brought us from the airplane, and looking at my ratings, Prime Max falls exactly in between the two. Slightly better than Hite, slightly worse than Cass. Still, it’s a catty, light-bodied sweetish lager.

So – I made it! Blogging after 3 months! There’s a long way to go before I catch up, but it’s a beginning, Teva Boy! Hayward 5000, Kirin Ichiban and Hite Prime Max are beers #315, #316 and #317 I Must Try Before I Die. Now off to the office!

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