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 category “Beer in Israel”

Jemmin’

jems02

On Monday after work Teva Boy and I met up at Jem’s brewpub, to try their new Golden Ale. He brought along his bottle of Lagunitas Maximus, that’s been waiting for me since the summer, but we met at Jem’s to check out their first release in two years, Jem’s Golden Ale.

Teva Boy and I make our respective beer money in the same industry and in the same dull industrial area – Kiryat Matalon, Petach Tikva –  that other than greasy spoons run by ex-cons, salad bars and mediocre chain restaurants has pretty much nothing to offer to the regional culinary scene. Jem’s Beer Factory entered this wasteland about three years ago. Armed with kosher certificates, a good story about a once White House employee leaving everything behind and making his Zionist dream come true in the shape of a brewery and the best location ever: An industrial/ business area with no proper option for business luncheons or casual dinner that’s surrounded by affluent Light-Orthodox neighbourhoods, with money to spend but nowhere fun to spend it at. 6 kinds of beer, plenty of greasy grub and a weekly, always sold-out music shows fill the suburban void quite well.

The brewery has expended and 2 years ago started bottling and selling its creation outside the pub as well. I heard that a new branch is about to open in Ra’anana, another town with a dominant affluent kosher keeper population. Also, a year or two ago The Secret Agent and I noticed an improvement – apparently some of the recipes went under modifications that did them good. The selection, however, is standard: dark lager, wheat, pils, amber ale, stout and 8.8, a Belgian strong ale that according to a bartender who works there is their most popular brew. Not surprising, as Israelis love their value for money and the higher the abv. the faster it takes to get drunk. The beers are fine but like so many other local brews suffer from inconsistency. Teva Boy says that they can’t keep up with the demand and hence they take it easy with conditioning. Anyway, those who are new to the brewery can order samples which is always cool for beergeeks and indecisive people such as myself alike.

The Golden Ale which we tasted is Jem’s attempt in an American-style session beer, is currently available from tap only and it smells grassy and dry with the slightest tropical hints. I tasted grain, cookie dough and a little bitterness, but the citra hops used in its production isn’t really apparent. Can’t say we were disappointed, as we didn’t have high expectations anyway.

jems01

Butthen Teva Boy took a bottle of Lagunitas Maximus out of his bag. He chilled it at work and we shared it with the bartender, who enjoyed the new taste and didn’t mind that the beer was somewhat past its prime. I didn’t mind that either, because it caught that very sugary aroma, of cherry, ripe peach and cake, and a malty bitter taste with candy-like sweetness. With 8.2% abv. no wonder I was a little tipsy upon arriving to the gym for some after work workout.

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Lagunitas Maximus is beer #154 I Must Try Before I Die and Jem’s Beer Factory is THE place to visit if you happen to be in Petach Tikva or if you are a die-hard beergeek.

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1001 Beer Quest Hits Tel Aviv!

Have you ever read the description of this blog? It begins with “Blogging about Israeli beer in general and Israeli craft beer in particular […]”, followed by the 1001 thing. Yet, not many entries are categorized under Beer in Israel. My Hebrew blog remains the hub of my Israeli beer entries, which tend to be both informative and critical. Local beer writing in the Beer Gatherer are supposed to be all shiny and bubbly, and introduce our small but growing industry to the English-reading world. Alas, with a full time job, 2 blogs, Ratebeer account maintenance and lots and lots of beer tastings that help me reach my 1001 goal, the Israeli aspect of this blog has been neglected. Also, due to the high cost of living in this country we had to sell our car. During the week it’s pretty cool, as public transportation to work, the city center and our local pub (we’ll get to the pub shortly) is frequent and effective, but it also means that we no longer jump into the car and visit breweries and far away pubs whenever we feel like.

This Sukkot holiday finally brings forth an entry about Israeli beer. Dancing Camel Brewing Company were the subject of the blog’s second entry. I wrote about their Cherry Vanilla Stout brewed for Hannukah, and 3 seasons later comes the Trog Wit. More than any other breweries around, DC are big on Seasonals, that in their world relate to Jewish Holidays: Carrobian Stout that’s brewed for Tu Bishvat, New Year of the Trees that’s celebrated by eating dried fruit, such as dried carobs;  613 – annual brewing of one of the brewery’s regular ales infused with pomegranates for Rosh HaShana. There’s also the full moon Golem, honors the legend on The Golem of Prague, an iced version of the IPA that’s served at the brewpub every month on full moon, with changing, tend-to-extreme abv. Beer is not kosher for Passover so there’s no seasonal at this time of the year, though more iced versions of the regular beers are served at the traditional Kick the Keg party held at the Brewpub.

And now comes Sukkot, with pretty neat traditions (saith the atheist), like having guests and sleeping under the stars and also special prayers and blessings such as the one for the Four Species. Etrog, The fruit of citron tree (aka yellow citron or citron medica), is one of the Species, to which are attributed both taste and aroma – hey, the two most important features in beer! – is the focal point of this seasonal.  ‘Trog Wit is based on Dancing Camel Hefe Wit, a Belgian-style wheat beer, but instead of the orange peel addition there are heaps of Etrogim. We drank it on the first day of Sukkot, at the pub, along with a glass of Golem (most Jewish holidays take place on the full moon), although it’s hard to say we went there especially for this seasonal. If there’s an assassin out there, looking for The Secret Agent and/ or me, they’d better head down to the Dancing Camel brewpub. That’s our main hub, where we pamper our livers when not in group tastings (and sometimes there are group tastings AT the Dancing Camel).

L-T-R: dancing Camel Golem and `Trog Wit

Anyway, you probably wanna read about the `Trog Wit, right? Well, it’s a cloudy and light coloured beer with banana and delicate flowery aroma accompanied by cool tartness. It tastes a little sour but also bubblegum sweet with a long, fruity finish that’s also a little sour.

‘Trog Wit’s a cool beer, refreshing and so suitable to the Israeli autumn which is actually summer with some showers. Moreover, it really captures the spirit of Brewmaster David Cohen, who immigrated to Israel with an intention to open the first ever microbrewery in this country, combining local ingredients, American brewing style and Jewish tradition for unique niche seasonals. Also, `Trog Wit is the one Israeli beer represented in the 1001 Book. Choosing this one is pretty strange, because not only is it available only in Israel, it is available only for a limited time every year and only at the Dancing Camel brewpubs, both are in Tel Aviv. Served only on tap, I won’t be surprised to find out about just as hard-to-get New Zealandi, Brazilian or South African beers. I need to save money for beer travel, I guess. Anybody wants to buy a kidney? Ovules? A liver lobe?

Meanwhile, that’s beer #116 I Must Try Before I Die.

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.
davidc@dancingcamel.com

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

It is not a bottle pic if there's no beergeek in the back. Thanks DSG for the photo.

Pardon my absence.  In the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a sick leave and was more on the mood of exploiting the wonders of streaming, something I’ve never done before than into blogging.  Drinking and tasting? Yes, moderately, but been too caught up with liver-unrelated health conditions. But I feel better now, busy emptying the fridge before another beer batch arrives. I also have the time to catch up and finally write about the second Sour Beer tasting I invited myself to.

It started the same as the first sour beer tasting crashing: I heard about the plan and asked DSG to look at the beer list. Only this time 5 out of the 12 bottles were on my list. DSG said it would be stupid not to stay for the entire tasting and thus, on Sunday evening before Passover, I stopped by at a small but great Tel Avivian bakery and bought fresh, crisp loaves of sourdough bread, in lieu of the bottles that I could not contribute to the tasting.

Despite my instinctive disliking of sour beers, I tried to be as open-minded as possible, and even managed to enjoy a couple of the brews.

The highlight of the tasting, at least for me, was Liefmans Glühkriek, that we first sampled cold and then heated. I love Christmas wine (spiced wine is one of the few forms that I enjoy this drink) and whereas Cherry beer is far from being my favourite, it worked well here. When cold, cherry dominated the aroma and the taste was sweet, spicy and tangy. Warming the liquid brought out winy, spicy-allspice aroma and soft, deep, just a little sour taste. No carbonation and wine-like finish.

Lindeman’s Faro Lambic was also not the hardcore beer I expected: smells like champagne, tastes rather sweet and delicate with some sourness in the back and an oily texture.. I think I kinda like it.

Next we proceeded to an unrateable bottle: Achziv, spontaneously-fermented beer brewed by my buddy Captain Nimrod at his home, in the very heart of Tel Aviv. Hazy golden in colour, no head, dominant smoke due to the malt used (and not to the fact that Dizengoff 100‘s beers are brewed in 100 Dizengoff st, where you eat smog and bus fumes for breakfast, lunch and dinner). It tasted a little sour but not in a lambic-y way and was quite weird altogether.

New Belgium Lips of Faith’s Beer de Mars was not to my liking. Cloudy orange in colour, orange and clove in the nose and white orange peel in the mouth, it is a light beer, rather flat and unimpressive. The label was pretty though, and that’s a statement you’d never hear or read about Orval, the next in line. You’d think that a trappist beer has no place in a sour tasting session, but had this bottle been a human being, it’d be a 4th grader now. Bottled in March 14th 2002, it poured cloudy with particles floating and sinking, and minimal foam. It smelled yeasty, stinky and limestone-like and tasted poisonously sour. A little burning finish, flat, heavy body and hard to drink, Orval doesn’t age gracefully, although there was something I liked in the taste and the smell.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is not a beer tasting if there’s no Mikkeller in line. This time, Spontancranberry: violent, raw sourness, hard to swallow and rather flat, with cloudy orange colour and cranberry aroma. I didn’t detect the manure aroma that others have sensed. Not sure if I’m glad about missing it or not.

Oude Beersel Oude Geuze is listed in the book and was one of my least favourite in this session. Cloudy piss colour with white head, with a delicate dust and grease aroma, it tasted sour and stingy and had a salty finish. Girardin Gueuze Black Label smelled of garlic (one of my favourite aromas in the whole world, just not in beer) and piss and was hardcorely sour: burning sensation, green olives in the mouth and a sweetish finish that was left in my mouth when the flat liquid went down my esophagus.

Like Mikkeller and beer tasting, it seems like it is not a sour beer tasting if there is no Cantillon on the table. The Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio is blond, almost flat and cloudy, that sports dairy aroma (brie in particular) and some apple. It tasted hot and, well, sour and had a light body and dry, flat finish. 3 Fonteinen Zwet.Be was pretty cool: dark porter brewed with lambic yeast. It poured dark opaque brown, had tan head and smelled like marmite and grapes. Zwet.Be had a hint of sour, but unlike the other drinks sampled this one reminded me of beer with its slight bitterness. Light body, light carbonation and pretty decent.

Russian River Temptation was one of the better parts in this tasting: Clear blond with a slim white film of foam, it sported  a condensed pungent aroma and while there was a little bitterness, sour dominated the taste buds. Light body, oily with light carbonation, it was a little like wine.

We finished the tasting with De Dolle Special Reserva Oerbier, 2008 edition. Cloudy brown in colour, muddy, then alcoholic, then cherry aroma, unpleasant hot, sour and acidic  taste and fizzy body.

It was an interesting tasting and I am glad I was welcomed. 6 beers were crossed off my list: Orval, which I’ll probably taste again in a fresher mode, Oude Beersel Oude Geuze, Girardin Gueuze Black Label Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio, Russian River Temptation and De Dolle Special Reserva Oerbier are beers # 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42  to try before I die.

Where’s #43, you ask? Well, I made a mistake earlier  and Young Double Chocolate Stout is NOT in the book, so there.

Altneuland’s Brews

A few days ago The Secret Agent and I drank Herzl. Created by Maor Helfman and brewed at Mivshelet Ha’am (The People’s Brewery). We’ve heard a lot about Herzl, but couldn’t really find it in the usual beerfest circles, except Samuel Adams Longshot finals last summer. We drank it there, liked it but were too pissed to remember WHY we liked it.

It’s not as if now that the beer is brewed in Mivshelet Ha’am bottles of Herzl are offered in local pubs and at the supermarkets, but, well, it’s a little less scarce. We tasted two bottles: Herzl Del Habano, brewed with real Cuban cigar leaves and Herzl Katamon, named after either  Katamon neighbourhood in Jerusalem or after Hapoel Katamon basketball team. The beer being red ale and Hapoel Katamon’s uniforms being red, I’d suspect the latter.

Katamon is cloudy ruby-brown beer, with sweet aroma that reminds me dried figs. Its flavours are rich and sweet with a bitter finish, medium body and fine carbonation. Well balanced and good. Herzl Del Habano is brown and opaque, with a small brown head. I smelled roastiness, burnt wood, smoke and fruit. Herzl Del Habano is much more bitter and dry, but despite all the wood and the smoke, it is rather light-bodied and easily drinkable. Its finish is sweet and a little burning.

Both are really good, but the Del Habano is better. I hope to get to drink Maor Helfman’s creations more often.

Flowers in the Attic

the logo - work in progress

One of the reasons we started this English-language blog is sharing the wonderful and ever-evolving Israeli beer scene with the rest of the world. Wonderful and ever-evolving is a good description for today’s post, brothers Nimrod and Yotam Rosenblatt, aka In The Attic, who hail from Tel Aviv’s suburb Holon.
But first, a disclosure: Nimrod is a friend. We first met because of our common interest in alcohol but a year or two later we are proud to count him as a true friend. Also for the record, we bought 2 of the beers we’d write about (Truman XP and Sage); the third (Red) was a birthday gift for MK.
Having written all that, let’s boogie.
In their (Hebrew alert!) blog, Nimrod and Yotam Rosenblatt describe themselves as “2 brothers who were bitten by the bug – experience and experiment with everything from winemaking, homebrewing, liquor-making, distilling rum [I shit you not! and it’s a really good rum too – Beergatherer], and probably more stuff – got any idea for us? We consider ourselves as ‘garage winery’ – so garage that we actually operate from the attic”

As you can probably guess, brewing is not the core business over at the attic. The Attic Beer is not a regular participant in local fests and tastings. I don’t think it was publicly served besides Beers 2011 and Beers 2012 expos in Tel Aviv. Regardless, the Rosenblatts are passionate about their brews and as with everything else they make, their beer is a fascinating learning process which they are happy to share with their blog readers. A learning process it is, but only batches that pass Nimrod and Yotam’s QA are offered for sale to those who are interested and know how to reach them, under the name Fush Fush, Yotam’s childhood nickname.

In The Attic at Beers2012 Expo

On Sunday evening The Secret Agent and I had a small get-together in our living room: us two, DSG and our Jersey Shore girlfriend, who is also Nimrod’s friend, but from a parallel, non-alcoholic universe. DSG and us had tasted In The Attic’s beers before – at this and last year’s expos and in other occasions, but we were all looking forward to focus our taste buds solemnly on these brews.

We started the evening with Fush Fush Sage, brewed on December 3rd 2011 and bottled on Boxing Day. Comparing the label to Rosenblatt Brothers’ blog entry I see that the ABV jumped a little from yesteryear’s 5.9% to 6.1%.

No, that’s not an ale spiced up with sage, but rather Saison-inspired ale where sage replaces hops in 2:3 ratio. The result is cloudy ruby-bronze coloured beer that pours beautifully with a big foam head. Here, have a look:

Home tasting

As any tea-drinker knows, sage is a bitter and dominant motherfucker. It takes over the nose with its herbal, green aroma. Its dominance was more apparent in the nose than in the mouth, because although the beer is sage-bitter, the taste is not nearly as dominant as the smell. Then comes the aftertaste and the sage once again pops in. Fush Fush Sage is unusual in all aspects. I am used to bitter beers, but this goes beyond the “whose IBU is higher” contest. I think that more balanced between the aroma and the taste would make it an even better beer.

We proceeded to Fush Fush Red, pale ale gifted to me by Nimrod. “You love grainy beer, so here you go”, he said. Brewed and bottled on the same days as their sage beer, the red holds 5.2% ABV. Pours hazy brown with minimal white foam, Fush Fush red has sweetish, almost oatmeal or maybe porridge aroma that I liked a lot. It tastes bitter-sweet and has this weird oil-like texture on the tongue and a long, pleasing aftertaste. That was my favourite beer in the tasting. No gimmicks, no fancy story, just fun and grainy beer.

The 3rd beer we had is Fush Fush Truman XP 1883, an IPA. Looks like recently everyone here’s been brewing IPA, and whereas I love, love, LOVE this style, I can’t help but feeling a bit o.d’d on Amarillo hops and grapefruit aroma. But the Rosenblatt Brothers are the last to jump on the bandwagon and theirs is anything but American-style IPA. Quite the contrary, actually. Nimrod and Yotam were trying to figure out what is it that the British troops drank in India. Their research brought up a recipe dated from 1883 and used for export beer by Truman Brewery. 7% ABV, Brewed on Shabbat, September 24 and bottled on December 4th, this ale that consists of variety of American, English, Czech and German hops pours orangey and opaque with a big foam head. I noticed vanilla soap in the nose and also soapiness in the mouth – now that’s a brutally bitter beer! the aftertaste is long and – surprise! – bitter, the beer is carbonated and all in all was fun on the tongue.

I am really looking forward to experience more of Nimrod and Yotam’s research and creativity.

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.

 

 

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