Today marks the 5th month since I started writing beerisrael.com, and high time for a quick reflection on which beers have crossed my path and which people I have luckily gotten to meet.
My local wine shop was where I clocked my first acquaintanceship with Israel craft beer. On reflection, my ignorance was astonishing and evident in the questions I asked the shop clerk. IPA? you sure this isn’t imported? Who is this Malka girl pretending to make beer? The rest of that story is well documented, but the unspoken truth was this; if I was about to break up a carbohydrate fast of 6 weeks AKA the dreaded ‘Atkin’s Diet’, I would be damned if it will be on some 3% lager from Jordan sold in Rami Levi!
Yup, I was an Atkins winner and proud, but the time had come to smash it over the head with a beer bottle and get back to the important and enjoyable things in life.
A recent wife intervention has dragged me kicking and screaming (but ultimately thankful) into Dr Atkins horrific world again, and here I am, putting my foot on the break and longingly remembering the last bottle I had over 3 weeks ago, a certain unique ‘Siftach lager’ from Hachatzer brewery. After the initial withdrawal symptoms calmed down I reflect on an overall hugely rewarding and educating experience meeting breweries, home breweries, shop owners, pubs land lords.
Who would have thought that 7 odd years ago the best Red Ale I have ever tasted would come from a modest brewery in Zichron Yakov with a Russian sounding name (Pavo actual means Peacock in Latin). Would I have guessed that the most aggressive and daring american style IPA tasted to date, was brewed by a guy called, no not Steve from California, but Ofer Ronen from Israel?
Date fruits in your ale? It might not be your cup of tea, but now quintessentially Israeli and a Dancing Camel favorite. Huge corked bottles of Wheat beer from the Golan will have you fighting to open them initially, but ever so thankful you did. Brothers who were well ahead of the game brewing at home and managing in a few short years to make sure you too can enjoy their beers in most spots in and around Jerusalem (have you tried the Shpiro’s Jack’s winter ale?). The trips to very boutique operations such as Shretter Brewery which steadfastly refuse to go commercial and rightly make you sit in their back yard to appreciate their brewing talent.
And the other end of the spectrum, 2014 saw us all swell with pride when one of our own, Alexander Brewery took two well deserved, prestigious awards back home with them from the kind of events that draw the envy of every brewery wold wide. Nachas!
Then there are the guys who have packed in the day jobs and dedicated their lives to educating, brewing and helping all of us beer lovers. The ‘Hadubim Brewery’ (BEARS) who open their doors, (fully equipped with legal alcohol licences and kosher certificates), to fresh home-brewers to use their commercial size brewing and bottling equipment, essentially allowing me and you to proudly sport our recipes on the shelves, label and all. The ‘PEOPLES Brewery’ indeed! The work of G-d fearing good men. They are not alone.
“Oh yes, we average about 3-5 home brew kits sold weekly” A chat with Shachar from Beer and Beyond which sells exclusively beer, beer making products and ingredients, threw me…big time! I was actually coming into this late!
If you thought these sales numbers are revolutionary for this blooming desert country, what if I told you, that there is an Israeli with a very heavy Scottish influence, (who I warmed to like a brother by the way), not least because he has opened the first real Draft ale pub in the holy land? That’s right, you can now drink Israeli beers direct from the cask, cooled at the optimum temperature in a custom made beer cellar at Benny’s Cask Ale Pub.
And finally there are the enthusiastic and motivated youth making the leap from home brewing to taking advantage of the ‘Peoples brewery’, who I have felt personally encouraged by. I have met a whole host of these guys, pioneers of a grass roots real beer movement in Israel. I can honestly say that these guys beers will give anyone seasoned brewer a run for their money.
Lets take a breath and rewind. At the start of this blog project, nothing was further from my mind than actually giving it a go myself. I mean, that’s for the professionals right? After all, I’m a professional beer drinker, not a beer brewer! To put it into perspective, could you see Jeremy Clarkson deciding to build his own sports car when he started the TV program “Top Gear” ? Would he or I be prepared to lay bare all our obvious deficiencies and ignorance, and throw the doors wide open for a ‘taste of our own medicine’? Would we be able to take it as much as we dish it out? (me and Jeremy, two peas of the same pod you understand?!) No, is the long and short of it.
At least that how things stood at day one. Day 150, and a totally different picture has emerged. I am going to home brew – Hachatzer and Chuck’s taught me that I can. I have gotten all all kit and ingredients, Beer and beyond sorted me out. I might even brew a 200 liter batch, The Peoples Brewery makes that possible, and who knows…you might end up drinking a cask version at Benny’s Cask Ale pub one day.
Maybe, Maybe…but with 10 kilo of weight still to be lost…I have another handful of beer notes to compose into reviews and continue this rewarding and enjoyable journey.
Thanks you for reading, please stick around a bit longer… I have a home brew for you to review for me