Early morning Friday, I hadn’t felt so rejected on a social level since letting in 10 goals in a Sunday league football game which also ended in my red card expulsion, the match being called off before the conclusion, and hefty official FA fine for the whole team. Billy-no-mates for a while after is the picture I am trying to paint. And now again possibly due to it being on a Friday and my palls now all ‘old’, married, parental and generally boring, the answers I was getting while doing my bit of free advertising for the Shenkin Pub #Beerfest (in sponsorship with Beer&Beyond) indicated that this time, once again billy-no-mates would be going it alone. Another inspection at the lineup of exhibitors and rejection quickly turned to excitement, because there I found a couple of the brewers I had been keen on meeting would be present and pouring tasters of their craft. EXCELLENT. Alone I might be going, but alone I certainly would not be
9:00 by the kitchen oven clock, I lined the gastric pipes with the customary toast, eggs (scrambled not sunny side), cream cheese, and baked beans, waved a hearty goodbye to the apple of my eye (whom also would not be joining me due to prior important arrangements involving a credit card and a shopping center), and set off up the number 4 toward Ranana.
Arriving at the venue, you are given the usual festival treatment, glass, tokens, other advertising thingys at the welcome stall. Here I shook hands with Ido the proprietor of the Shenkin Pub, festival hosts, whom incidentally also brew their own craft beer (more on that later). Not having met him before in person with Facebook doing much of the communications, I was pointed in his direction by Shachar Hertz, who also happens to be the brains behind Beer&Beyond (your one stop shop for absolutely everything beer related in Israel). Again, we will need to revisit Shachar at a later date in greater depth for there is much to tell and discuss. So if you consider 2 of the big cheeses of the festival being literally two of the first faces I exchanged words with, the welcoming spirit was certainly there in abundance. This rocketed me off inside feeling cheery and high spirited.
First stop, the Shenkin Pub stand where they where offering tasters of their one and only in-house brew. – Not wishing to draw attention to my beer snobbery, I didn’t linger on the preliminaries, and got right down to it. Dear readers, its not half bad at all; certainly worth a full review of its own, and that is exactly what I am going to do shortly, but not now. For now we say thanks to the nice friendly smiling girl at the stall, and we move on….
Next up, 4 very young looking guys with yellow t-shirts and all smiles. Meet Ranana natives, Ariel, Yochai, Shachaf, Nitzan who are jointly making quite a bright and bubbly introduction to the scene with their HACHATZER beers. Perfecting their recipies using home brew kits, Mivshelet Ha’am Brewery accommodates their large scale brewing. 3 things are striking about these boys, each remarkable, impressive and downright inspirational.
1) They are all very young. 21, 22, 23, I don’t remember exactly, but all palls from school, and 2 of the boys are still finishing up their service in the IDF. I mean to say…C’mon!!! Enough said. (*melts into a Zionistic puddle on the floor). (2) Their passion. Speaking with them, the energy is brilliant and magnetic. They are clearly loving every minute of it. (3) The branding is very unique, a blend Looney-tunes and pop-art. I believe this is a clear statement of intent from the boys to present their bubbly youth on each label.
They schlepped their hops in a suitcase back from the US of A and kick-started their campaign with their first draft, an IPA. Risky, but again quite signature of the operating style of these lads. They now offer 4 beers, one of which is called “Mad-Hatter” currently sitting in my fridge slowly reaching the required optimum temperature for a full, pen-in-hand tasting review. Check back in for this later this week.
The boys live by their own mantra “beer is interesting, exciting and bring people together. Beer is culture.” – Inspiring stuff and a glimpse into what is on the horizon for craft brewing in Israel.
In keeping with the young hobby brewer theme, my next stop introduced me to Alex and Gary from Taekwonbeer. The name, because I know you are wondering, was born from mixing together the 2 passionate hobbies of Alex. How is that for simplicity? He practices Taekwondo and likes beer. So when they decided to brew their own, Alex didn’t have far too look for a name. Alex is the brew-master and Gary is master of operations. Be’er Sheva is their headquarters
They moved from Odessa, Ukraine in 1990 and in 2011 bottled their first attempts. Now tasting their APA, I was very impressed. This too will be zoomed-in on with an in-depth review at a later date. But if you want to get there before me, order by email or phone to have yours delivered.
At this point the smell from the BBQ became overpowering and I caved to temptation. I had another chat with Shachar from Beer&Beyond while waiting in line, about their mission “to educate the Israeli public about all things beer by importing unique beers, introducing Israeli ales, selling equipment and ingredients and offering brewing courses.” I understood there to be a full staff, all fully qualified to help you on your way to bottling your own beers at home.
The hotdog went down a treat under the large SUKKAH. By this time the Beerfest was really heating up and people looking like they where having fun in every corner.
Jumping back into the fray, I went over to have a chat with the guys from Hadubim brewery and taste the ‘Polar IPA’ as recommended by Rotem Bar-Ilan (big cheese) and ask his brother Dagan (brew-master). Apparently, the reason for the Hadumin brewery sporting such a large range of beers inc. 4 IPA’s is as simple as keeping these talented men from being bored. Fair enough…keep them coming.
My last stop was a visit to Chuck’s. “We are 5 friends and a dog” – ah, that would explain the caricature of a dogs head and a paw print in the logo, and no Moish, the dog was not dead!! Itai, whom I latched onto first , did the introductions. Rafi. Lior, Doron and Beni. All 5 are hands-on involved in the brewing of their flagship beer, Chuck’s Amber Ale. A very good entry beer to taste indeed.
These boys are also young and from Ranana and operating out of K’var Saba. Their home-brew recipe is brewed and bottled on a commercial scale by the Mosco brewery. Again, in tandem with everyone I had met on this day, Itai’s enthusiasm and passion is brilliant and far from wearing off still now. Pleasure to meet you boys, best of luck.
Reluctantly, I eyed the exit, and eventually heavy feet dragged me through it. Was it the amount of beer causing this slug like pace? Probably to some extent, but I think it was more my reluctance to leave behind the great people I had met and the super beer I had tasted.
Oh give it a rest Moish (of BeerIsrael.com, find me on Facebook and twitter for weekly beer reviews, opinion, interviews and laughs) – you cant make it out the exit because your weighed down with bags stuffed to the brim with bottles of quality beer…from Israel.
All of the above beers are available at Beer&Beyond. For other suppliers of any of the individual beers mentioned, please contact them directly.