Israeli Beer Festival, Netiv Ha’elah – The Craft brewing Heart of Israel

Israeli Beer Festival, Netiv Ha’elah – The Craft brewing Heart of Israel
I think Ofer Ronen of the Sriggim Brewery might have a few people disagreeing with the following statement, and so too might I have, until of course I visited Netiv Haelah of the Mateh Yehuda Region, and basked in the green beauty and biblical historic glory, and of course so many quality boutique breweries all clustered together in a such small radius that; “this truly is the beating heart of the Israeli Craft brewery scene”


Now Ofer, has every right to claim this because he himself is part responsible for rise of the ever more popular Sriggim Brewery (Ohad being the other half of the puzzle) from which of course two familiar and popular beer labels pour fourth. The ‘Emek Haela’ and the ‘Ronen’ (of the famed Ugly Indian IPA which had me swinging an enthusiastic dancing heel over Purim). But to lend credibility and strength to his claim were a number of other very impressive beers and the interesting characters brewing them, gathered together on this glorious Sunny Friday,for the Netiv Haelah Anual Beer fest (19.2.2015). 


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Part of their annual food festival which lasts a number of weeks, the beer fest was preceded by the local Arab village foodies fest and a gathering of the wine snobs, bless them, for apparently this heart also seems to beat wine through its arteries.

Eran, the Manager of tourism in these parts, was keen to share the hospitable welcome you can expect on your visit. “There are so many options for visitors to enjoy the culinary pleasures on offer (7,000 visitors in the past month) from beer and wine (40 vineyards), to Morrocan, Turkish and Yemen food hosted in peoples own homes and private kitchens.” He didn’t get my joke about the only thing not accommodated here was an AA group, but I got it and that’s the main thing! ( if you want to start one)

Some of familiar names were present, Srigim, Shapiro, Mosco and Busters. But it seems that most of these craft brewers and beer hobbyists, gain  their popularity from events and festivals just like this one, where they relish the chance of a level playing field to wow both the enthusiast and the more casual drinker. It works every time, and from there, they will keep coming back, taking the scenic trip back over the mountains to pick up their weekly six-pack. As a beer romantic myself, it’s all a bit magical and special.


One such brewery is the ‘Samson Brewery’ run by Leon. The name, is named after the biblical personality whose tombstone is in Kibutz Tzora only a stone throw from where I stood drinking their IPA; not too loud or bossy, but safe, hoppy, balanced and all round a pretty good contender.
Samson Brewery have been producing their craft in Israel for the past 8 years having dropped this particular pastime in a past life 30 odd years ago back in his native south Africa. Now, reinvigorated and offering a whole host of beer types (9 in total), it is safe to say Leon is the kind of guy which makes craft brewery in Israel so dynamic and interesting. (Facebook | Website)


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Another such brewery was the Shachar Brewery. My first impression of Mr Ronnie and his wife Sharon, was that this couple are certainly not playing games and are as serious about their beer as he is about his cowboy hats. Coming from an impressive culinary background, Ronnie names his beers fondly after the people closest to his life. I tasted the “MAZAL” (named after his living mother, may she only know heath and beer), A Spiced Ale.

You may think I am exaggerating when I tell you that I am tempted to tell all other Chrismas, winter, Spiced ales and Barley wines to all just pack it in, give up the fight, surrender and except defeat. Only drinking this beer for yourself will allow you to tap into the  enthusiasm and respect for I have for this brew. Traditional Northern English hops spiced with cinnamon and another spice, which I have forgotten.  6 more beer styles which I did not yet get to sip from were on offer, and its safe to say the bar has been set very high.  (Facebook)


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Mosco Brewery stand was my next stop and the ‘Red Ale Mountain Beer’.  Finally, a beer whose quality requires judging on the brewing method itself and not the sheer hop quantity. The maturity and flavour depth of this beer is quite obviously crafted by brewers who are on top of their game. A superb recipe of different malts, balancing toasted varieties expertly. It took me back to European grass root craft beer styles and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to chat much with the proprietors, but that’s ok, they are very much on the radar for a visit and tour. Stay tuned. (Facebook | Website)


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The Shapiro brothers where out there in force, its always nice to see them and the keg poured Pale Ale seems to be getting better each time I taste it. Ongoing improvements are always welcome the mark of a brewery which genuinely gives a damn about their customers. Further proof of this is their actual presence here today, for Shapiro are no small craft brewery anymore, no sir. Itzik Shapira shared his thoughts why irregardless of their commercial success and growth in recent years, these grass roots festivals are still very much part of their DNA.
“This area has a lot of breweries, and there is an attraction to the local aspect which people love to support, especially when it involves a sunny Friday afternoon drinking great beer.” (Facebook | Website)


SCOOP: Shapira Brewery is working on a new beer due to be rolled out after the holidays. More on that later…


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Abeer Haela Brewery (a Play on the Hebrew word for Knight) offer some unique takes on traditional beer recipes. This was my first time coming into contact with their brews and I wasnt sure what to expect. Their Black beer with strong aroma of licorice was not my cup of tea, but I can think of plenty who would enjoy a brew like that. Actually, no licorice ingredients where used to get to the final taste, its honey and something else apparently. It’s interesting stuff and worth a taste. (Facebook)


Last and not least, its the Brewery which really puts this part of Israel on the commercial beer map. Sriggim Brewery and the Emek Haela / Ronen beer range. The man behind the taps is same someone who I quoted in the opening of this article and someone I am proud to now call friend, Ofer Ronen. They have truly won my heart with their quality brews. Each beer clearly defines the word ‘Craft’, (for which there is much debate over the meaning in brewing circles). Impressive and innovative personalized takes on traditional beer styles, Sriggim demands respect from even the most hard nosed beer critique. I am not that, quite the opposite in fact, but if tomorrow I woke up a bastard I would still struggle to find serious fault with any of their beers.  (Facebook | Website)


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A handful of small craft brewers and 3 larger commercial breweries all see fit to call the Mateh Yehuda Region their proud home. Beautiful, Biblical and scenic, perhaps there is no better place from which the heart of Israeli Craft beer should  beat that malt and hop goodness down through the Kvish 82 and on to a shelf in a shop near you.



Most of the above named breweries are open for visitors and offer food and a beer garden to enjoy. Check their websites and Facebook pages for more info. If you need help with the Hebrew, let me know ;)

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