I’ll be honest with you from the get go, I don”t know how to even play the game! What I do know however, is to watch intently whilst 2 seasoned Sabras go at it with intense speed, pushing little pieces across the board and hammering the dice against the sides, and pretend to have a clue about what’s going on. I don”t, I really really dont. I never have actually for (1) its too damned fast for my limited brain to take in and (2) it was not my national board game growing up. (Chess was and I am rotten at that too!)
Born and bread Israeli’s I am told, go through a sort of educational journey with this game starting in primary school where the basic rules are learned, through high school where tricks of the trade are figured out and competition really starts to take hold. Its at this stage where the promising stars of the future begin to emerge from the fray and stand out as future champions.
After this, I am further led to believe, is the roll that shebesh serves as a complete life saver for boys and girls in serving in the military who need to relieve the boredom. And its at this stage where the game is played almost blindly and with a cool nonchalance, even though the speed of the pushing, flicking and dice whacking is now at a fever pitch.
From that point on, you never really get any better at the game, you have more or less reached your ultimate performance levels and you sort of hover around there, all the way through to the ripe old age of retirement when you will sit outside the fallafel shop or park bench with your old pension friends and idly pass away the hours playing your favourite pastime.
The game to which I refer is of course, the famous SHESH BESH.
Now there is sheshbesh playing group, which sort of act as a life line between the military and retirement years. These are the cool hipster types, of which there are many interesting variations, please dont jump to picturing long beards, man buns, tattoos and a ring the size of your eyeball through ears, as the only acceptable hipster image. These dudes have a natural habitat in Tel aviv and Jerusalem with their chosen headquarters the Shuks (open markets). Without going into much detail on the lifestyle of these specimen, one thing is becoming quite clear…some of them really know their beers and are breathing some real life into the craft beer industry in Israel.
So when the BEER BAZAAR stall in the Tel Aviv Carmel market who amongst others cater largely for said hipsters, decided to make their own beers, the inspiration for a name, could not have been far away. But what about the taste?
A tat cloudy dirty copper, medium carbonation with a lovely crisp and steady head.
Mild caramel, honey nectar sweetness, good bit of hops but most distinctly…Vanilla. Now, because the head is quiet suborn, blow a wee hold in it and put your nose through to fully experience all of the above.
First impression is the thick oiliness of the hops. Tones of it and this alone is sure to win it some fans (those who are not already). This beer has a great mouth-feel and texture; oily, thick full body. Take a real mouthful and swish it around a good deal, don’t rush into swallowing, there is pleasure in this sensation, trust me.
Next comes that familiar yet vague yet delicious sweetness which I will try to best describe as white hardened honey type thingy .i.e. not the drippy golden stuff which is too rich, but rather the waxy, oily honeycomb and vanilla variation.
The finale were the characteristics which actually make this beer an IPA, and that’s the bitterness. I wouldn’t want to guess the IBU (oh ok, over 70 for sure!), but the bitterness is well balanced in the back of the throat , not scratchy and pure.
So, my overall impression of this beer is that it clearly evident that its made by people who have first tested the waters by engaging in what the Israeli public both like and expect in an IPA. And being on of the front runners in the revolution to bring proper ales to said public, they should know. Its heartening indeed to know that its not all just business with these guys, and a real understanding and pride in their own beer is paramount too. Much respect and keep it up.