Over a couple of nights and tasting close to one hundred beers ( I seriously lost count), I was able to compile a list of my favorite and most interesting Israeli beers at the 2014 Beers Expo held at HaTachana Turkit (Old Turkish Train Station) in Tel Aviv. (beers.co.il).
To those worthy beers I may not have included, I hope future articles and tastings will give them the attention they deserve.
(in quasi-alphabetical order)
1) Alexander Black ( Alc. 7%) This international award winning brew is a porter ( a dark top fermenting ale) that resembles a stout but is lighter but with similar chocolate and coffee foundations accented by some fruity and roasted nut flavors. Alexander’s tasting room is in Emeq Hefer attached to the brewery but is a favorite in many better bars around Israel.
2) Bazelet Indian Pale Ale (4.5% Alc.)
Crisp and light by one of the largest micro-brews that’s a co-op with the Golan Heights Winery it’s a fruity seasonal beer (July-September) with hints of mango and guava thanks to citra hops. A widely distributed micro-brewery with their own gastro-pub in Katzrin. They even make oak aged beers.
3) Baron’s Hibiscous Ale (6.5% Alc.)
small producer making only 20 liters batch with citra hops, hibiscus, lemon grass, date honey and black pepper. Started in 2008 & located in Hod Hasharon.
3) Dancing Camel’s Leche Del Diablo (“Milk of the Devil”) (5% Alc.)
Israel’s first Micro-Brewery opened in 2006 by American David Cohen is the most fraternal of all the micro-breweries often featuring competing brews at their two pubs located in the Montefiore neighborhood of Tel Aviv which often features live music there and at their Florentin location which both offer this seasonal chili infused ale that has a nice kick in the finish balanced with orange peels and coriander that I love with beer battered fried onion rings, savory chicken wings or a mouth watering burger.
4)Hahazar (“The Backyard”)’s Crusoe (6.8% Alc.) This American pale ale is made in small 200 liter batches with mango puree that plays well with tropical noted citra hops. It’s named after Robinson Crusoe as the brewers crafted it as the beer they’d want if stranded on a desert island. They also make Lemondrop, a Sorachi hops infused experimental beer..
5) Ha Dictata (“The Dictator”)’s Laphroaig Beer (6% Alc.) Produced at the “People’s Brewery” they started their irreverent beer lables depicting a Saddam Hussien lookalike (he’s dead so I guess he can’t sue) on their 8k liters month (about 24k bottles). Only 1,200 of these special release beers were made enhanced with Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch. It tastes like and smells like Scotch with a much lower kick and would make a great chaser with a scotch or to accompany BBQ wings. The price of the Single Malt makes this a premium beer selling at 35 NIS/bottle
6)Jem’s Beer Factory 8.8 (8.8% Alc.)
Now with 3 gastro-pub locations (Petah Tikvah, Raanana and this summer Kfar Sava, this micro-brewery (named after American born brewer/co-owner Jeremy Weldfeld) makes consistently good brews and their 8.8 (which sometimes is even a bit higher in alcohol) has a lot of bang for your buck with almost twice the alcohol of light beers yet its smooth, crisp, a bit fruity and with a tinge of sweetness. It’s quite drinkable for an evening. Another go to beer of mine when endless choices drive me to something familiar & satisfying.
7) Malka Red Ale (5.5%. Alc) Israel’s 2nd micro-brewery opened in 2006 shortly after the Dancing Camel and has gained a loyal following producing about 25K liters/month near Nahariya in the Galilee. This beer has noticeable red notes from roasted barley, with wheat contributing to an intriguing and favorite ale that if it’s on draft is one of my first choices in Israeli bars.
8)Meadan’s Chickpea Malt Ale (5.3% Alc.) if you ask why because it’s gluten free and they make a gluten free buckwheat beer as well. These are the only Israeli produced and markteted gluten free beers made by Bryan Meaden who has Gluten allergies. Opened in 2012Meadan produces 200 liters/ batch produced at the Hadubeem Brewery.
9) Negev Passiflora Ale (5% Alc.)
Containing 6% passion fruit juice, this blond ale is crisp and light with citric notes accented by the passionfruit. Although, I enjoy the health benefits of pomegranates so plentiful in Israel, I enjoy the taste of passionfruit much more and thankfully its fairly common in Israeli dishes and thankfully beverages, too. With a ful range of styles to acccopany this fruit beer produced near Kiryat Gat. This brewery has grown in a few years to making about 150,000 bottles/year and is distributed by Norman Beers
.10) Shapiro’s Oatmeal Stout (5.2% Alc.) Called a “sweeter” stout in contrast to a “dry” stout like Guiness or Murphy’s. Roasted barley gives expected chocolate and coffee notes but the oatmeal gives it more body and sweetness. A stout much easier to have 2nds and 3rd’s of then dry stouts and a good beer to toss back waiting for Shapiro’s Winter Jack aged with with oak chips and Jack Daniels to be back in season.
12) The Stranger’s Honey Ale (7%. Alc)
Honey is adding to the ale after intial brewing of German and Belgian whear to preserve the flavor. Only 400 liters/a batch are made of this unique treat that screams for Buffalo wings or grilled fish.
Sudsy Secrets & Honorable Mentions:
The Men Behind the Curtain: HaDubeem “The Bears” “Bears” (yes, not the beers..a pun you have to translate it to get the humor) Brothers Dagan & Rotem Bar Ilan not only make their own well crafted popular micro-brews but with tanks starting at 200 liters (600 bottles) they made lots of beers being poured by recent start-ups at the expo so it seemed like 1/2 the Israeli beers were co-operative ventures designed by aspiring brewers using their facility. They also operate the Beer Market at the Jaffa Port where they have about 120 different chilled bottles of Israeli micro-brews to drink there in port’s upscale food court or to take home.
Buster’s Hard Lemonade (5% Alc.)It’s Not Beer but I Love it Award
Left over lemons from home made limoncello evolved into a two year project to make the best hard lemonade I ever tasted. You can’t taste the alcohol in this all natural blend of fermented lemons, water, sugar and yeast but you can feel it after a few thirst quenching bottles. Be careful it’s addictive and they can’t seem to keep up with demand, yet.
Crabbie’s Ginger Beer (4.8% Alc.)-Best imported guilty pleasure
Why call it ginger ale or root beer if there’s no alcohol. This one has a bit and sharp ginger notes also enhance this adults only delight that seems a great match for sushi or BBQ chicken.
Mosco Brewery-Most Promising New Brewery Award (opened in 2012)…at least they are new to me their with 3 beers: a Blond, a Red Ale and a Wheat. Making 6 K liters a month they obviously have a growing fan base thanks to clean flavors and catchy labels. Red ale with 6.5% alcohol has 3 kinds of barley roasted, is full bodied with notes of coffee and chocolate. Reds can be like lighters stouts more suitable for hot weather and enjoying multiple bottles at one sitting.
Best/ Worst Marketing Opportunity- Isis Brewery
With over a hundred beers to taste, I focused on the Israeli micro-brews & will look forward to tasting and talking about Israel’s great selection of commercial domestic and imported beers in the future.
I can be reached at Israeliwineguy@gmail.com