Drinking Games: The Jerusalem Beer Festival

Tonight, my husband and I decided to reclaim our youth by donning Radiohead Southpark and Janis Joplin t-shirts, to attend the 8th Annual Jerusalem Beer Festival at the old train station in Baka. It’s the first time, in the past five years I’ve lived in Jerusalem, where I could actually drink.

The last time I attended the beer festival, I was seven months pregnant with my eldest child and desperate for a bottle of Brooklyn Lager. I managed to beg, plead, and practically promise to name my first born child after the guy manning the Brooklyn Lager booth, before he allowed me to slip a bottle of my favorite ale into my purse. I toasted the birth of my daughter, four months later, with the bottle I smuggled out of the festival.

But tonight, I was on a mission to find something different and unique. I was in the mood for something flavored and fun. My relationship with beer is long and complicated. As a 21 year old newbie at my first job, I shuffled nervously in front of the bartender at happy hour after my first day. With my new boss standing by my side, I stared at the drinks menu with confused eyes. All the names were like gibberish to me; I went through college never ever taking a sip of alcohol.

Desperate, I whispered that I wanted a Bud Light, the first name that popped into my head from my years of watching Sunday afternoon football. The bartender proclaimed it “stink beer,” and my boss rescued me by ordering an Amstel Light. I stuck with Amstel Light for an entire year, before switching over to sorority/fraternity favorite, Corona. A year later, and I had perfected the pushing the lime into my bottle trick without squirting beer into my eyes, and continued my alcohol education after hours on Manhattan’s 3rd Avenue.

As I aged, my taste in alcohol became more sophisticated, and I swapped beer for liquor, vodka, and whiskey. I discovered that I preferred shots of silver tequila over lemon drops and kamikazes, and that a night alternating between shots of the three wise men and bottles of Samuel Adams, were a recipe for disaster. Before a night out with my friends, I would mentally review the whole “liquor before beer never fear; beer before liquor never sicker,” rhyme to make sure I didn’t end up praying to the porcelain god after last call.

And then, one of my friends brought me to the Heartland Brewery in October, and I discovered the wonderful world of flavored beer. Their smiling pumpkin ale became my all time favorite flavored beer, and I made sure to visit the bar at least once a week between September and through November.

Tonight, I was hoping to find a flavored beer that rivaled Heartland Brewery’s smiling pumpkin ale. I vaguely remembered a booth, back at the 2008 festival, that had flavored Belgium beer. I remembered sniffing my husbands cup of dark raspberry beer and reveling in the delicious aroma. I was on a mission to find this beer; but tonight, I failed.

I don’t need to spend 50 shekel on the entrance fee to attend a beer festival for pints of Stella Artois, Tuborg, and Carlsberg. I can pick those up at my corner bodega. Instead, I searched for the flavored Belgium beer, and was disappointed not to have found any of the flavored beer I remembered from years past. We also searched all of the booths but couldn’t find the Hoegaarden that was advertised, which was another big disappointment for me.

Despite my initial disappointment, my mood was lifted with a cup of Israel’s own Negev Passiflora. It was light, yet substantial, with an exotic taste of passionfruit that satisfied my yearning for a flavored beer. My husband and I sauntered past the crowd to pick up plates of Vaqueiro meats to accompany our pints of beer. We grabbed a prime spot to people watch and played a new drinking game entitled, “you know you’re at a Jerusalem beer festival when…” We took sips each time someone came over and asked my husband to join 9 men for a Maariv minyan, whenever we saw a guy/girl wearing a beer hard hat, and when we saw someone grab a handful of fish crackers from the communal bowl (yuck!).

And, when we spotted a Hassid with his teichel wearing wife double fisting, we chugged.

The Jerusalem Beer Festival is being held tonight and again tomorrow night, Thursday, August 23rd at the Old Train Station on Derech Hebron Road. 





About the Author
Shira Zwebner is a public relations consultant and writer living in Jerusalem. A Mommy blogger and recent Olah, Shira writes about living and raising a family as an American trying to find her niche within Israeli culture.