August 30, 2016

Valley Beer Fair this weekend on Kibbutz Beit Alfa

New festivals are multiplying faster than lager yeast at 20°C (68°F).  In the interest of time, I just want to report about one more which is taking place this weekend, September 2-3 on Kibbutz Beit Alfa in the Gilboa region.

   
This one's called the Valley Beer Fair and the exact location is the Lalos Event Park right on the kibbutz.  You have to be over 18 to get in, and entrance is free.  On Friday, the Fair will be open noon until 1:00 a.m., and on Saturday (Shabbat) noon until 10:00 p.m.

There will be beer, food and music -- the staples of all beer festivals it seems.  From the logos on the poster, the following beers will be on sale: Ralph (a brewery on Kibbutz Gal'ed which I'm hearing about for the first time), The Dictator, Shepherds (from Bir Zeit in the West Bank), Bazelet (Golan Brewery), Vilde Chaye, Fass Brewhouse, and Barzel.

If you go, tell them Israel Brews and Views sent you.  And if they say "Who?", ask them, "How is it that you don't know?"    

August 28, 2016

Jerusalem Beer Festival -- This week


Here is a reminder for all Jerusalemites and all those who say there's nothing to do in our capital city, that the 12th Jerusalem Beer Festival, the "Ir HaBira," will be held this coming Wednesday and Thursday, August 31 and September 1, in Independence Park (Gan Ha'atzmaut), beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Impresario Eli Giladi told me that 120 different beers will be pumped and poured during the festival: craft beers and mass-brewed beers from Israel, as well as imported beers from the U.S., Europe and Asia.  "A number of new beers will also have their premiers at the Festival," Eli added.

Pre-darkness ambiance at last year's
Jerusalem Beer Festival.

(Photo: Netanel Tobias)
 As usual, there will be food stands and musical entertainment on both nights from well-known bands.  Regular tickets are 45 shekels.  For soldiers, students, people doing National Service, and holders of the "Yerushalmi" card, the price is 35 shekels.  Find more information on the Festival's English website here.    

Other than the beer, of course, the thing I love most about the Jerusalem Beer Festival is the great ambiance which is generated.  The beautiful (cool) Jerusalem evenings, the ever-friendlier-as-the-night-goes-on people, the beer, the food, the music -- all come together to make this a most enjoyable event.  Can't explain it really, you have to be in the middle of it.

I plan on being there Wednesday evening.  If you see me, come over and say hello.  Tell me how much you love my blog -- or not.              

August 22, 2016

Dancing Camel marks 10 years with three collaboration beers

The craft beer renaissance in Israel just celebrated its tenth anniversary.  And, not coincidentally, so did the Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv.  It was the Dancing Camel in 2006, under the guiding hand of David Cohen, that fired the first salvo against industrial beer in Israel.

Today, 10 years later, there are about 25-30 boutique breweries in Israel that sell their beer on a legitimate commercial basis, that is, not just to friends and neighbors or to neighborhood pubs, but to the general public via pubs and restaurants, beer stores and other bottle shops.

David Cohen, like so many other movers and shakers, started out in Brooklyn, New York.  That was also where he began home-brewing in 1988, while working as an accountant and watching the craft beer revolution unfolding around him. 

"I got my first hands-on commercial experience in brewing while working as a volunteer in a small craft brewery in New Jersey," explains David.  “My aliyah plans were already underway and I knew I didn’t want to continue being an accountant in Israel. What started as a 'Wouldn’t it be cool if...' moment, really began to take shape working in a commercial brewery.  I would not have had the confidence to go from brewing 40 liters to 1,200 liters per batch without that experience.” 

David working in the brewery
in the earlier days.
David made aliyah in 2003, ditched any thoughts about continuing to work as an accountant, and began making plans for opening up a brewpub in Tel Aviv.

"The bureaucrats involved in new businesses had no idea what we were talking about," David continues.  "We had to educate them about what we wanted every step of the way.  Their attitudes varied from mild entertainment to abrasive and adversarial."

Nevertheless, David outlasted the bureaucracy and opened the Dancing Camel brewery and pub in 2006.  He chose the name based on a legend concerning Rabbi Israel Najara, who was saved from bandits by a ring of dancing camels which protected him.  I can see where David might have felt he needed the same protection from the enveloping red tape.   

But for the young Tel Aviv crowd who needed a place to drink quality craft beer just like their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe, the Dancing Camel was a godsend.  It soon attracted a band of loyal customers, some coming from other cities as well.

The Dancing Camel also broke the ice for other brewers in Israel to follow suit.  In short order, micro-breweries were opening in other places: Bazelet on the Golan Heights, Malka on Kibbutz Yechiam, Negev in Kiryat Gat, Shapiro and Mosco in Beit Shemesh, Alexander in Emek Hefer, Srigim on Kibbutz Srigim (Li-On), Herzl in Jerusalem, and others.

"My fear," admits David, "was that some new breweries would be putting bad beer on the market, and actually damage the reputation of craft beer, rather than enhance it.

Sharing a love of craft beer --
and American flag bandannas:
David (right) and the old blogger.
"Happily, that hasn't been the case.  Most of the craft brewers in Israel have a passion for brewing beer and the quality of their beers shows it.  After 10 years, we can hold our heads high in any market in the U.S. -- and that's where the craft beer revolution began and still gets its inspiration."

David also had to face a reaction from other brewers that was unexpected.

"In the U.S.," he explained to me, "the relationship between craft brewers is collegial.  They’re colleagues first and competitors second. Here, at the beginning, there was a bit more of an Israeli 'street-fight' feel to it.

The Dancing Camel crew at the brewery pub.
"But very quickly, the natural comradery of the craft beer culture took root and today I think that all the brewers understand that we're in this together, that everybody benefits when more people become acquainted with craft beer."

Even with the remarkable growth of craft breweries and brewers since David started Dancing Camel 10 years ago, he doesn't believe that the Israeli market is saturated.

"There is plenty of room for growth," he declares.  "In fact, the only place you have excitement and growth in the beer industry is in micro-breweries.  Look, Israel is among the lowest per capita beer drinking countries -- 14 liters a year.  But even if this goes up to 16 or 17, largely due to craft beer, that's a very significant increase in total liters.   

"People also respect the love that goes into craft beers.  They like the personal touches -- who the brewers are, what are the local and Israeli connections to the beer.  Behind every microbrewery, stands an individual with a dream, a passion and the determination to make that dream a reality. It’s a very powerful message.  But of course, in the end, the customers stay for the taste.  Once you taste craft beer, you can never go back to industrial lagers."

Three collaboration brews with Germany

For a little cherry on the cream of the 10th anniversary, David revealed that the Dancing Camel is working on collaboration beers with no less than three German breweries.

"What is interesting," explains David, not doing a very good job concealing his emotion, "is that these breweries approached the Dancing Camel to collaborate with them.

"Now, I believe in collaboration beers.  It's exciting when brewers combine their talents to make something new; like different musicians who get together for a jam – that’s when the magic happens.”

For each collaboration, David is contributing an "Israeli" ingredient to the beer.  True, this would make the final product at odds with the 500-year-old German beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, which dictates that beer can only be made with water, hops, malted grain and yeast.  This means that the resulting brew cannot be marketed as "bier" in Germany, but David and the three breweries are prepared to accept that in order to cook up beers which contain a part of Israel.         

(In April the first German-Israeli collaboration beers was unveiled in Munich, a product of Herzl Beer in Jerusalem and the Crew Republic Brewery near Munich.  This beer was brewed according the Reinheitsgebot rules.  Read more about that here.)

David at the Bräukatz Brewery with sisters
Kathrin (to his right) and Stephanie Meyer,
and their mother.
The idea to invite the Dancing Camel to work with a German brewery was first raised by Dr. Dan Shaham, the Israeli Consul General in Munich.  He made the connection with the Bräukatz ("Brew Cats") Brewery in Nesselwang in the Allgau region of southern Germany, run by two sisters, Kathrin and Stephanie Meyer.  David met with them twice during the spring in Germany, where they brewed a trial batch of the beer.  He returned at the end of July for the brewing, and the beer should be ready in September.

For this beer, David brought with him Israeli date honey, or "silan," which was used in the brewing process.  The beer-to-be already has a name: Two Cats on a Camel.

Brewing the Gates of Helles at the Bierfabrik
with Sebastian Mergel (left) and
Andre Schabrackentapir (right).
For the second collaboration beer, David went to Berlin to work with Sebastian Mergel and Andre Schabrackentapir of the Bierfabrik ("Beer Factory").  This time, he brought along red-hot Israeli chili peppers to make a spicy beer.  Since the beer style is known as a Munich Helles, a light, crisp lager neither overly bitter nor sweet, the collaborative effort will be called -- get ready for it -- Gates of Helles.

David with a jar of Dead Sea salt at the
Schoppe Br
äu brewery with Thorsten Schoppe.
The third collaboration saw David staying in Berlin at the Schoppe Bräu brewery.  He joined owner Thorsten Schoppe with a jar of salt, mined from the Dead Sea by a company named “424."  Together, they brewed up a batch of Salted Caramel Porter, using German malt and Israeli salt.  The result should be something like those salted chocolate/caramel bars, or chocolate-covered salted pretzels, which are so popular.  I know I like the salt-sweet combination and I can't wait to try this beer.  The presumptive name: Liv at the Dead Sea, in honor of Thorsten's newborn daughter.

Talks are also underway to start contract brewing some of the Dancing Camel’s own beers in Berlin, for distribution around Germany.

“What’s so exciting about brewing with German craft brewers is that Germany is the final frontier for craft beer.  Nowhere in the world were mass-produced beers as entrenched and steeped in history and tradition as in Germany.  To watch the craft beer revolution roll through Germany shows just how powerful a force it is.  And it speaks volumes about the character of the brewers themselves.  I left inspired.”
A toast to the Dancing Camel's
tenth anniversary!

So, double congratulations to David Cohen and the Dancing Camel: For their tenth anniversary of brewing excellent craft beers, and for the three collaboration brews which will soon be ready to drink.  David hopes to bring over a keg or two of each of the beers for pumping at the Dancing Camel.  Otherwise, they will probably not be available in Israel, but should give some hardy souls an incentive to visit Berlin and Nesselvang.   

We should remember that it was the German brewers who looked to Israel for inspiration for their new beers.  Coming from a country nearly synonymous with brewing and beer for hundreds of years, that probably counts as an accomplishment for all Israeli craft beers on this, our tenth birthday.  


The beers of Dancing Camel

By my count, Dancing Camel has the largest "repertoire" by far of all micro-breweries in Israel.  These include their regular beers, seasonal specialties, and "iced beers" – beers which are partially frozen and the ice crystals removed to increase the alcohol concentration.

Year-Round

Midnight Stout – A black and roasty stout beer, with the typical chocolate and coffee flavor notes you expect.  At a moderate 5% alcohol by volume, it's not too heavy to enjoy even on an Israeli summer day.

Olde Papa Olde Babylonian Ale – A strong ale (7.5%) in the British tradition.  Named after Rav Papa from the Talmud, who made his beers with date honey, this beer is nicely balanced between bitter and sweet, with tastes of malt and caramel.

Eve Blond Ale – A blond ale, very pale colored with a lightly sweet taste of hops and fruit.  4.9% ABV.

Patriot APA – The Camel's version of the popular American Pale Ale style.  Full of pleasant citrusy and fruity hop flavors, caramel malts, and a dry, bitter finish.  5.2% ABV.

Hefe-Wit – A Belgian-style witbier (wheat beer) made with orange and coriander.  With a nice balance of fruity and spicy flavors, this is a light (5%) and refreshing beer for the Israeli summer.  

Chailander – A dark-golden Scottish ale with strong malt and floral aromas.  Made with date honey; medium-bitter and strong alcohol (6%).

Seasonals

Leche del Diablo – A 5% wheat beer, made with Israeli chili peppers.  You definitely feel the burn in your throat. (Summer)

Gordon Beach Blond – A light (4.9%) and refreshing blond ale, brewed with mint and rosemary, which add sparkling touches to the flavor.  (Summer)

Hey, Ju Boy! – A light blond ale (5.6%), brewed with juniper berries.  (Summer)

613 – A 5.5% pomegranate ale, brewed for the Rosh Hashana holiday season.  The pomegranate is traditionally believed to have 613 seeds, corresponding to the number of mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah.

'Trog Wit – A Belgian-style witbier, similar to Hefe-Wit (5%), but brewed with Etrog fruit for the Sukkot holiday in the fall.  The Etrog, which is used for the holiday ritual, gives the beer a citrusy, tangy and spicy taste.

Cherry Vanilla Stout – A deep brown, almost black stout, brewed with lots of vanilla and cherries for Hanukkah.  It's supposed to replicate the taste of the traditional jelly donuts, sufganiyot.  Very sweet, as expected, with vanilla the dominant aroma and taste, but also cherry and coffee.  (5% ABV)

Downtown Brown – A brown ale made with caramelized malt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.  Brewed in the fall and winter, this is the Dancing Camel's traditional winter-holiday ale, strong (6%) and spicy, with tastes of chocolate, pepper, coffee and licorice. 

Carobbean Stout – Another winter ale, brewed with Israeli carobs which impart a chocolate flavor.  This close-to-black stout is strong (7.2%), with flavors of fruit, spice and caramel.  An excellent beer for the cold days and nights.

Doc's Green Leaf Party IPA – A beautifully refreshing American-style India pale ale, full of citrus inducing hops from California and Australia.  The hop taste is fruity, herbal and suitably bitter, and the ABV is a hefty 6.8%.  Named in memory of Dr. Don Morris of California, who was a friend a business associate of David Cohen.  Rated by the website Ratebeer.com as Israel's Number 1 beer since 2014.



Iced Beers

Golem – Based on Olde Papa, 12%

Goliath – Based on Patriot APA, 11%

Magog – Based on Midnight Stout, 11%

Foxy Cleopatra – Based on Downtown Brown, 11%

Beelzebub – Based on Leche del Diablo, 9.5%

July 25, 2016

. . . and yet two more festivals

More beer festivals in Israel keep coming to my attention, and I want to turn around and get the word out as fast as I can.


And not a minute too soon!  Already tomorrow, Tuesday, July 26, and Wednesday, July 27, the Kfar Saba Beer Festival is taking place in The Courtyard of the shuk (market), between 7:00 pm and midnight.  Twenty kinds of Israeli beers will be served, including Jem's, Malka, Srigim (Ronen and Emek Ha'ela), Mosco, Fass, Goldstar Unfiltered, as well as Buster's Ciders.

Each evening, there will be performances by Israeli bands.  Entrance to the festival is free.   

On the first evening, July 26, there will be a workshop on home-brewing led by Gadi Deviri of the Beer-D Center.  This is not free.  To register for the workshop, call 09-773-3055 or e-mail michalbs@gipm.co.il



 

Around a week later, "Beer in the Heart of the Desert," the first beer festival in Arad, opens on August 4 at the Zim Center.  Entrance is free, and you have to be over 18.  There will be stands for "southern brewers" and other well-known Israeli beers, in addition to musical performances by young Israeli groups.  The organizer, who has worked very hard to get this together and bring a beer festival to Israel's north-eastern Negev, is Uriel Elhayani, and he can be reached at 054-683-5634.

It seems as if we're approaching a situation where, instead of you have to get up and go to a beer festival, you can just wait and a beer festival will come to you!

July 24, 2016

Florida's world of beers

My mom with one of her caregivers,
Sunshine, who has a "Giant" heart.
I found myself in southern Florida once again on a melancholy trip to visit my mother.  She is not doing too well.  Within spitting distance of her first century, she suffered two falls in the last several months which have left her bedridden.  She is moved from the bed to the wheelchair and back again.  She can be pushed outside to sit in the Florida sunshine, and to the table to eat with others.  But her feet cannot support her.

Nevertheless, she finds enjoyment in her life from being around family and friends (including her devoted caregivers), reading, watching TV, and eating the kinds and quantities of food that she likes.

So it was that I didn't feel especially guilty when my son Ami came to visit us from Washington, DC, and we went out together to drink some beer.

Ami chose the World of Beer branch in Coconut Creek,  WOB is a multi-state chain of over 60 beer "taverns."  The Coconut Creek branch has about 40 beers on tap which are rotated daily!  Quite a piece of work!  In addition, there are hundreds of other bottles and cans of beer on ice and on display.  This is America, where bigger is better.

The World of Beer at Coconut Creek.


The printed menu for draft beers on the day we were there was clearly dated.  The beers were grouped into plain English categories, which I greatly appreciated: Light & Crisp, Wheat-Weiss-Wit, Hop Forward (the largest), Malt Forward, Dark & Bold, Belgian & Belgian Influenced, Sours, Cider & Fruit, Specialty, and Old School (a nice way to say mass-brewed pale lagers).

Since I like to travel globally and drink locally, I asked the bartender and shift manger, Eric Riggins, for a four-beer flight of Florida beers on draft.  He gave me:

Manager Eric Riggins recommended
a flight of four Florida craft beers.
White Wizard -- a Belgian-style wheat beer from Barrel of Monks Brewery in Boynton Beach.  5.5% alcohol by volume.
Floridian -- a classic weizen from Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park (near Fort Lauderdale).  5.6% ABV.
Pompano Lager -- a "Pompano-style lager" (which I guess it is) from 26 Degrees Brewing Co. in Pompano Beach.  5.5% ABV.
Koffie Saison  -- a coffee-infused saison from Band of Monks Brewery.  6.5% ABV.

After the four-beer flight, Ami and I were still thirsty, so he ordered the Inti Cancha Berliner Weisse from Darwin Brewing Co. in Bradenton, Florida.  This was Ami's first taste of a sour beer and he was enthusiastic.  Darwin calls the beer a "Floridaweisse" (which I guess it is), and they make it with organic starfruit, a sour exotic fruit that grows with five ridges, so the slices look like little stars.  It was a weak 3.9% ABV and a lot less sour than other lambics and Berliner Weisses I have tried.  I'd call it a "half-sour" in honor of the famous New York pickles.  Ami paired it with a black bean patty.

I had the Rebirth Pale Ale (5%) from NOLA Brewery in New Orleans, an American pale ale made with multi-malts and multi-hops.  I was looking forward to something less hoppy than all the IPAs I was trying in Florida, but this NOLA APA was no different.  Still, it went very well with my hummus and corn chips.

Afterwards, I went back to speak with Eric Riggins, who had been at his job for four years.  Eric started out as a bartender, fell in love with the whole craft beer scene, and worked his way up to manager.  "Beer has become my passion," Eric enthused.  "I'm taking a course now for $650 to become a cicerone, a beer sommelier.  It's good to have a title.  My homework is drinking.  I can think of much worse alternatives."  Well said, Eric.

Ami and Danielle getting acquainted.
Ami noticed that one of our waitresses had some interesting tattoos on her inner thigh and they started chatting.  Her name was Danielle Bushey and she was excited to hear that we were from Israel since she was planning to visit on an upcoming Birthright trip.

Danielle brought us over a complimentary pint of Cali Creamin' Vanilla Cream Ale from Mother Earth Brew Co. in California.  Even though Ami and I were getting beer bloated, we couldn't resist this delicious beer.  Made with flaked corn and honey malt, it tasted like an American cream soda with hops, a malt backbone and an alcoholic kick (5.2%).  The strongest aroma and flavor, of course, was vanilla, which I prejudicially love,

We said good-bye to Eric, shalom to Danielle, and thanked the World of Beer for a most enjoyable American beer experience.

During my stay in Florida, I tasted around 10 other American craft beers.  Here they are, very briefly (in order of appearance):

Goose Honkers Ale -- An English-style bitter from the Goose Island Beer Co., established in Chicago, but now brewed elsewhere.  An easy-drinking beer, well balanced between fruity hops and malt.  Alcohol by volume is 4.3%,

90 Minute Imperial IPA -- From Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats in Milton, Delaware.  One of America's most popular IPAs, it is continually hopped during brewing and then dry-hopped.  Even though the citrus and fruit flavors are powerful, I found that they were even surpassed by the bready-caramel tastes of the malt.  A strong beer (9%), but well-balanced.  

420 Extra Pale Ale -- From the Sweet Water Brewing Co. in Atlanta, Georgia.  A West Coast style pale ale, 5.7% ABV.  The hops gave their bitterness, but without much added flavor.

Milk Stout -- From the Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont, Colorado.  A 6% alcohol beer made with lactose and flaked oats.  A smooth and sweet beer, with tastes of roasted malt and coffee.  Surprisingly went very well with my spicy Indian wrap.

Fat Tire Amber Ale -- From the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado.  After a surfeit of pale ales and IPAs, I enjoyed this beer's balance of toasted malt, caramel and hop sharpness.  5.2% ABV.

Island Citrus Ale -- From the Islamorada Beer Co. on Islamorada in the Florida Keys.  Brewed with "natural citrus flavors," this is a 5% ABV mildly hoppy very pale ale.  Unfortunately, you don't get much a citrus taste, only a flavorless hop bitterness.  A shame, since the idea of a refreshing and citrusy ale for the Florida summer (and winter!) is a natural.

Organic Amber Ale -- From the Peak Organic Brewing Co. in Portland, Maine.  Beautiful amber-red color with a very creamy head.  Bready aroma and low hop bitterness.  Began to taste sour while having it with my semi-spicy pasta.  It's beers like this that are making me much more appreciative of amber ales.            

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale -- From the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, California & Mills River, North Carolina.  Whole cone Cascade hops give this 5.6% beer plenty of pine and citrus.  Also some fruit flavors; dry and bitter at the end.  This is a classic American pale ale, a pleasure to drink.

And finally, a beer from Shmaltz Brewing Co. in Clifton Park, New York.  Shmaltz's HE'BREW branded beers have become a legend in the U.S. for their Jewish association and shtik which founder-owner Jeremy Cowan actively encourages.  Cowan is also a big fan of the late and controversial comedian Lenny Bruce (1925-1966) and he created and named a beer in his memory.          

Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. Rye Double IPA -- Wow!  There probably isn't another beer like this.  It's sui generis; also hop-generous and malt-generous.  Since Lenny Bruce reveled in obscenity, the label of this beer says it's "brewed with an obscene amount of hops and malts" -- eight malts, to be exact (including three from rye), seven hops and three in the dry-hopping, and has an ABV of 10%.

A reddish-maroon color with a beige head, Bittersweet Lenny's has a strong chocolate-hop aroma with tropical fruit and some pine.  The hop bitterness is so strong that it threatens to overpower the other flavors, which are grapefruit, brown sugar and rye spice.  Yet, a balance is maintained by the just-as-strong malt.  I chose to have this beer with a pasta dish including broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms and peppers, and it was excellent.  It also provided a satisfying contrast to my sweet dessert, dark chocolate with acai and blueberry flavors.

This was a wonderful, memorable beer which takes IPA-ness to new heights.  A good way to end my American trip, and leave me wanting to come back for more.

And also to see you, Mom!  

July 21, 2016

Two more beer festivals

Everybody wants to get into the act!

So said the late great Jimmy Durante.  (I date myself here.)  But in terms of beer festivals, who's counting?  Here are two more which have just come to my attention, and I waste no time in letting my readers know.


Already next week is the very first Netanya Beer Festival in (of course) Netanya on Israel's central coast.  The dates are Wednesday, July 27 and Thursday, July 28, beginning at 5:00 pm in Kikar Ha'atzmaut (Independence Square).  The organizers promise that over 40 kinds of beer will be served from Israel and abroad.  To add to the festive atmosphere, there will be music pumped by deejays, live performances, and food stands.  Entrance is free.   
 

Then, much later this year, over the Sukkot holiday, there will be the Red Sea Beer Festival in Eilat, October 17-20.  I'm told this is the fourth, but somehow I've never heard of the first three.  Here too the organizers proclaim that over 40 brands of beer from Israel and around the world will be available, plus a central stage for performances by some of Israel's leading entertainers.  "The biggest beer street in Israel" is how this festival is being billed.  So head down south for a beer festival that's sure to be at least as much "festival" as it is "beer."  Eilat does have that kind of reputation.              

July 17, 2016

Between hops and malt -- Three pretty recent craft beers

Three Israeli craft breweries have introduced beers which will help us get through the hottest months.  All of them have powerful tastes, but very different.  Two of the beers are India pale ales, or IPAs, where the aroma and taste of the hops are most dominant, while the third is a Belgian-style ale which emphasizes the malt side of the recipe.

Barley malt can be roasted from
very light to very dark.
Every level changes the taste
of the final beer.
According to urban legend, the IPA style of beer originated in the 18th century, when London brewers had to make a stronger beer to survive the ocean voyage to India (four to six months!), where thirsty British soldiers needed their daily beers.  The brewers found that by increasing the amount of hops and malt, they could get a beer with a higher alcoholic content that didn't spoil.  In addition, the hops acted as a natural antiseptic to control pathogens in the beer.
 
Hops add bitterness, flavor
and a natural antiseptic.
Well, modern researchers have shown that this narrative isn't completely accurate, but it's close enough -- and it explains the name.

Citra 2016 IPA from 
Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh

The first beer is the new version of Shapiro's IPA, called Citra 2016, in honor of the Citra variety of hops used in the brewing.  Last year, Itzik Shapiro, a brother-partner in the Beit Shemesh-based brewery, promised that Shapiro would be producing a new IPA every spring.  With Citra 2016, he's keeping his promise.

Last year's IPA version from Shapiro used American Amarillo hops, which gave the beer an orange-citrus aroma and taste.  (Refresh your memory here.)  Citra hops from the state of Washington, are also known for their citrus and tropical fruit characteristics.

The beer pours out of the bottle a light copper color with a thin foamy head.  You get a pleasant aroma of grass and grapefruit.  With the first sip, it feels very smooth in the mouth, with a light body.  The taste of the grapefruit stays, not very bitter, but there are also back-ups of apricot and lychee.

My companion mentioned that Shapiro's Citra 2016 doesn't taste "like a classic IPA," but it is a wonderfully refreshing summer drink.  Alcohol by volume of 6.5%, but you don't feel that at all.  This is an IPA that I can recommend to all those who appreciate hop and fruit tastes in their beer.  It is available in most specialty beer and liquor stores.  Look for the blue-labeled bottle with the turbaned Shapiro lion.

Dark Matter from 
HaShachen Brewery in Netanya

From HaShachen Brewery in Netanya has come Dark Matter, a "Black IPA" which owner Itay Marom calls, "Dark as the night, Tasty as hell."  I put "Black IPA" in quotation marks because it's an oxymoronic name.  How can any pale ale be black?  
    
Nevertheless, there are about ten recognized sub-styles of IPA beer, and "Black IPA" is one of them.  There have been suggestions to call it "American-style black ale," "India black ale," or even "Cascadian dark ale," after the name for the Pacific Northwest, where many hop varieties originate.

In the end, however, the other names all fail in getting across what Black IPA really is: A beer dark from roasted malts yet with the hop and alcohol strength of an IPA.  And, as others better qualified than I have written, the acronym "IPA" has taken on its own meaning, long divorced from its "India" and "pale" origins.

Itay Marom with some Dark Matter in bottles.
Be that as it may, Dark Matter from HaShachen began as a stout beer but, as Itay Marom reminded me, "HaShachen only brews IPAs, and they are massively dry-hopped, so we came up with a recipe for our first Black IPA."

Itay made three home-brewed batches of this beer, using Nelson Sauvin hops along with two other varieties.  "It was so amazing," he enthuses, "that we began to brew it commercially at the Srigim Brewery on Kibbutz Srigim (Li-On).  We'll continue to make it as long as we can get the Nelson Sauvin hops, which are not easy to obtain these days."

Dark Matter pours out a very dark brown with a tan head.  The aroma brings you grassy hops and roasted malt, which is not too surprising.  At first taste, you get the stout half -- strong chocolate and weaker coffee -- but the hoppy taste of the IPA is also there.  The hops add a fruity character to the roasted malt: a very classy combination.

My friend affirmed that he could "feel the stout in my throat," in addition to tasting it.

In short, this is a good Black IPA to try if you're having this style for the first time.  It's a true bridge between a stout and an IPA -- without having to spell it out.

Barzel Beer from
Kibbutz Ha'ogen and Kibbutz Hama'abarot

The Barzel Beer brewers:
(from left) Yair, Idan and Ori 
Something completely different comes from Barzel Beer (which means "Iron"), the product of three young partners from Kibbutz Ha'ogen and Kibbutz Ma'abarot, located near Netanya in the central plain.  Yair Alon, Ori Granot and Idan Talyas began home-brewing about four years ago while they were still in the army.  Right after their release, they began to sell their beer in the local kibbutz pub, and then expanded to other pubs in the area. 

Yair relates: "Our most popular beer was our Belgian red ale, actually quite strong at 6% alcohol, which we kept on tweaking until we got it just right.  At the start of 2016, we decided to take it to the commercial level and started contract brewing at the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanuach near Beit Shemesh."

Kibbutz beer:
"Take it or leave it!"
For a start-up brewery, Barzel has done a wonderful job of marketing and distributing, since the beer is now on sale in beer specialty stores in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  Yair credits this success to hard work ("We got out there and promoted our beer anyway we could, and got it into as many stores, pubs and events as our production would allow.") and to the fact that, at only 24-years-old, the three partners are the youngest brewers in the field and therefore most connected to this very influential age group of Israeli beer drinkers.

Their catchy label has an anchor on it (which is the meaning of Ha'ogen), and their slogan is the in-your-face "Take it or leave it!"  They also call it "kibbutz beer" to link it with those pioneering communities so admired in Israeli history and folklore.  Currently, Barzel brews about 600 liters per month.

Now to the drinking: Barzel is a red-tinged beer, the color of a copper penny, cloudy but translucent.  The aroma is caramel, not uncommon in Belgian-style beers.  The strengths lie in the tastes: The alcohol is very apparent, but so are caramel, chocolate and malt.

I made the mistake of having this beer with a baked eggplant dish, made with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.  The beer was too strong for these delicate tastes, but I think it would go very well with spicy or fried foods with intense flavors.

The Barzel brewers have succeeded in making a Belgian-style strong ale that captures the delicious qualities of that style.  Yair assured me that Barzel will continue to brew beer (even though all of the partners are keeping their day jobs), and will even introduce a new flavor in the near future.

Barzel is a relative newcomer to the Israeli craft beer market, and its presence helps to balance out the hop-heaviness which has characterized many of the other new beers.