Sip This

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • DOUG GREENER The writer is the owner of Me­di­aw­iSe, an agency for ad­ver­tis­ing and di­rect mar­ket­ing in Jerusalem. He writes a we­blog on Is­raeli craft beers at www.Is­

Devo­tees of Is­raeli craft beer might have no­ticed that The Dic­ta­tor is no more. Oh, I don’t mean any of the live ones that pock­mark our globe. Those are do­ing just fine. I mean our home­grown Is­raeli craft beer, known for its un­mis­tak­able in-your-face brand, its of­ten over-the-top beer styles, and the ex­tro­vert an­tics of its founder and brewer, Yo­tam Baras.

Baras started brew­ing and mar­ket­ing The Dic­ta­tor more than five years ago, and then took a break to head up mar­ket­ing for a ma­jor Is­raeli al­co­hol im­porter.

“When I restarted The Dic­ta­tor two years ago, I gave my­self two years to build up the brand, in­crease sales, and find an in­vestor,” Baras told The Jerusalem Post Mag­a­zine in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

“I think we ac­com­plished out first two goals: The Dic­ta­tor beer is a well-known Is­raeli brand, and sales were at 3,000 liters a month. But we couldn’t find an in­vestor.”

With­out an in­vestor to open their own brew­ery, The Dic­ta­tor had to con­tract brew in an­other brew­ery, where costs were very high.

“I don’t see how any con­tract brewer can sur­vive in Is­rael,” said Baras, “un­less they have a strong com­pany or dis­trib­u­tor be­hind them. I could have con­tract-brewed The Dic­ta­tor abroad for 30% less money, but I wanted an Is­raeli beer. For our beers, we had to pay the brew­ery al­most the same prices that re­tail stores and pubs pay for their beers. That was an im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion. The only way to bring down the cost of mak­ing beer is to have your own brew­ery – and for that we needed the in­vestor.”

While The Dic­ta­tor was in busi­ness, Baras brewed five core and sea­sonal beers – English Bit­ter, Irish Red, Pale Ale, Porter and IPA. Each beer had its own in­fa­mous tyrant or in­hu­man mon­ster on the la­bel,

for ex­am­ple, Sad­dam Hus­sein, Idi Amin and Lenin. He also brewed an out­ra­geous whisky beer, made first with Laphroig and then with Big Peat Scotch whiskies. These smoky monsters weren’t for ev­ery­one, but those who loved them ea­gerly waited for new batches to be re­leased ev­ery year or so.

The Dic­ta­tor’s last beer brought ex­trem­ism to its most ex­treme. The beer is named Kim’s Gu­lag Party. What could they be think­ing? Named for North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong-un, Baras jok­ingly says that it was brewed for the Supreme Leader’s “End-of-the-World Party.” For­tu­nately for us, the party was in­def­i­nitely post­poned when Dearly Beloved Kim met with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

They say the beer has a beau­ti­ful aroma of hops as well as a bal­anc­ing malt sweet­ness. Still, I must ad­mit I’ve never tasted Kim’s Gu­lag Party. One of the rea­sons might be that bot­tles sell for over NIS 700 – around $200!

Al­co­hol by vol­ume is an un­be­liev­able 53%, that is, 106 proof – higher than al­most all whiskies. Baras achieved this al­co­holic strength us­ing a painstak­ing pro­ce­dure known as “freeze dis­til­la­tion.” It’s not re­ally dis­til­la­tion, but a process whereby the orig­i­nal beer (or any al­co­holic bev­er­age) is brought to a low tem­per­a­ture where the wa­ter sep­a­rates. The re­main­ing liq­uid is then re­moved with a higher con­cen­tra­tion of al­co­hol.

Re­peat­ing this in sev­eral stages let Baras reach 53% al­co­hol. “It’s not the strong­est beer in the world,” Baras ad­mits, “but it is the strong­est in Is­rael.”

In­stead of this be­ing the world’s last beer, it ended up be­ing The Dic­ta­tor’s fi­nal beer.

Baras still be­lieves an in­vestor can be found and The Dic­ta­tor will be back in power. For now, he has be­gun work­ing as mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for the new Shevet Brew­ery and Dis­tillery in Pardess Hanna.

“We have be­gun to market beer just in our im­me­di­ate re­gion,” he told me, “and we will slowly ex­pand distri­bu­tion to cover the en­tire coun­try. We’re cur­rently brew­ing a Helles Lager and a Scot­tish Ale, two styles which are not nor­mally made in other Is­raeli craft brew­eries.”

It seems like Baras will con­tinue to play a role on the Is­raeli craft beer scene, with or with­out The Dic­ta­tor.

(Photos: Mike Hor­ton)

THE WRITER re­acts to an of­fi­cer in The Dic­ta­tor’s army. The slo­gan on his shirt reads, ‘No need to ex­plain.’


THE POSTER for Kim’s Gu­lag Party beer, 53% al­co­hol, the last beer brewed by The Dic­ta­tor.

THE DIC­TA­TOR’S first whisky beer, made with Laphroaig Scotch whisky.


FACES FROM the la­bels of three Dic­ta­tor beers adorn this ban­ner.

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