Food and Drink

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • DOUG GREENER

Word reached me re­cently about changes in the Meadan Brew­ery in Karmiel in the cen­tral Galilee. Up un­til now, the owner, Bryan Meadan, had been brew­ing his gluten-free, kosher-for-Passover beers. Now, a new owner is pro­duc­ing a new brand of reg­u­lar craft beers. At the same time, 12 kilo­me­ters north, in the Te­fen In­dus­trial Park, Malka Beer opened a new brew­ery, the big­gest craft brew­ery in Israel, pro­duc­ing 70,000 liters a month.

Clearly, it was time for me to get off my perch and up to the Galilee.

With Mike Hor­ton at my side for cap­tur­ing dig­i­tal im­ages, I rode due north to Karmiel, now a bustling town in the Galilee moun­tains, founded a lit­tle more than 50 years ago. Meadan chose Karmiel for his brew­ery partly be­cause it’s near his home in Har Ha­lutz.

“We’re lo­cated in a hi-tech build­ing that has a brew­ery,” Meadan joked as he greeted us.

Meadan shook up the Jewish world two years ago when he in­tro­duced kosher-for-Passover beer, long thought to be an oxy­moron. The gluten-free beer that Meadan was brew­ing for celiac pa­tients (him­self in­cluded) was also able to be cer­ti­fied as kosher-for-Passover. It’s brewed with­out any malted grain, re­ly­ing on date syrup (silan) and brown sugar to sup­ply the fer­mentable su­gars.

For this last Passover, Meadan brewed about 40,000 bot­tles, which were sold in Israel and ex­ported to Cal­i­for­nia. Sales were also made via the Liquo­rama web­site.

“This was quite a bit less than last year,” ex­plained Meadan. “We had is­sues with the dis­tri­bu­tion. Things should be much bet­ter next year.”

The two kosher-for-Passover beers are now avail­able year­round as gluten-free beers. Spe­cial Date Ale is very bit­ter and tart, 5.3% al­co­hol by vol­ume, very well car­bon­ated with a thin body and long dry fin­ish. It has fla­vors of bit­ter dates, hops and other dried fruits.

Am­ber Date Ale is sim­i­lar to the Spe­cial Date, but has less hop bit­ter­ness and is more fruity. It’s mov­ing closer to what you would ex­pect from a cider.

Some gluten-free beers use an en­zyme that de­stroys the gluten in the malted grain. Meadan has re­fused to use this method, since he spurns the overuse of chem­i­cals. How­ever, this means that he has cho­sen to forgo the malt aro­mas and fla­vors which many as­so­ciate with beer.

Sev­eral months ago, Meadan sold a ma­jor share of his brew­ery to an en­trepreneur who has be­gun brew­ing reg­u­lar (read “gluten-full”) beers un­der the brand name of Hag­i­bor (“The Hero”).

These beers will soon be avail­able to the pub­lic, pri­mar­ily in bars and res­tau­rants in the north of the coun­try. But while I was in the brew­ery, I had a chance to taste them di­rectly from the fer­men­ta­tion tanks – and I liked what I tasted.

These beers are brewed by Meadan him­self. How­ever, since he is a celiac, he is in the un­en­vi­able po­si­tion of be­ing able to smell the fruits of his la­bor, but not to taste them. I com­pare this to the aging Beethoven, who was not able to hear his di­vine sym­phonies.

Nev­er­the­less, Meadan was very en­thu­si­as­tic about of­fer­ing Hor­ton and me tastes of the new Hag­i­bor beers.

The In­dia Pale Ale (7.2% al­co­hol) was ex­cep­tion­ally smooth, full of fruit es­ters from the hops, but not overly bit­ter.

The Wheat Ale (5.2%) is in the Ger­man He­feweizen style, with aro­mas of cloves and flow­ers.

For the Brown Ale (5.5%), I would have liked stronger nutty fla­vors and a body ap­proach­ing that of a stout. But it had a nice malty taste, a lit­tle tart and thirst-quench­ing.

The Stout, at 5.6% al­co­hol, shared the same smooth­ness of the other Hag­i­bor beers. It was strong and fla­vor­ful, with more cof­fee taste than choco­late.

The Blond Ale was the light­est of the lot with 4.2% al­co­hol, light bit­ter­ness and fla­vors of malt and yeast.

Af­ter we had this tasty and very di­verse as­sort­ment of beers, Meadan led us over to an­other fer­men­ta­tion tank where he tapped some pale, qui­es­cent liq­uid – mead.

“We made this just with wa­ter and honey from Kib­butz Ayelet Hasha­har. It’s an ex­per­i­men­tal batch, and I’m not sure what we’ll do with it.”

It was dry, bit­ter and po­tent (7% al­co­hol), and even though mead is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity world­wide, I won­der if Is­raeli tastes are ready for this me­dieval su­per-drink.

From what I tasted of the Hag­i­bor beers, I’m look­ing for­ward to their in­tro­duc­tion, and I hope the brew­ery finds a way to reach coun­try­wide dis­tri­bu­tion.

MEADAN GRA­CIOUSLY in­vited Hor­ton and me to spend the night at his home in Har Ha­lutz. In the morn­ing, we con­tin­ued north to Te­fen and the new Malka Brew­ery, opened just a few months ago.

Part­ner and brewer Assaf Lavi greeted us and showed us around the still sparkling 2,000-square-me­ter fa­cil­ity.

“We are now the largest Is­raeli craft brewer,” said Lavi mat­ter-of-factly. “We are cur­rently pro­duc­ing 70,000 liters of beer a month. I wouldn’t have even dreamed of this just a cou­ple of years ago.”

The brew­ery also pro­duces Negev Beer (which for sev­eral years has not been brewed in the Negev!). Both brands are par­tially owned by Hacarem Spir­its Ltd., one of Israel’s lead­ing im­porters and dis­trib­u­tors of al­co­holic bev­er­ages.

The Malka fa­cil­ity is cer­tainly the most mod­ern and au­to­mated craft brew­ery I have seen in Israel. We joined Lavi for a tour of sev­eral of the rooms.

The huge stor­age room for malted grain in­cludes a mill which can han­dle one one-ton sack at a time, with con­vey­ing tubes to send the milled malt di­rectly to the mash tun.

A room for the mash tuns, ket­tles and fer­menters with the ca­pac­ity to brew four batches of 4,000 liters a day – a to­tal of 16,000 liters.

A pack­ing-ma­te­rial room for bot­tles, kegs and cases. A re­frig­er­a­tor room for stor­ing hops and dry yeast. A ma­chine room which in­cludes an au­to­mated line for ster­il­iz­ing beer kegs in three steps: caus­tic soda, acid and wa­ter.

A ni­tro­gen sep­a­ra­tor which ex­tracts ni­tro­gen from the air, which is used to pro­pel the beer and other ma­te­rial through the pipes. Nor­mally, car­bon diox­ide is used, but car­bon diox­ide has to be pur­chased. A re­cy­cling ma­chine for steam and con­den­sate. A wa­ter pu­ri­fier op­er­ated by re­verse os­mo­sis. “The lo­cal wa­ter is high in cal­cium,” ex­plained Lavi. “The pu­ri­fier en­ables us to achieve the same qual­ity of wa­ter we had on Kib­butz Ye­hiam when we brewed there.”

An­other piece of equip­ment was sta­tioned among the fer­menters. “That’s our ‘hop gun,’” Lavi pointed out. “It’s used mostly for dry hop­ping. In­stead of putting hops into the fer­menters with the beer, the beer is cir­cu­lated through the hops in the hop gun. It’s much more ef­fi­cient and gives stronger fla­vors.”

The hop gun also has an­other pur­pose. One of the Negev beers is an oak-aged porter. Un­til now, oak chips were added to the beer dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion to give it the dis­tinc­tive “wood-aged” fla­vor.

“Now, we put the oak chips in the hop gun and cir­cu­late the beer through it,” said Lavi.

I tasted the Negev Oak Porter (“Porter Alon”) that was made this way, and I was able to clearly dis­tin­guish, for the first time, the oak and wood notes in this beer. For me, a de­light­ful dis­cov­ery.

Af­ter the tour, Lavi ex­plained Malka’s rise from home brew­ery to Israel’s big­gest craft brew­ery in 12 years.

Assaf and his brother Dan be­gan brew­ing in 2006 while they were own­ers of two bars in Tel Aviv. They named their beer Malka (which means “queen” in He­brew) be­cause it’s a fem­i­nine word, as is beer in He­brew, projects roy­alty, and is con­nected to Israel’s his­tory.

They en­tered the beer in a com­pe­ti­tion and, al­though it didn’t win any prizes, the pub­lic loved it. That was enough for Assaf and Dan, and they de­cided that brew­ing was what they wanted to do.

The first Malka Brew­ery was on Ye­hiam near the Le­banese bor­der. The ex­cel­lent wa­ter was drawn from a well right un­der the brew­ery. The pub and restau­rant they opened ad­ja­cent to the brew­ery quickly be­came a pop­u­lar week­end ren­dezvous.

Still, the Lavi broth­ers were aim­ing higher. With in­vest­ment from their share­hold­ers, they were able to open their new brew­ery in Te­fen.

To­day, the brew­ery pro­duces four core beers, much as it did since the first brew­ery was opened.

The best-seller has al­ways been Malka Blond, a 6.5% al­co­hol Bel­gian-style blond ale, rich in cit­rus and other fruit fla­vors. Cas­cade hops are used, and or­ange peels and co­rian­der seeds are added to the malt be­fore boil­ing. The re­sult is a hazy, pale am­ber beer, with aro­mas of cit­rus, malt and spice. The taste is also cit­rusy and tart, though not very bit­ter.

Malka Pale Ale (called in He­brew “Ad­monit”) is a red­dish am­ber British-style pale ale (5.5% al­co­hol), brewed with co­rian­der seeds. The aro­mas I picked up were caramel and trop­i­cal fruits, with the fla­vors of caramel and grape­fruit. The fin­ish is dry and bit­ter – for me, just right.

Though I’m not a big fan of stout beers, the Malka Stout is one of my fa­vorites. It placed well in our Israel Brews and Views Stout Tast­ing Panel. This is an Ir­ish­style stout at 6% al­co­hol. It is roasty, with light bit­ter­ness, and fla­vors of bit­ter choco­late and cof­fee.

Malka’s new­est beer is Hindi, an In­dia Pale Ale, 6.2% al­co­hol. Hindi is a good “in­tro­duc­tion level” IPA, suit­able for Is­raeli tastes, not shock­ingly bit­ter like so many Amer­i­can IPAs, but with fla­vors of cit­rusy hops and caramel, balanced by the malt.

“You may have no­ticed that our fifth beer, a Wheat Ale, hasn’t been on sale for more than a year,” Assaf re­minded me. “We stopped mak­ing it be­cause it was just an­other Ger­man-style He­feweizen, the kind that al­most ev­ery other brew­ery in Israel is mak­ing. We are now de­vel­op­ing a new ‘Is­raeli wheat beer,’ bet­ter at­tuned to our lo­cal mar­ket. It should be on the shelves pretty soon.”

Over the next sev­eral months, the Malka Brew­ery will con­cen­trate on “sta­bi­liz­ing” the pro­duc­tion and sale of these beers in Israel. But Assaf and Dan are al­ready look­ing at dis­tant hori­zons. For a brief time a few years ago, Malka Beer was ex­ported to the US.

“We would like to restart sales to the Amer­i­can mar­ket,” added Assaf, “and we are also look­ing at a few Euro­pean con­tacts that have shown in­ter­est. In ad­di­tion, we are now run­ning a pi­lot project in Rus­sia through a lo­cal dis­trib­u­tor.”

Through pri­vate ini­tia­tive and hard work, the Malka Brew­ery and the Meadan-Hag­i­bor project are chang­ing the definition of Is­raeli craft beer. Mod­ern­iza­tion, in­no­va­tion and qual­ity: that’s what’s brew­ing in the Galilee.

(Photos: Mike Hor­ton)

ASSAF LAVI in­spects the brew­ing ket­tle in the new Malka Brew­ery in Te­fen.

BRYAN MEADAN shows off bot­tles of gluten-free suds in his brew­ery.

NEGEV BEER, which is also brewed at Malka, is bottled in a mod­ern as­sem­bly line.

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