Hol­i­day beer roundup

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

Just be­ing in the hol­i­day sea­son makes you want to en­joy time to­gether with family and friends. Most peo­ple think of mak­ing a “l’haim” with spir­its or wine on those oc­ca­sions, but here are some new Is­raeli craft beers that will add to the fes­tive­ness of any event, even a sim­ple meal. From the Shapiro Brew­ery in Beit Shemesh comes Is­rael’s first com­mer­cial sour beer. Sour beers are some­times called “wild beers,” be­cause they con­tain el­e­ments in the yeast or bac­te­ria that are in some way out of the con­trol of the brewer, and there­fore “wild.” They were born in Bel­gium and north­ern France, where they re­main among the most pop­u­lar beers, but are gain­ing trac­tion among craft beer en­thu­si­asts all over the world.

Shapiro’s new beer is called Strong Sour be­cause of the al­co­holic con­tent – 8.5% – not be­cause of the sour­ness. It’s a “ket­tle-soured” beer be­cause the sour­ing takes place in the mash ket­tle be­fore the boil. In this case, brew­mas­ter Yochai Kudler and head brewer Ory Sofer used a wild yeast that they col­lected from al­mond blos­soms bloom­ing around Jerusalem in the early spring. (Sounds like a theme song from a 1950s movie.) The wild yeast and ac­com­pa­ny­ing mi­crobes are what give the beer its sour taste.

Sofer told me that he thought it was time to in­tro­duce Is­raelis to sour beer (even though quite a few im­ports are avail­able). Since, for most Is­raeli drinkers, this will be their first ex­pe­ri­ence with sour beer, Sofer and Kudler kept the sour­ness level mod­er­ate.

On to our tast­ing: STRONG SOUR pours out a hazy, orange-am­ber color. The sour­ness is im­me­di­ately felt in the aroma as sour fruit, along with cit­rus, flo­ral and yeast. It makes you want to taste what this is all about – and what you find are more sour fruits and fruit juice. I also de­tected fla­vors of ap­ple, grape­fruit and peach. The sour­ness was al­ways bal­anced by the malt sweet­ness. The mouth­feel is light, and the fin­ish tart and re­fresh­ing.

Strong Sour tastes sim­i­lar to dry fruit cider and even dry white wine. I don’t know if Is­rael will de­velop a lo­cal sour beer brew scene, but I think that Strong Sour is a start in the right di­rec­tion.

THE ALEXAN­DER Brew­ery in Emek He­fer, one of Is­rael’s largest mi­cro­brew­eries, has in­tro­duced a new Sai­son beer, with a la­bel re­flect­ing Rene Magritte’s fa­mous Son of Man paint­ing, but with a hop bine in­stead of a green ap­ple ob­struct­ing the man’s face.

“Sai­son” means “sea­son” in French, and this style of beer might have first been brewed in Bel­gium dur­ing the “brew­ing sea­son,” Novem­ber to March, in home and small brew­eries for drink­ing dur­ing the sum­mer months. Re­gard­less of its ori­gins, the Sai­son style has come to mean a beer with fruity and spicy aro­mas and fla­vors, not very bit­ter, with a very dry fin­ish. A few Is­raeli brew­ers have in­tro­duced Sai­son-style beers, even if all of them weren’t called by that name.

The Alexan­der Sai­son is made with un­malted wheat, in ad­di­tion to the reg­u­lar malted barley. It pours out crys­tal clear, the color of gin­ger ale, with a small but foamy head. The aro­mas are yeast, sweet malt and black pep­per. The taste is sweeter than what you would ex­pect from a Sai­son, along with yeast, spice and some fruiti­ness. Al­co­hol is 7%. It’s a very re­fresh­ing and en­joy­able beer, per­fect for hot days and a va­ri­ety of cheeses and light dishes. But a vis­it­ing Bel­gian might have trou­ble call­ing it a Sai­son!

A NEW “sin­gle-malt and sin­gle-hop” (SMASH) In­dia Pale Ale has ar­rived from the Six-Pack Brew­ery, the Su­per Hero Beers (made at the Beer Bazaar Brew­ery in Kiryat Gat). SMASH IPA is brewed with Maris Ot­ter malt and Colum­bus hops, very pop­u­lar in IPAs for their in­tense bit­ter­ness and herbal-lemon un­der­tones.

The Six-Pack SMASH IPA is a hazy, mid-am­ber color with aro­mas of flow­ers, grass and sweet fruit, in­clud­ing apri­cot. The taste is mid-bit­ter, and as the beer warms up, you tend to get dif­fer­ent fla­vors with every sip. The body is full, and the fin­ish is dry, bit­ter and re­fresh­ing.

Six-Pack’s one other beer on the mar­ket now is Ul­timus, an am­ber ale. Their Heavy Hit­ter, a Bel­gian tripel ale, is no longer pro­duced.

While we’re on the sub­ject of SMASH beers, the Sheeta Brew­ery in Arad has in­tro­duced a new SMASH Pil­sner, brewed with no­ble Saaz hops from Eu­rope. These hops are tra­di­tion­ally used in brew­ing Pil­sner lager, giv­ing the beer its dis­tinc­tive spicy aroma and taste. Orig­i­nat­ing in the Czech town of Plzen in 1842, Pil­sners have be­come the most pop­u­lar and widely im­i­tated beer style in the world. Purists say that noth­ing com­pares to the taste of fresh Pil­sner beer, straight from the fer­men­ta­tion tank in Plzen.

The Sheeta SMASH may not have that pedi­gree, but it has a won­der­ful fresh lemony aroma com­ing off of the foamy, long-last­ing head. The taste is bit­ter fruit (maybe red grape­fruit), very re­fresh­ing, with a pep­pery and dry Pil­sner fin­ish that makes you want to keep drink­ing. With only 5% al­co­hol, you can go right ahead and do that.

ROTEM BAR-ILAN, one of the part­ner-broth­ers of HaDu­bim (“The Bears”) Beer, in­tro­duced me to his new ver­sion of Esh (“Fire”), a

pale ale made with shata red chili pep­pers (con­tract brewed at the Beer Bazaar Brew­ery in Kiryat Gat). I say ver­sion be­cause the first Esh came out in 2012 and was pro­duced for sev­eral years. “That was even hot­ter than this,” Rotem let me know.

The hops used in this pale ale are Chi­nook, Amar­illo, Cas­cade and Ci­tra, all Amer­i­can craft beer hops, which to­gether add bit­ter­ness and in­tense flo­ral, cit­rus and spice fla­vors. Al­co­hol by vol­ume is 4.7%.

Esh is a cloudy, mid-am­ber color with al­most no head when we poured it. The aroma was rich and fruity, with strong cit­rus scents and wafts of pep­per. The taste is very bit­ter (the la­bel gives the num­ber of In­ter­na­tional Bit­ter­ing Units [IBUs] as 63, quite high), with fruit fla­vors, no­tably orange and grape­fruit.

My years of eat­ing spicy Mid­dle East­ern food have raised my tol­er­ance level to unimag­ined heights, so I found Esh rather mild, with the chili mak­ing it­self known only when it hits your throat. It’s a nice warm­ing feel­ing that com­ple­ments the fruiti­ness of the hops.

Also from HaDu­bim is a new dry stout called Black Out. Also known as Ir­ish stouts, these drier ver­sions have a more roasty and bit­ter fla­vor than other stout styles, which in­clude English Stout, Oat­meal Stout, Milk Stout, Rus­sian Im­pe­rial Stout, as well as the Amer­i­can craft ver­sions of all of these. The most fa­mous Ir­ish stouts are Guin­ness and Mur­phy’s.

Black Out gives them a run for their money.

Al­ready on the in­for­ma­tive la­bel, you learn that the al­co­hol by vol­ume is an eas­ily tol­er­ated 5%, the IBUs are a mod­er­ate 25, and that the hops used are East Kent Gold­ings.

Black Out pours into your glass the dark­est brown color, al­most black, with a thick and creamy tan head. Re­ally creamy. You get scents of roasted malt, choco­late, but­ter cream can­dies, caramel, vanilla and some cof­fee.

The taste is dry from the start, with a lit­tle sweet­ness creep­ing in, and dark choco­late, caramel and but­ter. Every sip seems to bring a dif­fer­ent level of fla­vors. If some beers can be called “bor­ing,” Black Out cer­tainly is not. The fin­ish is dry and roasty. OAK & ASH is a gypsy brew­ery that started out un­der the aus­pices of Danc­ing Camel in Tel Aviv, but has re­cently moved to the Hag­i­bor Brew­ery in Carmiel be­cause it needs larger fa­cil­i­ties. Owner and brewer Asher Zim­ble chose the name be­cause his first beers were aged in oak bar­rels. His two re­cent of­fer­ings, how­ever, are not.

The Oak & Ash NEIPA (New Eng­land IPA) is an at­tempt to repli­cate this pop­u­lar Amer­i­can beer style – char­ac­ter­ized by a very hazy to opaque color, mas­sive fruit aroma and fla­vors from the hops (trop­i­cal fruits are fa­vorites), juicy, creamy mouth­feel and low bit­ter­ness.

This Oak & Ash ver­sion is not as opaque as the Amer­i­can NEIPAs I’ve seen (it’s only semi-hazy) nor as strong (only 4.5% ABV), but it is full of the juicy good­ness you ex­pect. I de­tected fla­vors of grape­fruit, pas­sion fruit, mango and some guava. It tastes like a trop­i­cal fruit cock­tail, creamier and much less bit­ter than a reg­u­lar IPA.

If you’re an ad­mirer of the NEIPA style, this beer’s for you. And if you’ve never tried it, this is your chance. Tast­ing new styles is one of the true plea­sures of drink­ing craft beer.

Also from Oak & Ash is the new Coco Porter – a Porter-style dark and roasty beer brewed with des­ic­cated shred­ded co­conut. (Zim­ble, quite rightly, will not re­veal at which stage the co­conut is added.)

In the glass, Coco Porter looks like Coca-Cola: the same color and the same fizz. The aro­mas are rather sub­dued – brown sugar, toffee and slight co­conut. But the tastes are what bring the beer alive: rich co­conut and dark choco­late, semi-sweet, with some dried fruits in the back­ground.

Since I’m a fan of co­conut, and es­pe­cially co­conut with choco­late, I found this to be a de­li­cious beer, but one to be sa­vored, not gulped down on a hot day.

(Mike Hor­ton)

THE WRITER arm-wres­tles with the SMASH su­per­hero over the new Six-Pack IPA.

(Photos: Cour­tesy)

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