Winemakers often say it takes a lot of beer to make a good wine. This is
because winemakers drink a lot of beer. So in this article we will focus on the
beer renaissance in Israel.
Beer was not traditionally associated with
Israel. In ancient times Israelites planted vineyards and made wine while
Babylonians grew grain and made beer. However in recent years Israeli beer has
become a new vibrant industry, producing a product ideal for our
The revolution has had four parts. The beginning was in 1934
when Gaston Dreyfus and James Rothschild founded Palestine Breweries at Rishon
Le Zion Wine Cellars . Thus the two Frenchmen established a modern beer industry
The first Nesher and Goldstar, Israel’’s oldest beer brands,
were made at Palestine Breweries, but it closed in 1960. The main drinkers of
beer had been the British and when they left, the market declined.
next important phase was in 1985 when a soft drink company called Tempo decided
to gather together the strands of Israeli brewing under one umbrella. Tempo took
over breweries like Nesher Beer Co. and the National Brwery and formed
Tempo Beer Industries.
The company marketed brands such as Goldstar,
Maccabee and Nesher, and became the dominant factor in Israeli beer. For the
first time Israel brewers had an important voice, although Israelis still
preferred Coca Cola and Sprite.
In the 1990s, the industry benefited both
from international investment and from new competition. Firstly, Coca Cola
Israel went into beer, initially importing Carlsberg to Israel and then building
a brewery in Ashkelon in 1995 to produce Carlsberg and Tuborg. Tempo reacted by
importing Heineken. The competition between Goldstar and Heineken on one hand
and Carlsberg and Tuborg on the other revitalized the beer industry.
major players then started to import major international brands. Carlsberg
Israel, also known as Israel Beer Breweries or IBBL, brought in Guinness, Leffe,
Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Kilkenny and Weihenstephan, and Tempo imported brands
like Samuel Adams, Paulaner and Murphy’s, in addition to Heineken, which took a
share in Tempo. The Israeli beer industry had come of age.
phase was in the 2000s when many home brewers replicated the boutique winery
explosion of the 1990s by starting to produce beer.
Though the two giants
continued to dominate, the new small producers brought color and variety to
The first of the new wave small breweries to break through was
Dancing Camel, situated in Tel Aviv, which became known for its seasonal brews
and creative brewing.
Today there is no lack of choice for the Israeli
What kinds of beer?
A small glossary of the main styles
Pilsener: The most well-known lager style beer. It is golden in color, with a
delicate flowery aroma and a tight, dry, clean refreshing finish. This style
originated in Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. The most famous brand is Pilsener
Pale Ale: This is a copper colored ale in the British style. The
main feature is the refreshing bitterness produced through the addition of hops.
Bass ale is a good example.
Amber Ale: Known as Ambree in France, this is
an alternative style of ale. It is less hoppy, smoother and more malty than a
pale ale. Kilkenny, an Irish red ale, may be the closest international brand
Stout: An extra-dark Porter style beer made from highly roasted
malts. The bittersweet contrast and full flavor with hints of chocolate and
coffee make this a unique style. The most famous Stout is Guinness, which is
produced in Ireland.
Weisse Beer or Wheat Beer: This Bavarian style beer
usually has a pale head, is cloudy, and very aromatic. It is the muscat of
beers. An acquired taste to some, but those who like the style won’t drink
anything else. Weihenstephaner is the main international Wheat Beer here.
Three of the best new Israeli breweries are Jems
in Petach Tikvah, Pavo
Zichron Ya’acov and Alexander
in Emek Hefer.
Out of these quality
operations, my personal favorites in each style are: Pavo Pale Ale; Alexander
Amber Ale; Jems Stout; Pavo Pilsener; Jems Wheat Beer.
Quite apart from
the beer, some of the new breweries are wonderful places to visit. The most
unique visitors’ center is Pavo Brewey, which is situated at Givat Zamarin, the
original part of Zichron Ya’acov.
Pavo has an authentic beer garden and a
raised terrace overlooking the slopes and valleys surrounding the southern part
of Mount Carmel. There you can sample the beers while sitting outside and
marveling at the wonderful view.
If that is too quiet for you, I
recommend a visit to the Jems Beer Factory in Petah Tikva. Here a cavernous room
has been converted into a pub that is full of atmosphere and has an innovative
and unique design. With the brewery in the corner and a great bar to sit at,
Jems also offers an attractive menu of food and good music. It is a great venue
for an evening out. Jems, a kosher operation, is a place where all Israelis can
drink together and feel at home.Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine both in Israeli and international publications. firstname.lastname@example.org.