(photo credit: PR)
Two new Israeli craft beers that have recently been launched on the local market are both delicious but will only be brewed and sold for a limited time, so try to catch them while you can.
The first is the Amarillo 2015 India Pale Ale (IPA) from Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh.
IPAs are distinguished by the strong aroma and flavor of hops, which may be fruity and flowery or piney and spicy. Hops also impart the characteristic bitterness we associate with beer.
The new Shapiro IPA is made with American Amarillo hops, prominently proclaimed on the bottle. These are hops grown in the West Coast state of Washington and give the beer a sweet citrus aroma and taste. Amarillo hops are enjoying something of a trend these days and are popular in the US and Israel.
Until just a few years ago, Israeli brewers believed that the powerful flavor of hops and bitterness of India pale ales were too extreme for Israeli tastes. Not anymore. As Israeli beer drinkers were exposed to strong IPAs from abroad, they developed a taste for this style of beer. Today, at least 12 Israeli craft brewers are making IPAs.
Shapiro IPA pours out a lovely mid-amber color with a creamy head. You can smell the strong hops even before you bring the glass to your nose, a sure sign of an IPA. Along with the citrus aroma and taste (orangegrapefruit), I also detected a nice piney finish. The beer’s hop bitterness is slightly mitigated by the malt base which also comes through. The alcoholic strength is 6.5%.
I found this to be a very refreshing and drinkable beer. It pairs well with any spicy or strong food and cheese, fried foods, and even rich, sweet desserts.
Itzik Shapiro, a partner in the brewery, says that he intends to bring out a different version of an IPA every spring, “in time for Independence Day.” Shapiro Brewery has been doing something similar with its Jack’s Winter Ale, brewing a different dated version at the start of every winter.
I’ve noticed that even now in Jerusalem it’s not easy to find the 2015 Shapiro IPA, with its distinctive blue label and turbaned lion. So if you come across a bottle, don’t hesitate to buy it and enjoy a thoroughly Israeli IPA.
The second new beer is Blazer, from the Negev Brewery in Kiryat Gat. Observers of the Israeli beer scene will know that there already have been two beers by that same name – one from Jem’s Beer Factory in Petah Tikva and the other from Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer. What’s going on here? The Hebrew men’s magazine Blazer, known for its articles on sports, entertainment, automobiles, food and drink, fashion and women, has been teaming up with Israeli craft breweries for a number of years to produce beers that reflect the tastes and lifestyle of its readers. Negev Blazer is just the latest of these.
This is a beer that combines elements of an American IPA – hoppy and bitter – with the Belgian strong ale style – malty and sweet. The result is a beer that some have called “bittersweet,” not a common appellation for a beer.
Negev Blazer pours out a dark amber color. The aroma and the first taste are indeed sweet, hinting at caramel and fruits, cherries and berries.
Yet there is also no mistaking the hops, whose aroma and flavor are further enhanced by a process known as “dry-hopping,” where the hops are steeped in the beer while it is fermenting. Negev Blazer is dry-hopped with American Cascade hops for two weeks. Alcoholic content is a strong 6.9%.
So if “bittersweet” has been the hallmark of the different Blazer beers, the Negev version doesn’t disappoint. This is a beer that suits any occasion, winter or summer, with food or without. Its strong flavor should pair well with any spicy cuisine, flavorful salads and non-chocolate desserts.
According to Yishai Auman, responsible for marketing at the Negev Brewery, the original batch of Blazer was snatched up quickly from store shelves. There really is none left. But, he adds, “We have done an additional brewing of Blazer, and it should soon be in stores. So those who missed out the first time will now be able to buy and enjoy our Blazer.”
Auman is also the director of the Visitors’ Center at Negev Brewery in Kiryat Gat, and he invites groups to participate in tours and beer tasting sessions (in English or Hebrew) for a real Israeli craft beer experience. The writer is the owner of MediawiSe, an agency for advertising and direct marketing in Jerusalem. He writes a web log on Israeli craft beers at www.IsraelBrewsAnd- Views.blogspot.co.il.