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Shachar Hertz, the organizer of the 6th Mabarot Beer Festival, is a man who loves beer. While living in the States, he got into brew from all his bar visits and went on to study brewing in university. Upon his return to Israel, he decided to spread the word. "The first festivals were half a day long, now we're up to three days of festivity," he says of the his growing success.
The festival, held at Kibbutz Mabarot, includes live music, food, raffles, collectables and more. "But all that is just extras," Hertz asserts. "The main, and most important aspect of the festival is the beer,' and over 50 varieties will be served. "Israeli beer culture is not quite developed. Not enough bars serve unique beers and not enough people search for it," says Hertz, explaining that no common beers are represented. Even the major importers are presenting their "specials", such as Weinstaphen, Leffe and Paulener.
Two microbreweries will attend, says Hertz. "Making beer in Israel is an excruciating process. There are still no defined laws for breweries, thus the owner has to fight bureaucracy and a constant back and forth between the tax authority and the Health department, hence many give up on the way," laments the beer prophet.
Menny Hamburger, founder and producer of "Manfred" beer, adds that, "the fact that you can only import beer bottles in Israel exhausts most of the microbrewery entrepreneurs. Therefore it is important for me to come to the festivals to represent the small breweries." Hamburger, a 40-year-old high-tech employee, got into the brewing business two years ago. "For me it was just a matter of making the kind of beer I couldn't find in Israel," he says. So, he traveled to England to study at one of the three major world producers of yeast. Since then, he works on English style beers, which are his favorites, but also makes pale ale and German wheat beers - "by demand," he points out.
"It's a lot of hard work making beer. I still work in high-tech, so the one day I dedicate to brewing starts at 6 a.m. and ends late at night," says Hamburger, who notes that it's a lot of fun. His label features his grandfather, Manfred, "a 'Yeke' who loved meat, beer, acting and sports. To me he embodies the true spirit of beer- pure fun."
It's not just locals who are into the fast-growing culture. Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher offers, "He was a wise man who invented beer." Indeed, now all we need is a wise man to arrange the beer production laws. Then beer boutiques may flourish and the beer culture will follow. But, until then, all we can do to show support is have a beer. Or six.
The 6th Beer Festival will be held at Kibbutz Mabarot from May 14 to 16 from noon to 6 p.m. each night. Entrance to the event costs NIS 30 and 100mL tastings cost NIS 5. For more information visit www.beermaster.co.il or your local pub.
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