New Yorkers are now drinking fresh Israeli craft beers that had been available only at the Schnitt Brewing Company, a brewpub in Tel Aviv.
Schnitt opened about a year ago, and it has already become a favorite spot for local beer lovers. The place feels like a pub should. The food is delicious, portions are generous, and the menu offers exactly what you want with your beer.
Schnitt is a meat restaurant, but there are at least 10 vegan items on the menu – and all delicious.
Schnitt also brews its own beers on the premises – and the menu tries to introduce one or two new beers every week! They are available only at the brewpub itself.
Until last summer, that is. Then an Israeli living in New York, Pooah (“Foofoo”) Alon, introduced New Yorkers to Schnitt beer. She heads a company called Beerternational which sells foreign beers in America. But she does this without importing them.
On a recent visit to New York City, my wife and I met Alon at Cleveland 19, an Israeli restaurant in the SoHo neighborhood, and one of the 31 locations in NYC where Schnitt beer is sold.
Alon went to America with her husband seven years ago. They spent the first four years in Boston before moving to New York. Alon is no stranger to the world of beer, having worked for Norman Premium, an importer and distributor of alcoholic beverages in Israel, and then at the Sam Adams Brewery Visitors’ Center in Boston. Her brother, Yoav Alon, is a partner in the Schnitt brewpub.
“As soon as I got here, I was thinking about importing beers from Israel, as well as from other countries. But I soon realized how expensive it was to physically bring over bottles of beer. We came up with an idea which isn’t exactly new but is rarely utilized: Contract brew the foreign beers in US breweries, while tweaking the recipes, labels and branding to better fit American tastes and standards.”Pooah (“Foofoo”) Alon
“As soon as I got here, I was thinking about importing beers from Israel, as well as from other countries,” she told us. “But I soon realized how expensive it was to physically bring over bottles of beer. [Writer’s note: All Israeli craft beers are bottled, whereas almost all American craft beers are now canned.] We came up with an idea which isn’t exactly new but is rarely utilized: Contract brew the foreign beers in US breweries, while tweaking the recipes, labels and branding to better fit American tastes and standards.”
Beerternational did its homework and found breweries in New York State and Chicago that were willing to brew the foreign beers. Today, the company represents four overseas beer brands: Japas, women brewers of Japanese origin who live in Brazil; Oslo Brewery in Norway; Narcose Brewery in Brazil; and Schnitt from Tel Aviv. These brands are now sold on location only in the NYC area, but they can be ordered for delivery throughout the continental US on the TapRm website.
“The foreign brewers have very little initial expenses,” explained Alon. “They have to register their brand in the US and adapt their branding and labels to American requirements. We pay for the brewing itself and then, of course, take a percentage on all the beer sales.”
More specifically, the three Schnitt beers sold in New York are brewed and canned at the Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore, Long Island.
“They may not taste exactly the same as the beers you get in Tel Aviv,” she said, “but they are very close.”
Which Israeli craft beers are available in New York?
- The Tel Aviv Summer Ale is a hazy pale ale, 4.8% alcohol by volume, with no strong aromas or tastes. It is well balanced, mid-bitter and, as the name says, is a nice summertime drink.
- The Jaffa IPA (India Pale Ale) is brewed with oranges, which is the dominant aroma and flavor of this beer. It is quite bitter, as a West Coast IPA should be, and the ABV is 6.5%.
- The Malabiscous Sour is brewed with rose petals and hibiscus, giving it a lovely red amber color. It has a sour and yeasty aroma, with a faint flavor of rose water. ABV is 5%. If you are new to sour beers, this is a good beer to start with.
These are not necessarily the beers you will find at the Schnitt brewpub in Tel Aviv, as the taps are changing all the time.
“We try to keep two or three beers permanently on our beer list,” brewmaster Alon Schwartz told me – “for example, an IPA and a pale ale – but the other beers are constantly coming and going.”
He had experience working with at least three other microbreweries in Israel before starting at Schnitt last year. He runs a tight brewery. Ten fermenters in a minimal space keep the new beers on the assembly line.
“We’re a small brewery, so we can be flexible,” he explained. “This includes having a constant rotation of new beers, which is what our customers like.”
A brewery, brand and restaurant to be proud of
AMIR NEUMAN, one of the three partners of Schnitt (the others are Itai Laifer and Yoav Alon), has been in the beer and hospitality business for many years. The opening of Schnitt, he said, has given the partners “our own brewery, own brand and own restaurant – something we are very proud of.
“Our customers come back because there are always new beers for them to try – but also because they appreciate the quality of our beers.”
Neuman is also a partner in the next-door restaurant, Porter & Sons, so there is a kind of interlocking directorate. “But,” he hastened to add, “the two restaurants are completely independent. Porter & Sons serves very good beers, but the emphasis is on their restaurant food. At Schnitt, our beer is in the spotlight, and the customers are a younger crowd.”
A few months ago, Schnitt introduced Israel’s only crowler machine. A crowler is an aluminum can that is filled with draft beer at the bar, and then capped and sealed. There are a few beer bars in Israel where you can have a bottle filled with fresh beer and capped to take home. But Schnitt is the only place where you can can it.
“People like the concept,” added Neuman. “Plus it’s more aesthetic, and the beer stays draft fresh longer.”
He also explained Schnitt’s unusual logo-mascot. It’s a sloth, an animal known for moving very slowly.
“This is not a fast-food place,” he stressed. “It’s where you come to slow down, to enjoy your beer and your food with friends in a relaxed atmosphere. The sloth is our symbol for that.”
The Schnitt menu includes hot dogs and burgers (in both meat and meat-less Redefine Meat versions), beef tacos and crispy chicken sandwiches, vegan sloppy Joes and Philly “cheesesteak,” and a great assortment of vegan side dishes such as Mississippi hush puppies, ranch fries, onion rings and fried pickles.
All of this goes with a choice of beers that pair well with almost anything on the menu. Even New Yorkers can’t ask for anything more.
Schnitt has a kashrut certificate from Tzohar Food Supervision. The restaurant is open on Shabbat, but all food ingredients are kosher, and no dairy products are used. ■
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.IsraelBrewsAndViews.blogspot.co.il