Warmer weather is made for beer drinking. Nothing banishes the heat more than an ice-cold brewski.
Luckily, our local craft breweries have a surprisingly large batch of new beers that will help you through these hot and sunny days.
Here are some to be looking out for.
The local craft-brewed beers of Israel for the spring and summer
The bitter crispness and hoppy flavors of India Pale Ales (also known as IPAs) have long made them a summertime favorite. The Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem has created an IPA called After the Storm, under the guiding hand of the new brewmaster, Shmuel (“Schmulz”) Naky.
It’s a Cold IPA, which is a style that ferments with lager yeast but at a higher temperature than is normal for lager yeast. This means that the little fungi are more active and consume more of the sugars – resulting in a beer that is hoppier – with bold flavors, light bitterness and a clean, light body.
After the Storm is a clear, golden orange, with citrus fruit and flower aromas. The first sip convinces you that hops contribute as much to the flavors as to the aromas. The taste is bitter, with mild citrus and tropical fruit flavors, with some apricot and a dash of melon in the aftertaste. The fruit flavors more than balance out the bitterness. Alcohol by volume (ABV) is 6.4%.
Another IPA comes from the Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Park. It’s called Oatmeal IPA. Adding oatmeal to a beer’s brewing process has traditionally served to impart a smooth and silky texture, in addition to a hazy look. The brewers say they also added huge amounts of bittering and aromatic hops. ABV is 6%.
Oatmeal IPA is indeed very cloudy, reminiscent of unfiltered apple juice. Its aromas are pine, citrus, guava and other tropical fruits. It’s mildly bitter, and the fruit flavors include an aftertaste of grapefruit. The feel in your mouth is smooth and creamy, thanks to the oatmeal. Style experts would consider this beer a New England IPA.
Yonah Rubin and Jacob Mogerman are the brewing duo known as Nomads. They have contract-brewed at several locations, most recently at the Hatch Brewery in Jerusalem.
Nomads’ unique selling proposition is the use of different local ingredients in each of their beers. So far, they have used za’atar, sumac, cardamom and sage in their beers.
Continuing in this tradition, their Forest Fire is a smoked beer with added shatta peppers. Shatta is a Middle Eastern hot pepper – and it is really hot! Let’s see what it does to a beer.
Forest Fire is a hazy yellow-brown with a smoky aroma (from the smoked malt) that recalls smoked meat. The taste is smoke and fruity and, of course, the hot peppers can be felt in your throat. The blend of smoke and spice makes this a fun beer to drink. ABV is a low 4%.
This beer pairs well with any dish that would benefit from a charcoal taste and some hot spice such as veggie burgers; roasted vegetables (like eggplant and mushrooms); macaroni and cheese; baked beans; and even scrambled eggs.
From the Negev Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Park (sharing facilities with Malka and Herzl) comes another spicy beer. Mangolicious is sweet, with a hot kick. It’s made with mango puree and scorpion pepper extract – one of the hottest peppers in the world. Alcohol by volume is a modest 4.5%.
Although the mango aroma is fresh and sweet, the first sip brings a more balanced fruit taste before the pepper hits your throat like a jolt of Tabasco. Mangolicious promises mango and hot pepper, and that’s what it delivers.
The Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh introduced Israel’s first commercial sour – or “spontaneously fermented” – beer in 2019. It’s called Strong Sour, and the brewery has been creating annual versions of it ever since. This year, along with their fifth Strong Sour, Shapiro introduced their Peachy Sour.
Assistant CEO Dani Shapiro told me it’s their usual sour beer with some 150 kg. of peaches added after the initial fermentation, before maturing in oak barrels for 14 months. Alcohol by volume is a strong 7.1%.
Peachy Sour comes in a limited edition of 1,800 of 750 ml. bottles. Shapiro pointed out that Peachy Sour is suited for aging – a process that will introduce a wide range of new and diverse flavors. The label indicates the “best by” date as January 2028.
It pours out a golden yellow color similar to white wine. The aroma is sour, with some fruit and alcohol in the background. It’s only in the flavor that you get the real taste of peaches – very much so – along with wood, light vinegar and lactic sour.
Compared to other sour beers, Peachy Sour is moderate. You can drink it without getting a pucker face. If you’re new to sour beers, it’s a good choice to get you introduced.
Another new sour beer for this summer is Groovy Doovy, from the Shevet Brewstillery in Pardes Hanna. It’s a sour wheat beer flavored with cherries. Brewmaster Wally Colgan told me the beer is soured by the use of Philly Sour, a wild yeast strain that produces lactic acid during fermentation.
“We let the yeast work on the cherries for eight hours,” he explained.
Groovy Doovy pours out a pale pink color that makes you stop and take notice. The aroma is sour, but without any distinguishing fruit. Although the color makes you think it’s going to be sweet, the taste brings on sour cherries, quite delicious and not overwhelming, and a lactic tartness like yogurt. It may remind you of fruit cider – not a bad thing at all.
HaGibor (“The Hero”) is a Karmiel brewery. They have a new dark ale named Dark’le, with an ABV of 5.5%.
As its name suggests, Dark’le is an opaque brown, with red highlights revealed when you hold it up to the light, and a long-lasting head of tan foam.
The aroma is extremely roasted malt, some pine, toasted bread, and notes of alcohol. The taste is very bitter, as it should be, with more strong roasted malt, bordering on burnt. The finish is long and bitter.
Dark’le may sound like a stout, and it has some of those characteristics, but it’s not. It’s a Dark Ale – and a good one at that.
Shanty Bounty from Herzl Brewery (also in the Tefen Industrial Park) is a porter-style beer, known for its dark color, roasted taste and full body. The name hails from 18th-century London, where it was a favorite of the hard-working porters.
It’s the same base beer as an earlier porter from Herzl, known as Embargo because it contained tobacco leaves from Cuba.
Shanty Bounty is tobacco-free but brewed with roasted coconut. The name is inspired by the chocolate-coated coconut candy bar sold in Israel, the UK and Europe called Bounty. (In the US, it’s known as Mounds.)
The color of the beer is very dark, as befits a porter, and the aroma is unmistakably roasted coconut, with some background of caramel and malt. It tastes very sweet, giving center stage to coconut and vanilla. ABV is 6%. I’m a fan of coconut but not sweet beers. If you like both, have I got a beer for you!
This is the third year in a row that Six-Pack Brewing (also known as Super Hero Beer) has brought out a new version of Kabir to commemorate Israel Independence Day. It was brewed at – and in collaboration with – the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.
Kabir, which means “great” in Hebrew, was the name of a brewery established during the British Mandate for Palestine in 1942, and each year the label is dedicated to a different army unit that fought in the War of Independence. This year, it’s Samson’s Foxes, the legendary mechanized patrol of the Givati Brigade that operated in the Negev and on the southern front.
History aside, the Kabir for 2023 is a hoppy lager. A light style of beer hopped with several varieties to give it more aroma and flavor. ABV is 4.8%.
Kabir is a clear, golden color with a long-lasting head. It gives off lemon and herbal aromas. The taste is mildly sweet, with lemon in the forefront without being sour. There is also some bread in the flavor and a long bitter and lemony finish. Crisp and refreshing, this is a good summertime beer. ■
The writer is the owner of MediawiSe, an agency for advertising and direct marketing in Jerusalem. He writes a weblog on Israeli craft beers at: www.IsraelBrewsAndViews.blogspot.co.il