Spring is here and it's time for beer: Three recent Israeli IPAs

Three of our Israeli craft breweries have chosen to bring out India pale ales that are perfect for the season.

(FROM LEFT) The writer with Maor Helfman of Herzl Brewery, and Rotem Bar-Ilan of HaDubim Brewery (photo credit: MIKE HORTON)
(FROM LEFT) The writer with Maor Helfman of Herzl Brewery, and Rotem Bar-Ilan of HaDubim Brewery
(photo credit: MIKE HORTON)
The spring days before the monotonous summer heat sets in are just right for stronger beers, rich in flavor and moderately alcoholic. Three of our Israeli craft breweries have chosen to bring out India pale ales that are perfect for the season.
Va’adat Kishut is the first new beer from Herzl Brewery in several years. It’s a double dry-hopped IPA. The name continues in the Herzl tradition of slang and double entendres. It could mean “Hops Committee” or its Hebrew homophone, “Decoration Committee.”
The original Herzl Brewery was in Jerusalem, but the beers are now brewed at the Malka Brewery way up North in the Tefen Industrial Area.
Maor Helfman, one of the original partners of Herzl and now beer brands manager for Hacarem Spirits Ltd., Malka’s parent company, told me that only 2,000 liters of Va’adat Kishut were brewed, “and we sold out in 10 days. I have no more bottles in the storage room. They’re all in the stores.
“We used 50 kilograms of hops: Citra, Cascade and Simcoe. The first dry-hopping was done during the fermentation, and the second was added 10 days later. The hops added mostly aroma and flavor, rather than bitterness, and the beer also has a strong malt backbone. Oatmeal was also used in the brewing process. Alcohol by volume is 6.5%, and the IBUs [international bitterbess units] are a moderate 30-35.”
My tasting began with pouring out a very clear, mid-amber colored beverage, mildly carbonated. The aroma brought tropical and citrus fruit scents; specifically peach, mango and grapefruit, and a malt sweetness. The mouth feel was rich and smooth to the nth degree. Flavors of sweet fruit (peach and citrus) from the hops, enveloped by silky milk chocolate, was the impression I got. The finish maintained the fruit character and was mildly bitter.
So, Va’adat Kishut emerged as a most delicious IPA, full of flavors and enjoyable sip after sip. A well-constructed beer, balanced and eminently drinkable.
Also coming out with their first new beer in several years is the Mosco Brewery in Beit Shemesh. The beer is called Juicy, a “New England IPA,” at 5.6% alcohol.
Juicy begins with a semi-hazy light amber color topped by a frothy, long-lasting head. The aroma is of pine needles, grass, yeast and some sweet fruit in the background. The taste brings up pine, herbal and some soap and indistinct fruit, but the most forward seems to be yeast. The mouth feel is pleasant carbonation, but a bit harsh on the tongue for an NEIPA.
ALTHOUGH JUICY is a passable IPA, it should be smoother, hazier and, well, juicier to qualify as an NEIPA. I thoroughly enjoyed a bottle with a great Israeli hummus platter. No other beer (at the time) could have been more right.
From HaDubim Brewery comes the third new IPA: Petra, an Imperial Oak Red IPA. This is the darkest, strongest (8% alcohol) and bitterest (65 IBUs) of the new IPAs, brewed for HaDubim at the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat.
As usual, the HaDubim partner/brothers, Dagan and Rotem Bar-Ilan, go for pushing the envelope, playing with ingredients and styles to produce special and innovative beers.
“We love hops,” states Dagan. “Everybody knows this and our beers show this. We wanted to make a beer for the cooler months, but not another heavy, dark beer. We wanted something hoppy, but with a twist; some caramel and complex flavors.”
The “red” in the name comes from the Carafa #2 malt, which was used along with Pilsner, Vienna and crystal malts.
On the subject of the hops, Dagan explained how the problem of oak maturation was overcome.
“The flavor of hops erodes quickly over time, yet we wanted a beer that was ‘aged’ with oak. We sped things up by brewing an oak tea, boiling French and American oak chips in water, and then adding that to the beer during fermentation. We chose hops that we felt paired best with the oak: Simcoe, Chinook and Hallertau.”
Held up to the light, the beer is a dark chestnut color with red highlights, semi-hazy, with a thin but foamy beige head. A lovely color.
You can smell the hops immediately; scents of orange peel, grapefruit, wet grass, with the malty aroma coming later. The taste is also hop forward, bitter and spicy with some caramel and orange peel. As the beer warmed up a bit, you got more grapefruit and orange, as well as malt. The finish is semi-dry and bitter.
What was missing in all of this, unfortunately, was the oak. After all that work to brew and add an oak tea, the flavor was missing, hidden by the hops and malt.
A nice influx of IPAs to the market is always welcome, no matter what season. Even when the temperature warms up and COVID is just a bad memory, I would love to drink them with friends, face-to-face.
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 IsraelBrewsAndViews.blogspot.co.il.