Summer beer festivals brew up the fun

The 11th Jerusalem Beer Festival will be held on August 26-27 in Independence Park.

Summer beer festivals in Israel (photo credit: MIRIAM KRESH)
Summer beer festivals in Israel
(photo credit: MIRIAM KRESH)
If you enjoy drinking beer, mingling with happy people and rocking to live music, it’s only a matter of choosing which beer festival to visit.
Haifa and Jerusalem are both holding beer fests on August 26 and 27, so fanatic suds lovers can visit each on alternate days, if they really have a mind to.
The most recent beer fest, Beers 2015, at Hatahana in Tel Aviv’s old railway station, promised a fun evening with dozens of imported and locally brewed craft beers, and did they ever deliver.
Even before the sun set over Jaffa beach, there was a long line in front of the ticket booth.
According to Avi Ben-Ami, the organizer, about 20,000 people went through the grounds on the three days of the festival, with at least 200 breweries represented.
Less genteel and more downhome than wine festivals, food booths offered hot dogs, hot pretzels, picnic tables set up near a chuck wagon, and the ever-present stand of cheeses.
Folks greeted each other with high-fives and big, sweaty hugs.
Focusing on local breweries, I learned some surprising things about the Israeli craft beer scene.
Craft brewers sell the freshest beer. Yishai Oman of Negev Beer said, “Our beers aren’t pasteurized, filtered or heated. All the flavors, aromas and vitamins remain in the beer.”
Celiacs can enjoy gluten-free beer. Brian Meidan of Meidan Beer was diagnosed with celiac disease eight years ago; no longer free to drink wheat or barley-based beer, he began experimenting with all kinds of substitutes at home. “Our beers are made from malts of buckwheat and chickpeas, and date syrup,” he told me, adding that he hopes to obtain a kosher-forPassover certificate this year.
Craft brewers are often eco-conscious. Alexander Beer, whose tart and fruity Belgian saison I tasted, refines the water used in its beers by reverse osmosis.
Side Effect Cider, the one non-beer at the festival, donates the dry pulp left over from squeezing the apples to local shepherds and goat farmers.
The cider is made like wine, 100-percent pure juice fermented with wine yeast and fermented cold.
Water is beer’s most important ingredient. Bazelet, produced by the Golan Brewery, which collaborates with the Golan Heights Winery, uses water that has filtered naturally through local basalt rock.
Craft brewers offer styles that you don’t find in your supermarket.
Big commercial breweries don’t produce the varieties of ales, Belgian tripels, porters, high-alcohol lagers or strongly individual flavors.
There’s a warm comradeship between brewers. “All the brewers know each other and are good friends,” say the six siblings who own Jerusalem Beer.
“At a certain level – on the shelves – there’s competition. But we share ideas and cooperate.
The thing that’s unique about this industry is that people are in it from passion.”
The 11th Jerusalem Beer Festival will be held on August 26-27 in Independence Park, and will certainly feature craft beers.