Wheats and Pilsners: Four new light Israeli beers you should know about

“It’s not just the recipe that determines the final product. It’s everything the individual brewer does."

Mosco Pilsner (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mosco Pilsner
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Even though wheat beers and Pilsners are in different beer families (wheats are ales, Pilsners are lagers), they are both at the lighter end of the spectrum, in color and strength. These beers are very refreshing, easy to drink, and won’t fill you up if you’re having more than one.
Two new wheat ales and two new Pilsners from Israeli craft breweries have recently come onto the market.
Blinderweiss is the brew child of Michael Blinder from Hadera. He began home-brewing three years ago, and from the beginning was aiming to achieve a very specific taste for his beer.
“Everybody brews in their own way,” he explains. “It’s not just the recipe that determines the final product. It’s everything the individual brewer does. Blinderweiss represents the taste that I wanted to attain.”
He began to brew Blinderweiss commercially at the Mosco Brewery on Moshav Zanoah, and the beer was ready for distribution one month later.
“We had to do a lot of experimentation until we achieved the same beer at Mosco as we had at home,” says Blinder.
Blinderweiss, as he describes it, is a free-style wheat beer. Its style is closest to an American wheat ale. Although malted wheat is 65% of the grain bill, it does not use typical wheat beer yeast, and it is heavier hopped than most wheat beers.
There was no mistaking this in the taste test.
Blinderweiss may look like a wheat beer, pouring out a very cloudy pale yellow color with a full, white head, but the aroma lacks the usual banana-cloves of a German wheat beer (hefeweizen). Instead, there’s a lot of citrus, spice, hops and hay. On the tongue, you get more fruit, caramel, yeast, and even vegetal flavors. Bitterness is moderate, and the finish is roasty and long-lasting. Alcohol by volume is a kind 5%.
Blinderweiss’s crisp taste is best paired with foods with mild flavors, such as certain cheeses, salads, and grain-based dishes.
Neta Koltin, the marketing director, told me that Blinderweiss is now on sale in stores and pubs in the Haifa to Netanya area, as well as in Jerusalem and Rehovot. He is continuing to expand the distribution. Production now stands at 1,400 liters per month.
Though they are heavily invested, emotionally and financially, in brewing, Blinder and Koltin are keeping their day jobs for the time being – Blinder as a fresh flower exporter and Koltin working at Radio Haifa. Blinder’s business partner is Roman Shih.
I asked Blinder if there are plans to brew other styles of beer, and what they would be called, since the “weiss” (German for “white”) in Blinderweiss dictates that it could only be a wheat beer, since wheat beer has traditionally been a lighter color than regular barley beer.
“For now,” Blinder answered, “we are concentrating on this beer, since we believe it’s really the best. If there are new beers, I guess they’ll be called ‘Blinder-something.’ We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Oak & Ash Wheat Beer
New brewery Oak & Ash (using the brewing facilities of Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv) has also introduced its new Wheat Beer, aged with oak.
Owner and brewmaster Asher Zimble calls the Wheat Beer a true “Mediterranean beer,” geared for local tastes and preferences. It is flavored by a whole shelf of different spices – orange peel, cardamom, anise and saffron.
It’s a lovely wheat beer, but the spices were more a faint background noise than clearly defined flavors. A beautiful foamy white head sits atop this cloudy pale gold beer, in the style of Belgian wheat (wit) beers (“wit” being Flemish for “white”). The aroma is strongly cloves and some orange. With the first sip, you get lots of little flavor notes, all on the sweet side of the spectrum with a little sourness – cloves, hyssop, tropical fruits and general spiciness. We smacked our lips in vain for any malt or oak character, but these were out of our range. A light-bodied beer (5% alcohol by volume), it ends with a short though refreshing finish.
On the label, the brewers are even kind enough to recommend foods that would pair well with Oak & Ash Wheat: Fettuccine Alfredo and roasted vegetables.
Pilsner lager beer was first introduced in the Czech city of Pilsen in 1842 and quickly became the most popular beer style in Europe. The Germans began to brew their own version of Pilsner, and today in America craft breweries are doing the same. In Israel, a number of craft breweries also make a Pilsner- style beer.
Pilsner lagers are known for their clarity, golden color, spicy hop flavors, flavorful malt, light body and crisp, clean mouthfeel. It’s no wonder their popularity swept across the beer-drinking world.
Pair your Pilsners with light appetizers, salads, mild cheeses, salsa and other dips, grain dishes, and light desserts (lemony or berry).
Lela Pilsner
From Eli Bechar of the Lela brewery in Maccabim (brewed commercially at the Mosco Brewery) comes a gentle Pilsner, an even lighter version of a light beer. With only 3.8% alcohol, Lela Pilsner pours out clear and pale, with very fine carbonation. The aromas were very fresh, including lemon and hay (not unusual for a Pilsner), but there was also a note of something that I can only call “soft-boiled egg whites.”
The body is very light, but there are excellent flavors: bitter citrus and raw wheat. The carbonation tickles your tongue like the gas in soda. A very interesting Pilsner, indeed.
Mosco Pilsner
Mosco is one of the veteran Israeli craft breweries and, as you read above, often contracts out its facilities to smaller and newer brewers. Owners Amir Lev and Yaron Moscovich have recently added a Pilsner and a smoked beer to their repertoire.
The Pilsner is as classic as you can get. Clear and pale yellow with light carbonation, and 3.8% alcohol, the aromas that hit you first are grass, yeast and fresh grain. These are also in the mid-bitter taste, with the grain morphing into malt, and also citrus and vegetal. The finish is crisp and astringent.
Even though wheat ales and Pilsner lagers are associated with summertime drinking, these are beers you can enjoy year-round, even during the cold and rainy months ahead of us. Israeli breweries are becoming very adept at perfecting these two styles, and there is no reason for us to choose imported beers in their place. L’haim!
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