My Romance With Israeli Craft Beer – Part 1

The Beginning

For the last two days I’ve been trying, on and off, to translate a post I wrote two weeks ago, describing my first official experience as a Beer Sommelier at HaTraklin Bistro in Tel Aviv. I thought I could speed things up by using Google Translate, but it soon proved to be a bad idea, as I was struggling with every sentence, trying to figure out what the hell were my original words and why is the translation so bad.

At the moment, the title of Coppola’s movie “Lost in Translation” is quite suitable to describe the fate of my original post. It seems much easier for me to share my thoughts and experiences in English without the use of so-called “utilities”.

Czech Beer. photo: Mirabele Gazit
Czech Beer. photo: Mirabele Gazit

But first let’s go back to the beginning of “my” beer story. While on a family visit in the Czech Republic in 1997, we went on a camping trip. The Czech Republic is a beautiful country with incredible landscapes. Peter, my mother’s cousin, made sure that at every stop in every town, we ate well and most importantly – drank the locally brewed beer.

One night, after setting up the tents and getting ready to sleep, Peter cried out: “We can’t go to sleep thirsty!” We had plenty of water, but Peter was thirsty for a different beverage. He took a large cooking pot from his car and asked my brother and me to join him on a beer quest. We walked for about an hour until we saw a lit building in the distance. As we came closer we saw it was a bar. Peter asked the bartender to fill the cooking pot with beer. My brother and I helped him, in turns, to carry the heavy cooking pot back to the camp. During the trek back the pot became lighter and lighter: we stopped every few meters and sampled the beer – it was the best I had ever tasted.

Fast forward. A few years later, in London, I went with friends to a Pub. I ordered “beer”, expecting the Pilsner Lager I knew well from the Czech Republic. Instead I got a dark chilled Guinness. Something in the bitter taste of that Stout beer fascinated me.

One of my friends promised me that when we got back to Israel he would take me to a “real” restaurant with “real” alcohol. I asked him what “real” alcohol was, and he replied that he meant wine. At that time my knowledge of wine was greater than my knowledge of beer, yet because of my previous holiday introduction to Czech beer and now the Stout, I realized there’s a whole new world of beer waiting for me to discover.

Since then I’ve tasted many kinds of beer and have had many interesting beer experiences which I shared with my Hebrew readers. There are many kinds of beer, using different malts, hops and yeasts. All these combined make beer a complex beverage.

That's me in Ma'abarot Beer Festival. photo: Yula Zubritsky
That’s me in Ma’abarot Beer Festival. photo: Yula Zubritsky

My romance with Israeli Craft Beer started in October 2009. I went with some friends to a Beer Festival and noticed a few stands of local home brewers. The first beer I tasted was “Indira” made by “HaDubim” Brewery. An IPA style beer (7% ABV) with a hoppy freshness, a fruity floral hoppy aroma and bitter after flavors.

A year later I drank the same beer, but now I was at the backyard of one the brothers-brewers, after watching them brew. Last month I was invited to celebrate the installment of their first keg in a local Bar and then to the official opening of their microbrewery. I blogged about history in the making. “HaDubim” story is only one of many of my new brewer-friends.

HaDubim"'s beer, Ma'abarot Beer Festival. photo: Mirabelle Gazit"
HaDubim”‘s beer, Ma’abarot Beer Festival. photo: Mirabelle Gazit”

My last post was dedicated to an interview with Tomer Ronen, a home brewer from Sderot (“HaDag HaLavan“) with two award-winning beers at the Israeli Samuel Adams Longshot Homebrew Competition 2011. I have known Tomer from his early days as a brewer, when he apprenticed alongside his uncle, Ofer, at the Ofer’s home brewery – “Ronen”.

Two months ago I brewed with Ofer an IPA beer I called “Nikkei”, as we used the Japanese Sorachi Ace hops. We offered tastings to other brewers and friends and they really liked it. I even received invitations to brew with other microbrewers.

So, Hi, my name is Mirabelle Gazit and I’m a ‘cuckoo brewer’.**

I had my first homebrew judging experience in a competition that took place as part of one of the biggest biannual Ma’abarot Beer Festival, in May 2011. I was given 11 Belgian-style entries to judge by aroma, appearance, flavor, mouth-feel and an overall impression. Even over the short course of eleven beers, I learned a lot about judging. It’s not that easy to score a beer and to describe all the significant aspects of it. With some of the beers I could easily taste that the beer wasn’t quite right, that it had flaws, but it was hard to turn that notion into a written explanation.

Negev" Brewery beer. photo: Mirabelle Gazit"
Negev” Brewery beer. photo: Mirabelle Gazit”

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* I want to thank all my friends, home brewers, bar owners and others who supported my inquisitive journey into the beer world and especially in the Israeli Craft Beer world. Special thanks to Na’ama HaLevi for her comments on the first draft of the post.

** Cuckoo-brewing – Using another brewery/home-brewer equipment (or collaborating with them)  instead of having your own brewing kit (or brewing beer yourself).

[to be continued]