My Romance With Israeli Craft Beer – Part 2

Have you read Part 1?

What would you like to drink today? photo: Mirabelle Gazit
What would you like to drink today? photo: Mirabelle Gazit

Beer Sommelier

It all began when Yossi Ben-Udis, the owner of HaTraklin Bistro, approached me with a business offer, that can be reduced quite simply to these sentences: “I want to turn my restaurant into a Biergarten (a beer garden) every Friday afternoon, and offer my clients a selection of Israeli craft beer. You are familiar with the beer and my menu, so help me organize the events and serve the customers as a Beer Sommelier.”

I agreed and asked Itay Ben David to join the party.

Two weeks later I stood on a shaky looking stool writing the names of the 14 kinds of beer I chose to introduce to HaTraklin’s customers on a blackboard.

photo: Mirabelle Gazit
photo: Mirabelle Gazit

While briefing HaTraklin’s waitresses and barman about the beer to be offered during the Biergarten event, I realized that I was the only one who had drunk all of them and could really tell their stories. We had quite a variety of Breweries: Pista, Laughing Buddha, Gopher’s, Ronen and Negev. Wheat beer, Scottish Ale, IPA, Saison and various kinds of Belgian-style beer.

.Israeli Craft Beer Logo and Business Card. logo design: Rotem Bar-Ilan. photo: Mirabelle Gazit
Israeli Craft Beer Logo and Business Card. logo design: Rotem Bar-Ilan. photo: Mirabelle Gazit

This was not my first beer event. In July 2010, I decided to take advantage of my expertise as a Social Media Marketer and set up a Facebook Fan Page dedicated to Israeli craft beer. The idea was to create a social space where craft beer lovers can find updates on beer tastings, news of home brewers and microbreweries. I encouraged brewer participation and interaction between them and the beer lovers. In order to build a large community, I offered the dedicated fans an added value such as contests, quizzes, prizes and free tickets to beer festivals and beer events. Today we have more than 1400 likes and the numbers are growing rapidly. I meet most of the fans (and brewers, of course) in craft beer events and the feedback is positive and encouraging.

The First Israeli Craft Beer Facebook Page Party” took place last September (2010), on a sunny Friday in Tel Aviv. I invited five home brewers to sell their beer to the Israeli Craft Beer Facebook community. People came to say hello, to taste the beers and to congratulate me on the new initiative. Many other home brewers came as well and brought a bottle or two for friends, giving the term BYO a wonderful social and collegial meaning.

After that I held Israeli craft beer nights at “HaBerez” bar, located behind the Great Synagogue in Allenby Street, Tel Aviv. Never has drinking beer been given the “Kosher” approval or the co-operation of the religious community as it was given on those jolly Berez nights: the back floodlight of the Great Synagogue contributed a lot to the welfare of the beer drinkers. And if there was any doubt about this religious contribution, we were all reminded of that wonderful co-existence when the projector was turned off automatically around 11 PM and the Berez was darkened, turning intimate and romantic.

Back to Friday July 22nd, 2011, 12:30PM: The bottles of beer were chilled and we were ready for action. As I mentioned before, Itay Ben David and I acted as Beer Sommeliers during the event. I introduced the beers and their brewers, asked people about their preferences and the dishes they ordered, then recommended a suitable beer. The combination between the gourmet food served at HaTraklin Bistro and the Israeli craft beers turned out to be a success.

Our beer menu and Negev Brewery's Beer. HaTraklin. photo: Mirabelle Gazit
Our beer menu and Negev Brewery’s Beer. HaTraklin. photo: Mirabelle Gazit

My recommendations were highly praised: no one returned a beer (and I opened over 150 bottles); people kept calling me for a second and third recommendation. One of the fun and educational tastings is comparing same-style craft beer. My favorite styles in this kind of tasting are IPA and Porter-Stout and during the event I arranged a few same-style tastings of Israeli craft beers.

Contrary to some people’s beliefs beer actually pairs with almost any food, including chocolate! The secret is to pair the right kind of beer with the customer’s chosen dish. But being a Beer Sommelier is more than mere knowledge of what beer is about, one of the many aspects involves food pairing. It’s actually acting as a host and an educator simultaneously. In a way, it’s a continuation of 15 years of experience as an academic lecturer. I believe that being a Beer Sommelier involves interacting with people and sharing my passion and knowledge.

I enjoy taking part of the Israeli craft beer burgeoning market.

* * *