By Harley Zipori. For me, beer festivals are like flash floods in the desert. You can spend days wandering around the arid landscape looking for a suitable liquid to quench your thirst with little or no success and then suddenly waves upon waves come rushing down on top of you and you can’t begin to take advantage of it all. You quench your thirst and then watch it all rush by hoping you won’t drown. Shortly after, the desert is as arid as before and you have to start searching again.
The Beer 2013 Exhibition in Tel Aviv last week was the beer equivalent of a flash flood. To complete the allegory, it opened on January 8, the day that the Ayalon river overflowed it’s banks and flooded the Ayalon Highway and the railroad in Tel Aviv. This pretty much brought the entire center of the country to a complete stop. Literally. The roads to get into Tel Aviv were in gridlock. Many people gave up and you have to admire the tenacity (or wonder about the sanity) of those that were determined to get into Tel Aviv.
Fortunately, the Exhibition continued the next day when the roads were open and traffic was back to normal.
I am not privy to the attendance numbers for this year’s exhibition but I would be surprised if they reached the level of previous years. Of course I didn’t stay very late when the evening crowd would show up for a quick swing through the exhibition hall and a taste of as many beers as one could hope to find. Usually the professional part that occurs earlier in the day is jammed with anyone somehow connected with the restaurant or pub business coming to take advantage of that ever popular cry of “Free Beer”. This time the crowd was thinner and seemed more serious about tasting the beer which I guess is a good sign.
What surprised me was not so much who was there, of which I will talk more about later, but who wasn’t. I did not see any sign of the beers imported by Tempo (Samuel Adams and Murphy’s for example) or the Israel Beer Breweries Ltd (the Carlsberg and Tuborg local licensees) who import brands such as Stella Artois, Guinness and Weihenstephan. To me this means one of two things. Either they gave a pass on this years exhibition, leaving the field open to the smaller importers and the local craft brewers or after my first 50 cc tasting (I believe it was beer from a new brewer Ahuzat Bayit) I failed to notice a booth the size of a semitrailer.
It is interesting to see who invests serious money in these events and who just likes to show up and benefit from the exposure. Both the Dancing Camel and Jems Beer Factory had modest but noticeable booths the featured the beers they make while Negev and the Golan Brewery had larger, more elaborate booths. The fact that Negev and Golan are owned by large corporate interests may have something to do with that. However I did not walk around with a tape measure nor really take careful note of booth sizes so let’s not jump to conclusions.
The Alexander Brewery had a nice booth that wasn’t particularly large but seemed to pack enough people behind the bar they they needed some form of crowd control. They had all their flagship beers there and a special beer they brewed for the exhibition, Alexanderfest.
What is most interesting to me at these events are the new breweries. This event also opens up to those non-licensed brewers or homebrewers which mean that even I could have set up a booth if I had chosen to. Unfortunately most of them were not opening till 5 PM when the even freebie pros like myself had to cough up a coupon for a taste.
I did get to meet one young couple making beer in Beer Sheva. Their call themselves Shittah, Desert Beer. The Shittah is the Acacia (spelling and details from Wikipedia) tree that is common in the Negev desert in Israel. They have a Facebook page that tells a little about themselves and their activities. They are a very photogenic couple and make very nice beers and I took a picture so I could post it here.
The real discovery of the day was the Hasidah (Stork) Pub in Karkur. I met one of the founders, Elad, at the exhibition and he tells me that they serve exclusively Israeli craft beer plus Goldstar. The Goldstar is there so that even normal folks who visit the pub will have what to drink. This is truly a milestone in my beer explorations and I strongly urge all those reading to make an effort to visit the pub and support our local brewing scene.
Several of the beers from the festival were already written up on the Ratebeer site including the Alexanderfest I mentioned above. Two beer raters in particular covered a few beers from the expo, kerenmk and tomer. Keren also writes a beer blog in English. It’s nice to know others also appreciate Israeli beer and share it with the world. The rate beer rater “tomer” is Tomer Davidson who I have met a couple times and has an incredible breadth of knowledge and experience about beer. I discussed with him the the possibility of starting a joint venture but after some brief checking found that the obvious combination of our names was already protected by copyrights, company registrations and no doubt a team of corporate lawyers so I’m giving the joint venture idea a short break while I ponder my legal alternatives.
Last week also included a visit to the Dancing Camel pub located at the brewery on Hataasiya Street in Tel Aviv. Every Friday from 1 PM they have local musicians performing in a relaxed environment. The weekly events are organized by Ami Yares and Lilach Bonanni and have free entrance. The DC pub has excellent sandwiches and last Friday even tcholent. Beers are reasonably priced the atmosphere friendly and the music was excellent. I may even go again this Friday. Since the DC beers are kosher and the music starts early, it’s even good for Shabbat observers who don’t have to spend the entire afternoon preparing dinner. I even took pictures of the pub and my friend Michael who played and sang some Beatles for us.
As usual, any complaints corrections, rants and most important, suggestions or additional information should be directed to my email, email@example.com.