By Harley Zipori. Winter doesn’t seem like beer season. Growing up in the US, one tends to associate beer with summer picnics, backyard barbeques and baseball games. Since the pale, mildly flavored beverage that most Americans call beer has to be drunk ice cold to be palatable, this makes perfect sense.
In Europe, especially the northern parts, summer is like winter in the holy land. Beer is a year round beverage. There are even beers brewed specifically for winter that are heavier in body and higher in alcohol. I guess that warm buzz compensates for not seeing the sun for weeks on end.
Contrary to a common belief, the British to not serve “warm” beer in their pubs. The recommended serving temperature for the majority of British brewers, according the Cask Marque, is between 11C and 13C. Now I’m sure there are a variety of opinions out there but I for one do not consider 13C warm. Especially if it happens to be the air temperature of the place I am situated in at the moment.
Even quaffing beer at recommended serving temperatures in the depths of winter is not going to warm you up like say a nice glass of Glühwein that is so ubiquitous at the European winter street festivals. However given that winter beers have a good alcohol content and usually a rich flavor, it certainly feels nice on a chilly winter day.
American craft brewers are making a variety of seasonal beers suited to winter, including the traditional Christmas beers. A few Israeli craft brewers are making richer, higher alcohol beers that are suitable for winter consumption. The Bazelet Double Bock comes to mind.
I bring up the topic of winter beers due to the fact that I was in Europe at the end of January. Warsaw Poland to be exact, where I spent several days for work. Warsaw, of course, has all sorts of associations for those of us growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust. I did get a chance to see a bit of the city and the historical sites when I was taken around by my colleague Dariusz who has an amazing knowledge of the city and its history, including the Jewish history and the Warsaw Ghetto. Just behind the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes Memorial is a very large and impressive Museum of the History of Polish Jews due to be opened this year. It is a stunning building and the Warsaw residents I spoke with were quite proud of their new museum.
Despite the fact that Poland was behind the Iron Curtain until the 90’s, Warsaw was a lively, modern and quite lovely city. I managed to see a bit of the area as we drove around to do some errands and could have easily been in any European city. Even my German colleagues thought the city was up to European standards.
Of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Europe for me without something relating to beer and I had done my homework and looked for brewpubs and local breweries before my trip. However due to limited time, social obligations and most important, the weather, I didn’t get a chance to go out on my own searching for quality beer. But chance was on my side the last evening in Warsaw as we were walking down a main street looking for a place to eat when I spotted the Bierhalle, one of the brewpubs I found in my search. Convincing my German colleagues to go to a brewpub restaurant is not a terribly difficult task and we found a nice table in a spacious area in the back of the pub where it was obvious that the locals love to congregate.
We had a simple yet tasty meal and I tried two of the three beers they had on tap that evening. The first I tried was their beer called Marcowe. Ratebeer classifies this as an Oktoberfest or Marzen beer which makes this a true seasonal beer. It was a bit sweet and quite smooth, with a nice rich flavor.
After that I tried their Hefeweizen, a classic version of the German wheat beer that actually tasted much like the versions of this beer that I had tasted during my visits to Germany.
All told, it was a successful visit and I recommend anyone visiting Warsaw to check out Bierhalle.
Now that we have recovered from the Beer Expo at the Nokia stadium last month, we can prepare ourselves for the next beer event. The one that I know about is the Beer Festival that is part of the annual Yoav-Yehuda Food Festival. This has been taking place for several years now and is a great opportunity to see a lovely part of the country at peak season and support local residents.
The festival itself runs from February 21 through March 16. The Beer Festival is scheduled for March 8 at Givat Yeshayahu just to the south-east of Beit Shemesh on Road 38 to Beit Guvrin.
I cannot guarantee my attendance since I am returning from another business trip the night before.
One last addition before I sign off. This weekend I had a chance to visit a pub in the Poleg Industrial Zone called the Cabinet. I heard it was a young people’s place to hang out but I had also heard that they have a new beer that I wanted to try. They do indeed have a nice selection of beers including the beer I wanted to try, the new Duvel Single. I knew it was coming and it was launched at the Beer Exhibition last month. This is a simpler version of the bottled Duvel which is a classic Belgian Golden Ale. The Duvel Single undergoes a single fermentation, less aging and is lower in alcohol but still a respectable 6.8%. It was light and refreshing with a noticeable hop bitterness but still had that hint that it is a Belgian Ale. It was a little too close to a Pilsner to be something special. But it should make an excellent session beer since the Pilsner crowd won’t have to go too far to meet this one halfway.
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