Harley Zipori

Czech out the Beer

banner.apr2013  By Harley Zipori. I have been truly negligent with my beer blogging duties. Due to frequent trips abroad for work, the preparation for those trips and the resulting pressures to make up for the lost time when I return to home and office, I have neglected my blogging.

 
Thanks to Israeli Start Up Wibbitz Beta
 

 

 

This morning I saw an article on the front page of the English version of Haaretz about the beer tax. A recent near doubling of the tax to over 4 NIS per liter has put a major onus on the budding craft brewing industry in Israel. The article was timely as the current temporary rise in the tax is set to become law this week.

 

This point was driven home this week after visiting Mivshelet Ha’am (the aptly named ‘People’s Brewery’) in Even Yehuda. I was accompanying a friend who is interested in commercial brewing of his beer so we met with Dagan, the owner/operator of the brewery for a tour and frank discussion of the economics of brewing. Bottom line, for craft microbreweries, the tax can amount to more than 25% of the out-the-door cost of the beer. Add VAT on to that and guess who is paying a whole lot of money to the government for the simple pleasure of drinking a beer? (Guesses may be submitted to my blog mail shown at the end of the blog. Wrong answers will be posted in the next blog.)

 

Mivshelet Ha’am does what is called “contract brewing” where they prepare beer according to a your recipe including putting your label on the bottle. Dagan also produces his own label (HaDubim) which is one of the veteran craft brew labels in Israel. More than one home/hobby brewer I know has worked with Mivshelet Ha’am. By letting Dagan brew your beer you get a fully legal, licensed and kosher certified (and need I mentioned, taxed) beer you can sell in any pub, restaurant or store. This is truly a people’s brewery.

 

The price of beer really hit home after my recent trip to the city of Brno in the Czech Republic. Czechs are world class beer drinkers as related by Shachar Hertz of Beer and Beyond in the Haaretz article. They do drink a lot of beer and there are a lot of places to drink in Brno. And let’s not forget that the beer is good. Even the mass produced Pilsners leave most other mass produced beers eating their dust. After all, the Czech city of Pilsen is the home of Pilsner and Pilsner Urquell is the most common beer available in all of the Czech Republic, from my observations at least. Urquell is the descendant of the original Czech Pilsner. So these guys are not fooling around.

 

The rub is that in Brno you can get a 500 ml glass of Urquell for as little as the equivalent of 6 NIS. Of course food there is, in general, much cheaper than here and salaries clearly lower but the point is still clear and someone painful. Also not to be forgotten, the raw ingredients, primarily barley and hops are grown locally in Europe and have to be imported to Israel.

 

Still all things considering, it hurts that we pay five times that for a decent beer here. And I do not want to be dragged into an argument on the meaning of the term “decent beer”.

 

I did discover that there is also an active craft brewing scene in the Czech Republic. I stayed in thePegas Hotel in the center of Brno that has a brew pub on the first floor making craft brew versions of Czech style beers that were really nice. I also tasted several local craft beers that were not Pilsners including an American style pale ale and stout from the Matuska brewery and a beer called Primator from the Nachod brewery. Even the larger breweries get in on the craft beer trend and I tasted an unfiltered wheat beer made by Staropramen, one of the larger Czech breweries and even heard rumors of a cask conditioned version of Urquell.

 

Given the quality, cost and ease of finding these excellent Czech beers it’s not surprising that beer consumption there is what it is. Nor that there is a zero blood alcohol level for all drivers in the country.

 

That wraps up things for now. I have to buckle down and start writing a chapter on beer for my friends Sarah and Michael who are putting together a book about leisure in Israel. Who knows when I will be able to stick my nose out of the house long enough to get any more beer to write about.

 

For comments, questions or guesses to the question above, write me at maof.beer@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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