By Harley Zipori. This blog started out completely different. I actually managed to make a plan and execute it so I could attend the Jerusalem Beer Festival. I started writing about the festival but it was going very slowly. As I was struggling to put things into words, something else came up that I just had to write about. I will continue about the festival a little later in this blog.
I have written in the past about Danny’s Art Bar in Ein Hod. I was informed last week that the Art Bar is closing permanently. This is very sad news to the legions of weekend visitors to Ein Hod who could count on a craft brewed beer, a cold soft drink and a homemade pizza along with live music and the pleasant atmosphere of picturesque Ein Hod.
Danny will not be making beer anymore and as a result has beer making equipment and even some raw materials like malted barley and hops that he would like to sell. The equipment, as I understand, consists primarily of a number of large stainless steel and aluminum pots. If you wish more details, please send me contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will pass it on.
Now on to the festival.
True to its name, the Jerusalem Beer Festival actually does take place in Jerusalem, and there is indeed beer. Lots of beer. It was also a festival and even reasonably well organized. Being Jerusalem there was lots of security, including a noticeable presence of police. I’d like to think they were there to keep the drunken teenagers in line but that would be naive, wouldn’t it?
The area for the beer stands was not that large. This was probably due to the dearth of local brewers. There was the usual representation of the large producers and importers. Both Tempo and Israel Beer Breweries had multiple stands to represent their different brands, both locally brewed and imported. Normans also had their line of imported beers on display and more.
The Central Bottling Company is the Coca Cola franchise holder in Israel and produces and markets our beloved Coke and other soft drinks. The company owns the Israel Beer Breweries Ltd. in Ashkelon which produces Carlsberg and Tuborg beers under license of the Carlsberg Group from Denmark. They also import (according to their website) Guinness, Kilkenny, Leffe, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Weihenstephan. I’m sure that many of you have heard of and maybe even tasted some of these beers. They are all very good European commercial beers. I even found Kilkenny, and of course Guinness, at Franks Irish Pub in Beijing.
This was also an opportunity to expose the general public to the Jacobsen Beers named after the founder of Carlsberg. These beers are premium beers brewed by the same people who brew Carlsberg in Denmark and are only sold, from what I can see, in 750ml bottles. I tasted them all and they are very good. I wrote about these in an earlier blog and I say bring them on. Anyone who wants to sell a real premium beer has my support. I look forward to finding them in stores and taking them home. These big bottles are great for serving at special meals at home where there are several people willing to taste.
Tempo brews locally formulated beers under the Maccabee, Goldstar, Abir, Eagle and Nesher brands. The latter two being more popularly priced beers. This is not any form of insult as I have not tasted either for a long time. Also, I would not put the price of a can of Goldstar in the supermarket in the “popularly priced” category but I do realize that this is not all their fault due to the high taxes on everything in Israel and the extra tax on beer. Tempo also produces Heineken under license from Heineken International which is a very large international brewing concern with worldwide manufacturing and distribution of about 170 beer brands, some of which Tempo also imports. According to the Tempo website, they import Samuel Adams, Staropramen (Czech Republic), Paulaner, Murphy’s Irish Stout and Newcastle Brown Ale.
I provide this litany of beers manufactured locally and imported by these local industrial brewing concerns mainly to show that these companies have what to display at any beer festival so it is no wonder that they are willing to put up so many running meters of display space at a beer festival. For them it’s a great chance to enhance brand awareness. And since many of these beers are now showing up in pubs and restaurants, it must be working.
I was puzzled and disappointed by the lack of local craft breweries. I am still disappointed. Not so much puzzled any more after it was explained to me that the cost of a stand was very high and then you had to man it, transport the beer and equipment and hey, the beer actually costs money to produce. With a big prominent display, it is theoretically possible to earn that money back but there was a lot of competition from the other craft brewers and the big boys. I am not sure at all if any of the brewers actually broke even.
So here is a rundown of the local brewers that participated. I apologize if I left anyone out. I may have missed one or two since I didn’t take proper notes.
The home and nano brewers were represented by the Lela brewery (my neighbors at the Longshot Festival 2 years ago) and Isis. They were off to the side and a bit out of the way.
The Glen Whiskey Bar in Jerusalem had a large square stand what I assume to be the 4 craft breweries that they sell at their pub with a large prominent display. Each of the breweries had one side of the stand. The breweries were: Dancing Camel, Alexander, Srigim (see my earlier blog regarding Emek HaElah and Ronen beers), and Solara.
The Negev brewery had an impressive stand together with a Norman’s display (if memory serves me correctly) which is not surprising since I understand the Norman Premium bought the Negev brewery, putting them in with the big boys as they now brew local beers and import and distribute European and other foreign brands. I can understand the advantage of having an established beer distributor adding local craft beers to their portfolio. My experience with Negev beers has always been good and if they can keep their consistency and reliability up, then they have a chance of getting into some pubs out there.
Other breweries had large noticeable stands without any connection to anyone else: Pavo, Denny Neilson’s Busters Cider (and his IPA), Shapira and a new brewery called Mosco.
Mosco produces 2 beers in the region around Beit Shemesh where there are already an abundance of small breweries but more on that later. They had 2 beers: a golden ale and an amber ale. I managed to taste both and they were nice and clean tasting. I wish them luck.
Some beer festivals have a special arrangement for tastings; usually 5 NIS for 100 ml of a beer (about 1/3 of a bottle). I can get by with half that and have negotiated 2 small tastings for the price of one. I mean I have a job to do and can’t very well do it properly if I drink too much beer. Maybe I should find a different job.
This festival left it to the stands to decide what to do. Some provided tastings for 5 NIS but not all. Most were intent on selling their thirds and halves (of a liter) to the crowd of people milling around.
I assume that there was some live music planned but since I left around 9:30 I didn’t see anyone preparing to play. There was a large stage and a screen set up and a DJ playing music. He clearly didn’t need the stage and a name band is a big draw so I assume that it happened after I left.
What was noticeable to me were the local craft breweries that weren’t there. I won’t mention them. If anyone from these breweries is reading this, they know who they are and also know why they didn’t participate.
While I don’t blame them, I sure did miss them. There was supposed to be a microbrewery explosion in Israel but there wasn’t any more representation from the local brewing community than there was a few years ago at the last Tel Aviv Beer Festival. Maybe even less. I don’t even want to know the numbers.
We do get another chance soon to show our support for the nascent local brewing industry. The Mateh Yehuda Beer Festival (http://www.touryoav.org.il/?
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