The Beer 2014 Exhibition took place this last week. It sort of snuck up on me. Previous incarnations of the Beers Exhibition took place in January at the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv. For those of you whose memories may be a bit dated, the stadium used to be known as Yad Eliahu. The name was changed a number of years ago. I forgot how many to be honest.
My first Beers Exhibition was in 2011 and I believe that was the first one held. This year it didn’t happen in January but they moved it outdoors in September at HaTachana (The Station), a reconstruction of an old railway station, one of Tel Aviv’s newer cultural and entertainment centers. It is a good place to take visitors to Israel, both first timers and old hands who visit since it is new and trendy. I have visited twice in the last half year with visitors from abroad and it’s a good place to start a walking tour of Tel Aviv. It is located next to Neve Tzedek, not far from the Carmel Market, near Jaffa and the Charles Clore Park.
I have to admit that I sort of dreaded an outdoor event in September. It is still fairly warm and it would easily turn into a sweat fest. Fortunately it wasn’t too hot.
As a published blogger, I can get an invitation to the first day of the exhibition set aside for “professionals”. This is by invitation only and is supposed to be for those working in restaurants, pubs and the beer supply chain, i.e. importers and distributors. In reality, I think almost anyone can wrangle an invitation. After all entrance is free as well as the tastings. The second and third days are open to the public at a cost and tastings are paid for.
As I discovered only when I was there, the home brewers were relegated to the last two days of the exhibition. It makes sense not to ask the home brewers to waste beer on a bunch of people who will happily taste their product but will not be able to sell it across their bars. I am sorry I missed them and next time I might actually have to go on two nights.
What did happily surprise me was the relative large number of small brewers who had booths. This appears to be due to Mivshelet Ha’am (מבשלת העם) in Even Yehuda. They offer contract brewing services and will deliver finished and packaged beer (bottles or kegs) made according to the brewers recipe including all taxes and kashrut. It appears that more and more home brewers are taking this route to get their beers out in the commercial outlets. Especially the places like the Beer Market in the Jaffa Port.
To start describing each of the beers and the brewers who made them is impossible. Not for lack of space or time to write it all out rather that I cannot remember in detail all the beers and describe them in any meaningful detail. I would have to spend more time making notes and recording my impressions than schmoozing with people and hearing their stories.
So I will have to be satisfied in making a list of the brewers and a brief mention of the beers they had on offer.
Boutique Israeli Brewers
Talman – Old Pale Ale
Abir (Aram from Tzafririm, see picture)
HaHatzer – Hophead
Shapira Pilsner and Winter Ale
HaDubim Grizzley and Pale Ale
Meadan – Gluten Free Beers
Beer of the Brave
Duvel Duvel Single and Duvel bottles
Marsedous Dubbel and Trippel
Jacobsen Beer Extra Pilsner and Saaz Blonde
I tried to give the Facebook links where possible. This means that you can click on “Like” to follow the brewery postings.
Even just checking out the websites and Facebook pages of the breweries was not small task. Imagine going from Station to Station at the festival while trying to decide what seems interesting and where to draw the line.
Each festival has a few surprises or at least things worth mentioning. Not that these are better than any other but that they stuck in my memory for their uniqueness.
The Duvel importer had a booth that allowed people to taste both the Duvel Single served from a keg and Duvel in bottles. I have tasted both before and mentioned the Duvel Single in a previous blog but this was the first time to taste them side by side. Bottom line, the Duvel Single was better than I remember and the Duvel in bottles wasn’t as special as my memories have it. Goes to show how reliable our sensory memories are. Still, the bottle variety was nicer and had a bit more of a malty depth that a good Belgian beer can have.
Another interesting experience was the gluten free beer from the Meadan Craft Brewery. They make beers from malted chickpeas and buckwheat and they are both quite good and very drinkable. Given the wide variety of flavors I have tasted in beers, these brews were well within the range of what are recognizable (at least to me) as beer. With a motto “Gluten Intolerance is the only Intolerance we tolerate”, Meadan is making a statement as well as a tasty brew. I look forward to meeting them again and seeing their beers being sold at a wide range of outlets so that more people can enjoy a tasty brew.
And finally I would like to mention the crew at the Backyard Brewery (מבשלת החצר). They were young and cheerful and seem to be willing to push the boundaries in both brewing and spirit. They have beers with cute names like Mad Hatter, Hophead, and Avodah Shechora (עבודה שחור). The latter I will not translate because with one translation the pun will be missed and with another it just sounds bad. The Hophead in particular was an eye opening treat. An American IPA (Indian Pale Ale) on steroids with lots of fruity American hops and a lot of bitterness. Not for everyone for sure but if you really like some knock you on your butt hoppy, bitter beer, this is your brew. I liked it. Not your session beer for sure but a real treat.
I wish there was some general lesson to be learnt from the Beers 2014 Exhibition. I don’t think that there is the kind of data available there to really evaluate the state of the craft beer industry in Israel. The imported beers seemed to have fewer booths as if some of the big importers didn’t bother to show up. For instance I don’t remember seeing any mention of Samuel Adams (imported by Tempo). Please don’t get upset if I missed it. As I didn’t get to see the homebrewers, I can’t judge from them what the new up and coming commercial brews might be. However the number of small brewers who use the services of contract breweries seems to be growing. This is good news as the threshold for entering the craft beer market in Israel has become significantly lower than in the good old days where you had to get licenses and build your own commercial brewery.
In order to truly judge the state of the craft beer business, you need to look at numbers. Specifically sales figures all neatly divided by beer type and outlet for a number of years. I’m not sure such numbers exist but if anyone knows of a public source of such information that I can link to in a blog, please let me know.
I would also like to bring to everyone’s attention a beer festival on October 17 at the Beermingham Pub. This is the Beer Valley/Emek Hefer Beer Festival sponsored in part by Beer and Beyond which means Shahar Hertz. This is quite fitting as Shachar organized the beer festivals at Kibbutz Maabarot where I first started exploring the world of craft beers in Israel a number of years ago. I personally owe a lot to Shachar as does the entire craft beer community in Israel. Shachar also appears at the beginning of the video I linked above.
The Beermingham Pub is in the Emek Hefer industrial area near Hadera and looks to be down the street from the Alexander Brewery. Looks like a two birds with one stone day.
I have started using Facebook more as a source of information regarding events and things happening in the brewing world. I have published Maof Beer page that will contain interesting information for those interested in craft beers in Israel, specifically locally boutique beers. So keep reading the blogs. There is always more to say.