Harley Zipori – Back to Basics
There was a time a couple years ago that I was knocking out a beer blog every few months or so. I had a lot to say about beer. I travelled and tasted different beers around the world. I wrote of my explorations of craft beers in Israel. Finally, it appears, the words ran out. I guess I didn’t have anything to add or anything that I felt particularly needed sharing.
But the truth is that I still love well made beer. The wonderful Dar Williams sings in one of her songs, “truth is just like time, it catches up and it just keeps going.” So it was inevitable that I would eventually feel the urge to write again about beer.
A couple weeks ago I finally got a chance to visit a place in the South Netanya industrial area called the Beer Shop. I was quite surprised by what I found. It is a small pub that serves 30 types of beer on tap. About half of these are beers from Israeli craft brewers. The rest are European beers from a range of countries and I even saw an American craft beer on the menu when I was there. They serve beer in 250 or 500 cc glasses or 1 liter bottles filled from that tap to take home. If 30 beers wasn’t enough, the price is enough to make it a home away from home. Half liter (500 cc) glasses, fresh from the tap are in general just under 20 NIS. It’s a jaw dropping combination and given the knowledge of the staff and friendly atmosphere, this place should be number one on the visit list of any beer lover.
In the last couple years I have seen my attitude to beer change. Evolve is perhaps a better word. Where in the past it was the variety and range of the different flavors of beer that caught my interest now I am paying more attention to the subtleties. I’m aware of something even more surprising. I am really focusing on the pleasure of drinking beer.
If I think back, the trigger was probably Steve Gilroy’s declaration that beer is about having a good time. Gilroy’s brewery is a large restaurant and pub on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Steve is a originally from Ireland and has been brewing beer in South Africa for years. He gives an absolutely hilarious brewery tour that includes a good dose of his R rated humor and clear examples of his fondness for expressing himself with his middle finger. Gilroy’s beers are fresh-tasting, easy to drink and a real pleasure to consume in large quantities. I would venture to guess that Steve doesn’t hold much stock in the minutiae of the craft brewing world. His beers are not trendy. But they sure are tasty. His philosophy was clearly stated on the tour that beer is for enjoying and the alcohol is there to help that along. During the beer tour you are plied with large quantities of Gilroy’s beer so I can’t be 100% certain of the accuracy of the interpretation. I am sure Steve will forgive me.
Steve even gives instructions on drinking beer that center around quantities of beer flowing over the back of the tongue where some of the more interesting taste receptors are.
It all gave me food (or more accurately, drink) for thought. There is a real connection between fun and beer and it should not be forgotten.
So I now simply try to enjoy my beer more. Savoring the taste and try to to avoid over-analyzing the flavor.
As a result of this shift in attitude, I now appreciate milder beers. I revel in the subtleties and no longer search out beers that hit me over the head.
Currently, my beer of choice is a pale ale. I will go for a pale ale even before an IPA (the stronger, more flavorful India Pale Ale). I also use the pale ale as a measure of a brewery.
In the past year, I have returned to brewing. I have brewed several batches of beer. They are all based on a pale ale recipe that I used several years ago. What is special about these ales is that they are each brewed with a single hops variety. The list is as follows:
- Nelson Sauvin
- Sorachi Ace
As I have been progressing in my brewing experience, I have been trying to tone down the aggressiveness of the hops. This hasn’t been terribly easy as all these hops varieties have very high alpha acids, the source of bitterness. For you beer enthusiasts, the AA varies from about 10 to as high as 16.
So these beers all turned out to be quite flavorful and aggressive. Far more bitter than most of the Israeli craft brew IPA’s. But then they were experimental beers anyway meant to help me sort out what were some of the differences between hops varieties.
The last, and perhaps the most successful, batch was the ale brewed with Sorachi Ace. I managed to keep the bitterness low with an IBU around 30. The citrusy flavor really came through and even though I just tasted it for the first time as of this writing, I am really pleased.