We are on a family and friends visit in Israel, and I had a chance to try some great new local beers. When we left Israel 4 years ago, finding good beer was almost impossible, definitely not on tap, and just finding places that can pour a descent beer was a good surprise.
In the last couple of days, I had a taste of a couple of breweries’ beers: Bazelet from the Golan Heights (bottles only) and Shapiro from Jerusalem. Though only a tease of the new breweries in Israel (there are 23 that I could find at the moment), but I think they interestingly represent well what is on offer. I do plan on trying more, and hope to go to Salara in Ganigar on Friday.
So, to the beers.
Lets start with Shapiro. I had the chance to try the Oatmeal Stout on tap in the Uganda pub (though easily found in many places in Jerusalem, but nowhere else) and the wheat beer from a bottle. Both beers were good, very straight forward and very, very Jerusalemites. Flavours were clean, slightly sweet and very carbonated. When I got the Stout, I was expecting a creamy, coffee/chocolate style thick stout, but the beer was light, with a coffee under tone and a healthy dose of carbonation. This is a very Israeli way of drinking beer (carbonated), and it does suits the weather very well, but not the Oatmeal Stout texture. The Wheat beer (from a bottle) was very refreshing, though a little sweet and pretty herby to my taste, almost like a Belgium ale in taste.
Bazelet is a relatively veteran brewery in the Israeli scene, and since 2010 it is a subsidiary of the Golan Heights Winery, so it has the backing and support of the big boys in the market. The beers I’ve tried are the Red Ale and the Double Bock, both from a 750ml bottle. Both beers have that sweet and carbonated finish that Israeli beers have, but had a very herbal flavour, warm and thick, almost syrup like, and both had similar flavour despite being completely different. The Red Ale I found to be average for an ale, slightly flat with a too sweet undertone, the Double Bock (8% ABV) on the other hand was excellent. For a lager, the Double Bock was thick, syrupy, strong but you could feel the bitterness from the hops, with a creamy chocolate and coffee smells you’d expect from a stout. So far, the Double Bock is the winner in my trip.
One thing to bare in mind if you think to come to Israel for a drinking crusade, is that about a year ago Israel had increased the taxing on alcohol (by about extra 20%), which means that you need to pay dearly for drinks (a 750ml Bazelet on sale was 25 NIS, around £6!!), so it is drinking only for the strong of hearts, or blind to expenses.
I will report from the Salara soon (I hope), cheers.