For a small country, there is an astonishing variety of fresh new beers available now. Israeli boutique breweries are sprouting up all over the country – from the Golan to the Negev. Last night at the Beer Expo, we sampled ales and stouts of all colors and characters produced by local small breweries. Jewish beers, Palestinian beers, imported beers, beers flavored with honey and beers flavored with herbs, like The Dancing Camel’s extraordinary rosemary-flavored brew.
More good news is that some of them, including the prestigious Golan Brewery owned by the Golan winery, are committing themselves to more natural and even organic beers. The not so good news is that the organic ingredients will likely be imported from Europe.
Speaking to Nikolaus Starkmeth, brewmaster at the Golan Brewery, we learned that growing hops, the plant that flavors beer, may not be possible in Israel.
“Hops need consistently long summer days to thrive,” said Starkmeth. “In Israel, daylight lasts about 8 hours, not long enough for healthy hops. At least, that’s what the scientists tell us. We’re interested in trying to grow hops experimentally, anyway. But I don’t foresee a time when all the prime ingredients will come from local sources. Except for water, of course.”
Ironic,considering our chronic water shortage.
Wheat and barley, the basis for beer, must also be imported because the land doesn’t sustain the quantities needed for industrial production.
“The very best varieties of barley and wheat, grown especially for beer, come from Germany and Belgium,” stated Starkmeth.
True – the one totally organic beer we sampled is brewed in England – Fuller’s Honey Dew. But local breweries are moving towards a natural brew that discards filtering (and adds character).
Like the tiny Lone Tree brewery of Gush Etzion. According to the owners, their beers are all-natural, meaning that no additives, like rice, go into their beer to make it cheaper. Sampling many different locally brewed beers, we noticed how fresh and lively their flavors are. One Lone Tree beer is brewed with oats, which gives the golden liquid a pleasant, almost-sweet flavor.
Food and drink professionals had a chance to sample the beers and interview managers last night, and it’s open for the general public tonight. If you love beer, don’t miss it.
The Beer Expo at the Nokia Sports Center
Rechov Yigal Allon 53, entrance 3
Open today, Thursday Jan. 13th between 5:00 and 11:00 PM.
Entrance Fee: NIS20; payment per sample NIS5; bottled beer available for sale at the exhibit.
More on Israeli booze from Green Prophet:
Photos of Nikolaus Starkmeth and beer wench poster by Miriam Kresh.
Miriam also writes a food blog.