February 24, 2015

One more "winter holiday" ale

Winter is still here; there's no doubt about that.  Witness our last weekend: cold and rainy, and snowy in the hilly regions around Israel.  So it's not too late to mention one more Israeli "winter holiday" ale that arrived after I wrote my previous post.
Snowy Jerusalem from our window.

It's the Mabul Christmas Ale made by home-brewers Avi Riji and Oded Bahar in Kiryat Motzkin near Haifa.  (I mentioned Avi and his beers when I wrote about home-brewers, and you can read it here.)

Mabul Christmas Ale.
My drinking partner Moshe and I agreed that Mabul ("flood" in Hebrew) was the most flavorful holiday beer we tasted.  It pours dark copper with a reddish hue.  The aroma that hits you is strongly cinnamon and hops.  Quite a nice combination, really.  Cinnamon stays in the flavor, along with bitter chocolate, and ending with ginger in the aftertaste.  Avi and Oded brew their beer with cinnamon, ginger, honey and nutmeg.

Moshe commented that all of the flavors combine very nicely in Mabul, though he believes that the extreme flavors of this beer would be appreciated more by beer aficionados than the general public. So, kudos to Avi and Oded for creating a winter holiday ale worthy of its name.

The downside is that Mabul is a home-brew not available in any stores or restaurants.  Avi and Oded share it with their family and friends, of which I am happy to be one.

Maredsous Trippel abbey ale.
However, for this past snowy Shabbat in Jerusalem, when the temperature was close to freezing, I chose to open a bottle of beer widely available in Israel though not, unfortunately, from Israel.  It was a warming and strong (10% ABV) abbey ale from Belgium -- Maredsous Trippel.  It is brewed in the venerable tradition of the Benedictine monks, and undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle with the addition of sugar and yeast.

Maredsous Trippel can be kept in the bottle for three years without any change in taste and color.  I received mine as a birthday present from my son Aharon and his wife Melanie a-year-and-a-half ago.

Mardesous Trippel pours a bright amber color with a firm white head.  The aroma is fruity, citrus and banana.  Within the heavy malt and alcohol taste, I found beautiful notes of chocolate caramel, prunes and dried fruits.

The beer went very well with our lunch, which was a good, hearty vegetarian cholent and other vegetable stews.  The strong flavors of the Trippel added a contrasting sweetness to our hot stews.  And for dessert, the beer's caramel flavor perfectly complemented a tart apple strudel and peanut butter - granola cookies.          

Most people associate beer with the summertime; a cold, crisp thirst quencher.  But the more I learn about the charms of strong ales and winter beers, the more I appreciate beer as no less a great beverage for the cold weather.

January 28, 2015

Six "winter holiday" ales

Some Israeli brewers come right out and say "Christmas," which is probably not so politically correct.  Others say "Winter" or "Holiday" or even "Hanukka."  But all of them are talking about the heavier, darker and stronger ales which people have been drinking in the colder months of the year for centuries.

As we now face the icy blasts of winter. I must admit that I don't really understand the physiology of the matter.  Putting any cold beer down your gullet on a cold day isn't going to make you any warmer.  But, as any drinker can tell you, the heavy dose of alcohol does give you the "feeling" of warming up -- witness the St. Bernard dogs who were sent out to find lost travelers and hikers in the snow, with a cask of whisky (or was it a good strong German doppelbock lager?) around their necks. 

And so, it's perfectly natural this time of year, when days are short and nights are long and cold, to taste some Israeli winter holiday ales.  I chose six which were especially brewed for this season: four can be found on the shelves of select liquor stores and two were home-brewed to be enjoyed with a smaller circle of friends and family.

We'll begin with Chariton Abbey Ale, a seasonal winter beer produced by Negev Brewery in Kiryat Gat.  Chariton was the name of a monk who lived in the Judean Desert in the fourth century.  It's a good name for an abbey ale, those strong beers from the Belgian side of the family, brewed by monks for many centuries.

My neighbor Moshe joined me for the new 2014-2015 version.  At 8% alcohol by volume, this is indeed a strong beer.  It pours a dark amber color with a small head.  You notice that it's very carbonated, a result of added CO2.  The aroma is roasted caramel and spicy pepper.  Flavors included sweet fruits and chocolate malt.  The bottle says that it is made with "local spices" without naming them.  Moshe ventured that one of them was zaatar, otherwise known as biblical hyssop. 

We both thought that this was a delicious and warming beer, perfect for a cold evening.  It also was an excellent accompaniment to a piece of dark chocolate.  Yum!

Next up was Christmas Ale from the Samson Brewery on Kibbutz Tzora.  This was the not the first time that I tried it. That introduction was made when I visited the brewery a few months ago and met with Leon Solomon.  (You can read about that first encounter here.)  Samson beers are available only at the brewery.  

Now, drinking it again in the winter, we appreciated even more its taste and strength (7.5% ABV).  It pours very dark with a thin head.  The aromas that reach your nose ("like an Indian kitchen," is how Moshe put it) are ginger and cinnamon, which Solomon does indeed put into the brew, along with cloves, cardamon and orange peel.  These are all spices associated with the holiday, and they blend very well to give this beer a festive flavor.  We found it less sweet than the other winter beers, but with distinct notes of brown sugar and caramel.

The Zambish Hanukka Ale is arguably the best beer home-brewed by my neighbor Moshe Lifshitz himself.  The color is a beautiful dark copper with a reddish tinge. The head is a long-lasting red-tan.  What you smell first is citrusy hops, kind of surprising for such a dark beer, but it's well balanced by the brown sugar and berry sweetness which comes when you swallow.  In fact, it's the balance between the hops and the malt that makes this beer so interesting. Moshe used a Belgian yeast, so it's no mystery if this beer reminds you of a Belgian strong ale. Moshe surmises that the alcoholic content is in the 7-8% range -- about what a Hanukka beer should be.                

Embargo is the brand new beer from Herzl Brewery in Jerusalem.  It's a good strong porter (6% ABV) made with real Cuban tobacco leaves.  These are added during fermentation.  Aside from a small mention of a tobacco beer somewhere in Italy, I was unable to find reports of any other beer flavored with tobacco.  The subject has come up in home-brewing forums but as far as I can tell, has not been acted on - until now.        

The name Embargo is a nice allusion to the U.S. embargo on Cuban cigars that is only now being lifted after 54 years.  In Israel, Cuban cigars and tobacco have always been available.

Embargo pours very dark, close to black, and the aroma is heavily malt.  At first sip, I wondered, "where's the tobacco."  And then, at the end of the swallow, there it was.  (Funny how we perceive tastes like that.)  I'm not that much of an expert to identify the tobacco as "Cuban," but it was definitely cigarish.  Moshe and I also detected notes of chocolate and pepper.  We described Embargo as "surprising" and "special," and made notes to buy more.

For the past few years, I've been looking forward every winter to the appearance of Jack's Winter Ale from the Shapiro Brewery in Beit Shemesh.  And this year's (2015) edition is truly exceptional. Jack's is made with wood chips soaked in Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, which gives the beer a full and rich body, and smooth, buttery finish.

It pours a red-copper color with a scent of sweet malt and ripe fruits.  The flavor is bitter-sweet, with the hop bitterness preventing it from being cloying.

We detected tastes of banana, vanilla, burnt butter and bourbon.  You can feel the very high (8.2%) alcoholic content but it doesn't impose on the taste at all.  This is a great beer for any winter meal.  By itself, it's a beautiful warming dessert.

Downtown Brown from Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv has been around for a while as a traditional American brown ale.  But for the past two years or so, it's been brewed with the additional spices of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger -- and this is what transforms it into a true winter holiday ale.

This strong bodied beer pours a very dark brown with a dark tan head.  The unmistakable smell of nutmeg hits you first, though Moshe's first reaction to the aroma was, "coca-cola."  The taste is well balanced with very low roasted malt sweetness and almost no hop bitterness.  Cinnamon is the strongest taste, overpowering the others, which we just detected as pepper, coffee and licorice.

The current version of Downtown Brown is a highly spiced winter ale which will get you into a flavorful holiday mood every time you open a bottle.
These six beers are good examples of Israeli winter ales, but there are more out there.  The time to best enjoy them is now, while the cold, rain and snow invade our shores.  Open a bottle and feel the warmth.                  

January 6, 2015

Help support the new Tel Aviv Beer Market!

The Tel Aviv Beer Market has turned to the crowdfunding site Headstart to raise money for opening a store in the new Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. 

The Sarona Market is a mega-complex which will hold some 100 food stores and stands.  Beer Market owners Rotem and Dagan Bar-Ilan say it's the perfect and natural place for their new store.  They pledge to stock as many Israeli craft beers as possible, which today stands at about 120 distinct beers.  The beer will be sold in bottles both warm (for take home) and refrigerated (for drinking at the store), as well as from a bar with six taps pumping changing beers.  The bar will also offer light foods.     

The Bar-Ilan brothers are aiming to raise 50,000 shekels (about $12,800) on the Headstart site.  Over 20,000 shekels have already been pledged, and there are only 20 days left for them to reach their goal.  The funding will only take place if the goal is reached in time.      

If you want to take part in this important project to bring Israeli craft beer to the attention of the public, then surf over to the Headstart page (click here) and make a pledge of support.  Pledges can be made in amounts starting at 50 shekels up to 20,000 shekels, and you will receive different gifts for the amount you pledge.    

Even if you choose not to support this venture, it's worth reading the Headstart page (it's in English) for interesting background information on the Beer Market project and the Sarona Market.  Give a click here.

The Bar-Ilan brothers are owners of the original Beer Market in Jaffa Port, as well as of the Mivshelet Ha'am contract brewery in Even Yehuda, where they brew their popular line of HaDubim beers.  

December 29, 2014

First Israeli craft beer kiddush in America

"There have been synagogues which have brought in Israeli craft beers for other events, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time they were served at a Sabbath morning kiddush [post-service repast]."

This is what I heard from Austin Clar, manager of Sublime Imports in Dallas, Texas, the sole importer of Israeli craft beer into the U.S.  Clar was talking about a kiddush held on December 20 at The Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton, New York.
Len Wasserman presents the Israeli craft beer
table at The Hampton Synagogue.

(Photos taken before Shabbat.)

Let's back up a little bit.

Having an Israeli craft beer table at a kiddush in an American synagogue was the brainchild of my friend Len Wasserman, a member of the Hampton Synagogue.  Len is a passionate beer lover and committed supporter of Israel.  He saw this kiddush as a way to introduce Israeli craft beer to the American Jewish market.

Cases of Malka and Alexander
beer on the way to Long Island. 
The Hampton Synagogue, founded by Rabbi Marc Schneier in 1990, is a unique, active and successful Orthodox synagogue located in one of America's most affluent areas on eastern Long Island.  Its lavish Saturday morning kiddushes would put many wedding receptions to shame, especially the groaning liquor tables.  But what has always been missing is beer.

Len decided to sponsor an Israeli craft beer table at a kiddush on the Sabbath of the Hanukka holiday.

Len says that he chose Hanukka because, "it is the holiday of light and freedom in the Land of Israel, and what could bring more light and freedom to the contemporary Land of Israel than Israeli craft beers, made from products of the earth and brewed by creative individuals in Israel."

Here's where Israel Brews and Views stepped in.  I was able to find out that Alexander and Malka are the two Israeli craft beers which are being distributed in the U.S.  The two and only, according to Austin Clar.  Len made contact with Sublime Imports and arranged to buy five cartons of beer.  One each of:

Alexander Ambree
The Alexander Beer side of the table . . .
Alexander Black (porter)
Alexander Green (IPA)
Malka Stout
Malka Pale Ale

Israel Brews and Views supported the beer table by printing flyers on the two breweries and (full disclosure) cards to promote the blog.

The Thursday before the kiddush saw Len driving his Buick all the way out to New Jersey to pick up the beer and bring it back to Westhampton.  On Friday, he set up the table and put the beers in the fridge.

The Israeli craft beer kiddush was a great success, Len reported.  By the end of the Sabbath, all 120 bottles were consumed.  Many people told Len how much they enjoyed the beers, even some who were not beer drinkers. 

 . . . and the Malka Beer side.
Len continued: "A number of people asked me where they could obtain these beers in the New York metro area.  I told them that, unfortunately, they are not available yet for retail distribution in New York.  I told them what they should do is take the flyers and, when they go to a kosher or Israeli restaurant, they should demand that these are the beers they should be serving -- not Bud, Miller and Heineken.  If we can create a demand, we should be able to create a market and the opportunity to buy these terrific products.  I told folks also that when they go to visit Israel, they should look for these and other craft beers and also visit a craft brewery or two.  I think people took it seriously."
Alexander beers.

According to Austin Clar, Alexander and Malka beer should be available in New York by the middle of 2015, as well as in Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Michigan.  The beers are already for sale in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Illinois (Chicago area), Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington DC, northern Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Malka beers.
Sublime has been importing Malka since October 2013, and Alexander since the summer of 2014.  Clar disclosed that he has been speaking with "several other" Israeli craft breweries, but doesn't expect to be importing other beers anytime soon. 

So, hearty congratulations to Len and his girlfriend Abigail Moore, who sponsored the Israeli craft beer table (in honor of the birthday of Abigail's aunt, Bernice Feldman).  Step-by-step, it's independent initiatives such as this that will open new markets and vistas for our Israeli beers.    

December 22, 2014

Samson at Tzora

"The spirit of the Lord first moved him [Samson] in the encampment of Dan, between Tzora and Eshtaol."              (Judges 13:25)
If the Bible says that Samson grew up near Tzora, what could be more natural than the Samson Brewery being on Kibbutz Tzora, about 20 kilometers (12  miles) from Jerusalem.

Samson in action, a few years after he left Tzora.
I rode out to the kibbutz with photographer Mike Horton to speak with Leon Solomon, the founder and owner of Samson Beer.  Solomon brews nine different beers and, as we sat on the patio of the little pub that adjoins his brewery, we tasted most of them.

Solomon was born in Vereeniging, South Africa, where (as it says on the bottle), "We don't talk about beer; we drink it."  He immigrated to Israel in 1966 and has been a member of Kibbutz Tzora ever since.  Now retired, he's been brewing for about seven years.  His beer is not sold anywhere else than his brewpub.

"People come from a wide area to drink and buy my beer right here," he smiles.  "Eighty percent are returning customers."

Leon Solomon talking
about his favorite beers.

(Photo: Mike Horton)
Samson Brewery is small but is constantly active.  "Each batch is between 100 to 120 liters," Solomon explains.  "I put 20-40 liters in barrels for serving here at the bar, and the rest I bottle."  Solomon was bottling his popular dark India Pale Ale when we visited.

As we sat on the patio, Solomon began serving Mike and me his beers, along with smoked cheese and herring.

We started with the Blonde Ale.  The freshness was very welcome; Leon told me it was only two weeks old.  The beer was suitably crisp and and dry, with subdued hops, and a little bit sour.

The sour meter shot up with the next beer: Sorgum Ale.  This is made with sorgum grain instead of the traditional barley, wheat or rye.  It is naturally gluten-free.  Solomon says the beer became popular among blacks in South Africa who sold home-made sorgum beer in illegal pubs.  This beer reminded me of an amber ale, with sour fruits very dominant.

"Why is my glass empty?"
(Photo: Mike Horton)
The Christmas Ale, which we had next, couldn't have been more different.  It was full-bodied and sweet (brown sugar and caramel) and high in alcohol (7.5% ABV) like a winter/holiday ale should be.  To this yeasty mixture, Solomon adds cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, ginger and orange peel.  For those with the proper memories, close your eyes and dream of the December holiday season.

The Samson Porter, which did not participate in our recent Porter Beer Tasting Panel (read about it here), was a delicious classic porter, at 5% ABV.  It had a strong malt character and moderate coffee bitterness, with no smokiness.

Next on tap was Samson's dark India Pale Ale.  This style beer is growing in popularity in the U.S., but to me a "dark" pale ale is an oxymoron.

Bottling IPA at Samson Brewery.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Like so many other things in life, Samson's dark IPA began as a mistake.  Solomon simply used too much dark malt when he was brewing his IPA.  It came out very dark, but his friends and customers liked it that way, so he continued with the recipe.

Solomon uses Citra hops for a strong citrus flavor, and strengthens the aroma with dry hopping.  This is a moderately strong (6% ABV) and refreshing IPA, with grapefruit by far the dominant taste.  I brought home of few of his new bottles and promised to let them mature for at least two more weeks.

At this point, we still had some sobriety left, so we moved on to Samson's most popular beer -- the Belgian Ale.  Solomon said that this beer has the "Belgian taste" that Israelis seem to love, and I can confirm that.  Sweet and very malty, with dark fruit flavors and a full body.  A beer for a Jerusalem winter's day.  Solomon uses 10 kilograms (22 pounds) more malt per 100 liters in this beer than any other.            

We closed with a new beer that Solomon poured just for us -- "Beer X" he called it.  It starts as his regular Belgian Ale, but then sits for a week with oak chips soaked in Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whisky, and then spends two more months in the bottle.

I found that the strength and maltiness was the same as the Belgian Ale, but the added taste was oak -- or at least how I imagine oak to taste.  It was definitely not the taste of Tennessee whisky, which I do know well. 

Leon Solomon and his beers.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
Solomon also brews three more beers which we didn't taste that day:

Witbier -- A Dutch-style wheat beer.
Extra Special Ale -- Based on the British extra special bitter style (which is not very bitter at all).

After a few lovely hours talking, eating and drinking with Leon Solomon, Mike and I rode home while holding on to the mellow feeling.  It's a shame that Samson Beer is not available outside of the brewpub, but I can certainly say that it's well worth a visit to enjoy the beer, the food and the atmosphere.  You should give Solomon a call to arrange a visit: 054-775-5948.   

December 16, 2014

A hike along the Alexander River

Viewing the wonders of the
mighty Alexander River.
Friday morning found Trudy and I hiking with our friends Yitzchak and Pnina Miskin along the Alexander River near Netanya.  (It's actually too small to be called a "river," but it's bigger than a stream.)  It was a beautiful fall day and we enjoyed the weather and the scenery and observing the famous soft-shell turtles which are colonizing the river.

After the hike, we took a short drive over to the Emek Hefer Industrial Area to visit the Alexander Brewery.  The beer is named after the river and its symbol is a flying soft-shell turtle.  "Wedded to the landscape," as we say.

A famous Alexander
soft-shell turtle.
The Alexander logo:
A flying soft-shell turtle.
Luckily, the founder and owner Ori Sagi was there to greet us.  We congratulated him once again for the two gold medals he won last month in Germany at the European Beer Star Competition for his Alexander Black porter and Alexander Blonde golden ale.  (Read more about it here.)

The sparkling brewery was very impressive with modern mash tuns, boiling kettles, coolers and eight giant fermentation and maturation vats, seven of which were full of beer.  Alexander's brews 25-30,000 liters a month.

Ori Sagi gives us a tour of his brewery.
Sagi explained to us that the brewery is taking environmental-friendly steps.  For example, to cut down water usage, which has traditionally been a serious problem in brewing, the water that is used to cool down the wort after boiling, is recycled into the mash tun to be used for the next batch of beer.

"Also," added Sagi, "the used grains are given to the local farmers to feed their happy cows."

Ori Sagi shows the old blogger his two
Gold Medal certificates from the
European Beer Star Competition.
He showed us the huge cold storage room where all of the bottled and kegged beer is kept until shipping.  "We also deliver our beer in refrigerated trucks," Sagi said.  "We're not responsible for how the beer is kept in stores and restaurants, but we want to make sure that it arrives there as fresh as possible." 

We went out to the front sitting area where the brewery hosts visitors and groups for tastings.  "But the most important thing we do here," explained Sagi, "is educate bartenders and restaurant owners about Israeli craft beers.  They have to know how to explain to their customers how we are different from the giant industrial brewers and why it's worth drinking craft beers."

Lunch at Kfar Haro'eh.
After we said good-bye and another "Mazal Tov" to Sagi, we drove over to the Kfar Haro'eh moshav to have lunch.  I ordered a Goldstar, arguably the flagship brew of Israeli big beer.  And then sitting there, hot and thirsty from the morning's activities, I took the first gulp and felt that this was the best beer in the world.           

December 10, 2014

Home-brewing heroes

A curious thing about some home-brewers is this: They may have no intention of going commercial but they want to share their beers with as wide a public as possible.  So they keep active on social media, make fancy labels for their bottles, and spend money to participate in beer fairs and festivals.

A short while ago, I went over to a home-brewers fair at the Abraham Hostel in central Jerusalem.  Eight brewers had signed up to come and sell their beers.  Big disappointment: only three showed up.

Appel and Bernstein in the foreground,
with Castel in the back.
The first ones I met there were Daniel Bernstein and Yair Appel, two students at Hebrew University.  They have no name yet for their beers, no cards, no labels.  They took a home-brewing course at Beer & Beyond in Tel Aviv and started brewing around six months ago.

Their India pale ale was already gone by the time I got there, so I tried their wheat beer.  It tasted like a wheat beer should.  Classic, nothing special.

Next in line was Tom Castel, a bartender at the Glen Whisky Bar on Shlomzion Hamalka Street.  His beers carry the Cast-Ale label.  Cute.

Tom Castel pumping his Cast-Ale beer.
I first tried Castel's American Pale Ale, a delicious example of this style.  It poured cloudy and
the color of light copper, with a large creamy head.  Powerful in hops like the "American" moniker suggests, it had a citrus bitterness with the taste of pineapple and grapefruit.  The finish was long and bitter.  This is a beer I can keep on drinking.

The Cast-Ale IPA, on the other hand, lacked the flavors of the APA.  The impression I got was just hoppy bitterness, which was too much for me -- and I love hop-heavy beer. 

Next I tried Castel's Saison beer, which won second place in the Betsisa Home-Brewing Competition.  It was a refreshing change of pace -- very spicy, sour and dry, with complex flavors -- a fine example of the saison style.

The final offering was a Brown Ale, called "Utopia," which Castel makes jointly with Rehavya Beer (more on them later).  This is a very light-bodied beer, with 4.6% alcohol.  Brown ales have a wide range of sweetness, maltyness and strength.  This one was moderate in alcohol, malty, with a taste in the direction of stoutness. 

Roi and Yamit Krispin at the Rehavya Beer table:
The poster couple for Israeli home-brewing.
On the next table over, I met Roi Krispin and his fiance Yamit (by now his wife) serving their Rahavya Beer in matching logo T-shirts.  Roi is a third-year student in Biology at Hebrew University and wants to continue in Veterinary Medicine.  He loves brewing beers that he likes to drink, and his favorite is Belgian Wit, which he brews with coriander seeds, bitter orange and lager yeast.

So that was what we started with.  It's a very passable Wheat Beer, pale with a nice foamy head, very little bitterness and hop flavor.  There was also none of the banana or clove tastes so prevalent in wheat beers.  Instead, I tasted malt and citrus.

Rehavya's Irish Red was dry and full-bodied, with lots of good bitterness but without the hops.  The Blond Ale and the American Pale Ale were both uncomplex beers; "made with love," I'm sure, but nothing special.

A short while after the home-brewers fair, I re-met Avi Riji from Kiryat Motzkin near Haifa.  He came with his wife and one of his daughters to visit Jerusalem, and I met him at the Machane Yehuda market.

Avi Riji with his wife Nela and daughter Rivka
at the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.
Riji's label is Avir Beer, but he has no interest in selling his beers commercially.  "I brew my beer in my kitchen because I love doing it and to share it with my friends," says Riji.  He began brewing around four years ago and regularly shares his knowledge with home-brewers who are just getting started.

Riji currently makes seven beers:

Bavarian Wheat 
American Pale Ale
Black IPA
Single Hop IPA
Smoked Porter
American Pale Ale
Christmas Ale     

The Smoked Porter was excellent.  It was full and rich, sweet and malty like a porter should be.  The kicker was the smoky taste which comes from smoked malt.  I am not a big fan of smoked beers, but this was very well balanced with the smoky taste well understated.  It would go very well with grilled vegetables and mushrooms, strong cheeses, and even sweet deserts like apple pie and gingerbread.

Moshe Lifshitz with son Ze'ev,
looking on while his namesake
Zambish Beer is made.

At the Jerusalem Beer Festival this past summer, I met Riji for the first time and tasted the last of his Christmas Ale.  I thoroughly enjoyed it: a spicy and strong (12% ABV) holiday ale made with cinnamon, ginger, honey and nutmeg.

It's the kind of innovative beer that home-brewers can take chances on, hoping that some of them will come out right.

Riji has this year's batch of Christmas Ale under fermentation now -- and it should be ready for the holiday season.  I want some on my table.

And while we're on the subject of holiday ales, another 50 bottles or so are fermenting at my neighbor's Moshe Lifshitz.  He's been home-brewing for about three years, and from time to time I have the honor of helping him bottle and cap his beer.  His label name is Zambish, the nickname of his two-year-old son Ze'ev.

Lifshitz's latest batch is a rich and dark, double malted brew, which is now taking a late autumn snooze to be ready for drinking at Hanukka time.  We tasted it just before bottling and it had the sweet promise of becoming an excellent holiday ale, though without any added spices.
The Zambish label.

Lifshitz learned his brewing skills at a course from Beer & Beyond which was given in Jerusalem.  He purchases his equipment and ingredients from Denny Neilson of The Winemaker.  (The name is a little misleading: Denny also teaches home-brewing and makes excellent beer himself.)  Lifshitz has already brewed India pale ale, wheat beer, porter and stout.

Like most home-brewers in this country, he thoroughly enjoys making his own beer, while reaping the benefits of drinking higher-quality than store-bought beer, for a fraction of the cost.  May our home-brewers multiply and prosper!