Make Yourself at Home

It’s not just the huge selection of beers, the quality of the food, the meticulous serving style, or the diverse clientele. There is something about the atmosphere of the Haifa-based “Beit HaBira” (Beer House) and its level of service which make it a home not just for the beer but for the customers, as well.

When Elad picked me up from the train station the time was precisely midnight and I was tired and irritable. I had just been through 2 long and exhausting days of meetings in Tel Aviv, hopping from place to place while carrying 2 bags. The last stop in this round of meetings saw my colleague an hour late, which in turn made me late for the train and stuck waiting for 40 minutes till the next one arrived. My mood when I finally arrived in Haifa was, unsurprisingly, fairly down and I did not make any effort to conceal this fact. So Elad, showing a younger brother’s good will, took me to Beer House.

The Haifa-based Beer House is a bar in the old-school English-countryside style. It has been open for business for six years now – an eternity in local terms – and houses, at any given minute, approximately 120 different types of beer. Ten of these are on tap (draught beer) and the rest are bottled. The bar is small (when it is packed, a second hall which is adjacent to the place is opened to allow for more space), wooden, adorned with posters of beer ads and with huge drinking bottles. Pleasant jazz fills the background, adding to the light and unpretentious atmosphere. When we enter, the place is partly full. Two or three groups of young people are scattered amongst the tables, and the bar itself is seating an elderly semi-intoxicated Norwegian gentleman. Running the show tonight are Nati, the shift manager, who is behind the bar discussing the topics of the day with customers, and his partner Adina, who promptly brings us various beers to sample.

What is especially attractive about Beer House is the selection: Nati explains that when it comes to the beers on tap, they always to try to offer a good variety. Nine glasses of beer samples are placed on the table. Three of them are fruit-flavored. I, being a very poor beer drinker, taste them one by one, and pass the stronger ones to Elad: Barbar Blonde and Barbar Winter, Belgian ales (the former being light and the latter being dark) fermented with honey. Despite both being 8% ABV, they are described by Elad as being “ladies’ beers.”; Kozel – a Czech lager which is slightly sourish, but which I rather liked; Bishop – an unfiltered German beer, very bitter, and which Elad describes as “interesting.”; Beamish – an Irish stout, dark, creamy, strong, weighty, and bitter, which my brother categorized as “the sort of beer you order when you don’t have enough money on you to buy lunch.” Then there was the special house beer – a premium pils blonde lager, 5.4% ABV, which is brewed in Belgium especially for Beer House, and is therefore named after the place.
I concentrated on the fruit-flavored beers: Apple Newton, a Belgian beer with a slight apple flavor which was tasty and refreshing; Kriek, a beer which I know and treasure; and a peach-flavored beer – a light Belgian brew, of which I eventually drank half. The latter two beers are considered in Belgium to be on the lighter side and as good accompaniments to sea food.

Seeing as how the two aforementioned beers are said to go well with seafood, why fight it? A basket of fresh sliced baguette is brought to us, followed by a plate of Shrimp Provencal – shelled and in a sauce of olive-oil, tomatoes, and oregano. It is a gentle dish and as such, goes well with the beer. This is followed by fried calamari, which we sprinkle with lemon and snack on with our hands; chicken wings in barbeque sauce, which arrive hot and crispy, only to be eaten almost entirely by my manly-man of a brother, and washed down with the manly-man beers in front of him.

Meanwhile, Adina mingles amongst the customers, most of whom are regulars, and shows her aptitude at predicting what each will order. Nati explains that the clientele is diverse, the average age being 30-something, but the place comfortably caters to enlisted-soldiers, the elderly, and families with children who come over to have dinner in the early evening hours. Among the