Israeli Beer Festival

Beermaster's recent beer festival, held at Zman Amiti in South Tel Aviv, offered an insightful view into Israel's burgeoning microbrewery scene. Ellen Hockley brings her trained microbrew-loving palate to this Israeli beer scene.

As a Pacific Northwest American by birth, I have a deep respect for microbreweries and the unusual beers they produce. By virtue of this, I was quite excited about visiting the Tel Aviv Beer Festival, where only Israeli-made beers were served. The event itself was a small, quiet affair on a beautiful Friday afternoon. It took place in an underground venue called Zman Amiti (the infamous bar tender school) and you had to know it was there. Once I found it, however, not knowing the Florentine neighborhood all that well, I was in beer lover’s heaven.

I had no idea Israel possessed such an extensive underground network of specialty breweries. They are dotted all around the country serving niche markets. Most of these beers cannot be found in your local pub, but can be found in your local specialty alcohol shop. The festival itself was not quite what I had expected, as in my sometimes-biased American background I assumed it would be a massive gathering. I was not, however, disappointed in the least by what I found. The large beer festivals are often overwhelming and unfriendly. This was a warm and inviting event and I loved it.

After a quick walk through to get an overview of the beers available, I began my tasting adventure. I started with a Chili Beer from Gophers Brewery; this was honestly one of the most unusual and yet amazing beers I have ever tasted. The beer was not too light or too dark, but a great mixture, and the chili just throws your taste buds for a loop. Conceptually I knew what I was going to taste but I did not expect quite the thrill that I got from this beer.

As a general rule, I would only taste one kind of beer from each of the breweries that I chose. However, the Golan brewery staff felt quite generous, and offered me a taste of each of their four beers. Out of this selection, my favorite was the Red Ale. It was a bit heavier than the ales that I am used to, but I must admit, it was amazing. I loved it to the last drop and will continue to drink it every time I come across it. The Golan Brewery also has a Wheat Beer, a Pilsner and what they have coined the Double Bock, a strong dark beer. Each of which are just as enjoyable and drinkable as the first.

While many of the beers were unique to breweries in Israel, some also took after beers that can be found in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States. One such beer is that known as Abir or אביר, which is a British Mandate Tribute beer. This particular beer is similar to an IPA (India Pale Ale), with a light but crisp flavor and 6% alcohol content. This would be a perfect beach day beer!

After this afternoon adventure, I now have a greater appreciation for Israeli beers and I am extremely excited to see how these will infiltrate Israeli bars bringing a new wave of beer to Israel. Beermaster, the host of the festival, deserves many kudos on this delightful event.