Israel’s First Beer Expo-Not only Maccabee

by Sarah on January 14, 2011

beer expo

Brooklyn Brewery

For years, Maccabee and Goldstar, both produced by the Tempo soft drink company, were the only beers available in Israel. There was no drinking culture per se, how could there be with the lack of choice or quality offered. Tea or coffee was preferred over the watery brew and sunflower seeds over peanuts. When traveling became more prevalent, people realized that beer didn’t have to taste like medicine. A few even took courses in microbrewery, invested in equipment and decided to rekindle a lost art.

israel's beer expo

top left: Bazelet, Dancing Camel, Mevashelet Ronen and Attic (Be'aliat Gag)

This culminated in Israel’s first Beer Expo, bringing together a diverse group of local and international breweries. I think the ancient Mesopotamians, the inventers of the first brew, would have been proud to know that beer has returned to its roots in the Middle East.

So what did we see?

My first impression of the Beer Expo, even before tasting my first lager was the fashion; a bit of Harley Davidson meets bohemian. Jeans, leather coats and black seem to be the basic uniform, with dreadlocks (rastas), bandanas and offbeat accessories finishing the look. One glance at me said I didn’t belong (button-down magenta shirt? What was I thinking?).

beer expo israel

beer fashion

Isaac Diwan, an experienced microbrewer and appropriately dressed helped elucidate the fascinating world of beer for me.  Unfortunately I forgot most of what he said after the third or fourth beer. What do I remember? The sheer variety available; passion fruit, mango, szechuan pepper and anise, beers made with sage, beers that tasted like salami (that I can do without), rosemary beer, wheat beer, rye beer, red beer, black beer, tall beer, low beer, fast beer, slow beer…

israel's beer expo

drink until you drop

Ok, enough. At some point we took a food break and met up with several other Israeli food bloggers; Liz, Miriam, Michelle, Yael and Ariella. Isaac explained how barley is sprouted and dried to produce the malted grains used in making beer. Most, if not all, of the grains used in brewing beer must be imported. The climatic conditions in this arid country are not favorable for their growth and there isn’t enough to supply large scale breweries. Hops, the main flavoring and preservative agent used in beer is also exclusively grown outside the country.

taybeh beer israel beer expo

left, Isaac Diwan and Nadim of Taybeh Beer

Israelis seemed much more interested in the small breweries than the type that can be bought at any supermarket. Tuborg’s stand, despite fancy displays, was completely empty while adjacent, lesser known breweries were packed. Taybeh, the only Palestinian brewery received an especially large number of visitors. It brews four varieties including a non-alcoholic version and caters to both the Christian and Muslim community. From the interest their stand garnered perhaps it will become more widely available in Israel as well.

israel's beer expo

Some of the breweries present have been around for hundreds of years such as Paulaner’s of Germany who produce the famous Oktoberfest beer. Others are made by relative newcomers, brewing in the confines of their house and only enough to supply their friends and family. Many of their beers were very good, with surprising flavor additions that complimented the beer.

beer expo israel

Liz's cousin owns Shibolet (grains) Brewery

According to Isaac the difference between German and Belgium beer is purity of ingredients. “While Belgium allows artificial and natural flavoring agents, Germany focuses on producing beer with only the basics; hops, malted barley and yeast.” Despite the self imposed restriction, they are able to tease out an incredibly rich flavor profile using only these core ingredients. For a country this small, the large variety and quality of breweries that have become established is amazing. Based on the Israeli beer association’s website, the aim of the Expo is to start a beer revolution. That’s exactly what I think will happen.

beer expo

from top left: lone tree brewery, Isra-ale, Isis and Negev Breweries

For more information on the Expo see: Brewing up a beer culture in Cafe Liz

Beer Expo in Tel Aviv by Miriam Kresh

Now for some updates:

Two friendly bloggers have given me a Stylish Blogger Award (yeah!),  one is from Yosefa of Cooking Outside the Box and the other from Rochel of Barefoot and Cooking. Thank you! True, it is a chain letter but everyone loves a bit of fun.  Here’s how it works. If you are tagged, you must write seven things about yourself and tag seven other food bloggers. Link back their sites, including a link to the award giver (that’s me). Contact them and tell them of their win.

I only recently started to like beer and beer food (thanks Isaac!). My favorite childhood snack was Cracker Jacks. I stress out before hosting a dinner party (is there enough food? will they like it? Aagghh!) It drives me nuts that my husband uses up all the butter in the house for his startup (and there is a butter shortage in Israel) I am more opinionated than I let on I don’t watch food shows, they bore me (how much cooking can one watch?) I don’t understand why people try to make puff pastry at home. Have no patience for trendy-diet picky eaters. (bonus)

I am tagging: Turkey’s for Life (you should get to know them) Chez Loulou (returning the favor) Hope it will rain (’cause she hasn’t blogged for awhile) Life’s a Feast (’cause she’s such a sport) Lisa is Cooking (’cause she’s always too busy cooking) Sticky Rice (best recent food blog discovery) David Lebovitz (a little known food blog)

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Fun Joel January 14, 2011 at 2:47 am

How is this Israel’s first beer expo? There has been the Jerusalem Beer Fest for the past 4 or 5 years each summer! Am I missing some difference?

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Sarah January 14, 2011 at 2:50 am

I think this was catered to professionals and not only to beer enthusiasts

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Fun Joel January 14, 2011 at 3:00 am

Hmmm… Okay, I guess! ;-)

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Yael January 14, 2011 at 3:07 am

First of all, thanks for tagging me! Be back to writing soon. Second, I’m so depressed i missed the Expo, to work sucks every time.
Loved your post! Next I’m taking you to a girls night at the pub to gulp down some Paulaner, my favourite beer.
Shabat Shalom!

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turkey's for life January 14, 2011 at 3:34 am

Thanks for thinking of us, Sarah. Was that because you’ve posted about beer that we popped up in your head? :)
The expo looked great and hey, there’s no uniform required for appreciating the beautiful brew that is beer. It’s there for us all to enjoy! :)
I didn’t know it originated in the Middle East. Interesting. I would have credited the Germans or Belgians with that one.

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Sarah January 14, 2011 at 4:11 am

its a total coincidence but it worked out well! Islam prohibits alcohol so the brewing center shifted to Europe

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Yael the Finn January 14, 2011 at 4:06 am

Nice post! I got so much beer spilled on me that I came home reeking of beer;D
But it was fun! And I don’t hate beer anymore.,like I did before the expo,but like it instead,but I still prefer a glass of wine to a bottle of beer.
Interesting,what is your husband doing with all that butter for this start up;D

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Sarah January 14, 2011 at 4:46 am

about all the butter, I’ll be glad to tell you about it next time we meet (no he is not practicing to be a croissant baker)

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Loulou January 14, 2011 at 4:58 am

Thanks for the award Sarah!

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Jamie January 14, 2011 at 6:12 am

I love the pictures and every time you post about something going on in Israel it makes me so want to go back! I don’t like beer (sorry) but this looks like great fun! Thanks for tagging me… am I really always a sport? Hmmm…

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Sarah January 14, 2011 at 6:17 am

thanks Jamie! Most of the time, it seems like that, yes, a friendly disposition….

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lisaiscooking January 14, 2011 at 7:04 am

I love learning about beer. A beer revolution sounds like fun!

Thanks for the tag! And, I’m also curious how all that butter is being used.

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Michael Hodson January 14, 2011 at 7:54 am

You had me at beer ;) Happy to have stumbled upon you.

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Poi January 16, 2011 at 3:32 am

I agree with Michael, Always happy to read about beer!

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a-man January 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Nice report and charming people on the pictures! Interesting how the beer is reinvented. Interesting differences between the importance of beer in Germany and in Israel…

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Miriam January 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Great photos, Sarah! They really brought that evening back. I’m happy you changed your mind about beer. I’ve liked beer since childhood, when my parents would let me take a sip out of their glasses. Recently I gave up having the occasional bottle to cut calories, but the Beer Expo night was a treat!

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foodwanderings January 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm

This brings a bit of Israel to me here un the United States!! Love particularly the first pic and the one of שבולת
I remember years ago being at a Vodka tasting and expo at Hayarkon Park in tel Aviv but that is different from ales and beers I guess!

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Sarah January 17, 2011 at 11:27 pm

vodka is a little more hardcore but I am sure it was just as fun

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