* This is the first of a series of three articles generously sponsored by The Bookshop Alehouse [tba], Southampton, UK.
The articles are centered on Israel, Milan and Prague, where Southampton FC will play its upcoming Europa League games.
Whilst you might not associate alcohol with the Middle East, beer brewing and winemaking both have long histories there. In fact, the oldest written evidence of beer making comes from ancient Mesopotamia, and later Babylon.
Some of these traditions are being revived today in Israel, a country that, like many others, has recently fallen in love with beer. Its social and political proximity to the US is certainly helping the development of a promising brewing culture.
Israel’s love affair with beer started with an American expat, David Cohen. In 2005 he opened the Dancing Camel, now Israel’s largest - and arguably most popular - microbrewery. Since then, microbreweries have been popping up all over the country. Today there are approximately 70 different beer producers in Israel - including microbreweries, brewpubs and contract breweries.
Many Israeli brewers find inspiration in local ingredients, culture and culinary tradition. David Cohen brews a Babylonian Old Ale using silan, a sort of honey made from dates and inspired by a reference found in the Talmud. Negev’s Passionflora - with passion fruit - is definitely one of the most popular Israeli fruit-beers. Lela’s Wheat, Lela Brewery’s flagship beer, is made with traditional Israeli Jaffa oranges. Another example is Dolce De Asal, a strong ale brewed with a dash of honey and a mix of spices by Jerusalem brewery Herzl.
To some Israeli brewers ‘tradition’ isn’t all about gastronomy; it involves history too; Herzl’s California Common, made in collaboration with German brewery Crew Republic, was made to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Germany’s first beer purity law and is now on sale only at the Jewish Museum’s restaurant in Munich.
In case you were wondering, Israel does not lack for trendy barrel aged beers or IPAs and DIPAs, but there is also some room left for more traditional styles. Golan Brewery for instance, offers a whole range of German style-beers, from pilsner to dubbelbock and weizenbier.
If you are planning to visit Israel, then try to attend one of their numerous beer festivals to make the most of your beer hunting. The Jerusalem Beer Festival (at its 12th edition this year!) just poured hundreds of pints a couple of weeks ago (31/08-1/09), and Tel Aviv’s Beer 2016 is upcoming (20-22/09).
Stay up to date by checking out my festivals webpage!
Jacopo + tba*