Raise Your Glass: A Taste of the Israeli Beer Scene

Download this story in Microsoft Word format here.

Click photo to download. Caption: Malt beer from Israel. Credit: Loopstation.

TEL AVIV—Shortly after 10 on a recent morning, an argument begins at Nation Brewery near the stainless steel barrel. Alon, from the Galilee Brewery, claims that the barley malt hasn’t been ground enough, and Eshel Bar-Ilan politely asks the guest to stop making trouble. He says that the barley malt is ground to the exact size that will allow the husk to break away without separating it from the seed.  

There is no reason to argue with Eshel, who knows both the grinder and the vagaries of the brewing process better than anyone. Alon knows this, and he gives up. Eshel fills a large barrel with the ground malt and sets it on the bottom of a bigger barrel full of water that is starting to heat up. When the water is hot enough, the ground seeds in the smaller barrel will bubble, just like a coffee percolator. As the seeds release the malt sugars, the liquid resembles tea—aromatic and sweet.

After two hours of re-rinsing the yellow cement floors, interrupted by a short coffee and cigarette break, Eshel uses a crank to release the inner barrel full of wet malted barley seeds from the larger barrel. The malt sugar solution is boiled with Hops for seasoning, completing the cooking process. When the liquid cools, it will be pumped into a stainless steel tank where yeast is added and the fermentation takes place.

Nine fermentation tanks holding 250 liters are distributed among three breweries located in the Even Yehuda Industrial Park, in what was once a salad factory. Dagan Bar-Ilan, Eshel’s older brother, says that the fermentation tanks are the bottleneck of the brewery; if there were more of them, a lot more beer could be brewed. Dagan began brewing beer three years ago, following a trip to the United States. He recruited brother Rotem to handle design and labeling, and together they created a beer called “The Bear Brewery.”

After a few brews the brothers decided that they didn’t want to be “just another brewery”, and they founded Nation Brewery—a platform for brewing beers. This brewery allows anyone who has a recipe to use the facility, and, after a few weeks, they leave with full barrels or bottles of beer.

Who is this good for? It is good for restaurants and bars that want to add exclusive beers to their menus, and it’s good for home brewers, who want to see the beer they brewed in their kitchens turn into 200 liters. As of this writing, 60 brews have taken place, each one costing about 4,000 NIS depending on the demands of the recipe.

Aside from the commercial brews, Nation Brewery’s space is used as a playground for “Beer Geeks.” For instance, a study was conducted with 12 home brewers to assess the effect of using different types of yeast with the same grape juice.

When I left the brewery in the early afternoon, another debate was raging over the advantages and disadvantages of disposable beer barrels. It seems that brewers argue a lot, but, in this type of atmosphere, not to worry—you can always end an argument with another fresh glass of beer.

The BEERS 2012 Exposition, held last week for the second time in Tel Aviv, provided an excellent opportunity to taste the beers that are made in Nation Brewery, and a few additional beers that were specially made for this event.

KELLER, Winemakers’ beer

A special edition that was made at Nation Brewery especially for the exposition, made by winemakers Ori Hetz (Château Golan), Gabi Sadan (Shvo Vineyards) and Naama Sorkin (Dalton). All proceeds from the sale are being donated to the “Nalaga’at” center in Jaffa. Fermented in wine yeast, aged in wood with Muscat grape juice added to it, they created a light beer, sour and dry, with apple scents and very delicately carbonated. Price: 140NIS per 750 ml bottle, available in restaurants.


Hefer Valley-based Alexander Brewery’s dark beer has hints of coffee, chocolate and carob, a rich and firm structure, an intricate yet balanced taste of roasting, and a bittersweet finishing touch. It has seven percent alcohol allowing it to age well.  Price: 16NIS per 330 ml per bottle.

The Bear Brewery and the Nation Brewery, Private Label

IPS style beer, with aromas characteristic of citrus fruit, hops and ginger. It has a rich texture, lightly carbonated, a dry and bitter taste with a nice aftertaste. For those that come to the exposition, it is better to begin with lighter beers. Price: 15 NIS per 330ml per bottle.

MALKA, Wheat

There is no need to introduce the Malka brewery to beer lovers. Three beers that are regularly brewed there already have many fans. The brewery’s wheat beer is a little disappointing, especially because of the ripe and sweet aromas that take over. The beer takes on a heavy amount of wheat, and I am sure that many people will like it. Price: 15 NIS per 330ml per bottle.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Israel Hayom Hebrew edition and was translated for JointMedia News Service.

Posted on January 23, 2012 and filed under Features, Israel.