Israel is, of course, well known for its swelteringly hot weather, desert plains, and bikini-clad beaches; what Israel is much less known for is its domestic beer-brewing industry, which has blossomed into quite the in-thing over the last few years.
In our opinion, there’s no better way to beat that sizzling Middle Eastern heat than with a refreshing, ice-cold bottle of beer. That you can now quench that raging thirst with a decent Israeli beer – even better!
With the number of Israeli microbreweries growing month by month, local brews are now battling with many imported brands, and are of equally high quality, cost much less and can be found at various locations throughout the country (both in the breweries themselves and in various pubs/gastropubs).
The popularity of beer is what has surprised us most, because it’s only in the last five years or so that beer drinking has become all the rage with Israelis. That popularity has converted into quite the beer festival scene, with a number of festivals held throughout the year. The biggest festivals to catch are the now annual Israel Beer Festival, usually held in January, and the Jerusalem Beer Festival, usually held at the end of the summer.
A quick guide to some of the Israeli beers you might want to tickle your tonsils with…
Some of you may be familiar with the long-serving staples of the Israeli beer industry, Goldstar and Maccabee beers, brewed in Netanya by the huge brewery Tempo (they also brew the lesser known Nesher Malt). You’ll find Goldstar pretty much everywhere, even on tap in some pubs. It’s OK if there are no alternatives and definitely worth a try if it’s your first taste of Israeli beer.
As for the less mainstream beers, fans of American beer should head to the Dancing Camel brewery in Yad Harutzim Street in Tel Aviv. It’s worth visiting there to sample the various exciting flavors and aromas that the master brewers infuse into the beer, ranging from bitter dark chocolate to fragrant cherry vanilla. The Dancing Camel’s also a great place to enjoy a night out because it’s a well-furnished pub with massive television screens showing popular sports channels.
If you’re in Tel Aviv, a quick trip out to Petah Tikva is recommended, for another famous American microbrewery, Jems Beer Factory. The beers are wonderfully refreshing and pair well with the sinful but delicious pub food. Great steaks, great beer (including a clear gold Czech Pils lager and a black Irish stout, among others)!
Venturing off the beaten path a little, Taybeh on the West Bank is an excellent choice. This brewery has the distinction of being the first ever Palestinian brewery in Israel, setup in the 1990s. It distinguishes itself from its counterparts by brewing beer in accordance with the notoriously rigorous German brewing standards. Their beer is incredibly pure, containing only four ingredients (malt, hops yeast and water) and eschewing chemical additives. If you would like to sample their beer, you can join one of the numerous free daily tours which include samplings of their most popular beers. Getting to Taybeh is relatively easy. It’s only a 12 km trip from Ramallah or a 30 km trip from Jerusalem and the delicious beers are well worth the traveling time.
What about lagers? A crisp lager is just the thing for brutally hot Israeli summers and that’s why locals and tourists alike rank Alexander among the top breweries in Israel. This brewery, located in the spectacular Hefer Valley specializes in lager-style beers. If you love fruity beers, get the Blonde, a Belgian-style beer with tantalizing fruit aromas or the Green which features hints of citrus fruits like guava and grapefruit. If you prefer more complex ad full-bodied lagers, Amber, a roasted-malt French-style beer or Black, a thick beer with bitter chocolate and coffee notes may be more your thing. Alexander offers an informative 45-minute tour to all its visitors, during which you’ll get to sample some of its famed lagers.
While in the area, pay a visit to Zichron Ya’akov, a small but popular touristy town north of the Hefer Valley. It features charming architecture, rich history and a popular brewery called Pavo where you can enjoy jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean while sipping your beers.
There are tons of other under-appreciated but indubitably excellent microbreweries all over the country, including Shapiro in Beit Shemesh (see one of their many creative ads below), near Jerusalem, Malka in the Western Galilee, Katzrin in the Golan Heights, and Negev in Kiryat Gat being notable examples. We’ve also just discovered the tasty beers from a new unknown brewery called Eddies, near Caesarea, which also promises something a little bit special.
When you’re hunting for beer in Israel, the key is to be adventurous. And if you do take the time to explore, you’ll find many exotic and delicious Israeli beers are readily available!
Also don’t miss some of the adverts for Israeli beers, some of which are very innovative and might make you chuckle – see below!
Goldstar Beer (Thank God you’re a man…)