Updated: Aug 24, 2020
Though it may come as a surprise to some people, the Land of Milk and Honey has been transforming itself into the Land of Malt and Hops. That's right, we have a burgeoning craft beer scene in Israel.
This should really not come as a surprise to anyone. The oldest-ever brewery found in the world was discovered right here in the Land of Israel - 13000 years ago! https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/traces-13000-year-old-beer-found-israel-180970282/
Wheat and barley are two of the 7 Species of the Land of Israel, which are mentioned throughout the Bible. Numerous ancient rabbis were brewers, including the awesomely named Rav Papa, who lived 1700 years ago in Babylon.
There are four main breweries in Israel today. Goldstar and Maccabi are the main Israeli beers. For years it was not much of a competition, as quite frankly, Maccabi tasted like piss. A few years ago, however, Maccabi changed up its recipe and it actually became quite hip and good - especially the 7.9%. Not to be outdone, Goldstar created a slow brew and an unfiltered which are both better than the original, especially the unfiltered. The Danish beers Carlsberg and Tuborg have a bottling plant here (you can take a tour) but I wouldn't call them Israeli.
The Palestinians have a brewery called Taybeh in the only all-Christian town in the West Bank. They even run an "Oktoberfest," but unfortunately it needs to be held inside a hotel due to the objections of the Palestinian Muslims. Recently another Palestinian brewery called Shepherds opened up as well.
About 15 years ago the first Israeli microbrewery, Dancing Camel, opened up in Tel Aviv. Since then we have seen dozens follow all around the country. My Top 10 microbreweries in Israel (disclaimer: I have yet to try every microbrewery here) would be Alexander, Shapiro, Jems, Negev, Galil, Malka, Bazelet, Hatch, HaDubim and Herzl in that order [though Dancing Camel supposedly has some good IPAs - I just can't stand IPAs]. The first three, however, are kind of like the holy trinity of Israeli breweries.
For more on some of them, click here:
A number of the microbreweries, in addition to offering tours, also have brew pubs and beer gardens where you can taste everything they have to offer and grab some grub while you are at it.
I also lead a mouth-watering Israel culinary tour - which can of course include stops at some breweries. You can find out more about those here: https://www.tourguideofisrael.com/culinary-tours
The best places to go to grab a range of local Israeli suds are:
Beer Bazaar - https://beerbazaar.co.il/en - They claim to have bottles of virtually every Israeli microbrew plus a dozen of their own on tap. They have locations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. All their beers are organized on the wall according to style (see photo). You can pick up a Mix 6 pack to go - and they even deliver.
55 Beers - https://55beers.co.il/- They have 55 beers on tap including about 20 Israeli ones. They have branches in Jerusalem, Kfar Saba and Rishon LeTzion (both outside of Tel Aviv), as well as Zichron Yaakov and Beer Sheva.
When ordering beer in Israel, you can order a "chetzi" which means "half" as in half a liter (500ml) which is slightly less than a pint [540ml in the USA or 560ml in the UK], a "shlish" which is 1/3 of a liter (333ml) or a "bakbuk" which is a bottle. Prices are high here, and there are no open container laws, so many people just grab a cold bottle from a convenience store and sit outside somewhere to have a drink with friends.
Which beers to try? Well here are some beer ratings sites that can help you:
If you want to keep up with everything going on in the Israeli brew world, check out this local beer blog which does just that: http://israelbrewsandviews.blogspot.com/
The author also just put out an article highlighting some of the best new beers in 2020: https://www.jpost.com/food-recipes/2020-beer-roundup-639197
I can't wait to grab a few cold ones with you after a long day touring the incredible country of Israel! Again, you can find me at www.tourguideofisrael.com
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