While watching our laundry spin on a hot summer's eve–at a frighteningly similar pace to watching paint dry–my good friend Dillon cried out into the stale air of the Laundromat, "I could go for an ice-cold beer right about now." While I usually reserve my beer drinking for sports games and March 17th, an idea popped into my dehydrated, hungover mind (it was Saturday after all).
"What do you know about beer?" I asked Dillon, curious.
"Fuck all," he replied. "Just that it's ice-cold, tastes like piss, and comes in a bottle."
And in that moment, a light bulb went off. I threw my sheets–slightly less damp than a moist towelette–into my Laundromat-sized studio apartment, grabbed my recorder and emergency contact card in case of alcohol poisoning and hit the town on a mission: to sample and review the best of Tel Aviv's finest craft beer scene from the uneducated, un(beer)cultured minds of two clueless twenty-five-year-olds.
The journey was trying, the hops were hopsy, the beer was beery, and there was a lot of head (get your mind out of the gutter, it's a term); but thanks to my good friend and sidekick Dillon, we made it out (barely) alive.
And so, with a few hundred less brain cells and a belly full of beer (yes, I am drunk as we speak), I present to you: "A connoisseur's guide to 10 Israeli craft beers that were reviewed by two people who know absolutely nothing about beer."
The Israeli craft beer review
Location: Rothschild Allenby Market (we assume at a stall called "Beer Box" based on the vast array of scattered boxes and beers)
Beer: Jem's Pils, ABV 5%
Bartender's pitch: "If you're a big fan of the Jem's 8.8 [my golden rule: if I'm going to give into the beer buzz, it has to be high enough in alcohol content to rival my best friends, Gordon and Jack Daniel], then you'll love the Jem's Pils."
Expectations: The bartender also informed us that this Jem's Pils tastes much like a Pilsner. I nodded along as he babbled on about the golden beer's fruity and fresh Pilsner-like notes, but unbeknownst to him, I've never had a Pilsner in my life...perhaps neither has he. All I know is that I'm thirsty right now, so yallah!
Astute observations: According to the label, it appears to be a Czech Pilsner, though also according to the label, it appears to be from both Vienna and Petah Tikva–an anomaly to say the least. I was not aware that the Czech Republic was in Vienna or that Vienna was in the Czech Republic? Or that either are in Petah Tikva? Then again, geography was never my strong point and I've never been to Petah Tikva before, so who am I to judge.
Tasting notes: The clear gold brew is very refreshing, indeed. It also tastes of soil (perhaps the 'floral' notes sprouting through) with hints of citrus (a fancier way to say it's acidic) and a cardboard-like aftertaste, much like a day-old vegan burger.
Spirit animal: If this beer had a spirit animal, it would be a gazelle due to its elegant, yet unpredictable nature.
Six-word memoir (a six word summary of the overall atmosphere/experience): Came too early, finished too fast.
Born To Be Blue
Location: Allenby Kiosk next to Rokoko
Beer: Tuborg Blue Label, ABV 6.7%-6.9% (so like 6.8?)
Kiosk tender's pitch: That will be 19 shekels. Might I suggest a nice pack of gum to bring your total up to the credit card minimum?
Expectations: The blue glass bottle promises a "rich taste"...it also promises a blue beer, which is highly improbable.
Astute observations: This fancy pants beer was clearly child-proofed. It's built-in-easy-release bottle opener is impossible to open, perhaps a device to fend off toddlers from its blue cotton candy colored interior. Either that or the Pils on an empty stomach is starting to affect our fine motor skills. Also, while I pitched Tuborg to Dillon as one of Tel Aviv's most common Israeli beers on tap–sandwiched between Goldstar and Maccabi like the oily eggplant inside sabich–much to my surprise, I was tragically mistaken; Tuborg is, in fact, from Copenhagen, Denmark.
Tasting notes: In the sophisticated words of Dillon: "It tastes funky [whether in a good or bad way is still unclear]. Not amazing, not the worst, kind of just there." Like that premature pimple that has yet to surface.
Spirit animal: Honey badger–the apathetic, "no shits given" teenager of the badger family.
Six-word memoir: Israel in a bottle, from Denmark.
Location: Beer Bazaar (HaKerem)
Beer: Fat Cat Pale Ale, ABV 5.2%
Bartender's pitch: "Pale Ale with 'sweetstart' [still unsure if this means it has a sweet start or tastes like a sweet tart] and a lightly bitter finish. It's the first ever beer that we brewed and the best in my opinion."
Expectations: Light, easy, delicious.
Astute observations: Heavy, hard, disgusting.
Tasting notes: Very yeasty, yet not in the pleasant beer yeast sort of way–more like the fungus one finds in unproofed Challah dough...and vaginas.
Spirit animal: Instinctively, a fat cat.
Six-word memoir: This ain't going to end well.
Location: Still Beer Bazaar (getting our money's worth)
Beer: Bhindi IPA, ABV 5.5%
Bartender's pitch: "Very basic" [like most Masa participants].
Expectations: A hipster from Florentine finished the IDF and took off to India to find himself, came back and decided to call the beer he brewed in their backyard, "Bhindi," then label it as an Indian Pale Ale.
Astute observations: The beer is quite cloudy. Reminds me of a dreary Canadian summer's day.
Tasting notes: Smooth, with tropical aromas, though all I can smell on this patio overlooking the Kerem is a whole lot of weed...wait when did this joint make it into my mouth.
Spirit animal: It's urine consistency makes me think of jellyfish.
Six-word memoir: Tastes like beer, aftertastes of beer.
Location: We've been here so long, I can't even remember the name of the place
Beer: Buster's Cranberry Lemonade, ABV 5% (named after the owner's dog...potential start-up idea: dog beer?)
Bartender's pitch: I think you've had enough.
Expectations: An orgasm in a glass, though that also might be because the last time I had a "haytzi" of the cranberry lemonade, I had just biked 30 km, was hot, sweaty, and in need of replenishment.
Astute observations: There are a lot of dogs in the Kerem.
Tasting notes: Tastes like teen spirit.
Spirit animal: Why do all the people here have brown, curly hair?
Six-word memoir: The Jew fro must never go.
Location: Norman Bar
Beer: Negev Amber Ale, ABV 4.9%
Bartender's pitch: Blank stares. Looks like we're on our own folks.
Expectations: We're moving down south (in a purely platonic way) to the Negev. At this point in the evening (morning?), we expect all beer to taste the same. Can I take mine in the form of a pizza please?
Astute observations: These padded chairs are clouds of heaven. Why is there sand all over the ground? Are we at the beach?
Tasting notes: Tastes like pizza, then again we caved and ordered pizza.
Spirit animal: Ibex, generally my spirit animal of choice.
Six-word memoir: Words are hard.
Due to incoherent voice recordings, beer numbers 7-10 (imbibed at Norman Bar, Salon Berlin, and HaMinzar) could not be formally reviewed. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we detox and retrain our livers for another round of reviewing...next up: Arak.