Take a walk through Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and you’ll find locally grown and -made comestibles of all sorts: pyramids of tomatoes, pomegranates and oranges; bowls of olives and baskets of nuts; trays of loose candy and dried fruit; and pitas stuffed with more than enough falafel. And, in March of 2013, the market’s bounty got a surprising boon: local beer. 92 different kinds of it, to be exact, at a barstool-equipped stall called the Beer Bazaar. Craft brewing is still a nascent industry in Israel, and this is the only place where you’ll find so many of the local beers collected in one place. Owners Lior Weis and Yuval Reznikovich serve customers from the tap and sell the bottles — almost none of them available outside of Israel — for a flat rate of about $7.50. We took a seat at the bar and tasted through their picks for the best Israeli beers.
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Beer Bazaar Fat Cat Pale Ale
Best Pale Ale: Fat Cat is the Beer Bazaar private label, brewed by Srigim Brewery. It’s 15 percent wheat, which gives it an opaque look, and unlike American pale ales it’s not too hoppy. “We knew that Israelis aren’t too sophisticated about beers”, Weis said. “I don’t want to educate anybody. I wanted something everybody could drink.” Fat Cat is named for an actual fat cat that resides near the bar.
Shapiro Oatmeal Stout
Best Stout: Shapiro Oatmeal Stout is made by six brothers originally from the U.S. The whole family moved to Jerusalem and started home brewing, eventually turning their hobby into a commercial brewery. The protein from the oatmeal gives the beer a very creamy mouthfeel.
Golan Brewery Bazelet Wheat
Best Wheat Beer: Golan was one of the earliest breweries in Israel; bazelet is lava rock from the region, according to Weis. “They say that the water that flows through the porous rock gets filtered, so it’s untreated water”, he said, unlike most of the water used in Israeli beer. This is a classic German-style Weizen, refreshing and with banana on the nose.
Buster’s Sweet Cider
Best Cider: Buster is brewed by Denny Neilson, an American who made aliya. It’s a semi-dry with strong apple juice aroma straight away and a sweet, refreshing taste — perfect for the beach. “I keep kosher”, Weis said, “so during Passover I started drinking this cider instead of wine and just fell in love with it.”
Negev Brewery Passion Fruit Ale
Best Fruit Beer: “We all started brewing with pots and pans and stoves”, Weis said. And Negev Brewery is no different, founded by a home brewer. The passion fruit is mostly in the aroma, but the beer itself isn’t very fruity. Unlike a Belgian kriek, a typical fruit beer with strawberries (“they put so many strawberries inside the cask it’s like drinking fizzy strawberry juice”, Weis said) this is a straightforward beer: bitter, carbonated, but with the sweet aroma and a little aftertaste of fruit. The guy who makes this beer used to brew a smoked salmon beer.
Srigim “Ugly Indian” IPA
Best IPA: “This is a hop bomb”, Weis said. It’s made by the same brewery, Srigim, that makes the house Fat Cat, and it was voted as the best beer in Israel in 2013 by Ratebeer.com. The name: not politically correct.