How does an Israeli Jew make beer? Well, “Hebrews” it.
Kidding aside, chances are you may not have seen, tasted, or even just heard of Israeli beers before, and it’s pretty understandable. It’s only in recent years that Israeli beers have significantly grown in popularity, although the country’s beer culture harks back to Biblical times. Beer-making was then reintroduced during Israel’s pre-state days.
Being in the Middle East, you thought it was entirely impossible to find an alcoholic drink as it is not permitted in most countries of this region. But here in Israel, in general, alcohol consumption is allowed and even enjoyed. You can even find a kosher brewery here in Israel.
If you happen to visit Israel right now, it’s possible to pop open a bottle or two of imported beer (especially beer that you enjoy back home). But one of the best ways to imbibe (pardon the pun) Israeli culture is to taste its local beers. There’s nothing like ice-cold beer to accompany you on a hot sunny day at the beach, a fun night out on the town, or just a regular day. Beer festivals? Israel has them too, and you can find the most extensive beer fests in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Mateh Yehuda region, and Beersheba (an actual place, but you get the pun).
There are two significant breweries in Israel – Tempo Beer Industries and Israel Beer Breweries. In addition to the generic and popular beer labels, there are microbreweries and boutique breweries that also establish a solid presence in the Israeli beer market.
Here are some of the popular beer brands to make the proper introduction to Israeli beers.
Probably the most iconic beer brand in Israel, Goldstar is produced by Tempo Beer Industries. It dominates the Israeli beer market with around 33% of consumers. One of the factors of Goldstar’s undisputed position is its ready availability – it is sold throughout Israel. You can find Goldstar in both stores and bars, and order it on tap or by bottle. This brand’s most popular variety is its standard pale lager with a 4.9% ABV which has been produced since the 1950s. Goldstar also offered a special unfiltered edition, a type of unpasteurized beer. In making this unfiltered variety, the entire beer-making process is the same as the Goldstar regular lager except for the last filtering procedure, retaining the natural flavors of the beer’s ingredients as well as its vitamins.
Maccabee is another popular beer brand in Israel. Like Goldstar, Maccabee is a pale lager also produced by Tempo. It also has the same alcohol content as Goldstar. However, Maccabee has a well-pronounced malt flavor as it contains 100% European malt. A premium lager, Maccabee tastes a bit hoppy and a bit sweet, too. It is sold in many establishments across Israel in bottles, cans, or on tap.
This beer brand’s owner, Jeremy Weldfeld, studied microbiology and brewing in California, USA. Weldfeld left his job at the White House to begin brewing in Israel. Jem’s opened in Petah Tikvah in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area in 2009, becoming the first kosher microbrewery in Israel. Jem’s is a refreshing choice from the more mainstream Israeli beer brands and has continued to be a local favorite. With several beer factories scattered throughout the country, Jem’s brews seven varieties of beer, including IPA, amber, stout, and dark and light lagers. One of this brewery’s unique offerings is the strong Belgian-style reddish ale with an 8.8% ABV. Despite being relatively high on the alcohol, it is surprisingly light, a bit sweet, and fruity. No wonder, this variety is a top favorite among Jem’s fans.
Malka, which means “queen” in Hebrew, is probably the most popular boutique brewery in Israel. One of the most recent brands to make waves in the Israeli beer market, Malka began brewing in 2006 before expanding its offerings, leading to the opening of its brewery two years later. Malka produces several types of beer, including IPA, light, dark, and red, all typically sold in bottles. Although all varieties of Malka beer are crowd favorites, the red one deserves a special mention. If you’re looking for an authentic Israeli beer experience, Malka should be worth trying – and to further fulfill that experience, you should also pay a visit to its modest brewery, which provides tours and tastings.
Nesher, which means “eagle” in Hebrew, is one of the first commercial beers brewed in Israel. First produced and marketed in 1935 by “Palestine Brewery Ltd.,” Nesher is now produced by Tempo. A malt beverage, Nesher is available in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. The alcoholic variety, Nesher Beer, is a pale lager with a 3.8% ABV. The non-alcoholic one, Nesher Malt or Black Nesher, is a root beer made in a process similar to beer with dark-roasted barley malt. A sweet and refreshing drink, Nesher Malt is definitely a must-try when visiting Israel.
Israel’s microbrewery industry began to develop in the mid-2000s, aiming to serve craft beers to the more discriminating beer drinkers. The first microbrewery Israel is the Dancing Camel Brewery, which opened in Tel Aviv in 2006. Few microbreweries in Israel followed, such as the Golan Brewery in the Golan Heights and Jem’s in Petah Tikva and in 2009, and several others from the Jezreel Valley in the north to the Negev in the south. Microbrewery is a continually growing industry here in Israel.
How to order beer in Israel?
When ordering a beer at any bar in Israel, knowing beer sizes is important. If you want to order a pint, say “hetzi,” which is 500 ml. For those wishing to order in a smaller glass, a “sleesh” refers to the third of the glass. If you want to order a bottled beer, say “bakbook.”
Where to order and drink beer in Israel?
Most bars in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv serve the popular beer brands like Goldstar and Maccabee. But for those looking for craft beers, there are a few watering holes that offer extensive beer lists.
Is drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages allowed on Shabbat?
There are zero laws that forbid the drinking of alcoholic beverages on Shabbat. On the contrary, on Shabbat, as well as other holidays and festivals in Israel, the Jews say “Kiddush” – which means the sanctification of the day – at lunch and evening meals, and it is done on wine (unless someone cannot drink alcohol for some reason). But of course, you should drink wine, beer, or any other alcoholic beverages in moderation – otherwise, inebriation is very much frowned upon!