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Before a new beer tax hits Israel's pub crawlers, here's the rundown of some of the beers made in the Middle East, from mainstream ale famous for college benders to craftier microbrews for more refined palates.
JERUSALEM — Now they're coming after our beer! That's the rallying cry at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv bars tonight, the last evening before a new beer tax goes into effect.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government was sworn in last month under the shadow of significant belt-tightening required to balance the budget. The first step: a ham-fisted doubling of the tax on beer, from about 60 cents to $1.20 a bottle.
The new law, scheduled to take effect Thursday, is unsurprisingly being panned across the board, by barkeeps and beer-drinkers alike.
Pre-tax, the average price for beer in Israel is not cheap, ranging from about $5 at a bar for a 12-ounce bottle of the most common local lagers, Goldstar and Maccabee, which the authoritative newspaper Ha'aretz describes as "lackluster," to about $8 for a fine local microbrew or an imported specialty.
A definitive study about the Israeli beer palate has yet to be published, but in anticipation of the new measure and the crisis expected to result, GlobalPost has undertaken a review of local drinking habits.
1. Maccabee is the first beer you are likely to have tasted, if you're an Israeli. Universally dismissed by the microbrew crowd, it is a light, Pilsner-style quaff with no specific distinguishing characteristics. A great starter beer.
2. Goldstar is likely to be the Israelis' second beer. A darker lager with malted notes and a "thin beige head," it is, for local drinkers, the more urbane yet still accessible local brew. College students love it.
The local boutique beer market has boomed in recent years. GlobalPost offers the following tasting notes on three well-loved Israeli and Palestinian microbrews.
3. Shapiro is a user-friendly, high-end drink for bar-goers with a sense of humor. In summer, this brewer offers an herbal wheat beer. This winter, which was unusually cold, it came out with a special edition "Shapiro Jack," which was fermented using shavings from discarded Jack Daniel's whisky barrels. Very strongly flavored.
4. Malka is the conventional beer for the sophisticated palate, offering a standard range from pale ale through stout, with above-standard clean, mineral flavors and deep peaty notes. This is, say Jerusalem locals, a beer to savor.
5. Taybeh beer, a Palestinian brew, is popular among Israelis, and like all other beers, it will now be subject to the surtax. Its best selling product is Golden, a Germanic, light blonde beer with refreshing hoppiness and crisp bitter undertones.