The craft beer scene as we know it started in the UK and U.S. in the 1970s, hit its stride in the 1990s and skyrocketed over the last few years. But in Israel, beer has long played second fiddle to wine. The first official microbrewery, Dancing Camel, didn't even open until 2006. Now, with the launch of several new breweries, bars and beer festivals, Israel seems to be getting serious about its suds.
According to recent claims at JNS.org—a nonprofit wire service covering Jewish and Israeli news—there are now 30 microdistilleries making more than 200 different beers in the country. That's a far cry from the days when, not so long ago, to ask for a beer in Israel meant choosing between one of three options: Maccabi, Goldstar or Nesher.
Among the recent additions to beer culture in Israel:
- The Beer Bazaar, one of the country's newest bar-breweries, opened in Jerusalem's Shuk Mahane Yehuda and serves more than 70 Israeli craft beers.
- A beer specialty store called Beerateinu opened in December and serves 100 Israeli beers from 20 different companies.
- Jerusalem's Herzl Beer announced it is collaborating with a German brewery to create an international blend as part of an exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of Germany's beer purity law.
- Three large Israeli cities now host annual beer festivals: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.
To put the beer market in perspective, the Brewers Association of the United States recently announced that there are more than 4,000 breweries in America, which is closing in on the historic high point of 4,131 active breweries way back in 1873.