Israel’s craft brewery scene is fizzing up a storm, with dozens of local businesses brewing beer around the clock. Its popularity is no surprise, given its history in the holy land. Beer drinking dates back to when the Jews were exiled to Babylon in the sixth century BC. There, a handful of rabbis tried their hand at brewing and became established in the art.
Fast forward to 1945, James Armand de Rothschild, partnering with Gaston-Dreyfus, saw an opportunity to meet the growing demand for beer from British nationals residing in Palestine at the time. Together, they sprung the first local brewery—the Nesher Brewery—in Rishon LeZion. Today, Tempo Beer Industries brews Nesher in the city of Netanya alongside two other of Israel’s most renowned lagers—Goldstar and Maccabee.
From the 1950s, Israeli beer and the brewery industry were largely monopolized. The turn of the 90s saw an influx of budding establishments and microbreweries bloom across the country. But the craft beer industry really planted its roots during the first decade of the 2000s and continues to flourish in innovation and variety to this very day.
Micro breweries in Israel
After Nesher followed a slew of Israeli beers. Goldstar (brewed since 1950) and Maccabee (since 1968), joined a menu of local beers, including Shapiro, Malka, Jems, Negev and Alexander.
For beer enthusiasts, a trip to Israel is incomplete without a perusal of the local brewery scene, where you can learn more about the industry’s history and marvel at the Israeli beer distillery process in action.
This brewery opened its Emek Hefer brewery in 2008, and today serves beers of various flavors and blends, including its Green, Ambree and Blonde varieties. Its beers have received much fanfare in the European Beer Star competition, taking home multiple gold and silver medals. Guided tours are available at the visitor’s center by appointment.
A boutique Israeli beer brand, was founded by Assaf Lavi in moshav (a village) Amka in northern Israel. In 2008, the brewery relocated to Kibbutz Yehiam in the north, where you can pair your beer with a breathtaking view of the Galilean landscape. A decade later, Malka set up a production site in the Tefen Industrial Area. Private tours of both can be scheduled.
Other breweries worth checking out
Established as the dream of Jeremy Welfeld following his departure from a catering job at the White House. Its first location in Petah Tikvah, Jem’s has since expanded to Tel Aviv, Ra’anana and Kfar Saba. The brewery hosts events and private function rooms.
Shapiro opened its microbrewery in Beit Shemesh (west of Jerusalem) over a decade ago. The ‘Jerusalem beer,’ named so for it humble beginnings in the basement of Shapiro brothers Itzik, Dani and Avi, is a favored brew among Jerusalemites. The high tech brewery churns out pale ale, oatmeal stout, lager, wheat, sour and other beers.
Hatch Brewery sells its beer in Ephraim Greenblatt’s kosher restaurants Hatch, in Mahane Yehuda, and Shmaltz eatery in Ramat Eshkol. If tasty beer and stylish nosh are your forte, these haunts are well worth a visit.
Launched in 2012 in Kfar Tavor (in the Lower Galilee), relocating in 2017 to Karmiel in the north of Israel. Private brewery tours can be pre-arranged, or stop by the beer garden to sample their choice of beer and delicious food.
Best Spots to Sample Israeli Beer
Aside from Abraham’s bars in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat, where Shapira, Maccabi and Goldstar flow on tap, there are plenty of opportunities to gulp an Israeli beer on our Tel Aviv and Jerusalem pub crawls!
Stumble into most pubs, bars, or restaurants (with a liquor license), and you can bet a selection of Israeli beers are on the menu. For a more specialized beer drinking experience, here are the best places to pop the cap on a cold one.
Beer Bazaar is a chain with three Tel Aviv locations in Carmel Market, Habima, and Abraham Tel-Aviv. accompanied by two southern spots in Jaffa, meaning you’re never far from an ice-cold beer. As the ‘home of Israeli craft beer,’ Beer Bazaar serves around 100 varieties. In short, a beer to suit every taste.
Photo: Mike Yudin
Porter & Sons has served as a kitchen and bar in Tel Aviv’s drinking and dining scene since 2010, offering a hefty supply of Israeli beer from the barrel and bottle. For a small tour of their barrel room, just ask!
Lager & Ale has a smattering of locations in Israel, including at Tel Aviv Port and Sarona Market. Here you can try your pick of local beers alongside hearty comfort food—the perfect respite to your day.
Denim Drinks First is where music, locals and non-fuss drinks collide in the city. Stop by during their happy hour to sample 1+1 on Israeli beer and more at this buzzing neighborhood hangout.
Schnitt is a Brewpub located right in the center of Tel Aviv and serving a scope of original freshly brewed beers on-site directly from their serving tanks. Drinks are paired with tempting grub and the brewery is lacated behind large windows allowing full visibility of the beer making process. A happy hour applies 50% on the beer selection between 12:00-18:00 on weekdays and 16:00-19:00 on weekends.
Beer bazaar’s Mahane Yehuda branch—at the entrance of the market, you can’t miss it—is the spot to sip on a beer day or night. An eye-boggling selection of Israeli beer in the bottle and on tap is there to savor, enjoyed alongside a musical performance or two.
55 Beers, as the name suggests, is a beer haven serving 55 varieties,12 on the line-up of the Israeli variety. The bar has five branches across Israel, with the Jerusalem watering hole serving up your choice of bar stools and outdoor seating, depending on your mood.
If your time in Israel coincides with an Israeli beer festival, make a beeline! The Jerusalem Beer Festival is a summer staple and all-out celebration of beer taking place annually over two days every July. The epicenter of live music and nonstop entertainment, the festival is your chance to brush elbows with the locals as you decipher from 150 beer varieties, both Israeli and international.
Each year during the Jewish festival of Sukkot (late September or early October), the Red Sea Beer Festival hosts thousands of visitors to sample beer of all kinds at Eilat’s very own seafront promenade. The four-day celebration features live music performances and a tasty display of both local craft beers and international varieties.