In his 1989 book ‘The Real Frank Zappa Book’ (created from transcribed interviews) the enigmatic musical madman penciled these famous words – “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have at least some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer”.
I’m no scholar, but I doubt truer words have ever been uttered.
Happily meeting Zappa’s strict criteria (thanks to El Al Airlines, their national soccer team and today’s beer), the next stopover on our beer quest around the world is Israel and ‘Goldstar’ beer – or for the Hebrew-inclined, גולדסטאר.
Much like their ancient Greek, Roman and Phoenician friends, ancient Israelites tended to prefer a glass of vino over a cold pint, but if you believe some sources (and who am I to doubt Wikipedia…) when the Jews were exiled to Babylonia in the 6th Century BC they embraced the superior beverage with enthusiasm.
Allegedly James Armand de Rothschild (yes, those Rothschild’s – y’know, the evil banking dudes?) had the chutzpah to establish the first local commercial brewery in 1934/35 and Goldstar came along not long after in the 1950’s.
For those wondering, my tremendous research skills have led to the happy discovery that microbreweries are beginning to spring up in Israel with my potential favourite being Jem’s Beer Factory. Now before you say אני אוכל /אוכלת רק אוכל כשר (I only eat kosher food) let me remind you that Jem’s is Israel’s first kosher microbrewery – לא נורמלי (amazing!)
Now, before we arrive at the good part of beer reviewing – swigging, swallowing, reflecting, drunken rioting – we must first decipher the conundrum that is Goldstar’s beer status.
The official website (http://www.tempo.co.il/beers/goldstar/) refers to the beer as a red lager with a unique taste and aroma.
However, the bottle itself instead states that it is a ‘dark lager beer’ (בירה לאגר כהה).
But, other people have called it a Vienna Lager (a brew originating in Vienna and brewed with Munich, Pilsner and Vienna malts). Or just to muddle things further beerstore.com.au calls it a ‘Munich-style dark draught’.
Seriously Israel, what the shit. Make up your mind.
Regardless, the tachles (bottom line) of it all is this: When I read ‘dark lager beer’ I anticipated a blacker, heavier beer than what came out of the bottle. I also expected hoped for more malt, more aroma, and flavour.
It pours a brownish-amber colour, with some slight hops and malt in the nose. It’s a thick-ish beer that has a very slight caramel taste amongst its general lagery-ness, with the hops ever so slightly poking it’s head into the mix.
So, it’s nothing spectacular. But, it’s not completely terrible. It’s drinkable, and if you ever found yourself in Jerusalem would sufficiently quench your thirst.
Fun Fact: Duran Duran name-dropped the hell out of Goldstar in their smash hit song I’ve never heard of ‘Tel Aviv’ – “The afternoon, its one maybe two – sipping way my last Goldstar, not so much to do”.