The Dancing Camel Brewery is Israel’s first microbrewery. Incorporated in 2005, The Dancing Camel has been dedicated to making a true Israeli beer. Down the street from a 5000 year old Egyptian brewery in the heart of Tel Aviv the brewery is centrally located. By converting a grain storage facility built in the 1930s, The Dancing Camel Brewery is a testament to Israel’s progress, making the old new while retaining a connection to the history of the land.
What is a True Israeli Beer? A true Israeli beer is one that uses local ingredients to create a unique flavor that is specific to Israel encompassing the history and culture of the Jewish People. One of our signature beers can be traced backed to the Talmud, the Olde Pappa is a strong ale brewed with date honey(silan), whose recipe can be traced back to Rav Pappa of fourth century Babylonian times. Brewed with Nana(mint) and a hint of rosemary, the summer seasonal Gordon Beach Blonde Ale, is a beer that upon first sip invokes the feel of Tel Aviv’s famous beach, a perfectly refreshing brew for that hot lazy summer day on the beach.
Beer was originally meant to be brewed and drank locally, using local ingredients reflecting the local culture and palate. Keeping this idea at heart while developing recipes is how the Dancing Camel Brewery is able to make a true Israeli beer.
DAVID COHEN - BREWMASTER.
David Cohen’s passion for beer began in 1987, at a time that the American microbrewery scene was first hitting the East Coast of the US. “Prior to that, the only beers that anyone in New York knew of were Bud, Millers and Coors. Unless you were really sophisticated – then you drank Heineken.” That all changed when beers like Sam Adams, Brooklyn Lager, Pete’s Wicked Ale and Sierra Nevada started showing up on the shelves of the local supermarket in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where David lived. “I think the turning point for me was when I tried Pete’s Wicked Ale for the first time – there was so much flavor compared to Budweiser or Heineken that I realized beer could be much more than just something to swill at dance clubs or parties”.
As David started bringing home more and more of the growing selection of microbrews, his interest turned to the idea of brewing his own beers. “I think I was pretty much hooked from the first batch. It was a totally unexceptional beer called Moosehead – a light Canadian Lager. The beer itself wasn’t even so important - it was the thrill of tapping into a craft that’s as old as time itself and for most, as mysterious. Suddenly, I was connected to the Babylonians of 4,000 years ago, the Trappist Monks of Belgium, the pilgrims that landed on Plymouth Rock, the brewers of medieval London. I began to study different beer styles and flavors – to learn what ingredients and processes impact flavors and how. What I discovered was how complex beer really is and how much each beer reflects the unique cultures, climates and tastes of different civilizations.”
Once the hobby got under his skin, there was no turning back. Soon, the basic beer equipment expanded to include glass carboys, pH strips, kegs and taps and a dedicated beer refrigerator for maintaining fermentation temperature. “Joining the New York City Homebrewers’ Guild made a big difference. I was reading as much as I could from brewing books but that doesn’t compare to sitting down with other brewers and discussing different beers and brewing techniques. Also, having your beer judged and tasted by others who speak the same language is extremely important. It’s the only way you can really develop”.
As David’s homebrewing hobby grew over the years, so did his other passion – making Aliya. “At 21, I decided that I would live in Israel. Even though life in New York (and later, New Jersey) was good, I would get this “pang” every so often that something just wasn’t right; I really wasn’t where I belonged. It was as if there was a very important part of me that kept bubbling up to the surface no matter how much I tried pushing it back. A person can’t spend their life fighting that.” When, after 15 years, his plans for Aliya began to take shape, David saw an opportunity to make both his dreams come true. “As long as I was reshuffling the deck on so many things – home, community, language, country, why not go all the way?” After coming out to Israel for a few “exploratory” trips, David decided that the time was right to give it a shot and set up a microbrewery in Israel. To prepare for the transition from homebrewer to microbrewer, David spent his year before Aliya apprenticing at Heavyweight Brewing, a local microbrewery in Ocean Township, New Jersey. “Tom Baker was probably the best mentor I could have hoped for. Many brewers are so wrapped up in the science of beer that they can recite from memory the latin name for every yeast strain or can calculate advanced thermodynamic formulas in their heads. Tom never forgot that brewing was as much an art as a science and his beers truly reflected that creative spirit”.
After making Aliya, David began scouting out locations in earnest while keeping an eye on the used equipment market in the US. When word got out of the Flying Pig’s plans to close its brewing operations in Everett, Washington, David was ready to move on the purchase. After bringing in the 2 containers of equipment, David continued searching for the right location and finally settled on an old grain storage facility built in the 1930’s in the heart of Tel Aviv. After an eternity of improvements to the property, the Dancing Camel Brewing Company, Ltd. was finally born.
“Our goal”, says David “is to make exciting beer. Beer that makes people think and smile. Sure we make traditional styles but they are nuanced in a way that is distinctly Israeli. This country is rich in herbs, fruits and spices that belong in beer but have never been tried before. I want to help define what Israeli beer means. You know when I’ll be satisfied? When I hear people in London, Brussels and Seattle talking about how exciting Israeli beers are.”