Imagine this. You walk into a Tel Aviv hummusiya, order hummus and pitot, and to drink, you select the most appropriate beverage to accompany the meal – beer made from hummus. This unique ale would perfectly compliment Israel’s fast food, according to Bryan Meadan, brewer of the world’s only chickpea ale.
And hummus beer is gluten free, making it suitable for anyone with a restricted diet.
“One of the things I missed was beer, ” Meadan says, having been diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2006. A resident of Har Halutz who made aliyah from Montreal via California back in 1982, Meadan searched the Internet for information how to brew his own gluten-free beer. He began experimenting with different materials and finally honed in on buckwheat (kusemet in Hebrew), a plant grown for its grain-like seeds not related to regular wheat.
Buckwheat can be used instead of barley in the preparation of beer, Meadan explained. It is first malted, and then fermented. Gluten-free beers are also made from cereals such as millet, rice, sorghum and corn. Other brewers use enzymes to chemically remove the gluten from beer brewed with barley or rye. However, no one had ever previously considered using chickpeas.
“Hummus can definitely be malted, ” Meadan told me. “It took me a while before I got the process down pat. It’s not easy, and actually can be quite problematic. It only works if you do it right, ” he said, admitting to having thrown away a few early batches.
Meadan Craft Brewing today produces its “great tasting, gluten-free, Celiac friendly beers” at Mivshelet Ha’am in Even Yehuda. Meadan is building his own brewery in the north and hopes to begin mass production in the next few months. Chickpea Malt Ale is currently only available at a limited number of boutique beer distributors.
I first learned that there was hummus beer after reading David Rhodes’ report from the 2014 Beers Expo staged in Tel Aviv in September. Beer blogger Doug Greener described hummus beer as an “excellent pale ale with a touch of sour” and even better than Meadan’s buckwheat version.
I am certainly not a beer connoisseur, but I am a supporter of boutique beers, always eager to try Israeli specialty brews. Added to that was the fact that my mother-in-law recently started a gluten-free diet. When I informed her that there was chickpea-based beer in Israel, she asked me to get her some, not because she is a beer drinker but rather because she found a recipe for fish fried in beer batter that she wanted to try.
I finally found Meadan’s Chickpea Malt Ale on the shelves of The Beer Market at Yaffo port. I purchased a six-pack – two for my mother-in-law and four for me. A few days later, my wife and I tried the hummus beer for the first time. My wife found the beer a bit strong, not necessarily because of its 5.3% alcohol content, but because the taste was a bit too harsh on her palate.
I enjoy drinking hummus beer. It looks somewhat different than regular beer (it’s a bit cloudy), and the taste is quite unique. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste?
There are those who say that they prefer their chickpeas in hummus, but I say, why not in beer as well? Cheers!
Ellis Shuman is an Israeli author, book reviewer, and travel writer who lives near Jerusalem. He is the author of THE VIRTUAL KIBBUTZ, a collection of short stories about Israel, and VALLEY OF THRACIANS, a suspense novel set in Bulgaria.
To read more, visit his website and follow him on Twitter @ellisshuman.