It’s hard to know which beer to choose from the dozens neatly displayed on the shelves behind Yuval Reznikovich’s handsome blond head. Negev Brewery’s summer ale? An Alexander Green?
There are some 93 different beers — all Israeli — made by more than 20 different microbreweries at the Beer Bazaar stall in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. Reznikovich, 30, one of the owners, relishes each customer’s momentary indecisiveness.
“Most people get to the shop and are shocked,” he said. “The whole concept is I want you to really pick the beer you want right now. and I don’t want money to be the consideration. I want you to pick the beer that you really feel like having.”
It’s for that reason that Reznikovich and his business partner and fellow brewer, Lior Weis, also 30, priced each beer in the Beer Bazaar at NIS 27 (about $7.50), unless customers opt for the NIS 88 six-pack, which brings each of the six beers they take home down to NIS 14.60 a bottle.
That’s a great price, Reznikovich vowed. “There are some bottles where I end up making only NIS 2 on the bottle,” he said.
But profits aren’t the only reason they opened this clever little kiosk in the gradually gentrifying market. The two had been brewing beer together for years, first in Haifa, where Weis was studying civil engineering at the Technion and Reznikovich was working at a restaurant. They started selling their beers at local Technion student gatherings, sometimes strapping their bar onto the roof of the car for beer festivals or bachelor parties. Weis even spent some time in Germany, learning about mass-produced beer from the masters of the craft.
Reznikovich credits Weis with having the idea for the beer bar, but it took several turns of events, including the opening of a competing beer stand in the Jaffa port market, and the closure of Weis’s favorite Carmel Market falafel stand, for the two to put their plan into action.
“I was in India,” said Reznikovich, “and Lior emailed me and said, ‘Yalla, come back, there’s a place.'”
Several months later, they opened the Beer Bazaar, aiming to always offer all the microbrews in the land — although no home brews; those aren’t legal to sell — which means their stock varies between 85 and 94 bottles of beer at any given time. There are certain limited editions, and the brewers aren’t all professionals, which sometimes means Reznikovich has to wait a while for a fresh batch of a favored beer.
“Sometimes I wait seven or eight weeks, and they’re just not rushing to get it to me,” he said.
As for the customers, they’re anyone who likes a good beer, he said.
“They’re people who appreciate craft beers, because once you have a few, you can tell the difference right away,” said Reznikovich. “People are starting to get it.”
The craft beer market only got started in 2006, said Reznikovich, but new breweries have come into the industry nearly every year since then. There are half a dozen well-known breweries, including Bazelet, Shapiro, Malka, Alexander, Negev and Jem’s, said Reznikovich, but it’s a hard market, and craft beers are expensive to brew.
“It’s small batches of very good materials, with lots of kinds of hops and malts, the kind that you don’t use in commercial beers,” he said. “Add to that the taxes that went up, which was really crazy. Some of these breweries are not doing it for the money — it’s more of a hobby.”
There’s plenty to choose from, and Reznikovich is always happy to offer an opinion on what to drink. Customers can also add a hot dog, some herring and cold cuts or pickled vegetables from the array of tapas available, all purchased fresh each morning by Reznikovich from the market stalls nearby.
If a customer comes with a non-beer lover, there are also local ciders — including one pomegranate option — and white wine. Oh, and if you overdo it, check out the hip coffee place just across the way.
Beer Bazaar, 1 Rambam, Carmel Market, 10 a.m. – 7:30ish p.m. (“We never tell anybody to go home,” said Reznikovich.) Not kosher.