Drinking in Israel involves saying “L’Chaim” or “To life” many times. Occasionally, it also involves raising your glass and saying “Phachem", the name of an excellent hand-crafted stout ale or imperial porter made in a tiny garage in the Judean hills. A micro-brewery crawl around the Holy Land also involves the occasional recital of “Doon yer neck!”.

Scotsman and former biologist David Shire runs the Lone Tree Brewery, 10 miles south of Jerusalem in the Gush Etzion forest. His brewery is named after the Etz Haboded oak tree that stood through the Jordanian presence from 1949 to 1967. A tour costs 20 shekels (£3.50) and a 330ml bottle of homebrew 15 shekels (£2.50), and degustations take place in the tasting room in the Abu-Cleb Recreational Park.

“I grew up in the west end of Glasgow. I studied cell biology at Glasgow University,” says Shire, swilling his beer appreciatively. In the distance lies the coastline from Tel Aviv to Ashdod and Ashkelon. On a good day you can see Jerusalem.

“At that time on British campuses there was a marked increase in anti-Zionism and I got dragged into defending Israel – a country I knew very little about and had never visited.” So Shire got a job in Hadassah Medical Center’s department of infectious diseases in Jerusalem, studying leishmaniasis – a disease spread by sandflies.

Another bottle cap comes off and another chapter unfolds. Shire began his PhD, became disillusioned and diversified into landscape gardening, moving to the Neve Daniel community in the West Bank. “It’s a beautifully rocky area with olive groves and vineyards and a very peaceful place. Perfect. Except for one thing: no beer.”

He set up the brewery in 2009 and an oatmeal stout, an IPA and English Northern Ale (“like Newkie Broon”) followed. “We also brew seasonal beer for the Jewish New Year with pomegranate and date syrup.”

Beer-making in Israel is slowly fermenting. Micro-brewery tours take you from the the Golan Brewery in Quinzin which specialises in Basalt pilsner beer, to the Negev Brewery.

Negev owner Yochai Kudler learned to make beer in Alaska where he experimented with salmon beer. As well as Passion Fruit Ale, he offers visitors Genesis and Charlton, the latter named not after the English footballing brothers but a fourth-century desert hermit.

In Emek Hefer, near where David and Goliath reputedly fought, green beer is available at the Alexander boutique brewery which was founded by former air force pilot Ory Sagy. It’s made from grapefruit, mango and guava. You can also have as many Belgian blondes as you wish.

Tel Aviv's Dancing Camel brewpub has a large selection of artisanal beers and like many it experiments with fruits of the land producing a Cherry Vanilla Bud and Leche del Diablo chilli ale. Pumpkin beer is a speciality of the Galil Brewery in Moran.

The Meandan Brewery in Galilee has just produced Israel’s first gluten-free wine and the world’s first date wine. And Jerusalem’s Herzl micro-brewery, in an old printer’s shop 10 miles from the old town, has been chosen to create the first bi-national Israeli-German beer to be launched at Munich’s Jewish Museum in April, and its two young brewers trained as interns at Brewdog in Fraserburgh.

Beer is as old as wine. Beer mugs dated at 3,000 years old were found near Beersheba and a 2,000-year-old Assyrian tablet claims that Noah took beer on to the ark. Probably more than two cases.

Brewing in Israel has come a long way since fourth-century Babylonian Talmudic “amoras” (oral Torah spokesmen) and sixth-century beer-mad rabbis. The Rishon LeZion brewery near Jaffa opened in 1934. Then came the Nester Palestine Brewery, which opened in 1949 to supply Australian troops.

There are now about 40 boutique breweries. Palestine has the Taybeh Brewery in the Ramallah district of the West Bank, which holds a two-day OktoberFest. The master brewer is Nadim Khoury. Try her Belgian-style wheat beer, with a twist of orange. Taybeh means “delicious” in Arabic.

Back at the Lone Tree, we sip on and its Scottish settler brewmeister continues: “Back in the UK, you feel as though you must have a certain professional status, but once in Israel, I found that this was largely not the case – it’s acceptable to work in all sorts of jobs. I would rather work in gardening and making beer than in a lab with mice.”

You can also sample pomegranate wine at the Nachmias family’s Rimon Winery in Upper Galilee which also produces a pomegranate port.

More than one million bottles of Israeli wine are consumed in the UK every year. Israelis drink as much wine as Argentinians and wine tourism is popular. There are 300 wineries and many of the kibbutzes offer accommodation.

At Eshtaol, in the Judean Hills between the Kisalon River and Kdoshim Forest, Golan Fla introduces you to his Noble which he describes as “a wine with an Israeli heart and a noble soul”.

North of Haifa, the Itzhaki family’s business in Kfar Tikva (Village of Hope) offers White Tulip and Black Tulip, working closely within a community set up to care for people with special needs.

One of the country’s highest vineyards, Galil Mountain at Kibbutz Yiron near the Lebanese border, has six vineyards and 15 blends and varietals. Its flagship wine is Avivim, a blend of viognier and chardonnay.

If you need to visit a garage en route you can have a drink in one. Filmmaker-turned-independent winemaker Ze’ev Dunie makes chenin blanc and zinfandel in his garage in Bar-Giora in the Jerusalem Mountains.

Many kibbutzes make wine made from banana and kumquat. Perhaps the best range of fruit wines comes from the Morad Winery at the foot of Carmel mountain, where you can choose between date, apricot, coconut, grapefruit, cinnamon and carob wines.

Amiad Kibbutz offers Hills of Galilee wines. One of its first winemakers was Geoff Marks, a former soft furnishings and curtain salesman from Glasgow, whose viniculture philosophy was based on a belief that “Life is too short for bad wine”. The kibbutz makes honey wine as well as a kumquat aperitif wine and even blackberry wine.

Carmel, south of Haifa, is the largest winery in Israel. The country’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion and his successor Levi Eshkol worked in its cellars. The oldest is Zion, which was founded in 1848 in Jerusalem, its west wall forming part of the Wailing Wall. It is now in Mishor Adumim, 10 minutes from Jerusalem in the West Bank.

Every year Israel stages a kosher wine expo. In August Tel Aviv and Jerusalem both stage beer festivals and August also sees the Israel Wine Show in the garden of the Israel Museum. They are worth attending – but maybe not on the same day. Grape and grain should be kept for separate occasions.

David Shire pours another far too palatable oatmeal stout. “We didn’t necessarily drink a lot of beer growing up, but we knew what good beer is supposed to taste like. There is something magical about making beer here in Israel.

“When tourists come to visit us, they get to experience phenomenal views of the Judean hills and the coast and soak in the area’s history, all while drinking a quality hand-crafted beer. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

We toast each other. “To your health and good fortune, my man!”

“Osher uvrre’ut!”


British Airways has return flights from Glasgow to Tel Aviv via London Heathrow from £364. Visit www.ba.com or call 0344 493 0787.