Word of the Day Bira Shehora

Israel's dark malt only sounds alcoholic.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Bira shehora (BEE-ra she-kho-RA) means "black beer," but it's not like the dark beers produced in other countries; this malt beverage won't get you drunk, no matter how much you imbibe.

In Germany, black beer, called schwarzbier, is a "medium-bodied, malt-accented dark brew," with an alcohol content ranging from 4.5 percent to 5 percent, according to the German Beer Institute.

"What's a black lager?" asks the online alcohol guide Drink Hacker in a review of Guinness' relatively new beer by that name, which also has a 4.5 percent alcohol level, concluding: "The dark color and light body are striking, yet the results are quite delicious."

And when it comes to types of ales, the darkest is also the strongest, according to the Brewfest beer glossary. The Yorkshire-brewed Mather's Black Beer has an alcohol level of 8.5 percent.

In Israel, though, bira shehora is basically a fermented soda popular with children. It's made out of malt but, like root beer, is a thoroughly non-alcoholic beverage.

Alcoholic beer, by contrast, used to be widely known as bira levana, or "white beer." The term is still used occasionally, as in a Ynet headline from last winter about snow in Jerusalem, which employed a pun playing on the fact that "capital" (bee-RA) and "beer" (BEE-ra) are spelled the same in Hebrew. Ir bira levana, announced the article: "White capital city" or, if you prefer, "City of white beer."

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.

Black beer: Drink to your heart's content.Credit: Haim Targan

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