Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The fountain of beer

Some of the beer taps in Maayan Habira

It was a lovely day at the beginning of May and we planned a great touristy experience in the old city of Akko. It didn't happen. Somehow the whole day went haywire. The traffic was horrible and the prospects of getting to Akko in a reasonable hour went up in exhaust pipe smoke.  We changed our destination and drove to Haifa instead, the northern port city where my dear husband grew up. There were five of us: my DH, "The Three Musketeers"-his three old pals since junior high and me. It was a special occasion since our gang member currently living in Zurich came to visit the homeland. We found it was quite a challenge to be tourists in our own country, at my DH and pals hometown. Finding something new and exciting in the mundane and familiar is not easy.
The Bahai temple in Haifa

Dedicated to our attempt to have a touristic experience we went to the prettiest part of Haifa: The Bahai Temple and Gardens on the slopes of the Carmel Mountain. We all knew in our hearts that the important bit is the lunch that will follow, so we spent very little time among the groomed flower beds. It was clear to us all that we will have hummus for lunch at one of Haifa's famous establishments. But like any plan we made that day this too wasn't going to happen.
A view to the Bahai Gardens, Haifa

The day was getting hotter as Israeli spring usually turns and we were getting thirsty. My DH had a brilliant idea. Why won't we have a beer at the local tavern "Ma'ayan Habira" (The Beer Fountain)? We all agreed especially since we've never been there. Ma'ayan Habira is one of those mythological establishments that exist for decades. It is not a fashionable bar or some trendy restaurant. Strangely enough, though we've been to Haifa countless times I've never been to the place though my DH promised to take me there ever since we started dating.
The entrance to the restaurant

I was pretty shocked when I saw the restaurant's neighborhood. Downtown Haifa is not very aesthetic or eye pleasing. But once you enter the place the atmosphere transforms. "Just one beer and we'll be off to have hummus" we agreed. We sat at the table only to leave two hours later slightly tipsy but in a very good mood. We had to try at least 4 kinds from the 16 types of draft beer the place serves. Of course that all this drinking couldn't be endured on empty stomach, some of the local specialties had to be ordered. We ended up having Eastern European delicacies such as chopped liver, and warm kostitza (a type of smoked ham) alongside pints of Belgian and English beers. There was lots of beer therefore lots of laughter. The hummus was completely forgotten. We ended the feast with Bavarian Creme, a type of pudding that was extremely popular here in the Seventies. 
Some of the food we had: beer, bread (the basics of life), kostitza, chopped liver and Bavarian Creme. 

Ma'ayan Habira was established in 1950 by Nachum Meir (his portraits decorate the restaurant's' walls).
Nachum Meir's portrait.

At first it was a sausage factory. It became a restaurant in 1962 and since then serves and prepares the same type of food. The restaurant is run by Meir's children and grand-children. Their draft beers include among others Belgian ales like Leff (Blond or Brun), English Newcastle brown ale, wheat beers like Hoegaarden and the Israeli made Goldstar, Heineken, and many more.
The bill: served on pieces of cardboard and handwritten. 
The restaurant is a rare institution in Israel where few restaurants survive more than 5 years. The food is simple but tasty, the beer flows like from a bursting fountain so chances are that any visit to the place will leave you feeling happier than you got in.
Maayan Habira
4th Nathanzon Street, Haifa
Open Sun-Thu 9:00-17:00, Tuesday open till 24:00.


  1. I love this! Can you believe it, not only have I never been to the Bahai Gardens I have never gone to the Beer place as well.

  2. Memories of Kostitza, beer and dad...

  3. Believe it or not and you will be appalled to know I have never visited The Bahai Temple though J did before. Though shame on him too cause' we never took our son either. I must when we are next in Israel. Loved this post and the tour and the tavern!

  4. Dear Shulie and Sarah. Maybe we should organize a tour to Haifa when Shulie will visit. I think the DH will love to guide it.

  5. well sometime it is a good thing not finding your keys. thanks Yael, now i yearn for a great beer atmosphere with great friends

  6. How lovely to find yourself there, looks so interesting and better than the beer I am currently drinking that my 21 year old son has made.

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