Not Kosher For Passover

Not endorsed by Jewish Cardiologists.  Unholy Hand Grenades cooked in Stone Smoked Porter

Not endorsed by Jewish Cardiologists. Unholy Hand Grenades cooked in Stone Smoked Porter

I said it wasn’t Kosher for Passover, didn’t I?

Hello, my name is The Alemonger and I’m an irreverence addict.

Group response: “welcome, The Alemonger.  You have a great name.  Actually, it’s ridiculous but we’re supposed to make newcomers feel welcomed and comfortable so we say things we don’t really mean.  And we say them in unison.”

So what’s an irreverent Jew to do on Passover? Posting a picture of my Unholy Hand Grenades seemed a bit less problematic than actually making them for tonight’s Seder.  The heathens are coming over for the second Seder tomorrow night so I’ll wait 24 hours.  The extra day won’t kill me.  Better not, because if I go before I hit the reset button next Yom Kippur I’ve got less of chance of getting to Heaven than FGCU has of getting to the Final Four.  Hmm… Then again, maybe my chances are a bit better than I suspect.  For the record, an unnamed brother specifically asked me to make Unholy Hand Grenades (matzo balls cooked in Stone Smoked Porter and wrapped in bacon) for tonight’s Seder but I declined.

What's that smell??

SHOW US YOUR FINS!!

I also declined – no, refused – to serve Gefilte Fish.  That oily conglomerate of congealed “fish” loaf is possessed of a highly toxic and fetid stench.  No wonder we aren’t making enough Jewish babies.  The contact odor alone is enough to defeat even the most amorous of intentions.  And another thing: where are its fins? Yeah, yeah, yeah (not The Beatles version), straight to Hell.  I know.

What’s a Passover Seder without a traditional brisket and recitation of the 10 Plagues? Over the past several years it occurred to me that both the brisket and the plagues needed a little spicing up – one literally.  As for the plagues, well, let’s face it, they need a serious overhaul.  It is 5773 after all and frogs just aren’t all that relevant a plague these days.  More on that later.  Back to the brisket…

I didn’t exactly grow up in a house of cooks and I’ve yet to watch a real live Bubbie prepare a traditional brisket so I walk into the valley of stainless steel Vikings already lead by temptations no self-respecting Jewish cook would entertain.  I’m not out to win this season’s Food Network Top Chef so I’ll spare you the full recipe.  Suffice it to say that it’ll get my Rabbi’s attention – and not in a good way.  Mind you, I did use a healthy amount of Israeli cumin in the dry rub but the fact alone that I used dry rub at all is strike one.  Strike two is the coffee.  Howard Schultz, Starbucks President himself, wouldn’t even carve a brisket rubbed with their own Ethiopian Sidamo (neither will I – I used Peet’s Major Dickason’s but that’s besides the point).

I go down swinging with strike three by using Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout in my braising base.  You knew craft beer had to make an appearance somewhere.  Oddly (though not at all for anyone who knows me), I’ll use beer in the recipe but I won’t actually drink it at the Passover table.  Life is full of gerrymandered lines, rationalizations, and uncommon sense.  Remains to be seen if the line between beer and the Passover table will extend to the couch later in the evening.  In any event, I figure that actually cooking the brisket in beer – even a world class stout from America’s Torah Belt – is enough all by itself to assure me a long wait for that ferry across the Styx.  Maybe I can bribe Charon with a fresh Sculpin or two to show up a little early.

About those plagues…

I get it.  Back in the days when Charlton Heston’s ancestor was President of the NSA and defying Pharoah to take his slingshot from his cold dead hand, boils and frogs were probably legitimate plague-worthy inflictions.  Not so much anymore.  Slaying of the first born would still qualify as a top ten plague today but seems to me a bit extreme these days so let’s bench that one for a while.  The time has come to refresh the plagues.  Make them relevant again.

Thou Shalt Revise Thine Plagues

Thou Shalt Revise Thine Plagues

I propose we dip our pinky fingers into the Manischewitz for these Ten Plagues we can really get behind:

  1. Dial-up Internet Access
  2. The Honey Boo-Boo and it’s Posse
  3. Obamacare
  4. Bad Chinese Food
  5. The Twilight Werewolf Guy’s Pecs
  6. D List Reality TV (Duck Dynasty & Dancing With the Stars)
  7. Big Beer Pharoahs (ABInbev & MillerCoors)
  8. LiLo
  9. Weak 4G Cellular Coverage
  10. Chick Fil-A Closed on Sundays

Not a perfect list of modern plagues, I know.  I expect I’ll be criticized for leaving standard definition TV off the list but that’s not as egregious as the NCAA Tourney Committee’s giving Oregon a 12 seed.

Here’s to a Happy (and possibly Hoppy) Passover! I’d love to hear your suggestions for irreverent celebrations.  Let me know what you’re doing to stir things up while hiding the Afikoman.

L’Chaim!

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Full Frontal Fromage

Not sure what to make of these guys but I like them

Not sure what to make of these guys but I like them

Offended yet?  Americans in particular seem offended by full frontal nudity.  Wardrobe malfunctions during Super Bowl half time shows and a fleeting glimpse of a blurred nipple is enough to send some of us into an irreversible state of shock.  Hide the children lest they be forever scarred by nightmares of a nearly fully exposed areola!  The entire adult populations of West Virginia and Mississippi driven to therapy.  Mass moronity at its pinnacle – or its nadir.

But I’m not offended by a surprise nipple or even a free range breast.  Even my holy roller Mormon legal education couldn’t put the fear of broadcast nudity into me.  I’m offended by cheese.  Hate it.  Completely.  All forms.  It’s vile and rancid.  Nothing redeeming about it.  Fetid, horrific, and toxic.  That’s right.  Deadly.  It’s a killer.  Ask any cardiologist or 7 year old with access to a TV and the attention span to pay attention to commercials.

Too harsh?  Nah.  OK, maybe not quite accurate.  I’m not offended by cheese, I’m offended that most everyone else seems to expect – practically demand – that I like it.  Pretty simple really, when milk goes bad (which it never does in a house with 3 young children) you throw it out.  That’s especially true when its bad enough to congeal into a solid or semi-solid mass.  You don’t rename it “cheese” and put it in your mouth.  If not for cheese I could be a proper Giada DeLaurentis stalker.

Giada photo courtesy of the Food Network

Giada photo courtesy of the Food Network

I hate cheese almost as much as I hate mayonnaise (amazed myself for even spelling it without passing out).  Mayonnaise people are completely insane.  Want me to bolt from a room? Put a tuna salad sub in plain sight.  Egg salad is even worse.  I’ll probably throw up in my mouth by the time I finish this sentence.

But I digress.  Cheese is the villain here.  Its bad enough when the stuff is in plain sight but when you people start hiding it in otherwise safe havens you’ve crossed the line.  I still have PTSD-like flashbacks of an early October 1980 lunch in the Sadler Hall Dining Hall at Syracuse when I bit into a hot dog only to come face to face with a beast so hideous as to forever shatter my sense of dining calm.  A cheese dog!? Innocence lost.

I get it. Many of my craft beer friends swear by beer & cheese pairings.  One of my favorite craft beer bars in Philly, Tria, is based upon a theme of offering the best of the three fermantables: beer, wine & cheese. Tria is a great bar.  Small but world class craft beer offerings and an excellent wine list but I have to ignore that third prong.  Full disclosure: not all cheese is bad.  This one used to be pretty good:

Now THIS is foodie quality stuff

Now THIS is foodie quality stuff

Yes, I really used to eat those.  Fresh from the vending machine they were hard to beat.  If I were to go completely mad and forsake my hatred for cheese, this is where I’d go:

I might even get a frequent shoppers club card from that joint.

On occasion I consort with the enemy.  I call some of them friends.  Frail and flawed as they are.  One in particular, G-LO of the It’s Just The Booze Dancing blog fancies himself a foodie and good cook (both true).  All around good guy but for his affection for cheese in all of its heinous forms.  I thought it only fair to ask him a few questions.  Know thine enemy (or something like that).  Anyway, here’s my brief interview with a friend and a friend of the fromage.  Draw your own conclusions but know that if you side with him I’m coming for you down the road……

The G-LO Interview:

1.   Explain yourself
Talk about an open ended question. For those that don’t know me, my name is G-LO, one of the writers for the “It’s just the booze dancing…” blog. Food and drink are what make me happy. The Alemonger, a man that lives in fear of the cheese, asked me to explain how I can eat the stuff. Although I live in fear of his questions (mostly because my Sicilian upbringing causes me to naturally fear anyone that has ever worked in any form of law enforcement. Fear of getting caught? You betcha.), he asked kinda nicely, so I agreed to the interview.
2.  When were you turned onto turned milk?
Again, I’m Sicilian. We go from drinking milk to eating cheese at a very young age. Ricotta, mozzarella, mascarpone, fontina, and pecorino. These are our gateways.
3.  How do you deal with the stench?
Stench? We cheese aficionados prefer to call them aromas. When the cheese is fresh and well crafted, the aromas are positively mouth watering. What he meant to say: “now that you mention it…”
4.  Favorite Cheese & craft beer pairing.
Much like my taste in Craft Beer (or pretty much anything else), I enjoy an incredibly wide variety of cheeses. While I have typically paired a bold red wine with most cheeses, I have really started to enjoy great Craft Beer alongside a well constructed cheese plate (Thank you Tria!). Since I really like big cheeses like Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or Stilton, they need to be enjoyed with a Craft Beer that can stand up to their bold flavors. A Saison Dupont is perfect for this, but I could also see something like a Rodenbach Grand Cru, or perhaps even a really good IPA like Ballast Point Sculpin or Green Flash Palate Wrecker.
5.  If you home churned, what would you make and what would you name it?
Several years ago, Mrs. G-LO and I spent an anniversary weekend in DC. We did the usual touristy stuff, i.e. walked many miles and went to many museums (this was before my Craft Beer fascination, so I was not aware of places like Church Key). One particular exhibit that completely enthralled me was Julia Child’s Kitchen which is located in the American History Museum. One of the walls in this exhibit featured Julia Child’s French Bread recipe. What I found most fascinating is what she said about the French and their bread baking habits. Essentially, most French people do NOT bake their own bread. Every town or neighborhood has a local bakery, and that’s where most French people get their bread. Making great bread is inexpensive, but it’s also very time consuming, so why do it on your own when you have access to a professional baker that turns out a consistently great product at an affordable price everyday? With all that in mind, I doubt very much that I would ever make my own cheese. Some things are best left to the professionals. Same goes for Craft Beer. Much respect for those that homebrew, but with so many great local beers, why would I ever want to go through the hassle of brewing my own?
Now if you put a gun to my head and forced me to make a decision, I would go with a fresh mozzarella or ricotta because you can pretty much make it and eat it the same day. As for the name, they already have names.
What that answer reveals:  G-LO has a fetish for Julia Child (not peeking through his bedroom window). The French are lazy and toss cows at proper Englishmen. He won’t allow a pet into his house because he won’t be able to name it.
6.  Cheese in 3 words:
Makes everything better!
7.  What is wrong with you people?
There is nothing wrong with us people. Cheese is an essential and delicious part of life. Great cheese has the ability to take something good and make it even better. A perfect;y cooked, medium rare, USDA Prime Porterhouse topped with melted Gorgonzola? Yes please! Wash that down with a glass of Russian River Consecration? Even better!
You need to get past your preconceived notions and free your mind. Take the red pill Neo!
What should I have asked? 
 
9. Let’s say I completely lost my mind and decided to finally try some cheese (never gonna happen). How would you ease me into it? (for the record, I’d have never asked that)
Would you give a person that hates beer an Imperial IPA and expect them to enjoy it? Would you pour a Laphroaig 10 for a non-whisky drinker and expect them to enjoy it? In both instances, the answer is no. You need to ease someone into it. Tantalize their palate. Pique their interest. What you need to do is find a gateway cheese. I would start very basic. A fine English Cheddar served with some sliced apple, dried fruit, perhaps a bit of honey. Maybe some young Pecorino on a slice of bread, topped with some roasted red pepper. Even better, have a hamburger with a slice of well aged swiss cheese! Ya gotta take it slowwwwwww….
Thanks G-LO
That’s it.  Now pass the cheese free pretzel dog.
Cheers!

Austin SXSW – Music, Interactive, Craft Beer (well it should be)

Wasn’t long ago that Austin was known mostly for these guys:

One of nature's most freakishly astounding shows

Congress Ave Bats

I’ve stood on that bridge at dusk under the million or so bats as they flutter, dive, and swirl about before heading off into the night sky.  Sinewy tendrils of winged death.  It’s a wonder a few dozen onlookers don’t stroke out at the sight of them every sunset.  Fortunately for a few bat fans in the know, there’s a world class craft beer bar just a few blocks from that bridge.  An easy walk for even those still jittery  from the hellishly Hitchcockian yet spectacular display.

I’m a strong believer in the separation of Church and State.  I’m also a strong believer in really illogical segues and that was a particularly fine example.  Anyway, I believe that separation should extend beyond religion and politics to include work and play.  I practice what I preach by carrying an iPhone and a BlackBerry – one for work, one for play.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one’s for which.  On rare occasions though, work and play intersect.  I’m fortunate to speak at an annual national conference in Austin where Higher Education, Health Care, and other industry executives come to hear me discuss topics from the BlackBerry side of the divide.  There, I gave it away.

So the first time I visited about the only things I knew about Austin were those bats and the Bell Tower on the campus of the University of Texas.  34 years after the Boomtown Rats song I still don’t like Mondays.  Unless its a Monday night in Austin at the Ginger Man.

Liquid Gold & Hammered Copper

Every Handle Offers a Worthy Brew

I’d heard of this bar only in passing and knew there were a few of them in Texas.  I’d targeted it for a visit the Saturday I arrived for the conference in 2009.  The first session wan’t until the following morning so I had the afternoon for some Texas craft beer research.  After a nearly mile long walk in 102 degree heat in search of a Radio Shack for a new laptop charger to replace the one comfortably resting in NJ (being an industry expert doesn’t mean I’m not also a knucklehead – the two aren’t mutually exclusive), I finally hit the Ginger Man.  I might have happily accepted a Bud Light Lime after the hike (not really) but once I saw the hammered copper wall with 50-something taps I knew I wouldn’t have to settle for anything.  Just about every handle was devoted to craft beer.  Quite a few local offerings as well.  I settled in with a Live Oak Hefewiezen and my love affair with Texas craft beer began.  I’ve been back to the Ginger Man a few times since then and can honestly say it’s one of my top 5 favorite craft beer bars anywhere.  My beers are constantly getting hit on there.  Seems that almost everyone that walks in is tied to craft beer in some way.  It’s a hangout for local brewers and craft beer fans from far and near.  The bartenders are all knowledgable, friendly, and attentive.

So I developed a real respect for Texas craft beer during my first visit to the Ginger Man in ’09 but it wasn’t until the next year that I recognized just how vibrant the Austin craft beer culture was.  Understandable to a degree because so few Austin breweries distribute outside of the local region (none of them make it out to Jersey – yet another knock).  These guys are turning out some legitimate world class brews:

  • (512) Brewing – their Pecan Porter is outstanding
  • Live Oak – nobody brews a better Hefewiezen (seriously)
  • Jester King
  • Austin Beerworks
  • South Austin Brewing
  • Independence Brewing
  • Circle Brewing

The Ginger Man was very close to our conference hotel up until 2011 when it moved to the new conference center on the UT campus.  Nice place.  Just down the street from the Bell Tower but not from my top 5 research spot.  Thanks to the play phone and the magic of Google Maps, I located a potential target just 4 or 5 blocks away.  Mind you, those 4-5 blocks would be uphill and its still 102 degrees and humid so it better be worth the trip.  Duck & Dog Pub.  First thought: stupid name.  Probably not worth the trip.  Nothing else nearby and I don’t have car so I’m pretty much stuck with it.  About a block away I spotted the sign and approached what appeared to be a not-too-well maintained large dark shack behind it.  Second thought: this place is a dump.  Not going in.  After all, I’m Jewish and I’m in Texas.  Not a good combination to begin with.  Then I went in.

Surprised to see this one pop up here

Alaskan IPA at Duck & Dog Pub (complete with Aurora Borealis)

Next thought: what is a British pub doing in the middle of Texas and why are there Alaskan Brewing tap handles over there?  That last question was pretty easy – they were attached to kegs of Alaskan IPA and Alaskan Summer Ale.  The only other place I’d ever seen Alaskan brews on tap was at a bar in SeaTac Airport.  That made sense.  Alaskans in Austin? Not so much.  But the beers were excellent.  The atmosphere ridiculously casual and the fried pickles spectacularly addictive (though not nearly as good as the Wicked Pickles at Oak Creek Brewery in Sedona, AZ).  You’d never confuse this place with the Ginger Man.  Not nearly as many taps but still plenty of good local and not so local offerings.  Final thought: I was wrong.

Austin may still be known for its bats, SXSW, Austin City Limits, 6th Street (and that W Daughter’s exploits), but it’s solidly on the craft beer radar and the ping is growing louder and hoppier.  Oh, and its still got this:

All things considered its really not all that wierd

The Shirt Says it All

Cheers!

What did I miss?  Who did I offend?  Let me know in the comments……

The Evolving of a Craft Beer Geek (or “How I’ve Learned to be More Tolerant”)

Craft Beer with a View

Craft Beer with a View

About four and a half years ago I wrote and posted a not so short essay describing my journey to craft beer geekdom.  Soon after that I stopped blogging (despite the fact that one of my craft beer idols, Greg Koch of Stone Brewing, actually took the time to read it and posted a complimentary comment).  Plenty of good reasons got in the way of my writing (some less than good ones snuck in there as well) but my “research” and enjoyment of craft beer, the industry and, more importantly, the people involved with it continued.

Now that I’ve started blogging again I thought it would be a good idea (and maybe fun) to go back and re-read the Crafting of a Craft Beer Geek post to see if anything has changed since I wrote it.  Do I still agree with it?  Are the points or observations still valid?  What did I miss?  What’s Next?

One thing occurred to me right away.  I did miss something.  I had to have missed a lot of somethings to have written that whole thing all by myself (which I’m pretty sure I did).  I know I attended and participated in the birth of all three of our children so at least I didn’t miss any of that.  Lesson learned: only write posts that don’t require 2 bombers or other large format bottles to get through.  With that in mind, here are a few look-back observations and updates to that infamous post:

  • I must have thought I was going to win a prize for the longest sentence and longest average sentence.  James Joyce would have been proud.  My high school English teachers would have fainted.  My college creative composition professor is still at the front of the class doing an adaptation of Ben Stein’s “Beuller….Beuller…?”
  • I’m up to about 1,500 craft beers tasted and about 750 reviewed (still slacking there)
  • Anchor Steam still has a place in my craft beer fridge.  Fat tire not so much.
  • I finally made the pilrgimage  to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
  • That grown up version of the “safe tree” is still in Scottsdale/Sedona though the forest of safe trees now includes Papago Brewing, Four Peaks, Old Town Tavern, The Yard House & Stone Rose at the Princess.
  • I finally began home brewing with Honey Badger IPA as chronicled in New Jersey Monthly Magazine.

Most importantly, I’ve found that I was right about my parting observation back then.  It’s still not about the beer.  It’s about the craft beer people like the group at Just The Booze Dancing and the people that make up the vibrant craft beer culture (fans, writers, brewers, bar owners) in places like Philly, Austin, San Diego, Asheville & the next great craft beer scene, wherever that might be.

Oh, and if you do plan to click over and read the original post, have a Stone Double Bastard in hand.

Cheers!

 

 

Stop Bashing The Yard House – It’s Your Date’s Best Gateway Beer Bar

Classic Yard House Logo

Being a craft beer evangelist is fraught with many dangers.  Wondering if I’ll actually have to dig a pair of Sanz-A-Belt slacks out of the Do Not Go There Drawer is only one of them.  Another is the risk of missing a critical plot twist in Homeland while responding to a friend in need – a friend in a far away, unfamiliar bar.  A friend in need of emergency advice before the bartender loses his or her patience.  I get those texts so often that some of my buddies don’t even bother to type words.  They simply send the name of the bar or send a picture of the tap list (often a daunting challenge to decipher after they’ve already had a couple of starter brews).

A couple weeks ago a good friend was on his way to Kansas City for business and knew he’d have a few hours of free time one evening so he asked me to suggest a good bar.  Not knowing where he’d be staying I set out to look into the local KC craft beer scene by checking out some reviews on RateBeer.  Before long I began reading multiple reviews of the Yard House and, being somewhat familiar with the bar, I was surprised to see so many negative comments.  First things first, I sent my buddy there (though he never made it), then I went back to the reviews.  Some clear patterns emerged.  The more I read, the more I understood the reasons for the complaints but the more I disagreed with them – for the most part.

The Yard House is a moderately large chain.  By my count there are 44 currently open and 8 more on the way.  I’ve been to two of them: Scottsdale, AZ and Pasadena, CA.  As best as I can recall I’ve visited each location 4 or 5 times and I’d happily return for another 4 or 5 sessions.  So why is it that my opinion of the Yard House differs so significantly from that of so many other craft beer fans?   Simple.  They’re all wrong.  That’s usually the case – well, maybe not always (I did say “usually”).

Here’s the thing: The Yard House isn’t a craft beer bar and it doesn’t hold itself out as one.  Unfortunately, many of the people who give it poor reviews do it from the wrong perspective.  They hold it to the same standards as a they would the Toronado Pub in San Francisco, Blind Tiger Ale House in NYC or Map Room in Chicago.  The comparison is unfair.  No Yard House location with its 120+ gleaming taps can match any of those iconic craft beer bars.  Again, it doesn’t try to – doesn’t need to.

Nice Job With Those Pours

Nice Job With Those Pours

The Yard House is more than just beer – and there’s a lot of that.  All of the locations have a similar, though not identical,  industrial design, large casually upscale pub-influenced menu and classic ’70s & ’80s rock.  Who can get enough of REO Speedwagon, Flock of Seagulls & Dexy’s Midnight Runners?  Not me – and I’ve tried.

The star of each space remains the beer.  Most locations have well over 100 taps, usually arranged around a large center island surrounded by a stainless steel bar.  Sleek, clean, industrial, purposeful.  So with over 100 taps what is everybody complaining about? (Well, not everyone complained.   I noticed a Canuck who still hasn’t figured out that Canada is Milwaukee’s largest suburb posted some complimentary remarks).

The truth is that craft beer flows from only a minority of those 100 taps.  It bears repeating: this isn’t a craft beer bar.  When I want to visit a world class craft beer bar in Scottsdale I hit Papago Brewing but when I want to catch a game, listen to some Men Without Hats and have a Bear Republic Racer 5 or Deschutes Black Butte Porter, I’m heading to the Yard House.  Granted, many of the taps are domestic and import Big Beer swill (Bud, Miller, Coors, Molson, Corona, Stella, etc) or widely available “Big Craft” (Sam Adams, Shiner), but you’ll find a handful of solid craft choices as well.  One criticism I do have is that local craft brewers aren’t well represented.  Last time I visited the Scottsdale location they only had one Four Peaks brew and no other Arizona breweries and there were no Craftsman handles in Pasadena.

Typical YardHouse Tap Island

Typical YardHouse Tap Island

That said, craft beer fans can multitask here.  While enjoying a New Belgium Ranger IPA they can introduce their buddy or, better yet, their second date to a New Belgium Fat Tire (OK, maybe handing her something with “fat” on the label would present additional challenges regarding plans/hopes for later that evening but you get the picture).  We often talk about gateway beers such as Blue Moon.  Perhaps the Yard House is a gateway beer bar.  Yes, the tap list skews a bit heavily towards quantity over quality but there are some gems in there.  Might not be diamonds like a Founders KBS but there will be a few gleaming rubies and with such a wide spectrum there are plenty of opportunities to help open minds and educate palates.

And for the hard core craft beer geek (like me), when the game’s over at the Yard House Scottsdale there just might be an Alaskan Pilot Series Double Black IPA with your name on it in the cooler at Papago down the road.

Cheers!

He’Brew Jewbelation Sweet Sixteen – The Tribe Has Spoken

Haven't seen much of Long lately

Long Duck Dong in 16 Candles

I know what you’re thinking (which is even more impressive than it seems because I don’t even have a clue how I’m going to end this sentence).  What is Long Duck Dong doing as a lead photo for a beer review?  Simple.  This isn’t a traditional beer review.  There are plenty of great craft beer review sites and blogs that focus on reviews but this isn’t one of them.  Its not that I don’t like them – I do – and I have plenty of them right here on Ratebeer (go ahead, take a peek but come back for the good stuff).  I’ll get to my impressions of the beer in a bit but there are a few other things about Shmaltz Brewing and The Chosen Beer folks I want to get to before then.

I feel a certain connection to the Shmaltz Brewery.  Their beers are brewed and bottled (some of them) in Brooklyn.  I was brewed and swaddled in Brooklyn.  They moved to California (in partnership with Mendocino Brewing) for a while.  I moved to California for a while.  They’re Jewish – I guess.  I’m Jewish – again (long story – short first marriage).  They’re irreverent.  I have a PhD in Irreverent Communications and Sarcasm.  So its only fitting that I say a few words about HeBrew Jewbelation Sweet Sixteen.

This brew is not your Bubbie’s Manischewitz.  That stuff is fowl.  If you like Manischewitz wines, I don’t want to hear from you.  Your judgment is flawed.  Our people aren’t wine makers.  Not in our skill set.  We’re really good at comedy, running Hollywood studios, swimming, the occasional whopper white collar crime, and endodontics but we don’t have what it takes to make great wine.  Must have something to do with that grape stomping thing – a little too close to manual labor.

So wine making is out but what about brewing craft beer?  Shmaltz has been at it a while with some respectable success.  What’s truly surprising is that they don’t have a physical brewery.  Their beers are brewed under contract through a partnership with Mendocino Brewing.  The Jewbelation Series is their version of anniversary brews and that’s where Sweet Sixteen comes in to play (or out to play).  The concept is simple: celebrating 16 years of brewing by releasing a beer with 16 malt varieties, 16 hop varieties, and coming in at 16% ABV.   Like I said, simple concept.  Simple but screwy.  Right off the bat I’m a little leery of a craft beer that’s tied to a gimmicky theme and this one’s got classic Jewish schtick all over it.  Would anyone notice if they swapped out the Palisade hops for Nelson Sauvin?  I don’t think so.  So the whole 16 malts/16 hops is nonsense (though I’m thrilled they used flaked quinoa – checked that off the craft beer bucket list).

Here’s something that makes more sense in relation to Jewish beer than 16 hop varieties, 16 Jew varieties:

OK, 17 if you count Simon & Garfunkel as 2 but they were Bar Mitzvad together so I’m counting them as 1.  I’m not so sure the 16 malts and 16 hops would safely navigate the Hora, but once that 16% ABV kicks in any of them still spinning would soon need the services of a doctor (fortunately there’ll be plenty to chose from at any Jewish party).

He'Brew Jewbelation Sweet 16

He’Brew Jewbelation Sweet 16

Is it a good beer?  Well… I don’t love it but it does some things right.  It’s an impressive looking brew.  A ribbon of liquid obsidian pours into the glass with just the faintest glints of deep ruby highlights.  It’s got a thin, creamy dark tan head and plenty of thick lacing.  Intense aroma of coffee and bittersweet chocolate with a touch of white pepper that hints at the parting blow to come.  With all those malt and hop varieties I expected the flavors to mimic a combination of Hava Nagila & the Harlem Shake but, surprisingly, they were closer to the Hustle.  And while we’re on the subject of organized dances, here’s why we only attach ourselves to one another and go in circles:

Why we only dance the Hora

Why we only dance the Hora

Anyway, back to the brew.  Pretty straightforward imperial stout profile with robust coffee, cocoa bitterness, dark fruits (plum, cherry, raisin), molasses, and a bit of rye.  The mouthfeel seemed at times chewy yet also a bit thin.  The finish was long and sweet with a parting punch of alcohol – almost bourbony.

So in the end I can’t say I was blown away by the beer but I wasn’t disappointed either.  It has a place.  I’d proudly bring it to my next Shiva call.  After all, it’s a perfect brew for cutting through the somber emotions and horrific fish tray aromas at those things.  Its Big, Bold & Boozy.  In a newly coined and appropriately Jewish word: its “Babsy.”

Would you have preferred a picture of Mandy Patinkin?

Barbra Streisand (Hebrew but NOT a He’Brew celebrity endorser)

L’Chaim!