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).
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:
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.”