A party atmosphere follows Jeremy Cowan wherever he goes. Perhaps he’s just an overgrown kid who needs to be put in the time-out chair. But my instincts tell me that this “party animal” is a brilliant businessman with laser focus on his goals of putting Shmaltz Brewing Company on the rosters as one of the best breweries in the world. At this point, his company has sold over 8 million bottles of beer since he established Shmaltz Brewing Company in 1996.
It wasn’t always easy. In his book, Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah, Cowan explains how his persistent chutzpah became the anchor that moved his Jew-centric beer into New York’s highly ethnic neighborhoods. “I figured if I could sell Jewish Beer with a Palestinian refugee to Yemeni Muslims in Hell’s Kitchen, maybe everything would turn out,” he wrote.
Shmaltz Brewing Company makes me smile. It must be that little play on words (shtick + malts= schmaltz) that stimulates ideas. Jeremy Cowan, as Proprietor and Owner of Shmaltz Brewing Company, explains that schmaltz is Yiddish for chicken fat, a Jewish comfort food. It also describes those Jewish comedians with a schmaltzy sense of humor – Sid Caesar, Henny Youngman, and Mel Brooks – all masters of humor. The Grand Slam fit. He has designed two lines of beer under the craft brewing umbrella of Shmaltz Brewing: He’Brew and Coney Island Craft Lagers.
Coney Island Lagers celebrate the curious atmosphere of New York amusement that has endured for decades. With names like Mermaid Pilsner, Sword Swallower, and a whole line of Freak Beers, the quotient for humor is more satisfying than summertime fireworks.
On a more serious note (not!), the He’Brew line of beers carry their forte as the only Jewish Beer in America. The beers are designed with taste and wit, including a special line he calls “The Chosen Beers.”
Cowan’s book tells his story, that of a naive young man who knew very little about beer when he began. Through a series of side-slung Jewish jokes and random comments that stimulated ideas, he found himself immersed in his own beer company. In 1996, Cowan convinced his friends to help him squeeze pomegranates so he could craft a special Chanukah beer. That beer, Origin Pomegranate Ale, is still on the market today.
Shmaltz Chosen Beers fit well in Cowan’s portfolio. Along with Origin Pomegranate, he pairs up Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA, a tribute to the late Lenny Bruce with “an obscene amount of malts and hops.” Genesis Dry Hopped Session Ale and Messiah Nut Brown Ale are two smooth quenchers that serve well as refreshing lighter alcohol beers.
New to the portfolio is Genesis 15:15 ... “You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age” says the scripture. This beer rolls out as an assertive barrel-aged barleywine, aged for 8 months in 6-year-old whiskey barrels. This 15th Anniversary Beer highlights seven hops - Warrior, Centennial, Cascade, Fuggles, Simcoe, Crystal and Amarillo - and a boatload of malts, drenched in pomegranate, fig, date and grape juice with a final alcohol level of 13.4% ABV.
Jewbelation 15 showcases 15 malts and 15 hops, while Hop Manna IPA is on Test Batch #4 with two additions of dry hops, settling in at 6.8% ABV.
Finishing off the pack is a collaboration beer, Reunion 11, between Shmaltz and Terrapin Beer. It is billed as a “beer for hope,” brewed in memory of Virginia MacLean, and benefitting the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research. Drenched in flavors of dark fruit and chocolate, it is made with the addition of cocoa nibs, vanilla and chili peppers that create solid warming in the throat.