At the start of Hanukkah last night, I didn’t light a menorah. I lit a cigarette and texted Jeremy Cowan, owner of Shmaltz Brewing Company, instead, to chat about the brewery’s annual He’brew Holiday Gift Pack. This year’s eight-beer, schtick-heavy bundle is the fifth and final installment.
We also chatted about Shmaltz’s group of events in New York City (and across the country) during Hanukkah, including tonight at Taproom No. 307 and a pair of Chanukah vs. Christmas throwdowns at Spuyten Duyvil (Sunday, against Iron Hill and Sly Fox) and Freddy’s Bar (next Tuesday, versus Smuttynose). Each, in addition to Gift Pack beers, will feature vintage goodies.
Niko Krommydas: hey jeremy
Jeremy Cowan: hey N
NK: was Hanukkah today or yesterday?
JC: Today. and yesterday. It started yesterday. It’s eight days.
NK: Happy Hannukah!
NK: Ok. Talk to me about the new gift pack
JC: sure. It’s our fifth pack, but this is also our last year of doing it. It’s bittersweet, but we’re going out with a grand finale
NK: why are you stopping it?
JC: It became too overwhelming to package and hold all the seasonals throughout the year. And just to put together the special packaging… a big undertaking
NK: that sucks.
JC: So this is the last time you’ll see 12-ounce bottles of Funky Jewbelation, Rejewvenator and St. Lenny’s – Next year we’ll just release the seasonals during their appropriate times.
NK: What new beers are in this year’s pack?
JC: our anniversary beer Jewbelation 18, which has 18 malts and 18 hops at a highly sessionable 12.4 percent ABV
NK: The ABV of Jewbelation usually corresponds with the number of malts and hops right?
NK: and the anniversary year
JC: Yes. But it got to the point where we couldn’t sell the beer in a quarter of the 36 states we distribute to, and it’s our biggest seasonal in terms of awareness and volume
JC: so we brought down the ABV and just focused on making a great beer.
JC: This year we only couldn’t sell it in Ohio so next year we’ll do just under 12 percent to get everyone in.
NK: gotcha. How would you describe it?
JC: I’ve been describing it as a Black Session Barleywine – a dessert beer, playing the role of a port or sherry. A lot of chocolate, caramel, plum and raisin notes. Has a great mouthfeel to it.
JC: And boozy!
NK: one sec. going down to G train.
NK: Ok. Back. What else is new in the pack??
JC: Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass The Beer. It’s really special because it’s the first finished recipe by my lead brewer Richie Saunders.
JC: eight malts and eight hops, and it’s 8 percent ABV as an homage to all the miracles of our eight crazy nights.
NK: what is it?
JC: I’ve been describing it as a winter warmer without the traditional spices. loads of chocolate, roast, and … A blast of Centennial hops, so also aromas of spruce, pine, and mint. It pairs well with the darker, richer flavors.
NK: sounds really good. I notice you really like dark and boozy beers
JC: Definitely. Big barleywines are my favorite. I’m older now, so I don’t need to pound beers. all about the big beers in small pours.
NK: tell me about the holiday events.
JC: we’re doing events all over the country during chanukah. [tonight] we’ll be at Taproom 307 in Manhattan with eight beers: jewbelation, pass the beer, etc. we’ll also have Jewbelation Quinceneara, which was Jewbelation 15 aged in tequila barrels
NK: you guys barrel a lot of beer right?
JC: yeah. 250 barrels at the brewey right now
NK: When did you start doing these other Chanukah vs. Christmas events?
JC: Oh man. I can’t really remember it’s been so long.
JC: probably been doing it at Spuyten for nearly 10 years. and for about six or seven years we’ve pit our beers against holiday beers from Iron Hill and Sly Fox.
JC: at Spuyten this year we’ll have this rare Bittersweet Lenny’s aged in tequila barrels and bottles of Jewbelation 15 and 17. pumped for it
NK: sweet. one last thing…
JC: and then we face off against smuttynose. this year at Freddy’s in Park Slope
NK: oh nice. never been to Freddy’s before
NK: so last thing: What’s Hanukkah like at The Cowans?
JC: I’m on the road for all of Hanukkah, so it’s basically eight nights of drinking and delicious food for me. It’s a professional obligation of course.
NK: Do you miss the traditional holiday stuff?
JC: well for the last 18 years, this has become the Hanukkah tradition we’ve created. I’m glad to say it’s going stronger than ever.
NK: thanks man. Happy Hanukkah!!