21 Dec Shmaltz Brewing Company’s Jeremy Cowan On The Latest From He’Brew And Plenty More
This Hanukkah, the New York-based Shmaltz Brewing Company officially turns 21. The smallest and still the only Jewish celebration beer company in the country, Shmaltz admittedly began as a novelty brewer. Now, Shmaltz reportedly has close to three dozen staff members and over 40 awards for its signature specialty beers. Going further along with the celebratory theme for Hanukkah 2017, the company has unveiled three limited-edition seasonal offerings: Chanukah, Hanukkah…Pass the Beer (a Golden Strong Ale with Cocoa Nibs, 8% ABV), Jewbelation 21 (a Dark American Strong Ale, 12.1% ABV), and Shtick in a Box (a Holiday Variety 12-Pack). And more seasonals are reportedly to be expected.
To learn more about Shmaltz, which first launched with the He’Brew brand in 1996, I spoke with its founder Jeremy Cowan. More on Cowan, Schmaltz — which recently expanded upon the regional Alphabet City brand and re-introduced its hyperlocal upstate 518 & 838 series — and upcoming projects can be read at www.shmaltzbrewing.com.
What came first: the name of your beer, or the idea to start brewing?
Jeremy Cowan: The idea for the name for the beer came first as an inside joke with a small group of friends in Northern California. We figured it was about time that the Jews finally had their own American craft beer and of course the name would be He’brew!
When did you first get into craft beer?
Jeremy Cowan: After college I lived in the French Quarter of New Orleans and worked at a small brew pub, as well as enjoying 32-ounce big gulps of Abita’s Turbo Dog before going out to see Rebirth Brass Band along with a slew of other enjoyments. In Northern California I grew up on Sierra, Anchor, and the new guys like Lagunitas, Anderson Valley and North Coast. In the mid-2000s when I moved the production to New York and the East Coast beers were starting to blow up with brands like Dogfish, Sixpoint, and Cambridge Brewing. A long and tasty road!
When do you feel He’brew stopped being a novelty, based on its name, and started being a real beer that people drink all years?
Jeremy Cowan: About 10 years ago, amazingly enough I finally decided it was time to have a real beer company and not just a Jewish non-profit organization! That year we put out three 10% ABV extreme beers and the switch just flipped and I’ve never looked back.
Shmaltz put out three limited-edition Chanukah offerings. How do those compare to your non-seasonal beers?
Jeremy Cowan: 8 Malts, 8 Hops, 8% ABV — a delightful excuse for a creative experiment… perfect for Hanukkah! Our Jewbelation series has been an endless adventure in numerology, whacked out recipes, and profoundly meaningful shtick. And I love huge brown ales and I cannot lie!
Do you have a favorite of the Chanukah brews?
Jeremy Cowan: One of my longtime favorites from our portfolio is Messiah Nut Brown Ale, available in six-packs and in our Shtick in a Box variety pack. It’s one of our longest-running beers and I still love the rich complex flavors of roast, dark chocolate, and nuttiness, along with a nice light body and a clean finish that’s a perfect complement to so many delightful foods of the season.
Word is that your brewery has a tasting room. What can you tell me about that?
Jeremy Cowan: Bringing extreme beers, sours, barrel-aged, and high ABV to the comfortable suburb of Clifton Park has been a total treat! Participating in the evolving craft beer scene in Upstate New York has encouraged us to brew more sessionable beers as well as invite brewers from around the region to our anniversary parties and seasonal beer fests. I love to collaborate with so many local and regional breweries. It’s one of the best parts of the job. Next phase is the new tasting room in Troy, New York, opening in early 2018. Come join the tribe.
When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?
Jeremy Cowan: What’s free time? (laughs) Well, hiking, art galleries, exploring new places, and of course sampling a slew of all the new beers that have popped up in the last few years.
What was the last concert you attended for fun?
Jeremy Cowan: Spoon at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park. Rockin’!
Finally, Jeremy, any last words for the kids?
Jeremy Cowan: Hey kids, try this beer at home with friends and family and strangers and home brewers and professional industry enthusiasts — 21 and over only! Just like our Jewbelation says on the label: Now legal in all 50 states.