21 Dec How to toast Hanukkah (or Chanukah)
The bottle: Shmaltz Brewing Company’s “Chanukah, Hanukkah…Pass the Beer” bottle, around $12 for a four-pack
The back story: Sure, there are boozy drinks associated with Christmas — say, eggnog — but what about Hanukkah? The eight-day Jewish holiday, which started earlier this week, is best known for foods, from latkes (potato pancakes) to foil-wrapped chocolates called hanukkah gelt.
Leave it to Shmaltz Brewing Company to fill the void. The brewer, based in Clifton Park, N.Y., has devoted itself to Jewish-themed craft beer since its inception 21 years ago. And what makes a beer Jewish? For starters, many of Shmaltz’s offerings play off Jewish history and culture. They also incorporate ingredients popular in Jewish cuisine — from rye grain to dates and figs. And naturally, the brews are kosher — “so everyone in the community can bring our beers anywhere they say ‘L’Chaim!’” says Shmaltz founder Jeremy Cowan, referring to the Jewish term for “cheers.” (It translates from the Hebrew as “to life.”)
As might be expected, Shmaltz goes all out for Hanukkah — or Chanukah, as some prefer to spell it — with a variety of offerings. Among them is a beer that plays off the holiday’s spelling confusion, aptly called “Chanukah, Hanukkah…Pass the Beer.” It’s a golden strong ale, a Belgian style known for its complexity. But what gives it a special Hanukkah taste, literally, is that it’s flavored with cocoa nibs — reminiscent of the chocolate in Hanukkah gelt.
What we think about it: Even if we weren’t looking for a bottle to toast Hanukkah, we’d reach for this Hanukkah beer. It’s got a subtle chocolate-y taste that’s quite appealing, though the flavors go beyond that as well. The Shmaltz team says you should pick up notes of everything from biscuits to peaches.
How to enjoy it: This is a hearty beer that would pair well with hearty Jewish or other foods. Cowan suggests it’s a natural with latkes. Oh, and if you’re looking for more Hanukkah choices, Shmaltz has Jewbelation 21, a dark American ale, plus holiday-themed gift pack of 12 beers that it calls “Shtick in a Box.”