12 December 2007

KOTBR #36 | L'Chaim! (or, "On the Third Night of Hanukkah, My Friends Brought Beer to Me")

For Roundtable #36, we gathered at my and my wife’s place on the third night of Hanukkah (or more appropriately, Chrismukkah, considering that this was an “interfaith” gathering—agnostic, Jew, Christian, and Buddhist) to enjoy some latkes and Jewish-themed beer from Shmaltz Brewing Company, home of the He’Brew brand of beers (certified kosher, of course). Shmaltz was started in 1996 by Jeremy Cowan, when, according to Cowan, he and some “intimate friends” gathered in a San Francisco loft to “squeeze luscious pomegranates by hand to brew the first 100 cases of the original He’Brew beer.” For those who are puzzled as to why pomegranates were part of the first He’Brew beer, the answer is that aside from being tasty and having healthy properties, the pomegranate has sacred significance in Judaism.

Eleven years later, Hoosiers are lucky to find He’Brew beers on the shelves of liquor stores and on bar menus across the state. Each beer comes with Cowan’s own style of Jewish quirkiness on the label, where you’ll find a list of Jewish-themed trivia that relates to the beer’s name. For example, the label on the Origin Pomegranate Ale (which we discuss in more detail below) explains that the calyx on top of the pomegranate was the original inspiration for the crown worn by Jewish monarchs.

The staple He’Brew beers are Genesis Ale and Messiah Bold (the latter is cleverly subtitled, “It’s The Beer You’ve Been Waiting For”). In addition, there are He’Brew’s renowned seasonal releases, which tend to be highly hopped, intense brews with a high ABV percentage. Because of this hop intensity, He’Brew seasonals are prime candidates for cellaring for a year or two. This aging tends to mellow the beer’s hoppy character, creating a sweeter and maltier offering.

For Roundtable #36, we reviewed five He’Brew seasonals, three of which had been aged for a year or more—Genesis 10:10, Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A., and Monumental Jewbelation 10—one that had been aged since March—Origin Pomegranate Ale—and this year’s newest seasonal release, Jewbelation 11 (as Nigel Tufnel said in This is Spinal Tap, “It goes to 11.”). Moreover, since we couldn’t leave out a review of a beer from that ubiquitous goyishe holiday, we also reviewed Brouwerij Huyghe’s Delirium Noel (Brouwerij Huyghe is also home to the, um, interesting Rubbel Sexy Lager).

A short note about the Jewbelation seasonal beers—these are released every year before Hanukkah. The number on the beer corresponds to the number of years that Shmaltz has been around, the number of different malts and hops used to make the beer, and the percentage of alcohol by volume.

Now that all the prefatory stuff is out of the way, this is how the Hoosier Beer Geek mishpocha reported their findings.

Mike, with a little literary quiz:

I realize Matt kinda just did this, but it's not the same because he did it well and I'm horrible.

Plus I didn't make this up, I plagiarized.

Reviews written in a semi-plagiarized style of the first page of books I pulled out of the pile in the closet.

You solve the mystery. List of works plagiarized at the bottom.

1) He’Brew Genesis 10:10 - 4.00 Mugs

"So you're all set for beer, then?" the boy named Jason asks in his typical informed voice. The kind of voice like when you've just started drinking and your mouth still feels quick and able. But he's just pretending. He's totally drunk. As always.

I nod.

"How much?"

I review the numbers in my head. "Close to four mugs, sweet apple berry nose with a hint of funk, boozy front, on the tongue sting, a hint of pepper, but extremely smooth. I know four is a lot, but it's fair enough. For the time being."

"Not bad," The boy named Jason says. "For the time being."

I give him another nod.

"I'm guess this isn't a Christmas gift score from Santa Claus."

"Yeah, you're right," I reply.

2) He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. - 3.50 Mugs

ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in red lettering on the door of the apartment near the corner of Meridian and Fall Creek and is in print large enough to be seen from the front seat of the Mazda as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving downtown and just as Gina notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for HoosierBeerGeek.com on its side blocking her view, but Gina who is with Pierce & Pierce and twenty-nine doesn't seem to care because she tells the brewer she will give him 3.50 mugs for brewing a buttery, biscuity brew that's a deep copper color and works all on the front of the tongue and the top of the mouth, and the brewer, white, Jewish, does so.

3) He’Brew Monumental Jewbelation 10 - 4.25 Mugs

I am visiting at the Villa Dimitri. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a latke misplaced. We are all together here and we are dead.

Last night Chris discovered that he was lousy. I had to shave his armpits and even then the itching did not stop. How can one get lousy in a beautiful place like this? But no matter. We might not have known each other so intimately, Chris and I, had it not been for the lice.

Chris has just given me a summary of his views. He is a knight of the beer roundtable. The beer will continue to be good, he says. There will be more drunkenness, more vomit, more despair. Not the slightest indication of change anywhere. The cancer of beer reviewing is eating us away. Our heroes have gotten us drunk, or are drunk themselves. The hero, then, is not the present time stout-looking and Belgian-tasting ale, but the timelessness of the beers after. We must get in step, a lock step, toward the prison of beer reviewing. There is no escape. The weather will not change.

4) He’Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale - 3.00 Mugs

When he woke on the couch in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the beer sitting beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the beer not as drinkable than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold drunken tonsillitis dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each fruit influenced by not fruity drink. He pushed away the plastic up and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the kitchen for any more Jewbelation but there was none.

5) He’Brew Jewbelation 11 - 3.25 Mugs

All this happened, more or less. The drinking parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One beer I knew really was almost drank from a fridge that wasn't mine. Another beer I knew really did look like a stout with heavy lacing but a hard liquor, leafy pine nose. And so on. I've given you all the names.

6) Delirium Noel - 3.25 Mugs

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know the first beer I drank was Milwaukee's Best, and what my lousy high school years were like, and how my friends back home still drink Miller Light, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my friends would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told you anything pretty personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially the Miller Light part. They're nice and all-I'm not saying that-but they don't drink Belgians. Besides, I'm not going to tell you my whole goddamn autobiography or anything. I'll just tell you about this overripe apple smelling punch in the mouth beer I drank last at our Chrismukkah party where I got pretty run-down and had to go home and take it easy.

Works plagiarized in this review:

1) Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore
2) Bret Easton Ellis - American Psycho
3) Henry Miller - Tropic of Cancer
4) Cormac McCarthy – The Road
5) Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse-Five
6) J.D. Salinger - The Catcher In The Rye

Jason, with “The Ballad of Shit McGee”:

There is nothing like starting the evening off by entering a door with a picture of pork on it, especially if said door is the front door of the home of a Member of the Tribe. Love the irony.

The aforementioned pork picture (from a real supermarket in Manhattan). The price labels came down shortly after this picture was taken.

I brought along my good buddy Shit McGee. Of course, that is just his nickname. But everybody calls him Shit McGee. And let me just say that this guy is a Chick Magnet. Old, young. Married, single. He brings ‘em all in.

On the way to dinner on this third night of Chrismukkah, Shit McGee and I were having a discussion about cellarable beers. In my experience, I have not had much success. Because apparently I choose shitty beers to store away. Also because I have a hard time getting beers to stay put. Somehow they always end up in my belly.

Unlike Mr. Mike Deweese at BadaBoomz Downtown, who is the local expert, in my opinion, on cellar beers. When it comes to it, I choose to let him store the beer and I’ll buy them later. At a premium, of course.

But are cellar beers all that great to begin with? I have been drinking lots of hopped up and English ales because of their bitter bites. Those bites tend to mellow out with time, so for me, I don’t think they are all that.

Tonight would be a great test, as we were tasting 4 beers that are a year or more old. The other 2 are pretty fresh. All the beers come from Shmaltz brewery, with the exception of one.

Here they are, from most favorite to least:

Jewbelation 11 – 4.25 mugs

Because it was fresh, the 11 hops were still hoppin’, while the 11 malts were still maltin’. Well balanced and tasty, a good argument against cellar beers

Genesis 10:10 – 3.875 mugs (that’s 3 7/8 mugs for you drunkards who can’t do math)

This was the best of the aged beers we drank, in my drunk opinion. It was slightly sweet, with tastes of brown sugar, while still having a fair amount of bite, giving it a whiskey quality.

Monumental Jewbelation 10 – 3.75 mugs

It was malty with a fruity Belgian hint. The 10 hops didn’t come through at all. But still tasty as pork chops at a synagogue. Another good argument for cellar beers, though.

Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. – 3.375 mugs (.375 = 3/8’s; did you take any math in high school?)

This beer likely would have scored higher if had been fresher, because it didn’t taste like an IPA any more. But it had an intriguing rye and caramel flavor that kept me happy.

Origin Pomegranate Ale – 2.875 mugs

I’d like to blame this beer on being old. But the fact is that I probably wouldn’t have liked it if it had been fresh. Just too dang sweet for my tastes.

Delirium Noel – 2.75 mugs

I’d like to blame this beer on being old. But the fact is that it is fresh. And it was just too damned tart for my taste. A great beer to make you wish for a cellar IPA that no longer tastes like an IPA. Give me some more Jewbie 11!

Six beers. Six very potent beers. If it hasn’t been for the hash browned cakes of goodness (which would have been perfect the next morning with a fried egg on top), I would have been spinning. I had forgotten, however, that Shit McGee never eats when he drinks. So old Shitty made a fool of himself and me by throwing up all over Jim’s living room floor. Plus the lady that was all over him.

Or was she holding him up? It’s hard to say.

So I took him back to my home, where he promptly passed out.

Having consumed five He’Brew beers, I found myself wishing that we had three more, to compliment the eight crazy nights of Chrismukkah. I think I would make a pretty good Jew.

Okay except for the no pork, no meat/cheese mixtures, etc.

But those little beanie hats would cover up my growing bald spot nicely.

Gina, with, in her words, reviews in the “plain old regular style”:

Monumental Jewbelation 10 - 4.25 Mugs

This was malty and dark with a caramel taste and a bit of hops that wasn't overdone. As this one warmed, I got a bit of something smoky in the taste, but still sweet. Very tasty.

Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. – 4.00 Mugs

I tasted the caramel and the malts immediately and finished with the rye on the back of the tongue and throat. For being an IPA, I didn't get much of a hop bite which I was perfectly OK with.

Delirium Noel – 4.00 Mugs

I am still loving the Belgian beers, but I find that from this brewery, I like the Tremens better. The taste of this was purely alcohol with a side of apple. I think that it wasn't as balanced as much as I would have liked

Genesis 10:10 - 3.75 Mugs

The smell of this was very powerful at the start, but quickly faded away. The taste of this was quite light for being such a high ABV.

Origin Pomegranate Ale - 3.50 Mugs

This tasted faintly of pomegranate and was very light bodied. I found that I liked the fruitiness of this but I wanted it to be a little more malty or chewy.

Jewbelation 11 - 3.25 Mugs

I liked this one the least of all that we tried because it smelled so much like a pine tree. This is definitely one that I would like to try again a year after it's been aging in a cellar. If the 10 is any indication on how these beers age, I think it's going to be pretty amazing.

Overall, every one of these beers were very good and would be worth trying if you haven't already. Be sure to take a more in-depth look at the He'Brew bottles if you haven't had the opportunity. They all contain good stories and interesting information.

Thanks, Jim and Annie, for hosting a fabulous Chrismukkah gathering, plastic ass and all. The potato latkes were super good. I could go for a couple right now. :)

The world famous plastic ass. Artist unknown.

Chris's estimated ratings from memory (long story--he left his review notes behind, which I then mistakenly threw out):

Genesis 10:10: 4.50 mugs

Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A.: 4.75 mugs

Monumental Jewbelation 10: 4.25 mugs

Origin Pomegranate Ale: 5.00 mugs

Jewbelation 11: 3.97 mugs

Delirium Noel: 5.00 mugs

Since my colleagues have adequately said what needs to be said about each beer, I’ll simply add my mug ratings and note that, in my opinion, this was, on the whole, the best group of beers we’ve reviewed (of course, I may be a little biased as a MOT, but I loved even the Delirium Noel):

Genesis 10:10: 4.75 mugs

Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A.: 4.60 mugs

Monumental Jewbelation 10: 4.25 mugs

Origin Pomegranate Ale: 3.75 mugs

Jewbelation 11: 3.25 mugs

Delirium Noel: 4.00 mugs

1 comment:

  1. I puked all over the place? I don't remember that. I think you're making that shit up.