23 December 2010

KOTBR #118 - The 12 Days of Chrismukkah, Part 1

Three years ago, we convened for our second ever holiday beer roundtable. Among the beers we reviewed were several from Shmaltz Brewing Company's He'Brew line. The result of the roundtable was a post that a renowned professor of Jewish studies called "glowing, lengthy, and somewhat bizarre." We considered (and still consider) the professor's description to be a compliment. Believe me, our work has been called much worse.

The opportunity to hit He'Brew beers recently arose again with Shmaltz's release of the He'Brew Vertical Jewbelation Gift Pack.

8 kosher Molotov cocktails.

If you're unfamiliar with the He'Brew Jewbelation series, here's the lowdown -- Every year around Chanukah, Shmaltz releases a new Jewbelation beer. The number of each Jewbelation release corresponds to the number of years that Shmaltz has been around, the number of different malts and hops used to brew the beer, and the percentage of alcohol by volume in the beer. For example, the first Jewbelation, called Miraculous Jewbelation 8, came out in Shmaltz's eighth year; therefore, it was brewed with 8 hops, 8 malts, and had an ABV of 8%. This year saw the release of Jewbelation 14.

Yes, we're talking big kosher beers here, especially as we march into the high teens in the upcoming years.

When we heard about the gift pack release a few weeks ago, we were quite curious about it. As a result, I rushed over to the local dram shop (thanks to Eric at 21st Amendment in Broad Ripple) to procure one for this year's holiday beer review. Inside our box o' Semitic goodies was the following: 8 beers, a custom tasting glass, a set of Chanukah candles, and instructions on how to build a beer bottle menorah. The beers consisted of all seven recipes of the Jewbelation series plus Vertical Jewbelation, which is a blend of the seven Jewbelations aged in Sazerac Rye Whiskey barrels.

Yet by the time we met for the roundtable, we had a problem: our schedules had been so packed that we weren't able to meet until Chanukah was over. Hence, there was no reason to assemble a beer bottle menorah with our empties. This made us quite sad. But being the astounding, synergistic meld of Jew and Gentile that we are, we knew that we could still have a joyous occasion. So we added two Christmas-themed beers to the mix, along with a Mikkeller one-off and our own mash-up of all 8 Jewbelations. In all, 12 beers. Yes, 12 beers.

So we present to you "The 12 Days of Chrismukkah." This post is Part 1, which will cover the first 6 beers from the roundtable. The last 6 beers will be covered in Part 2.

And now, imagine Burl Ives wearing a yarmulke, gliding through the snowy streets of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, with the smells of the kosher bakeries and delis in his nose and a festive song on his lips...

On the first day of Christmas my true love, Rodney, gave me a growler of Pumpkin Ale from Bier Brewery and Taproom instead of the traditional partridge in a pear tree. Since he knew my love of squashy treats in the colder months, this beer was much appreciated instead of the crappy bird (and who really wants the hassle of a tree). Pumpkin Ale is the perfect blend of vegetative flavor (mmmm...pie pumpkins) and holiday spices (hold the anise please). It was nice and moderately sweet with a dry finish that did not overpower the beer (or is it Bier?). The only thing this beer left me wanting (other than more) was a little bit fuller mouthfeel. I felt it was thinnner than expected for a pumpkin beer.

Since we're going to keep singing about this partridge in a pear tree, I'll keep it short but sweet - I'm a fan of this beer from Bier (redundancy anyone?) and can't wait to try their other seasonal offerings!

Bier Brewery Pumpkin Ale
Jess: 4.00 Mugs | Rod: 3.90 Mugs | Jason: 3.75 Mugs | Mike: 4.00 Mugs | Gina: 3.30 Mugs | Chris: 3.80 Mugs | Jim 4.00 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.82 Mugs

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Ah, turtle doves. They form a bond together and are rarely seen apart. That is why they are considered a symbol of devoted love. A perfect gift for true loves to give as Christmas gifts.

Apparently, they also make for a great sacrificial slaughter--

“Hey everybody! We had a baby boy! A bundle of joy! Oh happy day!”

“Congrats! Let’s kill a couple of doves to celebrate!”

“Umm…uh…okay? I guess? That’s seems kinda weird.”

“Nah, it’s great. We’ll take them to the temple, cut their heads off… it’ll be fun!”

I don’t know about you, but when I celebrate, I usually like to be surrounded by family and friends; eat, drink, and be merry!

So instead of shanking some unsuspecting birds, why not polish off a few Snow Cap Winter Warmers from Pyramid Breweries? It may not be the first winter ale you think to buy, but you should know this: the dark copper colored beer comes in at 7% abv, making it not-so-big but big enough; it has plenty of roasty malted goodness without being terribly chewy; and it runs about $7 a six pack. Plenty of beer at a great price…it’s easy to share. And it won’t leave you trying to get spilled dove blood out of your favorite Christmas sweater.

Pyramid Breweries Snow Cap Winter Warmer
Jess: 3.20 Mugs | Rod: 2.80 Mugs | Jason: 3.33 Mugs | Mike: 3.20 Mugs | Gina: 2.90 Mugs | Chris: 2.30 Mugs | Jim: 3.30 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.00 Mugs

On the third day of Christmas my true love, Rodney (isn't he sweet?), gave me a He'Brew Miraculous Jewbelation 8 along with three french hens. GOD ENOUGH WITH THE BIRDS AND IT'S ONLY DAY THREE. I can only clean up so much poop before I'm over the birds and just want a meal of fried chicken. He could have just given me one beer instead of three smelly birds (here come the animal rights activists), but I digress.

We recreated a scene from the graphic novel Maus.

On first whiff, Miraculous Jewbelation 8 smells like a decadent molasses cookie with sweet, graham crackery notes popping up. On first taste there's a big molasses flavor with a hint of caramel and dried fruits. It reminds me of a molasses oatmeal cookie with a hint of too much carbonation. The more I let this kosher brew roll around on my tongue, the more it brings out a dark maltiness tasting of semi-sweet chocolate-coated raisins and black cherries, toasted pumpernickel bread, and a hint of black licorice. Once again I'm searching for a fuller mouthfeel on my beer and am slightly disappointed in the high amount of carbonation tingling my nose. All in all though a solid offering and I highly recommend it!

Shmaltz Brewing He'Brew Miraculous Jewbelation 8
Jess: 4.20 Mugs | Rod: 3.20 Mugs | Jason: 3.25 Mugs | Mike 3.50 Mugs | Gina: 2.80 Mugs | Jim: 3.00 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.33 Mugs

On the fourth day of Christmas, Jess gave to me, four calling birds. Wait what? Oh I get it, it's a twitter reference. Those calling birds were all tweeting about He'Brew Jewbelation 9. One of them was @ShmaltzBrewingW, and they were telling us how this beer was similar to a Belgian dubbel. The 9 hops didn't stand out so much, but the yeast brought out lots of raisin, date, and fig aromas. Just like Christmas! Or maybe even Hanukkah! To be honest I don't even know what Hanukkah smells like, but I bet @ShmaltzBrewingW knows. Jewbelation 9 definitely had a great presentation for the 9 malts involved. Flavors of brown sugar, chocolate, caramel, and a bit of smoke rounded out the beer with a great balance. I'm certainly glad Jim picked this up from @21stBroadripple. The other two calling birds were @hoosierbeergeek and @brewhouse, but they weren't even talking about the beer. In fact, they didn't say much of anything with all the snuggling they were doing in the corner.

Shmaltz Brewing He'Brew Jewbelation 5766 9
Jess: 3.30 Mugs | Rod: 3.60 Mugs | Jason: 2.90 Mugs | Mike: 3.10 Mugs | Gina: 2.60 Mugs | Jim: 3.20 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.12 Mugs

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me--

Oh, screw this. We're talking about Chanukah beer here. So I'm sorry if you were dying to hear the "fiiiiiiiive golden riiiiiings" bit that is the only part of the song most people know.

So let's talk about Judith instead. Judith lived in Judea around the time of the original Chanukah story--you know (or maybe not), the one in which the Assyrian rulers of Judea were oppressing the Jews until some hard case Jewish guerrillas called the Maccabees overthrew them, then rededicated the temple in Jerusalem by relighting the temple menorah with one day's worth of oil that miraculously lasted for 8 days, yadda yadda yadda....

Judith lived in a village under siege by the Assyrian army, who were led by a general named Holofernes. Holofernes had the hots for Judith. He also liked to get his drink on. Unfortunately for Judith and the villagers, their water supply was getting low because of the siege. But Judith was resourceful. She visited the village's version of Goose the Market--called Shmuely's Kosher Cheese and Wine Castle--where she bought an armload of kosher cheese made from the succulent milk of shrubbery-fed goats, along with several flagons of Mogen David wine. She then schlepped over to Holofernes's tent where she first served him the cheese. The cheese made him thirsty, so he drank lots of the Mogen David until he passed out. Being the badass that she was, Judith chopped off Holofernes's head and left the headless body for his troops to find. The troops panicked and were routed in a Jewish counterattack. Kol HaKavod, Judith!

So as you can see, Chanukah is all about festive holiday cheer.

If Shmaltz Brewing Company had been around in the time of Judith and Holofernes, I have a feeling that Judith would have opted for some bombers of He'Brew Jewbelation instead of flagons of Mogen David. In fact, she might have chosen Monumental Jewbelation 10.

As you might expect with a beer brewed with 10 malts, Monumental Jewbelation 10  is sweet, but not cloyingly so. The sweetness comes through in delicious burnt sugar and creme brulee notes. Unlike Jewbelations 8 and 9, which had a thin mouthfeel, 10 has a slightly hefty and silky mouthfeel. Even the choosiest Assyrian general would be smitten with this beer. Because everyone knows that if you can please an Assyrian general, you can please just about anyone.

Shmaltz Brewing He'Brew Monumental Jewbelation 10
Jess: 4.0 Mugs | Rod: 3.80 Mugs | Jason: 2.90 Mugs | Mike: 3.70 Mugs | Gina: 2.80 Mugs | Jim: 4.00 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 3.53 Mugs

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Six Geese-a-laying? It sounds like foul fowl porn. I’ll take the high road though. Six geese, sitting around, laying eggs. Maybe geese eggs are tasty. But I’ll probably never know. Every goose I have ever met gets all sorts of pissy if you get near its nest, starts hissing at you, and leaves the worst messes you’ve ever seen. Six Geese-a-laying. If that’s an ideal Christmas gift, I’m changing religions.

Now the Jews, they got it going on. Their winter holiday is eight nights long? I’m cool with that. Spin the dreidel? Sounds like fun (I’m assuming it’s like spin the bottle). And I think they have He’Brew beers on tap in the synagogue. In between the ark and the ner tamid.

If that is true, I hope they have some Jewbelation 11 on tap. While I enjoy all of the editions of Jewbelation, the 11 stands out. It’s a mighty big beer with a lot of flavors going on. Hanukkah may be the Festival of Lights; Eleven is the festival of darknes. Dark brown sugar. Dark fruits. Dark malty goodness. It’s almost like being bourbon barrel aged, but without so much of the bourbon booziness. The Maccabees would have gladly traded in their miracle oil for a six pack of 11!

So…oh, wait, pardon me a moment; I just received a text from Jim…okay, so they don’t have He’Brew beers on tap in the synagogue. They don’t have any beers on tap.


Maybe I’ll celebrate Yaksmas instead.

“On the 6th day of Yaksmas cousin Sven he sent to me, six Yaks a shaven…”

Well, it’s better than six frickin’ geese.

Shmaltz Brewing He'Brew Jewbelation 11
Jess: 4.60 Mugs | Rod: 3.50 Mugs | Jason: 4.50 Mugs | Mike: 3.70 Mugs | Gina: 3.50 Mugs | Jim: 4.25 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.01 Mugs

Coming soon: The 12 Days of Chrismukkah, Part 2.

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