It takes some chutzpa to brew a Kosher beer with pomegranates, but as with life, taking a risk with beer can pay off. Shmaltz Brewing of San Francisco makes HE'BREW and a brew called Genesis 10:10 using 10,000 pomegranates per batch that commemorates the tenth anniversary of the brewery. It was just one of the HE'BREWs offered at downtown Madison's Maduro in a special public tasting Thursday sponsored by company founder Jeremy Cowan, who has crafted the brewery's image playing off his Jewish heritage.
Cowan offered six beers ranging from a mild-bodied, roasted, nut brown called Messiah Bold, to a bitter Imperial India Pale Ale called Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. (a.k.a. Rest In Peace Ale), named as a tribute to the late comedian Lenny Bruce. Cowan admits he tries to be respectful, yet irreverent, with his unique brand names. Each carries "The Chosen Beer" slogan on its label and is aggressive in body, flavor and finish.
Logic at a tasting, where beers are served in 3-4 oz. glasses, suggests starting with lightest beer and moving up in intensity. But most decided to respect the religious nature of the event, and "In the Beginning," went with Genesis 10:10 which generated much buzz among bar patrons in the laid back atmosphere of Maduro. Kate Luther, 22, a UW-Madison student enjoyed its complexity.
"I don't normally look for hoppy beers, and this one had lots of sweet flavor without being too syrupy," she said.
The pomegranates add some of that sweetness, but the intense maltiness asserts caramel flavors with enough hops for a fruity yet dry bitter finish.
HE'BREW's standard Genesis Ale offers great copper color, a light floral nose and firm bitterness. In comparison, it's rather light and subdued compared to other pale ales. On the other end of the spectrum is Monumental Jewbelation. Cowan offered a side-by-side comparison of this year's batch called Monumental 10, with last year's Monumental 9. These beers have high alcohol content with incredibly warm aftertastes. Their names reflect the annual anniversaries of the brewery, and the number of malts and hops used. Both are brilliant bronze. Of the two, the 10 offers more emphasis on the hops, while the 9 was still hoppy, yet smoother in caramel malt flavor.
BTW, Shmaltz in Yiddish means excessive sentimentality in art or music and I think "excessive" definitely applies to HE'BREWs.
The beers of Shmaltz Brewing are distributed locally by Specialty Beverage and can be found at some of the area's larger liquor stories such as Riley's Wines of the World, Steve's Liquor, Star Liquor and Village Liquor in Cottage Grove.