Jeremy Cowan, the mensch behind the Jewish-themed, certified kosher Shmaltz Brewing Co., has plenty to celebrate: new HE’BREW beers, a new brewery and those eight crazy nights.
You just celebrated a year at your new brewery outside Albany. Where’s your favorite place to have a beer Upstate?
There are so many; there’s such a great beer scene here. I like The Ruck in Troy, Centre Street Pub in Schenectady, and in Saratoga Springs, I like Henry Street Taproom and this funky little pizza place on a river called Harvest & Hearth.
Your annual Jewbelation beers follow a pattern: Jewbelation 17 had 17 malts, 17 hops and 17% ABV. What’s Jewbelation 18 like?
For so many years people have said, “How high can you go?!” Last year was our limit. About 25% of our distribution channels wouldn’t have been legally able to sell a bigger beer. So this year, we made a big, strong barleywine with 18 malts and 18 hops that’ll be about 12.5%.
Any big plans for Hanukkah?
We’re launching our first official Hanukkah beer: It’s called Hanukkah, Chanukah Pass The Beer. It’s eight malts, eight hops and 8% ABV in honor of the eight nights of Hanukkah. It’s a big, complex brown ale; a really great winter warmer.
What Hanukkah dishes will you pair it with?
All forms of latkes. Regular potato, sweet potato, small ones, big ones, fat ones, skinny ones. That’s the beauty of latkes: They’re as unique as all of us.
What’s your favorite Hanukkah tradition?
The holiday season is my Super Bowl, so my tradition has become serving my beer around the country. My favorite event is our annual Hanukkah versus Christmas tasting; it’s a big, tongue-in-cheek beer tasting with different breweries we’re friendly with.
Any gifts you’ve got your eye on?
I always love getting a bottle of rye whiskey. My favorite is George Stag from Buffalo Trace; I bought one for one of my best friends as a thank-you gift and he shared with me, but I want my own.
What’s a good convert beer?
Genesis, our dry-hopped session ale, is our lightest-bodied beer. It’s balanced but with plenty of hops to appreciate what craft beer has become, which is kind of a temple of hops. But right now, it would be Messiah Nut Brown; it’s smooth and balanced, and goes well with the heavier foods of the season.
You introduced Funky Jewbelation this year; any plans to bring it back?
It won a World Beer Cup silver medal! We’re sitting on a bunch of barrels to make the batch that’ll win gold. It should come out again in late spring.