You Win This Time, Shmaltz Brewing!

So I’m a quirky guy sometimes, and I’m occasionally motivated by strange things.  Take beer labels for example.  If a label is too cartoony or the name of a beer is a pun, I’ll usually avoid it like the plague.  Something inside my head tells me that if they’re trying so hard on the label, there must be something wrong with the beer inside.

My personal poster child for labels-that-try-too-hard is the Shmaltz Brewing Company. Not only are their labels over the top cartoony, many their beer names are a pun – a double no-no in my book.  For example, their HE’BREW line of beers (oy vey already with the name) features beers like The Rejewvenator and Jewbelation; puns on top of puns. Ugh.

When I popped off about this on the blog, I was called out by Zak Davis from Shmaltz.  He asked if I had ever tried their beers.  Well, no, I hadn’t, for reasons listed above. But I realized I now had to try them in order to prove my point – or to prove myself an Idiot.  Guess how this one turns out…      

Okay, let’s get this out of the way up front – I’m an Idiot, and these folks know how to brew tasty and complex beers.

I started with a HE’BREW Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A., a double IPA brewed with rye malt.  It was huge, hoppy, earthy and delicious, with a strong malty backbone balancing out an aggressive hop attack.  The rye adds an intriguing level of complexity to this beer, all while helping to smooth out the rough edges and mask the alcohol in this brew (it has an ABV of 10%, but you wouldn’t know it by how it tastes).  All in all, an impressive beer, even if I typically don’t prefer double IPA’s.  This beer is a honey.

Next it was a HE’BREW Rejewvenator, a half dopplebock, half Belgian-style dubbel brewed with dates.  This too was a wonderful beer, with a huge malt sweetness, a broad flavor of dates and the telltale caramel and slightly metallic tastes of a nice Belgian dubbel.  This is my wife’s type of beer, and she took one sip and proclaimed the bottle to be hers.  At least I got a taste, right?

So I’ve tried two beers and they have both been well crafted, tasty and surprisingly affordable.  That’s the thing that really took me by surprise.  As with most of the offerings from Stone, you get a lot for your money when you purchase a Shmatlz beer, both their Coney Island offerings and their HE’BREW line.

All in all, I’m now on board with Shmaltz.  I have a Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah (their 13th Anniversary brew – god forbid they miss a chance for a pun!), which I’m looking forward to trying, and I’ll be picking up some their Coney Island line soon.

So lesson learned, don’t judge a book by its cover, or a beer by its label.  At least if it’s a beer from Shmaltz brewing company.  I still can’t seem to get anything from Bear Republic in my cart, as they too suffer from silly names and look-at-me labels.  Maybe I’ll touch one on my next visit to the beer store.  Heck, maybe I’ll even buy one.  Where to start now that Shmaltz has opened my eyes?

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Categories: Beer, review


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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14 Comments on “You Win This Time, Shmaltz Brewing!”

  1. April 29, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    I don’t like all of He’Brew’s line, but I really do enjoy their specialty beers. The Jewbelation 13 is great. I don’t know what they cost in your neck of the woods, but around here they are VERY inexpensive. A 12% ABV beer for $4.99? You’d expect it to be lame for that price but it isn’t. The guys put out beer at a bargain. I wonder if that’s intentional? (you know, the whole Jewish stereotype). hope that didn’t offend anyone…didn’t mean to at all.

    I actually took 4 years of hebrew (and 1 of aramaic) in undergrad and grad school. Unfortunately, I’ve let those skills atrophy. Still, for some reason it makes me dig the brewery a bit more.

    • April 29, 2010 at 11:56 am #

      It’s a lot of beer for the money for sure. I’m not sure about the whole stereotype thing – I think it’s just trying to be ultra competitive in the same model that Stone applies (very good beers at a low price point).

      And I’ve learned that I have no business trying any brewery’s ordinary line – I mostly stick to the specialty beers with breweries that make a “common” line of beers (Flying Dog and Heavy Seas come to mind).

  2. April 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    I actually bought my first He’Brew beers for the schtick. I thought it would get a few laughs at a Rosh Hashanah family dinner. I expected nothing from the beer itself, but was pleasantly surprised and then proceeded to try many of their others. I agree that their strength is their extreme beers and as a Jewish guy, I do appreciate the cheesiness of the labels, even though I normally try to stay away from super corny names, I’ve made an exception in Shmaltz’s case and will continue to try their new offerings.

    • April 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

      Maybe Zak Davis is right when he told me that the schtick helps them in the battle for attention on the shelves. It got you involved, and their quality took over from there. At least their pretty clear about their brand with a name like Shmaltz – they certainly live up to it.

      Also, congratulations on your first brew at you new brewery Matt! I recommend that everyone take a peek at the photos you posted on Facebook. I can’t wait to try out your stuff!!/album.php?aid=205471&id=143495343981&ref=mf

  3. April 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    The stereotype thing was supposed to be joke. I guess i’m not good at joking.

    • April 29, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

      Yeah, leave the joking to us halfwits, Nate. 🙂

  4. April 29, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Hey Jim. Zak from Shmaltz again. I’m very impressed. Thanks so much for giving us a shot. Not all surprises are bad right?

    Like I said on that last post, beer marketing is a tricky business. If the label is too good, people assume it must be compensating for the lack in quality of the beer. On the other hand, if the label sucks, people assume it must be a reflection of the liquid inside the bottle. It’s really a lose-lose, but in the end, it’s really the quality of the brew that counts.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how you like Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah. It does really well for us every year and now that it’s a had some time to age in the bottle, I’d assume it’s probably tasting great.

    Thanks again for sticking your neck out there and I’m glad that we didn’t disappoint. L’Chaim!! ~Zak

    • April 29, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

      Thanks, Zak. You should have heard me in my kitchen when I took the first whiff of the Lenny’s RIPA. I knew it was a good beer. After a few uh-ohs and expletives, I began to wonder how your beers might pair with crow. Now I know – very well.

      • April 29, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

        How they pair with crow huh? Never thought of that pairing. I’ve drank it watching The Crow though. They went well together.

        • April 30, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

          Well, Zak, once you’ve eaten as much crow as I have, you get a sense of what will pair well with it.

          Maybe I should host a “foot in mouth” tasting where everyone says stupid stuff and then we drink beers that make us feel better. Of course that’s already happening in bars and wedding halls across the country…

  5. April 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    I’m a big fan of this one and as Nate pointed out, their pricing is very good. This one is only $4 for the bomber around me. They also just made a version of this aged on rye whiskey barrels.

    • April 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

      Most their stuff is under $5 up here in NJ as well. You really can’t beat the value.

  6. April 30, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    I also enjoy their Coney Island line, especially when I’m actually there. What I find interesting is that while the beer is normally $5-$6 at the grocery store for the 22 oz. beer, they’re sold in Coney for about $9. When Shmaltz moves in next to the Sideshow there, where they are sold for $9, are they going to charge the same price? Or are they going to keep their good-beer-at-a-good-price philosophy and stick to $5-$6, thus making it unlikely that the Sideshow will continue to charge $9…?

    • April 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

      That’s a good question – overcharge a captive audience or offer them the value that is a mainstay of your brand? I suspect they’ll make it affordable for everyone to have a taste, but you never know.

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