Today is the final review of eight in our nine part He’brew Gift Pack series. Links to the other posts here:
- Messiah “Nut Brown Ale” – Brown Ale
- Funky Jewbelation “L’Chaim Sucka!” – American Strong Ale
- Rejewvenator “Dubbel Doppel” – Abbey Dubbel
- St. Lenny’s “The Immaculate Collaboration” – Belgian Strong Ale
- Reunion Ale ’14 “A Beer for Hope” – American Strong Ale
- Death of a Contract Brewer – Black IPA
- Hanukkah, Chanukah “Pass the BEER” – American Strong Ale
The 8 nights of Chanukah, and this gift pack are drawing to a close. It’s been a unique and fun journey: I’ve had things I really enjoyed, some not so much, some that were completely different than anything I’d had before, and one that was seriously awesome. It’s fitting that Jewbelation would be the beer to wrap this series up- it’s a favorite of mine, and the only beer in this pack that I had actually had before. A little history:
Our 10th annual tribute to extreme beer: Jewbelation 18 was indeed brewed with 18 malts and 18 hops and finally dropped to a “sessionable” 12.4% abv so we can sell to all our states. This year’s monster emerges as a big, big juicy dessert of a beer with rich sweet blasts of chocolate and mocha with layers of dark fruit notes of black cherry, date and fig. More like a port or sherry – hints of what might come from barrel aging – but this year just from the enormous amount of malt, piles of hops and the 8 weeks of fermentation and aging that brought our 18th anniversary creation to life. If your “sessions” include sharing precious ounces of huge beers with good friends and family, grab one now, save one for later, and enjoy!
For the uninitiated, Jewbelation has been brewed with a rising amount of hops, malts, and ABV for the last 10 years. Last years 17% ABV ale was absolutely awesome: full of a multitude of dark and fruity flavors, and to be honest, not really that strongly tasting of alcohol. Even though I had only tasted a small sample at a party, I loved it. As they hint at above, this years Jewbelation is a departure in the ABV, now down to 12.4% (which makes this a Barleywine vs an American Strong Ale). I’m certain the task of maintaining, or even improving the flavor of a beer dropping 5% in ABV was no easy task, but sacrifices had to be made- how much higher could they have taken the ABV before it wouldn’t have tasted like beer at all?
I’ve tried the two side by side, and I can say that they are remarkably close, though the lower ABV does lose a bit of the glorious depth of flavor granted by the higher ABV one. Tonight we’ll only be trying the current year, so we won’t be comparing them any more than what’s already been said.
Just when you thought the Black IPA (Death of a Contract Brewer) was dark, Jewbelation reminds you of how truly dark a beer with 18 malts is. It’s definitely got more of a brown tint that the Black IPA did, but it’s every bit as dark. Yea, I’m pretty sure I can see less color at the edges of the glass even when held to bright light. The pour is more or less a lot like a thin version of molasses (or used motor oil) going into your glass. It’s got all the viscosity of the St. Lenny’s and then some. Head is minimal, about a quarter inch, and medium brown in color. It pretty much goes away instantly, and doesn’t seem to be supported from much nucleation within the glass.
There is so much going on in the aroma of this, you could almost smell anything. I get caramel, butterscotch, dried cherries, molasses, unsweetened chocolate, black coffee, and a bit of saltiness. I’ve seen a lot of people rating this down for having “too much going on” or “smelling like cough syrup.” As someone who is currently administering cough syrup nightly to sick boys…no, I don’t get that particular aroma at all. I think it’s great. Realize what you are drinking here: 18 hops and malts…it’s not supposed to be super serious, and it doesn’t care about super critical reviews like this guy:
AROMA: Overhopped. Herbal notes. What the f— is going on? It’s a chaotic mess of the beer. Cream. Evergreen dominates. An unpleasant aroma of average strength. What a complicated mess of a brew.
Lol! Evergreen…cream…average strength. What are they talking about? Let’s get real. You’re not going to drink this often, you’re not going to be buying cases of it and slam it down at a party. You’re going to have a little bit of it once in a blue moon and either appreciate it for what it is, or give it to someone who will.
The taste takes the aromas of the sweet: molasses, caramel, butterscotch, the tart: dried cherries and red wine, the bitter: coffee and chocolate, and the saltiness and adds a distinct smokiness from the darkest of malts no doubt, and a grape juice flavor. This stuff is heavy. It coats the tongue like syrup, sweet and sticky, but with far more variation of flavor of course. It doesn’t really tilt towards any one direction in terms of flavor. The sweetness from malts, the bitterness from using every hop available in the NE US, the bite from the alcohol, the tart fruity flavors from…wherever they’re from…
This bottle begs to be shared. This bottle begs for food- you won’t mute the flavor of this, so don’t worry. When I tried the the ’17 and ’18 back to back, we had bread, cheese, and smoked sausage, and I’m longing for that now.
I’m going to proclaim the switch from 17% ABV to 12.4 a success. I would imagine that anyone not familiar with the past years variants would have no idea that such a change had been made based on flavor alone- this is still plenty strong even for fans of barleywine (I consider myself one of those). This body is about as thick as you can get, reminiscent of liquor poured out of a frozen bottle. ABV is notable, but not overpowering on the finish, and carbonation is kept low in the thick liquid. Kudos to Shmaltz for figuring out how to keep the crazy tradition of this beer going year after year.
You won’t find any other beer out there like this (at least I never have). Is it a ton of flavors jammed into a sweet, tart, thick, dark, malty, savory, almost salty drink? Yes. Is everyone going to like something like that? Definitely not. I think their statement sums his beer up as best as possible:
If your “sessions” include sharing precious ounces of huge beers with good friends and family, grab one now, save one for later, and enjoy!
That is the way it is meant to be enjoyed, and I can tell you from personal experience that in this case sharing a bottle of this with friends is significantly more enjoyable than trying to finish one yourself 🙂
Score: 21/25, 4.2
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the series. It was a lot of fun to write, but also a challenge, as nightly reviews during the busiest time of the year leaves precious little time for anything else. But, we did it! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find some food to go with the remainder of this bottle…