He’brew Gift Pack 2014 – Jewbelation ’18 – Shmaltz Brewing

Today is the final review of eight in our nine part He’brew Gift Pack series.  Links to the other posts here:

  1. Intro
  2. Messiah “Nut Brown Ale” – Brown Ale
  3. Funky Jewbelation “L’Chaim Sucka!” – American Strong Ale
  4. Rejewvenator “Dubbel Doppel” – Abbey Dubbel
  5. St. Lenny’s “The Immaculate Collaboration” – Belgian Strong Ale
  6. Reunion Ale ’14 “A Beer for Hope” – American Strong Ale
  7. Death of a Contract Brewer – Black IPA
  8. Hanukkah, Chanukah “Pass the BEER” – American Strong Ale

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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.

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Appearance 4/5

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.

2-DSC_0359-002Aroma 4/5

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.

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Taste 8.5/10

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.

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Palate 4.5/5

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.

Overall

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…

He’brew Gift Pack 2014 – Hanukkah, Chanukah, Pass the Beer – Shmaltz Brewing

Today is the seventh review of eight (almost there) in our nine part He’brew Gift Pack series.  For links to the other posts, see the intro.

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If last night’s 7 hops, 7 malts, and 7% ABV weren’t enough for you, tonight we’re back with 8!  In celebration of the 8 days of Chanukah (however you spell it), this beer comes in at 8, 8, and 8.  You may have noticed that Shmaltz has a thing for oddities like this, and often will take it to the extreme, such as in tomorrows Jewbelation, which up until this year had 15s, 16, and 17s for all of those numbers (yes, 17% ABV).  I say up until this year because they changed it up a bit, but more on that tomorrow.  Tonights beer is intended to be a winter warmer style ale, but made without the typical spices that often accompany- just the basics of hops, malts, yeast, and water.

Chanukah Beer pours a rich crystal clear chestnut to ruby color with a light creamy head. The aroma and flavors lean toward a robust winter warmer, though brewed without any spices. Just all malt and hop goodness! Light caramel and toasty nuttiness as well as a hint of sweeter chocolate are rounded out by a healthy dose of European Noble and classic American new school hops. With 8 malts, 8 hops and 8% alcohol, this beer is real wonder with so many elements blending to create balanced and yet still distinct flavors. Hanukkah Beer is brewed as a celebration offering and sure to light up your holiday season. L’Chaim!

I’m looking forward to this one, let’s get started.

1-DSC_0352-001Appearance 3.5/5

When pouring, this looks quite similar to last nights Black IPA- it pours brown, but sits darker in the glass.  They differentiate in the way they pick up light, however.  Last night, there was barely any visible light through the glass, and tonight, holding the glass up to light reveals a clear (but dark) mixture of brown, orange, and maroon.  The head on this was minimal at best…it was gone before I had taken several pictures…but looking back at the pictures it looks like medium size bubbles.  The clear nature of the beer lets you see into the glass to look for bubbles rising up, but there are hardly any to be seen.

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Aroma 4/5

Straightforward, and good smelling: big brown sugar, big caramel malt, smaller amounts of raisin, and very slight hops.  That’s about it.  In this case, not a lot to describe is a good thing, as the few aromas present are excellent.

Taste 7/10

Right away, I can tell that this ale is going to be more balanced out than the previous few: sweet, savory, bitter, alcohol all exist together in good balance.  As I drink I’m thinking that the hops might actually take a bit of precedence over the other flavors, piney and bitter, but they don’t push it too far.  The darker malt and sweet flavors are delicious: caramel, brown sugar, slight burnt sugar, and bitter chocolate.  A significant alcohol edge finishes the taste and leaves the palate mostly clean.

I can’t say that I can identify any unique flavors from the wide variety of hops.  It seems to me like a unified hoppy, bitter taste, but more piney than anything if I had to choose.  I’m not too bothered by this- you can add as many hops as you want, but at a certain point the malts are going to begin to mask them out if you are adding enough of them too.  I suppose that seems counter to my initial statement that the hops were the prominent flavor by a bit.  I guess what I mean is, I can taste some varied malt flavors, but only one hop flavor…the hops edge out the malts in intensity, but only slightly.

All in all, a well conceived recipe, easy to enjoy, and easy to drink for 8%.

1-DSC_0351-001Palate 3.5/5

Body on the heavy side of medium, bordering on syrupy.  Carbonation on the light side.  Alcohol definitely present.

Overall

This is a good, but not overly complex tasting ale, especially given the 8 varieties of malts and hops that go into it.  I can see how this might be disappointing to some, but not for me.  If there was one thing that holds this brew back for me it would be the bitterness: I know this is probably supposed to be a “hop forward” strong ale, but for me, it’s a bit too forward.  The bitterness does tend to overpower as you drink on, and that’s a bit of a disappointment for me.  Keep in mind, for many, this is likely a good thing, and something to celebrate as unique.  For me, it’s almost great, but the strong bitterness holds it back to the “good” territory.

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Score: 18/25, 3.6

Tomorrow Night – Jewbelation ’18

He’brew Gift Pack 2014 – Death of a Contract Brewer – Shmaltz Brewing

Today is the sixth review of eight in our nine part He’brew Gift Pack series.  For links to the other posts, see the intro.

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a Black IPA.  In fact, the only black IPA I can recall having in recent history is Black Lightning from DuClaw.  I enjoyed that a lot, and I’m hoping to enjoy this one even more.

Death seems so obvious: the end of life, no mas, kaput. But Humans stand an optimistic animal. Many traditions suggest alternate endings: Resurrection, reincarnation, rebirth, afterlife. Even the atheist view of Eternal Oblivion doesn’t seem quite final, more of a shift in spiritual states of (un)consciousness. As usual, Jewish tradition prescribes… Food. 7 days of family, community, and bagels (beer!), called, Shiva, meaning “7” in Hebrew. The flip side to the 7 days of Creation with the 7th as a holy day of rest. The first meal of Shiva is “the comfort meal.” And the number 7 provides powerful mojo: 7 Jewish wedding blessings, 7 Liberal Arts, 7 Lucky Japanese gods, 7 stars of the Big Dipper, 7 colors of the rainbow, 7 seas, 007 license to kill, 7 dwarves, We are 7 by Wordsworth with a child’s view of death, 7 deadly sins, Best of 7 finals in NBA, NHL, MLB, 7th Inning stretch, #7 on Elway & Tiny Archibald. George Castanza yearned to name his firstborn, “7” as a living tribute to #7 Mickey Mantle. The 7 Award however must go to the immortal George Carlin for 7 Dirty Words, inspired by another hero Lenny Bruce. Coming into 17 years of beer, and Year #1 with our own Brewery, we commemorate this conversion with Death Of A Contract Brewer, our Shmaltz homage to new life – L’Chaim! Jeremy Cowan, proprietor

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Appearance 4/5

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When pouring this out of the bottle, you can clearly see that this is dark brown, though in the glass it turns as black as the label on the bottle.  The label on the bottle is pretty sweet too!  You can just barely see a bit of brown at the bottom edge of the glass in the pictures.  I guess you could say it looks like a very dark cola.  The head was substantial, rising almost a full inch, with uniform, small bubbles.  Lace sticks to the glass even 10 minutes after the pour, and I do see some tiny bubbles rising up to maintain a thin layer of foam on the surface.

Aroma 3.5/5

You can almost forget that you are looking at an IPA…it could really almost be a stout by its appearance, but all that is out the window when you smell it.  Instant hops…instant IPA.  Piney, sappy, slightly citrus, and slighty funky- they are the major player here.  It’s hard to smell anything beyond those hops…there are 7 of them, so there are lots of hop flavors at play here.  I don’t particularly smell any of the dark malts, though once again, there are 7 of those also.

Taste 8/101-DSC_0346

Dark malt (thought not very smoky for me), piney hops, and bitterness dominate the taste.  Interestingly, I think this shares more with Imperial/Double IPAs I’ve had recently than it does with most of the dark beers I’ve had.  Regardless of the dark color and the 7 malts…it’s the hops that drive the train on this one.  The bitterness is extreme.  Listed as 70, but gosh, I would have thought higher.  It hits you right away and hangs onto your tongue for quite some time after finishing the glass.

There is a slight tangy taste that is buried down there below the hops, and I can almost taste a burnt toast flavor.  Once again, as others in the pack have, the alcohol isn’t really a factor in the taste.  The finish is a bit dry.  In fact, I’m longing for some sugar cookies right now to balance out the bitter and dry sensations (you know, with the big sugar crystals on top).

Palate 4/5

Medium body, bordering on medium-heavy, medium carbonation, and alcohol that just doesn’t compete with the strong hop flavors.  For what they were trying to achieve with this beer, I think the execution was perfect.

Overall

This beer simply is what it is: dark and hoppy.  I don’t get much in the way of extraneous flavors as others have mentioned- coffee, various citrus flavors, chocolate, etc.  I keep thinking this could almost pass for a double IPA, black color or not…I’m just not getting a huge dark flavor out of it (though eating something sweet does go a long way to emphasizing those darker flavors).  That’s OK, I wouldn’t want it to taste burnt or anything…

If you’re into hops and bitter flavors, you’ll love this.  I haven’t seen 70 IBUs pack this much bitterness in a while.  And if you do end up picking one of these up, I highly recommend the cookies :)2-DSC_0348

Score: 19.5/25, 3.9

Tomorrow Night – Hanukkah, Chanukah, Pass the Beer