The biggest, the smallest, most award-winning, and still the only Jewish beer company in America, Shmaltz Brewing Co. just announced its farewell season after 25 years in the beer business with the first and final release of Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA in 16-oz cans, vintage gems from the Shmaltz beer vault, and a fitting tribute, Exodus 2021 Barleywine Ale (8.8 percent ABV) brewed with date, fig, pomegranate and grape. Evolving from a quirky holiday experiment to an innovative advocate for the beer industry, Shmaltz has been known for its creative brand building, as a champion of contract brewing (both brewer and brewee), for completing multiple complex business deals and as relentless punsters.
Founder and Owner Jeremy Cowan quipped: “Was it Mark Twain or Groucho Marx who said, ‘You can’t start a new chapter without putting a period on the last one. Otherwise it’s just a typo.'”
When Shmaltz Brewing began in 1996 hand-delivering 100 cases of its beloved “HE’BREW — The Chosen Beer” out of Cowan’s grandmother’s Volvo, 700 small independent craft breweries represented only 2 percent of the beer market. Along with other “Class of ’96” breweries (Stone, Firestone Walker, Victory, Three Floyds, Two Brothers, Original Sin, Iron Hill, Coronado and many others) Shmaltz put roots down for an industry that has since created and sustained a transformative movement, growing to nearly 10,000 craft brewers and over 20 percent of the overall beer market by revenue. Shmaltz stood out as one of the most idiosyncratic brands of its day. One that cooked along for an initial 10 years and in the mid-2000s became a pop-cultural phenomenon with a dedicated global cult following.
Highlights of 25 years of Shmaltz Brewing
From the early years of self-distributing to growing to four then 45 wholesalers nationally, Shmaltz served as an unusual example and vocal advocate for contract brewing before opening its own 50-bbl, 40,000-sq-ft production brewery in Upstate New York. Shmaltz expanded production volumes by 400 percent to over 30,000 bbls by then contracting for other renowned national and regional beer brands in addition to brewing their award-winning Shmaltz portfolio.
Shmaltz was ranked one of the “Top 100 Brewers in the World” by RateBeer.com (2013); a recipient of the “Distinguished Business Award” by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; included in the “Top 50 Fastest Growing Bay Area Companies” by San Francisco Business Times; and given the “Achievers Award” by the Albany Business Review. The brewery amassed more than 50 medals at the leading craft beer festivals, including the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Championships, US Beer Tasting Championships, and others.
Proudly participating across the spectrum of the Jewish community with non-profits, arts groups, and service organizations, “HE’BREW Beer” made it to the White House for “Jewish Heritage Night” and served during multiple presidencies (Bush, Clinton, Obama), as well as multiple eras of New York City Mayors. A bottle remains in the permanent collection at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (San Francisco), and Cowan’s book Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah: How It Took 13 Years, Extreme Jewish Brewing, and Circus Sideshow Freaks to Make Shmaltz Brewing an International Success is now an offering at the Jewish Center for the Blind. Cowan’s national book tour hit influential indie book stores such as The Strand (NYC) and Kepler’s Books (Palo Alto, CA) as well as events at Craft Brewers Conference, BrewBound Talks, SF Beer Week, NYC Beer Week, and a plethora of beer bars nationally.
Shmaltz operated the “World’s Smallest Commercial Brewery” in Coney Island, Brooklyn, which spearheaded the creation of Coney Island Craft Lagers (sold to Alchemy & Science, a division of Boston Beer Company). “HE’BREW Beer” further found its way into fanatical TV shows and motion pictures such as Friends, Garden State, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, CNN Headline News, The Today Show, and many others. It secured the only license from CBS Consumer Products to brew two critically acclaimed Star Trek Golden Anniversary Ales to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the iconic franchise, Star Trek. Shmaltz later released a Collector’s Edition beer commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Cowan and his team were also invited to brew George Washington’s “Small Beer” recipe in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the New York Public Library.
From comedy and music events with the likes of Sarah Silverman, Lewis Black, Judy Gold, and Matisyahu, to epic holiday parties Chanukah vs. Christmas: The Battle Royale of Beers, Shmaltz Brewing always served up the perfect punchlines (“Don’t Pass Out, Pass Over”). However, when it came to brewing world-class beer, quality and innovation was no joke. Inspired by Jewish tradition or mystical connections between Moses and Mel Brooks, Cowan and his brewing teams designed unique and compelling experiments — over 150 beers across 4 brand lines — often with high ABVs, hybrid styles, and barrel aged blending that could stand arm-in-arm with the best of the best.
Shmaltz Brewing — 25th Anniversary Events
Shmaltz goes out with a bang with a nationwide “Farewell to Shmaltz Tour” a.k.a. the Class of ’96 Celebration a.k.a. Let My People Brew a.k.a. The No Shmucks Tour, kicked off at the Craft Brewers Conference 2021 (Denver, CO) with a dozen Class of ’96 breweries plus industry sponsors all presented by ProBrewer with more than 400 enthusiastic craft beer fans.
Up next are Upstate New York events including a “25th Anniversary Extravaganza” at Troy Night Out on Friday, September 24 (6pm – 11pm) at their tasting room 518 Craft in downtown Troy, NY (200 Broadway) with Super 400, JB & The Funky Nuggets, DJ Nate Da Great, “Fall Forward” art show with Thom Williams, craft vendor faire by Make It Upstate and Nadine Medina Design, food by Chewish, and artisanal chocolates by Primo Botanica.
On Saturday, September 25, Cowan hosts a very special Invite-only 25th Anniversary Reception at Yankee Distillers (5 Fairchild Square, Clifton Park, NY, 4pm-6pm) to sample Batch One of Shmaltz Liquor (multiple years of Jewbelation Anniversary Ales distilled and aged 9 years in Buffalo Trace and Pappy Van Winkle Barrels), and the debut tasting of Exodus 2021 Sacred Fruit Barleywine.
Shmaltz Brewing is a testament to a company that stayed true to its founding values while keeping innovation at the heart of its efforts. Come toast 25 years of Quality, Community, and Shtick along with Cowan and his fantastic sales, marketing and bar staff in Troy and at one of the national events in NYC, San Francisco, Philly, DC, Tampa, and more throughout the remainder of 2021, which will be listed on facebook.com/ShmaltzBrewing.
All Shmaltz sales, marketing, and tasting room staff will remain in place and work with Cowan to focus on Alphabet City Brewing Co. (with distribution throughout the New York metro area), his 518 Craft tasting room in Troy, N.Y., and a burgeoning consulting practice to help small and medium-sized breweries and passionate newcomers successfully navigate and expand within the beer industry.