The Back Story:
Funny story… I was actually in Saratoga Springs, home of today’s featured brewing company, Shmaltz, just a few weeks ago, and I had no clue that a brewery even existed in that city. I was much more focused on the foodie aspect of the trip, experiencing the fantastic cuisine in restaurants that sprung up around the horse-racing industry.
If you consider the alcohol-related industry, beer brewing doesn’t rate terribly high on the list of attractions. The Finger Lakes dominate discussion of New York, which makes sense considering New York is one of the “big four” states in the wine industry. A New York Riesling holds much more sway over the average consumer than a New York beer…
Which is really not fair at all. New York has a thriving craft beer industry; it’s just that these beers fail to find their way to most of the beer drinkers in America. In fact, some of the best Belgian-style ales I’ve had come from the area. There are some recognizable brewers in the area, Ommegang, Brooklyn, Adirondack, but I’ve yet to see close to 95% of them in any specialty beer shops in the South. Only the biggest will make it out alive, which is a shame, because the general rule of craft beer is the bigger they come, the harder they fall. And thus, we come to Shmaltz’s He’Brew Messiah Bold.
You know how Hollywood summer blockbusters go, right? High expectations, budgets bigger than the GDP of a Caribbean island nation, big names attached, movie posters everywhere, and more TV face time than all your state senators combined, all are symptoms of an overhyped movie that ends up being entirely forgettable. We fall for it every time, of course, hearing the goofy one-liners recited by everyone a month before the movie comes out, memorizing the best scenes of the movie compressed into a 30 second assault on the senses.
Such is the fate of He’Brew, which has a clever name, marketing scheme, and label, all things that immediately contribute to my wariness of a brand. I only decided to try it nearly a year after I’d first encountered it on store shelves. One thing I didn’t know until I actively set out to try this beer was that the beer is certified Kosher. Though this doesn’t particularly matter to me, not being of the Jewish faith, it is an interesting aspect that, quite frankly, I never considered applying to beer.
The appearance of the beer is very dark, almost black at first glance, but it has a very pure red translucency. Very brilliant color, and head retention is respectably long. Carbonation is very fine and calm.
The nose of the beer is surprisingly fruity with notes of a jam-like cherry, chocolate, coconut, and hops.
The mouthfeel of the beer is very smooth, somewhat full, and it coats the mouth rather decently. The carbonation is aggressive as it hits the tongue, but it’s not unpleasant, suiting the fullness very well.
The flavor of the beer is slightly strong with notes of carmel, hops, grass, and mocha. It has a very pleasant bitterness that persists through a finish of strong coffee. The finish, unfortunately, doesn’t want to stick around. It’s gone faster than (insert Randal-Graves-style Jewish joke here, then censor it).
This is a fairly strong beer that demands a more hefty meal: steak, pork, something marinated and savory. Anything less would crumble under the brunt of this beer’s flavors.
For the Casual Drinker:
The nose will definitely through you off, leading you to believe it might be lighter than its color would suggest. Make no mistake, this beer has the characteristics of a typical brown ale, which might be a bit unsavory for someone used to lighter beers. For someone used to the brown ale style, this might be a little lighter than you’re expecting. I wouldn’t say it’s terrible… just unimpressive.
It’s not quite at the level that you’d expect from a craft beer at this price point. It’s still a pleasant, agreeable brown ale that should at least demonstrate that the phrase “kosher beer” isn’t quite as scary as it would seem. 5/10
In Case You Missed It:
Beer: He’Brew Messiah Bold
Producer: Shmaltz Brewing Company
Region: Saratoga Springs, New York
Price: $1.60 per 12 oz bottle
Purchased at: Total Wine