Starting Shmaltz Brewing Company:
The brewery started as an in-joke among high school buddies. The idea was that the Jews should have their own beer. The advertising slogan would be "Don't pass out, Passover". While it may seem like a big leap to go from high school in-joke to actually producing and distributing beer to consumers, the first batch actually only cost $2000. The first recipe required pomegranate juice and we couldn't find it anywhere, so I ended up squeezing pomegranates on the floor of my apartment. It was kind of a fly-by-night operation.
I went with the contract brewing model because at first I was a one-man operation and my aim was to put good beer out there, not to own all this stuff. He'Brew beers were first contract brewed by Mendocino Brewing. We went to Olde Saratoga when we outgrew them.
Our beers contain a lot of ingredients. The Jewbelation 12 has twelve different grains and twelve different hops. The Coney Island Lager has nine grains and seven hops. I like big, bold, complex flavors. I like this in food as well. I'm not looking to make a beer that is simple and subtle. I want flavors and aromas that jump out at you and change with every swallow. The only grains we don't use are heavily roasted grains. I don't like the flavors of those. I'm not much on porters and stouts. The porters I do like have more caramel sweetness and less roast.
He'Brew beers aren't put together in a way that conforms to style guidelines. We don't do any test batches. To create recipes, I sit down with Paul McErlean and talk about what I want to make. We get as many samples of similar beers as we can and we taste them. We pick the flavors we want and don't want from each. Once we have a good idea of what the beer should be Paul creates a recipe. We toss the recipe back and forth for a month or so and then he brews a 100 bbl batch. That's our beer, like it or not.
One look at the company website reveals that Jewish culture and humor plays a big role in the marketing of He'Brew beer. The "shtick" is something we have a lot of fun with. But Jewish culture informs our product on a much deeper level. For instance, all He'Brew beers are certified kosher. Also, look at the Rejewvenator. I wanted to brew a beer to commemorate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is a holiday about introspection, reflection on the mistakes of the past and changes to be made in the coming year. It's a holiday of rejuvenation. I thought of a doppelbock for a number of reasons. One reason was the shtick. By naming it Rejewvenator, I could play on the traditional "tor" ending of doppelbock names, I could use "Jew" in the name, and I could convey the spirit of the holiday. But there were other parallels. While Rosh Hashanah is a fall holiday and bock is traditionally a spring beer. But spring is also associated with ideas of renewal and rejuvenation. Also, the traditional symbol of bock is the ram. An important part of the Rosh Hashanah holiday is the blowing of the shofar, a ram's horn. We ended up with something that fell between a doppelbock and a Belgian dubbel that was infused with fig juice. There are Lots of references to figs in the Torah. These are ideas that I find really interesting. They aren't so much part of the marketing yet. Maybe someday.