Shmaltz Brewing Founder Visits St. Louis

by STL Hops

While it’s always cool to meet a brewer from your favorite breweries, they’re something slightly cooler about meeting the owner. It takes some very big cojones to start your own business and I think there is something special about meeting the guys who have the gumption to go out and make their own road.

One of those guys who made a go of it is Jeremy Cowan of Shmaltz Brewing Company. Jeremy will be in St. Louis later this week to promote his new book Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah, a memoir detailing what it took to start Shmaltz.

If you’d like to meet Jeremy he’ll be speaking at the Jewish Community Center as part of the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival on Thursday, November 17th at 7:30PM (you can purchase tickets here.) He’ll also be signing copies of his book at Left Bank Books (the downtown location) on Saturday, November 19th from 4PM to 6PM.

After the book signing, Jeremy will be heading next door to the Bridge to enjoy some Messiah Bold and RIPA on draft. This is a great opportunity to meet one of the guys who helped to make this US craft beer renaissance a reality.

Interview with Omnivore

L’chaim! It’s a Craft Beer Bar Mitvah

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by Austin L. Ray for Omnivore, Food and Drink Blog of Creative Loafing Atlanta

Fri, Nov 11, 2011

Adventurous drinkers know Jeremy Cowan as the man who brought beers such as the HE’BREW Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. (a rye double India Pale Ale produced in tribute to late comedian Lenny Bruce) and the Coney Island Craft Lager series (of which a portion of the sales benefits the actual Coney Island) to Georgia. Since he started Shmaltz Brewing Company in San Francisco in 1996, Cowan has been creating and refining the Chosen Beers, his signature line of Jewish/pop culture-addicted ales, expanding to include the Coney Island line in 2008. On Sunday and Monday, he visits Atlanta as both brewer and author. He’ll be reading from, signing and generally promoting his new, self-published book, Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah, at Brick Store, Manuel’s, Hop City and the Atlanta Jewish Book Festival. Although Craft Beer Bar Mitvah‘s blurb claims the book will explain “how it took 13 years, extreme Jewish brewing, and circus sideshow freaks to make Shmaltz Brewing Company an international success,” we asked Cowan to elaborate a bit on the project.

Did you feel the world was clamoring for the tale of a self-described “Jewish Celebration Freak Show Craft Brewery”?
Absolutely! As is true with our beers, the Jewish Freakshow community being maybe 2 percent of the overall population, and with small craft beers being less than less than 5 percent of the beer market, I quantify the book market for Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah to be essentially within striking distance of 0 percent of overall readers. Niche, baby! But all we need is a few thousand of that tiny tribe and we are golden.

What was the impetus to get your story on paper?
My grandmother wrote a few books on technical writing and I loved looking at her name on the spine. That, and to prove an English degree was worth something, to write the great American novel—except non-fiction, and with beer.

You collaborated with your friend and published author/journalist, James Sullivan, to write the book. How did the creative process work between the two of you?
Jim listened to me wax only slightly poetic for a couple of hours on the phone each week for well over six months. He typed up my rambling stories, edited them into a more coherent structure, and then I started cranking on edits and re-writes until I thought I would lose my mind. Having Jim as a professional author gave me the confidence and a voice of wisdom that pushed the finished product far beyond anything I could have done on my own.

For the uninitiated, what does “Extreme Jewish Brewing” entail?
Normally, Jews don’t believe in active attempts to convert anyone to our traditions. However, in the realm of beer, I wanted to pursue all those exceptional beer drinkers who love wild styles, creative recipes, and outrageous flavors. My version of extreme beer – the Shmaltz shtick – always ties into Jewish traditions from the ingredients such as sacred species listed in the Torah, to holidays, great Jewish thinkers, and pop cultural icons.

You sold close to 1,500 copies simply through your loyal Shmaltz fans and distribution network. Were you surprised at that number, especially given that you self-published initially?
Yes! I am astounded and it has been extremely gratifying to have the little cult of the Shmaltz tribe engage with this book. Especially gratifying, however, and ultimately the goal of the specific writing of the book, was to stand on its own as a compelling work that can be judged, read and appreciated without knowing anything about our beers. Honestly, the greatest compliments I have received so far have been from both friends and strangers who said simply, “I finished the entire book.” For a business book, and for something so personal, that seems like a huge success.

Now that the book is finished, are you planning a follow-up?
Hell yeah, coming in 2013, a history of Jews and beer from ancient Mesopotamia to modern craft brewing. I’m working with another journalist from New York and we’ve already uncovered a ton of fantastic historical information. We will be exploring the secret Hebrew connections through modern craft beer.

Once you finish up the book tour, what’s on the horizon for your breweries? Any interesting beers coming up?
It is our 15th anniversary this year and we are launching a ton of new ambitious projects that I can’t wait to share with everyone, starting with Genesis 15:15 (launching right now), our barrel-aged harvest barleywine, to Jewbelation 15 coming out next month, and our newly re-designed Genesis dry-hopped session ale. Not to mention our first ever straight-up 6.5%, 65 IBU single IPA, called Hop Manna.

Events: Manuel’s Tavern Reading & Signing (With Shmaltz Beers on Draft), Sunday, Nov. 13, Free, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
404-525-3447, www.manuelstavern.com

Brick Store Pub Meet and Greet (with a vintage keg of Jewbelation on tap), Sunday, Nov. 13, Free, 7:30 p.m.
404-687-0990, www.brickstorepub.com

Hop City Reading and Signing, Monday, Nov. 14, Free, 4 p.m-6 p.m., 404-350-9998, www.hopcitybeer.com

MJCCA Book Festival, Monday, Nov. 14, Price varies, 7:30 p.m., www.atlantajcc.org

Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah in Esquire Magazine!

The New Beer Bibles a Man Should Read

by Evan S. Benn
November 9, 2011

Funny thing about being a beer writer: I receive more books about beer than actual beer. The majority of them — the ones that open with “the differences between ales and lagers” — are a bore. Lucky for me, then, that three recent releases are anything but. If you’re looking to give something to yourself or the beer-lover in your life this holiday season, you might want to consider picking one of these up. After all, a book about beer is the next-best thing to beer. Trust me, I know.

The major release of the year is the highly-anticipated The Oxford Companion to Beer (Oxford University Press, $65). Big both in size (a whopping 960 pages, or four pounds) and in concept, the OCB is the result of years of research by editor Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, and his team of 166 contributors from every corner of the ale world. Even Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio drops in with a food-focused foreword. The encyclopedic chapters include everything from history (there’s a seven-page entry on Germany) to personalities and styles. In other words, there’s a little bit for everyone, and it’s easy to drop in anywhere you want. How else would I have found out that in Japan, a man will often declare “Toriaezu biiru!” (“I’ll start with a beer!”) when he enters a bar? Yes, the price tag is steep (you can find it cheaper online), but the insight is worth it. And if you pick up a box set in person at Brooklyn Brewery, you even get — yes — a free beer.

Greg Koch isn’t shy about promoting craft beer, especially those dispensed by his own Stone Brewing Co. in San Diego. I mean, the man travels with a megaphone. Now he has a new way to evangelize: The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance (Ten Speed Press, $25). Koch teamed up with Stone co-founder Steve Wagner and spokesman Randy Clemens (who’s also author of The Sriracha Cookbook, where we found one of our favorite Michelada recipes) to create a tome that is equal parts brewery history, surprising food recipes incorporating Stone’s bottles (stir-fried Brussels sprouts?), and lessons in homebrewing. You’d want to be a Stone enthusiast already (you can pick up their pale ale many places), but then it’s just about perfect.

And anyone who’s ever held a bottle of He’Brew Beer or Coney Island Craft Lager knows something about enthusiasm. Jeremy Cowan runs his Shmaltz Brewing Co. with a fair amount of shtick, but, circus-sideshow labeling aside, it’s clear that Shmaltz owes at least part of its success to Cowan’s ability to not take himself too seriously, which is accounted for in Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah (Malt Shop Publishing, $16.99), a look at the brewery’s 13-year history. Chapter titles like “Pomegranates and Cocksuckers” are anything but conventional, but then again, neither are some of the best beers. Bar Mitzvah is another reminder of how weird — and wonderful — the industry can be. At the very least, it’s more interesting than most books about a business startup.

Evan S. Benn is the beer columnist for the
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His Hip Hops column, blog, and beer app can be found at stltoday.com/hiphops, and you can buy his new book here. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.