L’chaim! A very Hanukkah Q&A with Jeremy Cowan



Jeremy Cowan, the mensch behind the Jewish-themed, certified kosher Shmaltz Brewing Co., has plenty to celebrate: new HE’BREW beers, a new brewery and those eight crazy nights.

You just celebrated a year at your new brewery outside Albany. Where’s your favorite place to have a beer Upstate?

There are so many; there’s such a great beer scene here. I like The Ruck in Troy, Centre Street Pub in Schenectady, and in Saratoga Springs, I like Henry Street Taproom and this funky little pizza place on a river called Harvest & Hearth.

Your annual Jewbelation beers follow a pattern: Jewbelation 17 had 17 malts, 17 hops and 17% ABV. What’s Jewbelation 18 like?

For so many years people have said, “How high can you go?!” Last year was our limit. About 25% of our distribution channels wouldn’t have been legally able to sell a bigger beer. So this year, we made a big, strong barleywine with 18 malts and 18 hops that’ll be about 12.5%.

Any big plans for Hanukkah?

We’re launching our first official Hanukkah beer: It’s called Hanukkah, Chanukah Pass The Beer. It’s eight malts, eight hops and 8% ABV in honor of the eight nights of Hanukkah. It’s a big, complex brown ale; a really great winter warmer.

What Hanukkah dishes will you pair it with?

All forms of latkes. Regular potato, sweet potato, small ones, big ones, fat ones, skinny ones. That’s the beauty of latkes: They’re as unique as all of us.

What’s your favorite Hanukkah tradition?

The holiday season is my Super Bowl, so my tradition has become serving my beer around the country. My favorite event is our annual Hanukkah versus Christmas tasting; it’s a big, tongue-in-cheek beer tasting with different breweries we’re friendly with.

Any gifts you’ve got your eye on?

I always love getting a bottle of rye whiskey. My favorite is George Stag from Buffalo Trace; I bought one for one of my best friends as a thank-you gift and he shared with me, but I want my own.

What’s a good convert beer?

Genesis, our dry-hopped session ale, is our lightest-bodied beer. It’s balanced but with plenty of hops to appreciate what craft beer has become, which is kind of a temple of hops. But right now, it would be Messiah Nut Brown; it’s smooth and balanced, and goes well with the heavier foods of the season.

You introduced Funky Jewbelation this year; any plans to bring it back?

It won a World Beer Cup silver medal! We’re sitting on a bunch of barrels to make the batch that’ll win gold. It should come out again in late spring.

CLICK HERE to view article on Draftmag.com

Five Questions for Jeremy Cowan


Jeremy Cowan: Cowan is the owner and founder of Shmaltz Brewing Company. Originally from LA, he attended Stanford University where he studied English.

1 How has the first year at Shmaltz gone?

It has been stressful but incredibly rewarding! It was never my dream to own my own brewery and the process of building and financing the brewery was a wild ride and I’m glad to have it behind me. It was always my goal to make the highest quality, fun products and now we have 100 percent impact on everything we create.

2 Best pleasant surprise/biggest challenge?

The most important surprise was how much opportunity was afforded me through the SBA 504 Loan program through the NY Business Development Corporation and our local banking partner, Ballston Spa National Bank. It’s great to say “government backed program” and “small business success” in the same sentence. The biggest challenge was running a mature, fully operational business while building a brewery.

3 What’s planned for your first anniversary celebration?

It’s May 17 at the brewery from 1 to 5 p.m. Friends, neighbors and craft beer connoisseurs are invited to the ultimate beer experience with a delicious selection of core and barrel-aged Shmaltz libations and special offerings from 17 gangs of their favorite brewers from and around New York State and we will have a round-up of local food trucks offering food truck fare. Tickets are $25 for general admission which includes a commemorative snifter glass and five drink tokens. It’s $15 for designated drivers.

4 Tell us a bit about the brewery.

The Brewery, located at 6 Fairchild Square, in Clifton Park is immediately off Exit 10 of I-87. It boasts a 50-barrel brewhouse with 20,000 barrels of annual capacity. We also have a 1,700 square foot tasting room, which is open to the public Wednesday-Sunday for tastings, tours, private parties and to-go beer.

5 Favorite all-time beer from another brewery?

All time favorite is tricky. My current favorites are Iron Springs Triple IPA from Marin County and Higher Standard Double IPA from Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill, NY.

— Danielle Sanzone

Troy Record, Published May 14, 2014

Beer Travel: Drink Like a New Yorker

When: Saturday, April 20, 2012

Time: 11:20 AM-12:00 PM

Where: Bohemian National Hall- 321 E. 73rd St. NY, NY 10021

  • Beer Travel: Drink Like a New Yorker – moderated by Ben Keene

A tasting and panel discussion with industry insiders about beer trends, brewery tours, and ale trails in New York and New Jersey. Currently, these two states contain more than 120 small breweries and brewpubs, many of which are new and within two hours of Manhattan.

Jeremy Added as a Keynote Speaker at Craft Brewers Conference

Jeremy Cowan joins a short list of keynote speakers at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C. (March 26-29, 2013).


Jeremy Cowan

Owner/ Founder, Shmaltz Brewing Company

Jeremy Cowan

As an experiment for Chanukah 1996, Jeremy founded Shmaltz Brewing Company from his apartment in San Francisco with the first contract-brewed batch of 100 cases of HE’BREW® beer bottled, labeled and delivered by hand from the trunk of his grandmother’s Volvo. 16 years later, with 10 full-time employees, Shmaltz sells nearly 15,000 barrels of over 20 beer styles to 35 states through over 4,000 retailers. Ranked in 2012 as one of the Top-50 Brewers in the World by RateBeer.com, Shmaltz was also included in the Top-50 Fastest Growing Bay Area Companies by San Francisco Business Times and is a recipient of the Distinguished Business Award by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. In 2010, Jeremy released a small business memoir, Craft Beer Bar MitzvahHow It Took 13 Years, Extreme Jewish Brewing, and Circus Sideshow Freaks To Make Shmaltz Brewing an International Success.

Seminar(s): Craft Beer Smaller Than Ever – and Growing: From Contract to Nano to Micro

Jeremy Cowan Book Signing at Craft Brewers Conference

Book Signing Schedule Posted

By now, you probably know that Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) is the best place to meet and mingle with the leaders of the brewing industry. But did you realize that some of these beer luminaries might have already taken up residence on the bookshelf in your house or brewhouse? The Brewers Association is pleased to offer several book signings with notable authors at the BA Bookstore on the L Street Bridge in the Washington Convention Center.

In addition to this three day schedule of signings, the bookstore will be open Tuesday through Friday during CBC, offering 71 different beer-related titles to help you beef up your reference library.

Store Hours:

Tuesday: 12:00-6:00 pm
Wednesday: 8:00 am-5:00 pm
Thursday: 8:30 am-5:00 pm
Friday: 8:30 am-12:00 pm

Book Signings:

Wednesday, March 27

11:00-1:30 pm: Janet Fletcher, Cheese & Beer

Thursday, March 28

12:00-12:30 pm: Charlie Papazian, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing

12:30-1:30 pm: Jeremy Cowan, Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah

3:45-4:15 pm: Dr. Michael Lewis, Brewing and Stout

Friday, March 29

11:30 am-12:00 pm: Jamil Zainasheff, Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation and Brewing Classic Styles

11:30 am-12:00 pm: Mitch Steele, IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale

Review of CBBM on Examiner.com

Many thanks to writer, Bryan Carey, for this fantastic review of Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah on Examiner.com!

Everyone has a career dream. For some, it involves achieving the educational attainment necessary to enter a specific field. For others, it involves the independence that comes with business ownership. If the independence of a sole proprietorship is selected, the path from idea to success can be a rocky one and nowhere is this truer than with the business ofbeer. Opening up a brewery is no easy feat, yet there seems to be no shortage of individuals ready to cash in their life savings, purchase a few fermentation tanks, hire some help, and hope for the best. One man with a brewing plan of sorts is Jeremy Cowan, founder of Shmaltz Brewing Company and he shares his series of growing pains in his business biography, Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah: How it Took 13 Years, Extreme Jewish Brewing, and Circus Sideshow Freaks to Make Shmaltz Brewing Company an International Success. Let’s take a look:

In the Beginning:

Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah is 332 pages of business and personal history of Cowan’s unorthodox attempt to launch his own brand of beer. The book opens with Cowan sharing some background information on his early years, his family, his educational pursuits, and his ultimate decision to enter the business of beer. Cowan was raised Jewish and in tongue-in-cheek fashion, he decides to name is new product “He’Brew” with the tagline, “The Chosen Beer.” He then set off on a business adventure that would consume him for the next decade and beyond.

Finding the necessary capital to operate a brewery can be very difficult and Cowan shares his financial struggles with the reader throughout most of the book. But money wasn’t the only problem- Cowan also had issues with copyrights, label approval, government officials, contractors, and most everything else. At several points, Cowan was forced to turn to his personal credit cards and any other means available to pay expenses and suppliers. And he was constantly challenged by others who tried to infringe on his brand name and tagline, even though he fully admits that he took far too long to jump the necessary legal hurdles.

Cowan Sees the Light:

Shmaltz Brewing was a constant struggle for Cowan in the early days, but the business did score a major breakthrough with the launching of a new lineup of beers tailor- made for the American East Coast. Shmaltz Brewing already had a foothold on the west coast with its Jewish- themed beer, so it made sense to expand to the other side of the continent. The move to the East Coast was partly inspired by the fact that the New York area had very few craft breweries and therefore seemed ripe for some creative expansion. New York already has a large Jewish population that would hopefully be receptive to the He’Brew line of beer, but Cowan felt a new direction was needed and, borrowing on the Coney Island theme and name, he created a new lineup of lagers based on the Coney Island theme park and its many attractions. His business finally appeared to be going places and just a little more work would put it over the top and into the black for the first time.

And it Was Good!:

Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah is a fun, perplexing, and yet inspiring book about one man who set out to make it big in the business of beer and finally succeeded. A real trip (in more ways than one), Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah is a book about perseverance and, in many ways, how not to plan and execute when starting a new company.

Jeremy Cowan’s success story is like few others in the beer business or any business. I have sampled beer from the Coney Island and He’Brew product lines and found them interesting for many reasons. Not only did they offer quality taste, but they featured eye- catching artwork on the Coney Island bottles and, of course, the humorous name and tagline on the He’Brew product line. They have a certain eccentric personality and when I learned that the guy behind this beer had written a business biography, I was anxious to grab a copy. If the man behind the beer was even half as intriguing as the beer itself, I knew the story would have to be one worth reading.

And worth reading it most certainly is! Craft beer Bar Mitzvah is an intriguing read that is every bit as interesting as the beer its founder helped create, and even more so. Here, you have a guy with an interesting idea for a brand of beer and a desire to make it work, but without any real direction on what to do or how to make the plan reality. Jeremy Cowan certainly had a love for fine malt beverages as well as a creative mind, but he had no real guidance on how to put a business plan into action. He did receive positive words of praise from many individuals who tried his beer and liked both its flavor and its amusing titles, all borrowing on the Jewish religion and theme. But Cowan had no practical business experience or prior experience brewing beer- not even on a home brewing level. His education on starting a company and establishing a brand are truly based on the school of hard knocks. He stumbled and fell down many times, with more bruises than most budding businessmen would be able to bear. But each time, he licked his wounds, pulled himself together, and continued on his pursuit.

Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah is all about running a brewing operation, but it isn’t like other business books on the same subject. The reason is because Jeremy Cowan is actually a contract brewer, which means he contracts other breweries to brew the product while he handles most of the marketing and CEO- type duties. Cowan openly admits that he isn’t really interested in brewing beer. His interest lies more along the lines of tasting, creating, and marketing. This stands in contrast to other beer success stories, which often involve an individual who started from the ground up first as a home brewer, then as a worker inside a brewery, then finally as an independent business person. Cowan has bypassed all of that, preferring instead to dedicate his time to promoting the brand and drinking it whenever possible.

Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah has many memorable moments and surprises. Cowan speaks openly and honestly about his own excesses with drinking; his recreational use of drugs; his failed marriage; and his issues with money. He even includes a snapshot of an actual Social Security earnings statement/summary he received, showing his lopsided earnings history over the years. He has some years where he made nothing at all and he admits feeling discouraged and frustrated more times than he can count. But in spite of the setbacks, the disagreements, the legal challenges, and the lack of cash flow, he continues to move forward with his plan, or lack thereof.

This book discusses what should be a serious subject, but it is actually very lightened up and loaded with great humor throughout. Readers will laugh out loud as they listen to Cowan’s describe his struggles with government officials to approve the wording on his labels (like his slogan, “Don’t Pass Out, Passover”), read some of Cowan’s selections for beer names, and ponder over the exhaustive appendix listing of the more than 600 laws taken from the Old Testament Torah. The fun and suspense never seem to stop and as you read, you wonder what misadventure, what problem, or what obstacle will take place next. Will Cowan finally achieve his dream of a successful beer brand or will he cave in to pressure and fold the business? Even if you have already sampled Shmaltz beer and know it is still around, the book’s good humor and unpredictability keep you turning the pages. Journalist James Sullivan co- wrote the book and he is undoubtedly responsible for some of its memorable moments of journalistic creativity, but none of that would be possible without the real- life humor supplied by Jeremy Cowan and his unorthodox approach to business and life.

My Bottom Line:

Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah is a memorable read. Certainly proof of Murphy’s Law, this is a book about business by direct experience; reaction instead of pro- action, learning by default, and success through stubborn perseverance. The antithesis of the typical business book, it’s a very good essay about business success and how not to go from point “A” to point “B” while still making everything work in the end. As Jeremy would say, it’s all about the schtick and the love of great craft beer. That, along with the entertaining writing and the endless humorous anecdotes makes Craft beer Bar Mitzvah one of the best books on this difficult but often rewarding business.

The Detroit News Names CBBM a Top Gift for Craft Beer Lovers!

“For the beer nerd who is interested in the business aspect of the industry, check out the memoir “Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah” by Shmaltz Brewing owner Jeremy Cowan. The book tells the true story of the 13 years it took the San Francisco-based company to become one of the best craft brewers in America. Find it at www.craftbeerbarmitzvah.com

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20121122/ENT03/211220304#ixzz2D45yPIcQ