I pride myself in having tried a fair cross section of beers from across America and Europe, and I’m constantly on the lookout for new beers to try. The dark side of my beer quest, however, is that it’s biased in that I tend to look for traditional beer styles; there are a couple of reasons for this, but the nasty side effect is that I don’t try nearly as many “odd” beers as I could. I decided to start remedying that this week by grabbing a bottle from HE’BREW Beer, which looked to be quite odd indeed.
The beer is called Jewbelation Fourteen, and is the label’s fourteenth anniversary beer. The label is rather cluttered, with a golden base, yellow “14,” and the name, brewery logo and other information layered on top of each other. The thing that really stood out to me, though, is the motto on the HE’BREW label: “The Chosen Beer.” I knew that the moniker, and hopefully the beer, was just too good not to share. Fortunately I convinced my friend Nyssa, a Messianic Jew, to join me: this way I got try The Chosen Beer with one of His Chosen People.
Along with Coney Island Craft Lagers, HE’BREW beer is brewed by Shmaltz Brewing Company of San Francisco, Calif. The company was founded in 1996 by Jeremy Cowan when he began distributing his handmade pomegranate beer out of the trunk of his grandmother’s car. The next year, Cowan contracted Anderson Valley Brewing Company to brew his beer, and began distributing to Chicago and New York, as well. By 2003, Smaltz had moved production again to the Mendocino Brewing Company’s Saratoga Springs, N.Y. brewery. HE’BREW was awarded a gold medal for Best American Craft Beer as well as the overall Best In Show by Beverage World Magazine in 2010, and has received much press over the years for its odd beers and quirky marketing. The label now produces 7,200 barrels annually of Genesis Ale, Messiah Bold, Origin Pomegranate Strong Ale, Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A., Rejewvenator and Jewbelation beers, all of which are certified Kosher.
Jewbelation Fourteen poured an opaque black, with only the barest of golden red highlights when held up to the light. One finger of dark brown head with medium sized bubbles formed, but this dissipated quickly, leaving a small amount of lacing. The aroma was a big malt character, mixing dark, roasted and sweet malts highlighted with hints of spice interspersed with some plum and dark fruit notes. I didn’t really notice any hop aroma, which is surprising, but I’m also coming off an IPA kick, so my frame of reference is all screwed up in the hop regard. The carbonation was low and the body was fairly thick, although it thinned out appreciably as it warmed up. The taste was very malt focused, with a surprising combination of roasty character and significant sweetness. This sweet taste was only partially balanced by the moderate level of bitterness. I paired this beer with a country miche from Metropolitan Bakery and some aged Cabot Cheddar, which actually worked better than I expected, even with the sweetness of this beer. The proper glassware is a pint glass for this beer, as it is an American Strong Ale.
Overall, the beer was smooth, but not particularly balanced due to the substantial sweetness present. There was also a lack of complexity, with the beer seeming rather one dimensional when compared to many other stouts. I found this blandness quite surprising because the label advertises that it uses 14 different types of both hops and malts. This beer actually reminded me a lot of Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout, although I thought that beer was a bit more complex and enjoyable overall. Jewbelation Fourteen is certainly worth a try, especially if you are a new beer drinker, but the highlight was definitely the label.