15 February 2010

With all Jew respect

Knut Albert was hovering behind me as I made my selections at Utobeer. While I was still boggling at the selection on the shelves he leaned over and pointed out Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA by American brewery Shmaltz, giving it a glowing endorsement. It's a 10% ABV double IPA with added rye and brewed in honour of the late Lenny Bruce as part of Shmaltz's Jewish Stars tribute series.

The first thing that struck me was the texture: it's very thick and pours slowly from the bomber, the ivory head settling slowly, almost like it's nitrogenated. On the first pull it coats the mouth and is very nearly chewy -- one of those knife-and-fork beers.

Oddly, it doesn't have much to say for itself aromawise. There's just a mild herb-infused toffee vapour from the surface. Toffee is the dominant flavour, underlaid with hot boozy sherry notes. The big hops start fruity -- lychees and peaches -- but run the gamut through oily, roughly bitter, metallic, to finish with an acid burn in the back of the throat. Hopwise it's less of a beer and more a tour of duty. The finish is oddly quick, yet because of the thickness there's a residual flavour left behind. It's only here that the grassy notes from the rye are apparent. Frankly, that's a good thing in my book. I'm just not a fan of rye in beer.

I'm not sure Knut's enthusiasm is justified. It's certainly a huge and interesting beer, and I wouldn't be so gauche as to accuse it of lacking balance or subtlety. But the soupy consistency just doesn't do it for me.


  1. Anonymous8:19 am

    I wonder how I got the reputation that I know anything about beer!

  2. Drinks like a barleywine. For me it's kinda right on that line of " wouldn't turn it down if someone handed it to me" and " would never buy it again."

  3. Nice name for a brewery, Schmaltz... German for "lard" or "dripping"... ;o>

  4. I'm sort of on the fence on this one, too. The first time I had it, I didn't like it, thinking it was just needlessly too agressive. Then, I sampled some last night at a beer event just to give it a second try and well, at least got to know it a little better.

    If you haven't already, check out their Coney Island Lager series of some rather inspired lagers. No joke!

    By the way, there is no "c" in Shmaltz. I don't know what "Shmaltz" is in German.

  5. So there isn't, thanks Derrick.

    My Hebrew education didn't extend to Yiddish, unfortunately.

  6. They've started selling this in 4 packs of 12 oz bottles. This is a welcome change in serving size. As far as shmaltz goes, below is an excerpt from the wikipedia article for schmaltz. As with most things wikipedia, it's probably true.

    "With a slightly different spelling, Shmaltz Brewing Company makes a pun out of 'schmaltz' to get its name. "Shmaltz" not only contains the word 'malt,' an essential beer ingredient, but also refers to the Jewish heritage and humor of the company."

  7. I wasn't sure for a moment whether it was the real Knut or some kind of spiritual Knut that hovers over your shoulder when you're choosing beer.... We all have one of those, right?

  8. Of course. And a Tandleman on the other one saying "Sod the bottles, go to the pub."

  9. All the beers from Shmaltz / Coney Island I've had have been monumental. Even their Coney Island Lager has an enormous chewy malt character that some would find offputting. They're pretty extreme. I've got a bottle of Jewbelation in the cellar that I'm almost too frightened to open.

    Isn't "schmaltz" Yiddish for chicken fat?