It appeared just like the final keg had been tapped for Shmaltz Brewing Firm, till a rabbi-in-training stepped in for a Jewish renewal mission.
The Jewish craft beer label, greatest recognized for its He’Brew: The Chosen Beer line of drinks, shut down final yr after 25 years when its founder, Jeremy Cowan, stated he needed to concentrate on his different companies. However now it has been bought to a brand new proprietor: Jesse Epstein, a 26-year-old Reform rabbinical scholar at Hebrew Union School who first bought into residence brewing through the COVID-19 pandemic and started searching for methods to work his love for beer into his rabbinical pursuits.
“I began forming at the back of my thoughts this concept for a Jewish brewery: how one can mix these two massive passions,” Epstein instructed the Jewish Telegraphic Company.
When he heard that Cowan was winding down Shmaltz, Epstein jumped on the likelihood to accumulate the closest factor the beer world needed to a storied Jewish model — although he has two-and-a-half years left of faculty and is at present a rabbinic intern at Temple Sinai of Saratoga Springs, New York.
“I might have waited to do that till after I used to be ordained after which I would have extra time on my arms, however I did not wish to lose the chance,” Epstein stated, declining to say how a lot he paid for the model . Cowan agreed to the proposal, and stays on the firm as a minority proprietor and guide.
Based in San Francisco in 1996 however now primarily based in Clifton Park, New York, Shmaltz spent 25 years because the king of Jewish craft beer, with shtick-y brews like David’s Slingshot Hoppy Summer season Lager, a jelly donut-flavored Hanukkah ale, and a Babka Loves Rugelach stout (brewed with chocolate, cinnamon and raisins). Throughout its run it attained some stage of notoriety and sturdy gross sales, with Cowan releasing a memoir, “Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah,” in 2010. Final yr, after saying he would shut up store, Cowan launched an Exodus Ale as a swan music.
Epstein’s goals are completely different. As a rabbinical scholar wrestling with surveys exhibiting a shrinking curiosity in Reform and Conservative affiliations amongst American Jews, he says his aim with Shmaltz is to make use of beer as a car for rethinking the thought of a synagogue, and of Jewish communal gathering areas.
“What about our Jewish values can be utilized to tell our meals practices?” he asks. “How, by beer, can we embrace the values of welcoming within the stranger, releasing the captive, opening the eyes of the blind?”
The revamped Shmaltz, working for now with an all-volunteer workers, is making Jewish follow and ritual as a lot part of its model because the shtick. Its first yr below Epstein’s possession will encompass a sequence of pop-up occasions in partnership with varied Jewish teams, beginning with a Dec. 17 Hanukkah launch occasion with Brooklyn Jews. (The occasions will largely happen in New York, although Epstein might broaden into different Northeast areas.)
At these gatherings, Epstein says, attendees will do the sorts of actions they may usually come to synagogue for: “Construct group, do justice, have a look at a textual content, however over a pint of beer.” He sees Shmaltz as a peer of Jewish young-adult gathering tasks reminiscent of Moishe Home, OneTable and Base. However he says it can depend on a for-profit enterprise mannequin fairly than institutional Jewish assist.
Initially Epstein will draw from Shmaltz’s leftover stock for the precise beers available on the pop-ups, and he’s holding off on new merchandise and distribution. However he hopes finally to start out brewing his personal alternatives, that are decidedly extra Talmudic in inspiration than the label’s earlier choices: He envisions a Purim-themed beer named “Shushan Beer-a” (a play on the primary line of the Megillah, the scroll Jews learn from on the vacation) and, finally, beers impressed by every of the weekly Torah parts. The model’s labels will now embody a Jewish blessing for beer, in Hebrew and English.
In the end, Epstein says, he would like to run Shmaltz full-time: “I can actually foresee it changing into my rabbinate.”