(JTA) — 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 undertaking.
The Jewish craft beer label, finest recognized for its He’Brew: The Chosen Beer line of drinks, shut down final yr after 25 years when its founder, Jeremy Cowan, mentioned he needed to give attention to his different companies. However now it has been bought to a brand new proprietor: Jesse Epstein, a 26-year-old Reform rabbinical pupil at Hebrew Union School who first obtained into house brewing through the COVID-19 pandemic and commenced in search of methods to work his love for beer into his rabbinical pursuits.
“I began forming behind my thoughts this concept for a Jewish brewery: tips on how to 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 amass the closest factor the beer world needed to a storied Jewish model — despite the fact that 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 might have extra time on my palms, however I did not need to lose the chance,” Epstein mentioned, 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 marketing consultant.
Based in San Francisco in 1996 however now primarily based in Clifton Park, New York, Shmaltz spent 25 years as the king of jewish craft beer, with shtick-y brews like David’s Slingshot Hoppy Summer time 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 saleswith Cowan releasing a memoir, “Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah,” in 2010. Final yr, after asserting he would shut up store, Cowan launched an Exodus Ale as a swan track.
Epstein’s goals are completely different. As a rabbinical pupil wrestling with surveys displaying a shrinking curiosity in Reform and Conservative affiliations amongst American Jewshe says his aim with Shmaltz is to make use of beer as a car for rethinking the concept 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 means of beer, can we embrace the values of welcoming within the stranger, liberating the captive, opening the eyes of the blind?”
The revamped Shmaltz, working for now with an all-volunteer employees, is making Jewish apply and ritual as a lot part of its model because the shtick. Its first yr beneath Epstein’s possession will encompass a collection of pop-up occasions in partnership with varied Jewish teams, beginning with a Dec. 17 Hanukkah launch social gathering with Brooklyn Jews. (The occasions will principally happen in New York, although Epstein could broaden into different Northeast places.)
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 initiatives comparable to Moishe Home, OneTable and Base. However he says it is going to depend on a for-profit enterprise mannequin somewhat 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 ultimately to start out brewing his personal picks, 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, in the end, 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 turning into my rabbinate.”