Monday, July 16, 2012

Shmaltz/He'Brew Jewbelation Fifteen

Type: American Strong Ale
Origin: Saratoga Springs, NY
Price: $6.00/22 oz
ABV: 15.0% (!)
NSP: 16.25


I kept seeing this in the cooler at Pacific Liquor (an impressively terrible website) every time I stopped in on my way to Tiger Tiger and it always tempted me, especially because they'd had it on sale for $6 (down from $7.99) for the past couple of months.  Of course, after that long, it's not really a sale anymore, it's more of a "Let's get rid of this shit so we can use the cooler space for something that'll actually sell".  I figured, even if the beer's kind of old, it's a strong ale so it would've taken cellaring well, and it's been in the cooler, so what the hell, let's help Pacific out.

This beer was made in celebration of Shmaltz Brewing Company's 15th birthday, and it's composed of 15 malts, 15 hops, and 15% ABV.  The former two are clearly a gimmick, because having that much variety inevitably means that you'll just taste the average.  In all honesty, I expected this to be pretty heinous from the moment I bought it, because strong ales anywhere near this ABV are invariably over-the-top sweet.  And indeed, the pour immediately lets you know that you're in for a sugary malt bomb- it looks like beer- or cola-flavored cough syrup and smells incredibly sweet and raisiny.  I also thought I smelled plum, though I haven't eaten plums in quite a while so who knows.  But at least the nose had a touch of complexity and wasn't solely composed of sweet malt.

The following paragraph will probably sound heavily hyperbolic, but the extremities of this beer make it susceptible to hyperbole so bear with me.  This is really fucking sweet.  Teeth-rottingly sweet, the kind of thing that makes the muscles in your jaw seize up when you take a sip.  It's like drinking straight malt extract.  I think it's the first beer I've ever had that I could actually feel giving me Asian glow.  It's basically a liqueur- if you added anise to it, you'd pretty much have diet Jager.  I'm pretty sure by 15 hops they meant that they dunked a single hop berry of each varietal in the kettle for about 3 seconds apiece, because there's no hop character to be found anywhere.  As my friend Ronen said, it tastes like something Manischewitz would make, and is the beer equivalent to 'hammer wine' in that it starts giving you a pounding headache the moment you start drinking it.

So as you might imagine, I wasn't a big fan of this.  It's so sweet that there's just nothing else to it.  But I will say that in the sweetness lurks danger, and to me, if there's a redeeming quality to this beer, that's it- it's dangerous, and I like dangerous beers.  Even as you feel your teeth rotting, your head starting to pound, and a flush coming on if you're Asian, you find yourself returning for another sip. It's just like a bowl of candy- the sweetness, even if it's over-the-top, keeps you coming back even though you know you shouldn't and you don't really want to.  And at 15%, that's no small hazard.  So if you like strong ales (and I mean reeaaaalllly like them), I'd say give it a whirl, even though your head and your stomach may not thank you afterwards.  Otherwise, I'd say go after something more tame like a double IPA. 


  1. Appears to me that you were engaging in a rigorous scrapbooking session while drinking this... Confirm.

  2. Negative. The beer was consumed at a friends' house.