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So here we are in December, when the tap lists and bottle shop shelves are packed with Christmas beers. The options seem endless this time of year and, honestly, I like most Christmas beers I try. The malts and spices put me in just the right mood for the holidays. And believe me, there are plenty of great Christmas beers out there. (I’m partial to Anchor’s Christmas Ale and Sam Smith’s Winter Welcome, among others.) But here’s a question – are there any Hanukkah beers?
HE’BREW TO THE RESCUE
This year, for the first time, we can answer that question with a resounding “Yes!” Thanks to New York’s Shmaltz Brewing, you can now celebrate the Festival of Lights by hoisting a glass of Chanukah Beer (the full name is Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass the Beer). The long name – riffing on the multiple spellings for this holiday – is a typical example of Shmaltz’s He’Brew line of Jewish-themed (and Kosher!) craft beers. From David’s Slingshot (a summer lager) to Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA (a double rye IPA dedicated to comedian Lenny Bruce), He’Brew’s products are marketed with an infectious joy, simultaneously goofing on and paying homage to Jewish history and culture. All the He’Brew beers include a lengthy note on the label from Shmaltz founder Jeremy Cowan, providing not only details on the beer, but also historical facts, context and allegories drawn from Jewish traditions.
So, educational value aside, how does Hanukkah, Chanukah taste? Pretty darn good, I’d say. It’s a rich, dark ale; almost like an imperial brown. The best description I can give is it resembles a traditional winter warmer – minus the spices. There’s an appropriately wintry malt foundation, but the hop profile doesn’t get lost in the sweetness. To honor the eight nights of Hanukkah, this beer is made with eight malts, eight hop varieties and weighs in at 8% ABV. That little extra booziness ensures that, to quote Cowan’s marketing shtick, “Candles won’t be the only thing getting lit!” I’ll drink to that. L’chaim!
What’s your go-to winter holiday brew?