In Suds & Sounds we turn the spotlight on breweries, focusing on the role of music in that brewery’s history, packaging, tastes, and in its city or town as a whole. The idea is to get beer and music lovers to connect with a side of the brewery that may often go overlooked, but one that we think is absolutely vital. To accomplish this, we are talking to the brewers themselves about their own love of music and the role it plays in how they approach their beer. And who knows, maybe we’ll even talk to a musicians from time to time to give a perspective from the other side.
Who doesn’t like their craft beer with a side of humor? Perhaps one of the most humorous and perplexing breweries around today is Shmaltz Brewing Company. In 1996 Jeremy Cowan founded the brewery as “a Jewish celebration craft beer” aimed at giving beer lovers their suds with a side of schtick. At the time and even now it may have seemed like an odd idea to brand a brewery with light-hearted Jewish humor, but it clearly worked. Today Shmaltz beers are distributed in over thirty-seven U.S. states by 40 distributors, and carried in 5,000 retailers across the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. It’s also worth noting that even though they may be all about the schtick, the folks at Shmaltz actually make some damn good beer, from their flagship Hop Manna IPA to their barrel aged sour series Funky Jewbelation.
Besides the funny beer names and packaging, there are musical references throughout everything at Shmaltz, and though they clearly appreciate humor, they also appreciate good tunes. You can see their love of music in products like their A Tribe Called Shmaltz variety pack and Funky series, as well as in events like their annual anniversary party and Vintage Vinyl night – pairing vintage vinyl and vintage beer – at their tasting room in Clifton Park, NY. Here at Glide, we hold music, humor, and beer in high esteem, so naturally we wanted to ask the team at Shmaltz about all three of those things. Luckily for us, Shmaltz Owner and Founder Jeremy Cowen was willing to take a few minutes to answer some questions.
How long have you been brewing and what do you consider your greatest triumph so far as a craft brewer?
Jeremy Cowen: 21 years of being not a brewer, but a contract brewer and brewery owner, so just surviving and sometimes thriving through two decades is a point of pride. But, definitely seeing all the creative projects that go from inside our heads onto shelves, bars, and into happy customers’ lives is a great feeling.
Talk about the beer culture a bit in your city. What do people look for in a good beer and what do you hope to provide, and also do you see the beer scene as being linked in any way to the music scene?
I’m lucky because I was coming up in Northern California in the middle of a spectacular beer world and then transplanted to a growing beer community in NYC, and then to Upstate New York. There’s definitely a curiosity for anything new, which is fun for us as brewers and as beer drinkers ourselves. From the very beginning, Shmaltz brewing has been involved with music, from our launch party in San Francisco with several bands for Hanukkah to our most recent anniversary party and so much more to come with our new EQX collaboration.
Note: EQX, also known as WEQX 102.7, is a local alternative radio station.
A lot of breweries seem to incorporate their own musical tastes into their packaging and presentation, whether it be a collaboration with a band, a tribute label, or a beer name that references something they like. Has you brewery ever done something like this, and if so can you tell us about it?
I am not afraid to admit that I was a huge RUSH fan as a boy and have been proud to include references, tidbits, and tributes to them and their lyrics in a slew of our anniversary beers, the Jewbelation series.
In your opinion, is there a particular band or genre that is ideal to listen to while brewing beer?
This one I’m going to defer to our brewing and production team since they make the magic happen! “I listen to 311 pretty much all day every day while I brew. It’s positive, uplifting and energetic. It keeps me in a good mood and on top of my tasks. -Chris DuFrain, Brew House and Cellar Supervisor
Some breweries have gotten more into music through sponsoring tours, festivals, or even throwing their own versions of those. How do you think live music fits into the fabric of craft beer, and is this something your brewery has done?
Absolutely. For many years we’ve done parties, festivals, and events with bands from Jewish bluegrass to heavy metal cello to serious funk. Some of the best things in life mashed up with awesome music and amazing beer – what a treat to have both throughout our lives.
Do you have any musicians or noteworthy people that you can say are fans of any of your beers?
I have a picture of Mel Brooks holding our Hanukkah Beer, which is a golden moment in the history of my people.
The Shmaltz Brewing Company tasting room is located at 6 Fairchild Square in Clifton Park, NY. To learn more about their schtick as well as their tasty brews visit shmaltzbrewing.com.
Check out other editions of Suds & Sounds: