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Now, That's Kosher

April 19, 1998|CHRIS RUBIN

The land of milk and honey now has its own suds: He'brew: The Chosen Beer, from Shmaltz Brewing Co. This Bay Area kosher microbrew (the first serious microbrew to be so certified--who knew?) began a few years back, when creator Jeremy Cowan and a few friends, then in high school, joked about how funny it would be if there were a distinctly Jewish beer.

"The idea was simply too good to pass up . . . or pass over," Cowan says.

So for Hanukkah 1996, Cowan brewed 100 cases as an experiment, and he's never looked back. Total production for this year will approach 15,000 cases, and Cowan aspires to brewing and bottling 300,000 cases annually in the near future.

Cowan, 29, a Stanford graduate, had formerly worked for a tech start-up, as a paralegal and as a 'zine publisher--don't ask--before taking his beer recipe to Anderson Valley Brewing Co., a respected Bay Area microbrewer.

He'brew can now be found all over the Bay Area and is making its way into Southern California, from Hugo's and Highland Grounds to Barney's Beanery and Bristol Farms and Wally's. Distribution in Chicago and New York will follow soon.

He'brew has a diverse following and is obviously not just for Jews, though Cowan says it is the perfect beer for bar mitzvahs and Purim, one Jewish holiday where drinking is encouraged--"the Talmud advocates getting so drunk that," Cowan says, "you can't tell blessings from curses." (This beer could bring a whole new meaning to the term "High Holidays.")

Cowan has been providing the beer at Jewish community events across the Bay Area, where it has quickly found a following. And at the Crow Bar in San Francisco, the folks there have come up with a unique use: their black-and-tan, the traditional blend of light and dark beers, features Guinness and He'brew, and they call it the Sammy Davis Jr.

Kris Stiff, beer buyer at Greenblatt's, describes He'brew as "a quality ale, well-crafted and medium-bodied with a good finish. It's definitely not a case of all label and no beer," she says. The response has been so good that they're temporarily sold out, awaiting the next shipment. God willing.

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