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Sh’losha Sloshed

January 8, 2016

Beer. I drink it. I enjoy it. And I’ve been learning more and more about it. I’m making beer friends. So far, I’m not making any beer enemies. But there are clear factions in the local beer community. Some people may see them as personality clashes, but from my outside perspective it seems to be more based on ideologies.

I can totally understand how ideological differences have the ability to pit natural allies against each other. I’ve lived through a few of those in the realm of food. And we certainly see this in the world of politics.

But back to beer. The best way to learn about the stuff is to drink it. And I still have a lot of drinking to do. Sadly, I’m a bit of a lightweight these days, and that’s just going to slow me down. However, when I’m invited to attend events that will expand my knowledge, I’ll take full advantage of them.

This week, Shmaltz Brewing hosted a preview of two new beers, and I just couldn’t resist. Actually, they were featuring three beers that will soon be sold together in a variety pack. After tasting all three of them, I’ve got some thoughts.

The first thought is that I have no idea how much the readers of the FLB know about beer in general.

I don’t know if I need to talk about the difference between ales and lagers. Or if I casually mention IPAs how many people will be lost just in the jargon of it all. Let’s just jump in, and see how it goes.

India Pale Ales are a mixed blessing. Part of me really loves an aggressively hopped beer, with dominant aromas of tropical fruit and citrus, and a bracing bitterness that balances the sweeter aspects of malted barley. But hops also have a way of destroying your taste buds and make it challenging to taste a second, much less a third, heavily hopped beer.

I’ve been told that it can be helpful, when you’re sampling many different beers, to switch styles in order to better cleanse the palate. One of these days, I’ll try a beer festival and put this technique to the test.

Shmaltz has a schtick that I find very familiar. It’s a Jewish humor thing. I actually swung by the brewery in Clifton Park this week right after a stop at my temple in Schenectady. The temple had bagels and the brewery was serving babka. Somehow I was in such a rush to get back to temple, I totally missed out on the babka.

One of these days, I’ll actually do the brewery tour and meet the people behind the product. But for now, let’s just focus on the beers.

The first was Hop Manna, which is the brewery’s IPA. I loved the big aromas of tropical fruit jumping out of the glass. There was a bit of lingering honeyed sweetness, and a mellow hop bitterness that kind of creeps up on you in the finish. This struck me as a great IPA to pair with food, because it delivered on all aromatics, but wasn’t ridiculously overpowering.

Hop Mania, which is one of the new beers, provides that more intense experience. The brewery is calling it an Imperial IPA, and it’s a shade darker, has more alcohol, more body, and more bitterness. Drinking on its own, to sip and savor, it was my personal favorite of the three.

However, many people seemed most impressed by the Hop Momma. Once again, I thought it smelled lovely. There were aromas of peaches and apricots pouring out of the glass. Close your eyes, and you might think you had been served a fuzzy navel. But it’s also made with habanero peppers, so you take a sip and it’s spicy and a bit vegetal. Some people like the way those two flavors come together with the bitterness of the hops. I’m not one of them.

That’s kind of the amazing thing about people. Our tastes are all over the map. There are some people who love acidic flavors. Lots of people gravitate toward the sweet. Hard core beer enthusiasts seem to be attracted to strong flavors. Others look for more delicate flavors and cherish things like nuance and balance.

One of my new beer friends, Fuj, was reluctant to give me beer recommendations a few months ago. He said that there were beers he liked, however I would probably have a different palate. And you know what? He was right. I can appreciate the beers that get Fuj all excited. For me, sour beers are delightful every now and again, but I’m not always in the mood for one.

I’m still working on developing my beer preferences, and how to communicate them. But I’m glad that we’ve got a few breweries nearby to help further my education.

N.B. “Shlosha” is the hebrew transliteration for the number three. Tasting three beers didn’t quite get me sloshed. But I thought I’d try my hand at the Shmaltz style of copywriting. I clearly could use some more practice there too.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2016 10:53 am

    I hate the fetishization of IPAs. All this extreme hops nonsense is masochistic narcissism. It is like when my daughter shows me how many sour warheads she can fit in her mouth at once.

    Also, when talking about beers it makes me annoyed when someone says, “I like IPAs.” That is stupid. That is a whole style of beers. As if the category of IPAs could be superior to the category of ale or the category of stout. A really good lager is really good even though it is lager and is just as valid as any other sort of beer.

    This propensity towards “extreme” beer flavor is an overreaction to the bland American lagers of the past. I get it, but it is annoying. Even bland American lagers can be good sometimes.

    • Jack C. permalink
      January 8, 2016 11:25 am

      I don’t disagree that some breweries go too far overboard in their pursuit of hoppiness, but I think you’re mistaking a heavily-hopped brew with a bad, bitter brew. Different hops bring different flavors to the beer. There are the West Coast IPAs that thrive on that piney, resinous flavor with a touch of citrus, then there are floral notes from other hop varieties, more aggressive citrusy notes from those used in many of the “Vermont-style” IPAs, and even more earthy, fungus-like flavors from the English Fuggle hop. Hops bring bitterness, sure, and many are turned off by that bitterness, as it can seem overwhelming at first. I get that. I hated the first IPA I ever tried. But I kept trying them. Now, it’s among my favorite styles.

      When I say it’s among my favorite styles, I’m the guy saying, “I like IPAs.” I do. I prefer a well-done IPA to a well-done lager. That’s my palate and there’s nothing wrong with that preference, just as there’s nothing wrong with your disliking IPAs. But don’t categorically dismiss those of us who like IPAs by saying our love of hops is “masochistic narcissism.” That’s demeaning and I’m sure you’re better than that.

      • January 8, 2016 2:55 pm

        I’m not dismissing IPAs. I love a good IPA and have nothing against the style at all. I have a problem with people going about saying they like IPAs as a badge of honor or speaks to their good taste. This whole IPA gimmicky craze has overtaken the emergent craft brew industry, and in my opinion, is responsible for a lot of good beer being not made. This equating of the style with quality or good taste is leading a lot of novice beer drinkers down a very bad path.

        It would be like someone going around saying “I am a cheese lover, but I only eat brie.” In my very narrow-minded world view IPA-love is a strange affectation. And if it gets your back up to be poked a bit of at about his issue, examine the love for IPAs. Could it be about something (social signaling) other than beer?

        Also, there is no getting around the fact that IPAs are tiresome for the palate and bad with a lot of food. Also, I’m an ornery jerk and I write jerky things, so sorry. I can’t filter my thoughts.

      • January 8, 2016 4:44 pm

        Mr. Dave has makes some good points. The real-world example of his cheese scenario plays out not with brie, but with blue cheeses. And these two trends share a commonality of what happens with wine connoisseurship as well. The loudest wine lovers pronounce their affection for the biggest most bombastic wines.

        I think somewhere I’ve written a post on this, but I can’t find it. It is clearly a theme I should revisit.

        Mostly, I’m confused because I never said that “I like IPAs” categorically. I wrote, “India Pale Ales are a mixed blessing.” So while it sounds like Mr. Dave was disagreeing with what I said, I think he’s actually doing the opposite?

        Of course, I haven’t slept enough this week, so confusion is par for the course.

  2. January 8, 2016 11:21 am

    I am an IPA guy, and like the category for all the reasons that you dislike them. “Fetishism of IPAs” in Mr. Dave’s term is what you make of it; I drink them, not worship them. If I am in a position to taste several beers from a larger selection I will generally stick to IPAs as a category because it is apples to apples, much as if you decided to do a tasting of pinot noirs from several vineyards.

    Also, continuing to parse Mr Dave’s comment (I have moved on from you, Fussy), I plead guilty to “liking IPAs” but don’t feel like a doofus for doing so. I enjoy the bitterness, the refreshing citrus notes and the generally higher alcohol content which makes for a sturdier, more meaningful quaff. I actually find the Hop Manna a bit on the mild side, though it’s not bad; Shmaltz has a love of brown malts and that creeps in here more than in most IPAs.

    Also, I thought the Hop Mamma was a home run even though only 6.5% ABV. Most blueberry etc beers are a travesty and don’t get me started on pumpkin (by which they mean pumpkin spice) beers. Here the fruit added meaningful sweetness and complexity.

  3. January 8, 2016 11:57 am

    IPAs were at once a fantastic flavor. But the aggression Dave mentions have turned me off to the whole style for the most part. I’m not getting any distinction anymore from any single offering; they all just blend together in to something unremarkable these days.

  4. EPT permalink
    January 8, 2016 3:48 pm

    My preference is IPAs. From Smaltz, SheBrew is very good but there’s Victory Hop Devil, Dogfish 90 Min, Ithaca Flower Power, 6 Point Resin and I could go on and on. Perhaps a little tasting trip to Olivers would be enlightening.

  5. January 8, 2016 7:08 pm

    Here’s my two cents,

    There are billion craft breweries now. (By the way, whatever happened to the term microbrewery? Have the beer cognoscenti decided the term is not PC enough?)

    There’s a stinking brewery on every corner today. I think these brewers find it irresistible to produce “extreme” beers—as Mr. Dave calls them— because they need to stand out from the crowd. They need an edge, something that will get your attention and get them noticed. Pushing the envelope with your product is one way to do it.

    It’s just not beer, it’ happening in the restaurant industry too. Just look at the crazy concoctions fast food chains are coming out with lately.

  6. David Nardolillo permalink
    January 10, 2016 11:06 pm

    I like IPAs but it is nice to see other styles getting needed attention. It seemed for about four or five years, the self-appointed beer cognoscenti favored IPAs to the exclusion of all other forms, and their sycophantic followers would skew beer rating sites and rankings accordingly. Some IPAs were getting undeserved boosts, which really cheapened the greatness of the best IPAs and needlessly obscured other styles. We are starting to break free from that, which is good.

    One of pluses of the U.S. beer market is that there are fairly limited barriers to entry. That allows for creativity and needed variety. One of the relatively minor downsides to that is, I think, a pressure to keep pushing the envelope and going to a limited release, or one-off model, instead of continuing to produce the successful lines. Another is to bring some unrefined experimental beers to market that don’t quite meet the standard. I feel some of our local breweries have been guilty of that, but I think it’s time for a fresh look at what we’ve got locally. A FussyTourdeBrewery? We’d have to chip $$ in for safe transportation, but it would be fun.

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