Hops: Warrior, Northern Brewer, Palisade, Crystal, Fuggle, US Golding, Cascade Dry Hopped with Cascade, Crystal, Amarillo
Brewed to support a good cause, proceeds from the sale of the Coney Island Lager beers support Coney Island USA, a Non-Profit dedicated to the mission of defending the honor of lost forms of America popular arts and culture. This beer really is a freak of sorts; among America’s 1500 or so craft breweries, there are very few aggressively hopped “big” pale lagers. Expect lots of citrus and piney hops to emerge from the glass, with suggestions of pine sap. You’ll notice that this is clearly a very deeply hopped lager. Look for faint notes of apricot-infused alcohol to escape from a thick malty base, but make no mistake—hops are the star attraction. From earthy to resinous—the hops fully penetrate the palate. But surprisingly, this does not go down with the sharpness expected from such a complex and hefty dose of hops—instead, the hops are very firmly rooted in the flavor and nicely tame the malty sweetness. Look for the rye malts to provide a subtle spiciness and to bolster the mouthfeel (ironically, this beer actually has a wonderfully pleasant feel in the mouth!), while pale and wheat malts and a lager yeast keep it clean. The sweet maltiness peaks quickly, while mid-to-late in the swallow, the edginess of the bitter hop profile is felt, slicing its way through the malts and leaving behind a gentle burn, more from the hops than the alcohol—but the two do amplify one another. Holds up nicely against Thai chicken green curry with bamboo shoots.
Few beer brands have the chutzpah to carve out a niche for themselves with the sort of irreverence that the HE'BREW beer brand has (brewed by the Shmaltz Brewing Company, based in San Francisco, CA; brewed in Saratoga Springs, NY). There is plenty of pushing the proverbial envelope in their labels and marketing. Take the tag line for all the HE'BREW beers: "The Chosen Beer," or the name of their 9th anniversary celebration beer: "Jewbelation 5766." But there's no gimmick here—their beers are truly solid and superbly well-crafted.
The brand actually got its start as an inside joke among founder Jeremy Cowan and friends who, while drinking one night in 1987, started brainstorming crazy marketing ideas for Jewish merchandise. The idea for a Kosher, Jewish-American, high holy days celebration beer called "HE'BREW," with the tag line "Don't Pass Out, Passover!" was born. In 1996, Jeremy brewed 100 cases of his first commercial batch with the goal of selling them for the Hanukah holiday; HE'BREW Genesis Ale was sold out of the trunk of his grandmother's Volvo—all 100 cases of the stuff. In 1997 he quit his day job to dedicate more time to the brand, and by 2001 he was selling 5,000 cases per year.
Around 2007, Jeremy launched his Coney Island Lagers series of beers (featured this month), inspired by the spirit, history, and future of the famed Brooklyn playground known as Coney Island. Like the HE’BREW brand, the labels on this all lager lineup are highly attention grabbing—but that’s the idea behind the freak shows that helped make Coney Island famous: to draw you in to experience something never seen before; to amaze and dazzle you (and not infrequently, to rip you right the hell off too, but trust us, these beers are the genuine article).
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