What’s your current position at Shmaltz Brewing Co., and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
I’m the founder and proprietor, though yes I’m the dirty word in craft beer—“contract brewer.” I’m happy about it for now and proud of our lineup for sure. I had no brewing experience or business background—I just thought it would be fun and funny and meaningful to start the country’s first and only Jewish celebration microbrew. With naiveté, a ton of friendly advice and a decade of grinding it out, we finally turned that mythical corner of profitability.
What’s new at Shmaltz?
New, as in the last five years: I went from running the business solo with two beer styles to now having seven of us full-time creating and pushing two different brands (HE’BREW Beer and Coney Island Craft Lagers) with 12 beer styles, barrel aging projects, vintage vertical tastings and a wonderful cult niche for the Shmaltz tribe. Our annual anniversary offering is Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah, brewed with 13 malts, 13 hops and 13-percent alcohol, still the most extreme Chanukah beer ever created!
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
I love our ability to be independent, creative and unique in our brands and the personality of the company. I am a big fan of small businesses based on artistry, vision and passion, all on a very human scale—this is the best of what the craft beer world offers.
What do you like to do in your time away from the company?
Enjoy delicious beers from other brewers across the country, eat a ton, never exercise, read novels and go to museums.
What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?
Big, dark, malty, hoppy imperials with strong, flavorful, complex sandwiches: Jewbelation or RIPA with corned beef on rye with horseradish or strong mustard, grilled of course.
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
Maintaining close friendships across the country from as far back as childhood to much more recently, even with a crazy travel schedule and a workaholic disposition.
What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
Ithaca Flower Power; Bell’s Expedition; Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock.
What’s the most exotic travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?
Not beer but homemade rice wine in Northern Vietnam. They didn’t have plumbing or sealed walls but we had a blast drinking with strangers out of small plastic bottles reused over and over for the favorite local booze. They also seemed to use the same bottles for gasoline for all the motor scooters…worked just fine!