Shmaltz Brewing

The Friday Mash (Cleveland Rocks Edition)

Two hundred and twenty years ago today, surveyors of the Connecticut Land Company named an area in Ohio “Cleveland” after General Moses Cleaveland, the superintendent of the surveying party. The city’s first “a” later vanished when a newspaper publisher couldn’t fit it on the masthead.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in space, the final frontier. Shmaltz Brewing is celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary with two “collector’s edition” Golden Anniversary beers:”The Trouble With Tribbles” and “Voyage to the Northeast Quadrant”.

“Foraging”—combing local fields and forests for ingredients—is a foodie trend that breweries are just starting to join. VinePair’s Kathleen Wilcox profiles two of them and the people who own them.

Here’s one SEC title the Alabama Crimson Tide won’t be winning: best craft beer city in the conference. The honor belongs to Athens, Georgia, the home of the Bulldogs.

The Beer Institute, whose member companies control 80 percent of the American market, has agreed to put nutritional information—including calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat—on beer labels.

It wasn’t exactly Smokey and the Bandit, but a beer distributor picked up his first allotment of Deschutes beer in Bend, Oregon, and drove it cross-country to Salem, Virginia.

Africa is a challenging market for breweries. They’ve responded by stepping up production of beer using local ingredients and rolling out low-cost alternatives to their flagship brands.

Finally, a London-based company is the first to brew beer using artificial intelligence. It uses an algorithm called Automated Brewing Intelligence to collect customer feedback via a Facebook Messenger bot, then uses the feedback to improve the recipes of its beer.

The Jewish Brewer

Shmaltz Brewing started out as an inside joke. In 1996, Jeremy Cowan brewed 100 cases of Genesis Ale and delivered it around Northern California just in time for Hannukah. SInce then, Shmaltz has grown into a $2 million-a-year business.

Cowan has written a book, Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah, which tells the story of Shmaltz Brewing, and recently talked about it with Jason Notte of TheStreet.com.

After overcoming financial woes that afflict many startup businesses, Cowan found success by targeting Jewish beer drinkers. Shmaltz uses–no pun intended–an unorthodox strategy based on “selling a little bit of beer in a lot of places.” It’s proved a winning formula for selling craft beer.

For would-be brewers, Cowen has a few words of caution: “When you buy a craft beer from either Sierra Nevada or Shmaltz Brewing, you’re literally only paying for the ingredients, labor and overhead to make that beer, with a very minor profit margin built in. You are not buying the kind of margin for bigger beer companies that allows them to become monopolies by marketing so heavily to everybody.”

That said, Shmaltz has been in the black since 2004, and several of its beers have won gold medals at the World Beer Championships. Not bad for a still very much micro (9,000 barrels per year) brewer.

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