Today I write to you a changed man. No, I have not found a beer so good that I've felt the touch of God. Rather, I've found a beer-drinking mecca. I can only apologize that it's taken me this long to discover Sun Devil Liquor in Mesa; though I have visited their sister store (Topps Liquor in Tempe) quite a few times.
In those hallowed halls I had the good fortune of stumbling into (and out of) a tasting from our beer-brewing friends Shmaltz Brewing. Shmaltz Brewing Company Western Regional Sales Manager Zak Davis presented me and several other beer afficianados including Papago Brewing's Zach Ogle and Beer Snob himself with six tasty concoctions; three lagers and three ales.
It turns out part of the procedes for Shmaltz Brewing's Coney Island Craft Lagers line go to support Coney Island USA. I love drinking for a good cause, so to help out some carnies and for your reading pleasure, I indulged. Here's what I remember:
Coney Island Albino Python
Tastes: like the pure essence of lager missing from 24 packs of crap beer at your corner store. Light and subtle, but delicious.
Defining characteristics: Albino Python is a "white lager" and the only one in the country according to Zak Davis. It is flavored with orange peel, ginger and fennel.
Who should drink this: anyone with an appreciation for lager will find something to love here. Anyone in the habit of drinking fizzy, piss beer needs to drop their aluminum cans and pick up one of these instead.
Who should avoid this: if you need a beer's alcohol content to be in the double digits to enjoy it, stay away from this one. It's too light for you.
Coney Island Sword Swallower
Tastes: like a sturdy lager. Sword Swallower is sturdier than the Albino Python.
Defining characteristics: Sword Swallower uses 8 types of malt and 4 types of hops.
Who should drink this: drinkers looking for a beer they can enjoy to excess. You'll have no problem getting through a few of these without much effort.
Who should avoid this: anyone with blades down their throats.
Coney Island Human Blockhead
Tastes: strong enough to make you consider hammering nails into your nostrils much like the Carney on the label. This brew packs 10% alcohol by volume, but unlike other heavily-medicated beers, this one isn't too sweet.
Defining characteristics: lots of alcohol.
Who should drink this: if you don't care if this beer will put hair on chest because any more and it'd look like you're sporting an afro below your neck, this is the beer for you.
Who should avoid this: If you think strong beers are for sipping, don't drink Human Blockhead. The one downside of this brew is that it tastes radically different after warming up by only a few degrees. You need to grab this one with both hands and throw it back like a dead-lifting strong man.
He'brew Origin Imperial Ale
Tastes: like it's full of antioxidants. Origin is brewed with "10,000 luscious pomegranates," which scared me off initially. I'm down for the occasional lambic, but at least then I know I'm in for some candy-like sweetness. Other fruit flavored beers are so hit and miss. Luckily, this one has the essence of pomegranates firmly in place without dominating the general ale flavors. It's good, but it might wear on you after a glass or two.
Defining characteristics: an imperial, amber ale brewed with pomegranates.
Who should drink this: beer enthusiasts who don't mind a little fruit in their beer.
Who should avoid this: anyone who scoffs at the idea of a little fruit in their beer. You know who you are.
Tastes: like dates. Apparently the first batch of the Rejewvenator (Ha! What a funny play on words) was made with figs. This batch used dates instead. The result is a bit like drinking a box of Sun Maid raisens.
Defining characteristics: Rejewvenator is a half doppelbock. Half Belgian dubbel infused with all natural dates.
Who should drink this: drinkers into pushing the envelope. Rejewvenator is interesting. Even after several sips I wasn't sure if I liked it or not. If the prospect of being intrigued by a brew tickles your fancy, this is for you.
Who should avoid this: anyone who scoffs at the idea of a little fruit in their beer. You know who you are. There's an ale here, somewhere beneath the intense date flavor. If you're not cool with paying for a glass of something you're going to get tired of after half a pint, find something else.
He'brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.
Tastes: like a good I.P.A. should: full of flavor with citrus notes. This was my favorite of the bunch.
Defining Characteristics: Lenny's is a Double IPA with Rye.
Who should drink this: Jewish comedians and Lenny Bruce fans (casue that's who it's named after).
Who should avoid this: if you've got a problem with bitter-tasting brews, you might want to try something else. You know, like candy. You pansy.
Verdict: Shmaltz makes some fascinating beer. My only complaint is that a few of them are too fascinating for me to consider drinking more than a glass at a time. For that reason, Lenny's R.I.P.A. and Sword Swallower were my favorite. They're delicious and interesting but drinkable enough that downing a few in a night wouldn't be a challenge. If you want to try something you've never tasted before, Rejewvenator, Origin, and Human Blockhead are for you. Just don't be afraid to switch it up to keep from being overwhelmed.