THE idea of a special beer for Christmas is an old one, begun by Christian monks in the early Middle Ages as a salute to the birth of Jesus Christ. Who would have thought that one day, far in the future, there would be a special beer celebrating Hanukkah?

Certainly not those monks. Someone like Jeremy Cowan would literally have blown their minds. He's the audacious guy from San Mateo behind He'brew Genesis Ale and Messiah Bold.

Now, with Hanukkah starting Dec. 15, it's time for Monumental Jewbelation+ and it's our Beer of the Week.

This giant of a beer is 10 percent alcohol by volume, dark with vanilla and plum and pine and pineapple notes and a lasting sweetness that fades into a huge hoppy follow. This is not a beer for everyone, but if your preferences lean toward dark and sweet, this is a beer not to miss. A 22-ounce bottle is about $5.

I caught up with Jeremy on his cell phone as he toured Minneapolis, Minn., where his beers will soon be sold. From humble beginnings — selling He'brew, made at a homebrew shop in Palo Alto, from his grandmother's old station wagon — Cowan and his Shmaltz Brewing Co. have gone far. His beers, made at Mendocino Brewing, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., are sold in 22 states.

It's all been done with a sense of humor. He points out that to mark his company's 10th anniversary, Jewbelation this year is brewed with 10 malts and 10 hops.


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In a heartbeat he rattled them off to me:

Two-row pale barley malt, Munich malt (for color, sweetness), dark crystal malt (for color and mouth feel), chocolate malt (malt roasted to the color of chocolate), Victory malt (gives the beer a toasted quality), Carapils (adds body and sweetness), malted wheat, oatmeal and rye ale malt and rye crystal (for dry spiciness). Whew.

Hops include Warrior for bittering, plus Mt. Hood, Centennial, Cascade, Vanguard, Tettnang, Czech Saaz, Willamette and Simcoe — which produce a very mixed, hoppy taste. Oh yes, the beer was boiled for 100 minutes. That's 10 times 10.

This is a beer that needs some time to mature and blend all its many ingredients. I'm putting one away until next year. Happy Hanukkah, and on to Christmas.

For background on Cowan and Shmaltz Brewing, checkout my blogs at http://www.beernewsletter.com and http://www.ibabuzz.com/beer.

Can't find this beer? Call me at (510) 915-1180 or send an e-mail to whatsontap@sbcglobal.net and ask for our 2006 Retail Beer Store List.

Beer ratings are based on a star system. — world classic; — outstanding; — excellent; — good; — average.

Staff writer William Brand publishes What's On Tap, a consumer craft beer and hard cider newsletter. He can be reached at (510) 915-1180. Fax: (510) 841-6023. E-mail: whatsontap@sbcglobal.net.