Friday, July 06, 2007

He’brew Beer

There’s nothing remarkable in the hot, surly morning sunlight. A beautiful middle-aged woman climbs down from a dusty family van, slides open the cargo door, reaches in and lifts out an ordinary cardboard box. About yay wide. About yay high. Heavy.

A tall older man rises out of a late-model taupe Deville, scrapes across the unpaved restaurant parking lot and takes the box from her, leaning over awkwardly to give her a kiss on the cheek. He returns to his car and presses the key fob – the trunk lid pops open. He places the box carefully in the Caddy’s trunk, just as a Suburban with a pair of Texas Highway Patrolmen and a couple of guards from the Huntsville prison unit pull up beside the car.

Puffs of dust rise from the Suburban’s tires as the driver brakes and the cops climb out – four heavy men who cross the lot, headed for an early lunch at The Junction restaurant. They don’t look at the Deville or its owner. “Mature” white guys in Cadillacs never raise a lawman’s eyebrows. The Caddy has Texas plates. The woman’s van comes from Georgia – you can see the peach on the license plate across the lot.

The troopers missed the perfect daytime switcheroo, the smuggler’s art performed without a net outside that Huntsville restaurant. Edith Fusillo had just passed me more than a dozen bowling-pin-sized bottles of He’Brew Beer. Yeah, that’s right, the real stuff, “Brewed by Jews” at the Schmaltz Brewing Company. Legal in Georgia. Not available in the sovereign state of Texas.

Even how I came to discover this great brand is like something out of Exodus (the Leon Uris novel, not the Old Testament chapter). I heard about it first from Adam Halpern at SoftSell Training; went immediately to the website which is a hoot.

In the end, like smuggling arms into postwar Palestine to equip the Palmach, I received the beer along with a marvelous example of word-of-mouth advertising.

Founder Jeremy Cowan has done a superior job of branding “the Chosen Beer.” Unlike a lot of mass-market consumer goods, the entire mishpocha gets credit on the great website, from the brewers to the art directors to the director of a very funny TV commercial. It would be excellent to see more CPG companies share out the credit for great work.

Second, the beers are not only Kosher, they’re fine examples of craft-brewing art. Edith and Bob Fusillo brought us He’Brew’s Messiah Bold (“The Beer You’ve Been Waiting For!), Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA (a rye-based, double India Pale Ale) and Genesis 10:10 (a superb dark ale with a touch of pomegranate juice that lends the most marvelous color to the brew).

These are strong beers – 10% alcohol – but the spirits never get in the way of three distinctively different tastes. Still, each variety is true to its type and it tastes just fine.

The company admits to all the schtick surrounding the brand…it’s built a superb back story for the whole brand as well as for each and every variety it’s brewed. If you genuinely believe that each brand should have a story to tell, Schmaltz has done its marketing job extremely well.

So think about this post as a combination taste-test and brand exploration…one that began by word-of-mouth and keeps on going through every beer we (jealously) open. Schmaltz is building stakeholder involvement one bottle at a time.

I have saved out a couple of bottles of Messiah Bold for Halpern – he tipped me off about this. But until Schmaltz finds a distributor in Texas (or better yet, in Houston), I’m going to hoard this stuff as best I can. It’s “the Chosen Beer” after all and I’m choosing to keep as much as I can for our Spring Branch household. There’s no telling when the Fusillos will be making another run to Texas.

These are the kind of ales that Cecil B DeMille would have made if he’d skipped the movie business – but it’s definitely his kind of branding. L’Chaim, y’all!

1 comment:

Rob Schoenbeck said...

A recent study found that the average American walks about 900 miles a year.

Another study by the American Beer Institute found that the average American drinks 22 gallons of beer a year.

This means, on average, Americans get approximately 41 miles per gallon.

Not bad!!!