Hops, Ham and the Hall Family Haggadah: He'Brew Genesis

I'm Catholic. My parents converted shortly after they got married. My dad got his PhD from Catholic University of America. He teaches at a Catholic university renowned for its Thomistic Studies program. My brothers and I attended Catholic schools all the way through. High school was an all-boys affair, run by priests. My wife has roughly the same biography, subbing in sapphic jokes and nuns. Naturally, we hold a Seder every year for Passover.

It started when I was about eight, if memory serves. My mom thought that it would be nice to learn about the Judaic roots of Catholicism -- after all, she figured, we do share a God and a handful of books from the Bible -- and figured that Seder would be a nice way to do it. I think she just digs all the accoutrements, the pomp and the circumstance. I can't say that I blame her, actually. It's nice to have some ritual and tradition in your life.

Our Seder is a rather nontraditional Seder, I'll admit. We follow a fairly accurate Haggadah, with maror and matzah, the asking of the appropriate prescribed questions, the four cups of wine, the right readings from Scripture. We cherry-pick a bit, but hey, we're co-opting sacred tradition anyway. My brothers and I have our set roles in the script, with my daughters increasingly participating with readings as A) they become literate, and B) various family members are elsewhere for Seder, in the Hall Family version of Diaspora.

We'll just gloss over the fact that, until she asked me to roast a lamb last year, my mom had served a pork roast for Seder for as long as I can remember.

Over the years, I've gotten the impression that true Seders must be awesomely drunken affairs. Every five minutes, it seems, we're instructed to pour and drink another cup of wine. By the breaking of the matzah, everybody must just be sloshed, patriarchs slurring their way through the story of Exodus, even the kids turning a bit tipsy from their (in our Seder, at least) watered wine.

That's where He'Brew Genesis Dry Hopped Session Ale comes in. Clocking in at a relatively modest 5.2 percent ABV, this beer is made for sessions [according to Wikipedia, "session drinking is a chiefly British term that refers to drinking a large quantity of beer during a 'session' (i.e., a specific period of time) without becoming intoxicated"]. It says it right there on the bottle. I think Seder, with its four cups of wine and paced, ritualized drinking, can be reasonably compared to a session. He'Brew is kosher to boot, so it seems like a perfect fit. Never mind what I'm sure is a Seder requirement to drink only wine for each of the four blessings. We've eaten pork for Passover for two decades; I don't think substitute booze is going to be the proverbial straw.

Genesis pours out bronze, slightly hazy and mildly carbonated. The thin head leaves barely any cap, large bubbles dotting the surface sparingly. The nose comes on with a zesty freshness, oscillating between pine, tropical fruits (guava? pineapple?), fresh hay and some light, biscuity aromas.

It's bright and light in the mouth, too; guava (?) and pineapple again, a rounded malt profile, with a slight bitterness in the finish, which keeps balance. Biscuity nuances repeat, adding just a bit of toffee. There's also a light carbonic bite, more than expected based on the relative lack of visible carbonation.

Overall, this tastes fresh, light and clean. I can easily see it being sessionable (does it amuse anyone else that "sessionable" is the beer nerd's slightly pretentious version of the old Miller Light slogan?), despite the relatively high ABV (as far as session ales go). I can certainly see pairing it with matzah, radishes and the casual rejection of kosher law.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall