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Shmaltz Tap Takeover Tomorrow at Hay Merchant, Plus the Shmaltz Holiday box

The Hay Merchant is a "Chosen Bar," according to Shmaltz Brewing Company. The Houston beer spot has been selected to help celebrate Shmaltz's 16th anniversary as well as the beginning of Hanukkah tomorrow afternoon by tapping a special selection of 18 different kegs from Shmaltz.

With four "Chosen" bars, Texas has more locations for this event than any other state, a note that both speaks to Texas's growing craft beer culture and shows Shmaltz's clear dedication to Texas as an important new sales territory, since their arrival earlier this year. The other Lone Star bars selected were The Whip In and The Flying Saucer -- both in Austin -- and World of Beer in Arlington.

Much like Clown Shoes' arrival in 2011, Shmaltz has landed on Texas shelves with a bang, offering nearly their full line of He'Brew beers at launch as well as their circus-themed Coney Island series. The beers have been wildly popular at bars like The Hay Merchant and Flying Saucer, and were even featured in a Shmaltz-dedicated beer dinner at The Hay Merchant during Houston Beer Week last month.

All this commotion comes just a little over a year after The Hay Merchant owner Kevin Floyd presented the then exceedingly rare -- and at that point unavailable in Texas -- bottles of He'Brew Vertical Jewbelation at his Clandestine Beer Dinner. Saturday will bring that moment full circle, as Vertical Jewbelation will be one of the 18 beers tapped as part of the celebration.

The full list is as follows:

• He'Brew Jewbelation Sweet 16 • He'Brew Origin Pomegranate Strong Ale • He'Brew Hop Manna IPA • He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. • He'Brew Messiah Nut Brown Ale • Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner • Coney Island Lager • Coney Island Albino Python • He'Brew Barrel-Aged Jewbelation 15 • He'Brew Barrel-Aged Messiah • He'Brew Barrel-Aged Origin • Coney Island Geektoberfest • He'Brew Jewbelation 8 • He'Brew Jewbelation 9 • He'Brew Jewbelation 10 • He'Brew Jewbelation 12 • He'Brew Vertical Jewbelation • Coney Island Freaktoberfest

This tap list marks the first time a vast majority of these beers have been tapped in Texas. Highlights include an eight-year-old keg of Jewbelation 8 and a barrel-aged version of Jewbelation 15.

The list also offers several opportunities to build interesting flights of beer, including a vertical tasting of Shmaltz's anniversary beer, Jewbelation, which is made each year with an increasing variety of hops and malts. Jewbelation 8 from 2004 has eight hop varieties and eight different malts; Jewbelation 9 from 2005 has nine hops and malts, and so on. You can also match Origin and Messiah with their barrel-aged versions. But if you plan on working through several of these beers, bring friends to help you, because most of these beers pack an ABV in excess of 10 percent.

EDIT: Astute reader Kyle White has pointed out that the kegs of Jewbelation 8,9,10 and 12 are likely re-brews from 2010 and not from their respective original brew dates beginning in 2004.

Also of note, if your gift list this year includes a beer drinker, get to Spec's to check out the Shmaltz gift pack. I am normally not a fan of boxed beer sets. A lot of them are overpriced or simply feature crummy beer. The worst offenders are those cellophane-wrapped baskets in grocery stores that have seven or eight single beers and an assortment of cheap cheese and meat. Those baskets typically retail for $40 or more and contain about $8 dollars worth of food and beer. Gee, thanks -- a six-month-old bottle of Shiner Blonde someone found under a display rack! You shouldn't have!

That said, the eight beers in the Shmaltz box feature some killer beers, a holiday glass and -- to go along with Shmaltz's whole He'Brew theme -- instructions on how to turn your beers into a holiday menorah. The winners in this box are the super malty booze bomb, Jewbelation 16; the now-sold-out, cocoa-tinged Terrapin collaboration Reunion; and Funky Jewbelation, as yet unavailable in Texas.

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The really great thing about this box, though, is that because it has such a wide variety of beers, you're sure to find something you will love. It's also a fun lineup to open with a group of friends and family. Beers like Origin Pomegranate Ale are sure conversation starters. The beer nerds in the family will also enjoy trying to explain just why Jewbelation 16's 16 different malts and hops are such an incredible feat of brewing.

It's going to be a crazy weekend, so drink responsibly. Mazel Tov!

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