In the beginning, there was volleyball, manicured lawns, and underage drinking, said Jeremy Cowan to those who had gathered at in Menlo Park Monday afternoon to hear him speak about his new book, Craft Beer, Bar Mitzvah.
“It was me and a bunch of high school friends, playing a game of volleyball, jews versus gentiles,” Cowan said. All they needed was a team beer to perfect the scene; and so He’Brew “The Chosen Beer” was born.
“That’s when I came up with the tagline, “Don’t pass out, pass over,” Cowan said.
This elicited laughter from many of the 40 or so people in the audience, most of whom knew Cowan personally from the time he spent growing up in the Sharon Heights neighborhood of Menlo Park, which is where his grandma resides.
Since its inception in 1996, his gourmet kosher brewing company has gone from delivering a few cases of Genesis Ale to the local grocer Mollie Stone’s to being sold in more than 20 states in the U.S. The name of each beer is a pun inspired by his religion, such as “Miraculous Jewbelation” and “Messiah Bold.”
The Miraculous Jewbelation is an eight percent alcohol by volume beer that smells a bit like fig toffee. The aftertaste is bittersweet, much unlike this book, which details the unusual adventures Cowan's had turning his love for beer into a business. After an initial investment of about two grand from his savings account to get started, “which was just enough to get the most basic stuff,” he struggled with self-distribution for about 10 years.
“When I started to look at it like a beer business, instead of a community-based non profit, it started to be more fruitful,” he said.
Before Cowan began to tell his tales of his ascent into the craft beer industry, Nick Sharma from the served free samples of the beer. The local grocer has about 600 craft beers in stock, including He’Brew beers. And Steve Masmussen from the shared slices of fresh cheese and meat to accompany the libations.
This chat with the author was produced by Hometown Peninsula, an alliance of locally owned businesses and residents, and Kepler’s Books, where you will find Craft Beer, Bar Mitzvah for sale. See store for pricing details.