Coney Island Lager Review

How many times has this happened? You hear a song by a popular band and love it. But whenever you listen to one of their CDs, you don’t like it. Finally, after multiple attempts you find a disc you like and become a fan of the band. This author had a similar experience with the beers of Shmaltz brewing, producers of Coney Island beers. Certain members of the Shmaltz line-up made such an unfavourable impression as to raise the temptation to never try their products again. In the interest of fairness however, it seemed a good idea to give their products one last shot.

From its humble beginnings in 1996 Jeremy Cowan’s brewery showed a certain plucky sense of humour. Even the name of the book is a tongue in cheek play on words coming from a combination of the words “schtick” and “malts.” The choice of names seems apt on a deeper level as well as the term schmaltz is a Yiddish word for chicken fat, which is a Jewish comfort food. It also describes people who have a “schmaltzy” sense of humor, appropriate for a brewery referring to its 13th anniversary He’brew as the “bar mitzvah” edition.

Today Shmaltz Brewing is available in 25 states under the He’Brew and Coney Island labels. Each label produces its own fun, irreverently named line-up of beer. It’s interesting to see how this brewery walks the line between innovation and doing things in the most irreverent fashion possible. After all, this is the company that recently opened possibly the world’s smallest brewery which produces only a gallon of beer at a time. 

Today, we’re going to look at one of the “freak beers” marketed under the Coney Island label. These are the beers with the circus and sideshow freaks on the labels. Pouring that first glass, Coney Island Lager Is a deeply copper colored lager. Carbonation is minimal. Head is dense and just off white. Retention is good, head finally reduces down to a nice thin cap of foam.

The aroma is fairly straightforward, reminding one of an amber ale. It is more hop forward than malt, giving a very American profile. Hops are supported by a decent hit of caramel malt.

The mouthfeel is smooth, rounded and sweet. Flavors seem fairly straightforward which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a lager. The flavor gives a nice hit of caramel malt, leading into a lingering sweetness in the center. The center moves into a short, dry finish.

Overall, a 6.75 out of 10. Coney Island is a pretty straightforward lager, there’s not a lot of out of the box thinking here. That being said, it is an interesting lagerized version of the American Amber Ale. Malty, slightly hoppy and offering the simple, straightforward drink ability of the lager.