Anheuser-Busch has announced a deal in which it will acquire Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery. With this agreement, Breckenridge Brewery is the seventh craft brewery to join The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s business unit of craft and import brands.
“We’re excited about the partnership and have been encouraged to continue on our path and become more innovative moving forward,” said Todd Usry, President of Breckenridge Brewery. “I’m a believer in what The High End is focused on accomplishing, and we are flattered that our team was chosen to help guide that journey. We’re looking forward to utilizing resources like decades of research and brewing expertise as we continue to create new beers.”
Available in 35 states, Breckenridge Brewery will sell approximately 70,000 barrels of beer in 2015. The new brewery and Farm House restaurant in Littleton have positioned the brewery for future growth. The brewery will continue to make its unique portfolio of beers – ranging from its Vanilla Porter, to Agave Wheat, to its core brands, seasonal specialties and barrel-aged beers.
“Breckenridge Brewery has a long history of innovation and they continue to brew new and exciting beers, from their specialty brews like the Mountain Series that celebrates the brewery’s origin as a ski town brewpub, to their planned nitro can series,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, The High End. “They are innovative and have built an amazing business that’s enabled them to get their great beers to fans across the country. We look forward to even more growth together.”
Breckenridge Brewery will join Goose Island Beer Company, Blue Point Beer Company, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing Company, Golden Road Brewing and Four Peaks Brewing Company as part of The High End’s craft beer portfolio.
The partnership includes the company’s new production brewery and Farm House restaurant in Littleton, and original brewpub and current innovation center in the mountain town of Breckenridge.
The current management group, Breckenridge-Wynkoop, will continue to own and operate its remaining businesses including: Ale House at Amato’s in Denver; Breckenridge Ale House in Grand Junction; Breckenridge Colorado Craft in Denver; The Cherry Cricket in Denver; Mainline in Fort Collins; Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs; and Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver.
Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Breckenridge Brewery is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016, subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
By Richard Thompson
Breweries like Sky River Meadery and Moonlight Meadery are offering new delicious flavors – such as raspberry, blackberry, and even strawberry rhubarb – along with traditional honeyed staples in their dry, sweet and semi-sweet mead lines.
“It’s coming back as a beverage of choice,” says Michael Fairbrother, Founder and Head Mead Maker at Moonlight Meadery and President of American Mead Maker Association.
Moonlight Meadery, which opened in 2010 and is based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, offers a line of 70 different products and has seen interest in mead explode over the last year. “Production in the first two years was about 24,000 bottles (2000 cases), but we have done close to seven times as much in the last year alone,” says Fairbrother.
Kurt’s ApplePie, the meadery’s top seller, won the gold metal at the 2013 Mazer Cup International and is made with Sunny Crest Farm apple cider with Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon. Its sweetness is balanced by the tartness from the added cinnamon, and the vanilla lightens it up, says Fairbrother.
Desire, a sweet mead made with blueberries, black cherries and blackcurrants, is the company’s flagship mead and won first place in the New England Regional Homebrew Competition back in 2009. Fling is made with strawberry rhubarb and orange blossom honey and has a light tartness that balances the sweet with strawberry notes. “I suggest to customers to try it with a goat cheese salad,” says Fairbrother.
Coffee in Bed, a dessert-style mead with a rich, robust honey-note, was another award winner at the International Mazer Competition that goes well with dark chocolates, tiramisu and German Chocolate cake.
Sky River Meadery, a Washington-based meadery found in the Woodinville Winery District, has been open since 1997 and specializes in traditional meads and honey wines. “We only make mead,” says Denice Ingalls, President and Wine Maker at Sky River, “We keep it simple and approachable.”
SOLAS, the meadery’s flagship mead, is a tribute to Old World meads, says Ingalls. Using saturated, smokey whiskey barrels from Dry Fly[TM] Distillery, SOLAS is a very sweet mead that combines honey and wheat whiskey flavors and is definitely an indulgence that should be sipped.
The company’s 10 different meads – with nine currently available – range from a traditional Brochet mead that has a darker, richer quality – due to the honey being caramelized before fermentation – to the Ginger mead that has a sassy ginger note with a spicy finish. “Our Rose mead is the ‘boudoir’ wine, luscious and indulgent, and pairs beautifully with meals where there are a lot of pistachios, like Persian and Middle Eastern foods,” says Ingalls.
The brewers at Samuel Adams have announced the limited release of highly-coveted Samuel Adams Utopias, a beer unlike any other. Only the ninth batch brewed since the first release in 2002, this year’s Utopias, like previous vintages, was brewed in small batches using traditional methods, blended with previous vintages going as far back as 1992, then finished in the Barrel Room at the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery.
“Sam Adams Utopias is the lunatic fringe of extreme beer. The recipe stretches the limits of the brewing process, flavor complexity, and as a by-product, alcohol content. While barrel aging is now a mainstay of a thriving craft beer community, we have been experimenting with barrel aging for nearly 25 years and this year’s batch is made from a library of barrels, some of which go as far back as 1992. This is an other-worldly beer that’s just as radical today as it was in 1992 and I am excited for drinkers to sip and savor it,” said Founder and Brewer Jim Koch.
About Samuel Adams Utopias
For beer fanatics, Samuel Adams Utopias has become one of the most sought-after beers on earth. Meant to be savored like a fine cognac or port, Utopias is a rich, uncarbonated extreme beer known for its extraordinary flavor profile. Utopias has aromas of wood, toffee, cocoa, raisin and maple, which hint at its distinctive flavors, which range from hints of molasses, earthy wood, dates, and light smoke to nuts and toffee.
With each new batch of Utopias, the brewers at Sam Adams push for a complex flavor profile, and during this process have created brews with alcohol levels reaching over 30 percent ABV; this year’s beer is 28 percent ABV and is best enjoyed as a two ounce pour in a snifter glass at room temperature. While some of the barrels have reached over 30 percent alcohol, the brewers blend down because the goal is to craft complex flavors, not an extreme alcohol percentage.
About the Barrel-Aging Process
For the 2015 Utopias, the Sam Adams brewers used a variety of malts for the brewing process and during fermentation used several strains of yeast, including one traditionally reserved for champagne. The beer was then blended with Utopias vintages from previous years including some that have been aging for more than 20 years in the Barrel Room. Aging the beer over a longer period of time accentuates the beer’s distinct vanilla notes and creates aromas of ginger and cinnamon. Some of this aged beer is over 20 years old, old enough to drink itself.
About the Brewing Process
Utopias is brewed using traditional methods. The brewers begin with a blend of two-row Caramel and Munich malts that imparts a rich, deep amber color. Noble hops – Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Spalt Spalter and Tettnang Tettnanger – are also added to lend complexity and balance. During fermentation, several yeast strains are used, including one normally reserved for champagne which the brewers call a “ninja yeast.” This fresh beer is then blended with a variety of different barrel-aged beers and “finished” in a variety of barrels to impart additional complexity and flavor.
About the Finishing Barrel Process
This release of Samuel Adams Utopias also uses a blend of beer finished in a variety of barrels. “Finishing” is a creative way for the brewers to impart additional flavor from a variety of barrels before the beer is bottled. This final step of finishing the beer lasts several months before the beer is bottled and imparts flavors ranging from fruit like cherry and raisin to chocolate, leather and oak. The multi-step and lengthy process results in flavors reminiscent of a rich vintage Port, fine Cognac, or aged Sherry, while feeling surprisingly light on the palate.
New this year, the brewers used White Carcavelos wine barrels to finish the beer, in addition to barrels that once housed cognac, Armagnac, ruby port, sweet Madeira, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon. White Carcavelos wine barrels help to amplify the dried fruit and oak flavors of this year’s Utopias. Carcavelos wines are blended and fortified like a port, are off dry and topaz colored with nutty aromas and flavors. Carcavelos comes from a small region of Portugal and the barrels are very rare, which made the Sam Adams brewers all the more excited to experiment with them as finishing barrels.
Where to find Utopias:
The first batch of Utopias bottles can be found in the hands of Samuel Adams employees. Since Utopias was first released, each bottle number corresponds with when each employee was hired, making Founder and Brewer Jim Koch number 1 and Brewer Dean Gianocostas number 2. For all other beer lovers, fewer than approximately 10,000 bottles of Samuel Adams Utopias can be found at select specialty beer and liquor stores for a suggested retail price of $199 per bottle. Price varies by market.
Wild Ginger Brewing Company unveils Wild Ginger™ Alcoholic Ginger Beer. “Alcoholic ginger beer has been around as long as the art of brewing. It was only during Prohibition that it turned to soda,” said Wild Ginger Founder Jamey Grosser. “I’ve always loved ginger beer, but could never find an alcoholic version, so I decided to make one myself. With Wild Ginger, we’ve nailed the right combination of ginger spice and fresh citrus that is great on its own or is a mixologist’s dream in cocktails.”
Grosser learned the art of brewing from legendary Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton and with this current venture is expanding his repertoire through a wide range of adult beverages.
At first impression, Wild Ginger entices with a subtle sweetness that climaxes in a spicy finish – with no beer aftertaste. Wild Ginger is right at home on the rocks with a lemon or lime, sipped straight out of a cold can or enjoyed in a classic cocktail such as the Moscow Mule.
“We have seen the explosion of ciders over the last two years, and ginger beer is a natural progression,” said Steve Economos, CEO of Eagle Rock Distributing Company in Atlanta, Georgia. “Craft sodas have been hot for many years now, and Moscow Mules are on fire in the on-premise. Fusing those two flavors into a beer is a homerun. I think Wild Ginger has nailed it from a taste profile, and I am excited to see what our team can do with it in the market.”
Wild Ginger Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4 percent ABV) is initially available in 12-ounce cans in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and North Florida, with national availability expected by year-end. A six-pack will retail for approximately $8.99-$9.99. Additional products are planned for release in the fall.
The American beer industry welcomed bipartisan legislation introduced today to comprehensively reform the federal beer tax imposed on brewers and beer importers. The bill would remove barriers to growth in the industry, encouraging capital and workforce investment through simple, fair and broad reform.
Introduced by Reps. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Ron Kind, D-Wis., the Fair Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2015 (Fair BEER Act) creates a graduated federal excise tax structure while maintaining a level playing field.
Under the Fair BEER Act, all brewers and beer importers would pay a rising scale of federal excise tax:
By imposing this “laddered” approach to all brewers and beer importers, the legislation reforms the overall tax structure to provide the greatest relief to the very smallest brewers. More than 90 percent of permitted brewers produce 7,143 barrels or less and would see their excise tax rates reduced from $7/barrel to zero. The 7,143 barrel threshold was designed to meet the definition of a “small brewer” set forth by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the agency which regulates the alcohol industry.
By applying comprehensive reform across brewers, the legislation removes barriers to growth. Under current law, small brewers are defined as those which produce up to 2 million barrels, and are taxed at $7/barrel on the first 60,000 barrels and $18 on every barrel thereafter. Current law imposes an $18/barrel federal beer tax on all suppliers of more than 2 million barrels annually.
“Our tax policies shouldn’t discourage the growth and continued success of an industry that supports jobs for more than two million Americans, and it shouldn’t pick the winners and losers in the market,” said Congressman Womack. “This comprehensive reform bill supports brewpubs, microbrewers, national craft brewers, major brewers, and importers alike and encourages their entrepreneurial spirit, which is exactly the spirit we need to get America’s economic engine going again.”
“The beer industry has shaped our heritage and history in Wisconsin, and plays a crucial role in our state’s economy,” said Congressman Kind. “Here in Wisconsin and across the nation, brewers are employing our workers and creating new jobs, and this pro-growth, bipartisan bill will help them continue to expand and produce high-quality products.”
“This bill is important for reforming a hidden tax that most beer drinkers don’t even know they pay, and because it removes barriers to industry growth,” said Jim McGreevy, President and CEO of the Beer Institute, the nation’s leading trade association representing brewers, beer importers and industry suppliers. “The Fair BEER Act deserves support, because it offers fair reform of the federal beer tax, but it reaches that reform without completely changing the industry structure.”
Other original Fair BEER Act co-sponsors include Mark Amodei, R-Nev.; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; Ken Buck, R-Colo.; Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.;Doug Collins, R-Ga.; Rick Crawford, R-Ark.; Danny Davis, D-Ill.; Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.;David Jolly, R-Fla.; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; Tom Marino, R-Pa.; Gwen Moore, D-Wis.; Grace Napolitano, D-Calif.; Jason Smith, R-Mo.; Todd Young, R-Ind.; Peter Welch, D-Vt.; Bruce Westerman, R-Ark.; and Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.
By offering tax reform across the category, from pennies on the barrel for major suppliers to an $18/barrel tax break for the smallest brewers, the Fair BEER Act offers Members of Congress an opportunity to support all brewers, from the smallest brewpubs to the biggest job creators. The Fair BEER Act also serves to fix a significant policy issue around trade by protecting small brewers from potentially losing their tax relief.
Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate shortly.
History of the Federal Excise Tax on Beer
Existing federal excise taxes on beer are set at a rate of $18/barrel for brewers of more than 2 million barrels (62 million gallons, or the equivalent of 110 million six-packs) and all beer importers. Since the late 70s, growth in the small brewing sector has been encouraged by tax credits offered to brewers which produce less than 2 million barrels, cutting their excise tax rate to $7/barrel on the first 60,000 barrels and allowing them a far lower overall effective tax rate on all barrels up to 2 million.
Today there are more than 3,300 breweries in the United States. More than 90 percent of those brewers produce fewer than 7,143 barrels annually, meeting the definition of a small brewer set by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Many of those small brewers are brewpubs, which are restaurants with brewing operations designed to sell locally.
While the reduced tax rate for brewers has been a success in introducing new entrants to the market, the eligibility definition of “small” at 2 million barrels unintentionally created a barrier to further growth. By removing the production cap to allow all brewers and beer importers relief, and graduating the relief in such a manner that the deepest reductions in rates are reserved for the newest entrants to the market, the Fair BEER Act reforms the beer tax without altering the industry structure, or picking winners and losers in the marketplace.
Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) launched its refreshed logo to the public in January and is now releasing new packaging artwork for the company’s five year-round brands.
The new label artwork was handcrafted by artist Darren Booth, who is known for creating detailed paintings with collage elements. GLBC provided Booth with archival materials relevant to each brand, that were incorporated into his paintings. These discoverable elements bring additional storytelling opportunities to each package.
Booth visited GLBC in the summer of 2014 to learn the history behind the existing labels. GLBC owners and team members briefed him on narratives for each brand and supplied unique collage pieces for Booth to include in his artwork. Throughout 2014, what began as sketched concepts evolved into colorful, detailed paintings, all of which incorporate textures and mementos from GLBC’s 27 years in the craft beer industry.
“Our customers may be familiar with Eliot Ness as a historical figure, but they may not know that our mother was his stenographer, or that he used to frequent our historic taproom. Darren’s beautiful paintings include so many layers that allow us to share these kinds of details. They’re more than just labels. They’re conversation pieces,” says GLBC co-owner Pat Conway, who, with brother and co-owner Dan Conway, is actively involved in the brand refresh process. On the bottom of GLBC’s new packages, customers will find similar stories that reveal the history behind each brew.
Booth was commissioned to create label artwork for GLBC’s five year-round beers and nine seasonals. The year-round packages will hit shelves beginning in May. In June, GLBC will release its first seasonal with refreshed packaging: Sharpshooter Session Wheat IPA. Brewed with orange peel and Jarrylo hops, Sharpshooter is a hoppy wheat beer named for Ohio-born exhibition shooter Annie Oakley.
Along with refreshed packaging, GLBC will release redesigned taphandles, signage, and merchandise around Memorial Day. A new company website will launch in May, along with the new Great Lakes Brewing Company Beer Symposium – a visitor’s center and event space.
Great Lakes® Brewing Company, which is comprised of a brewery and brewpub, was founded in 1988 by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway as the first microbrewery in the state of Ohio and today remains Ohio’s most celebrated and award-winning brewer of lagers and ales.
For more information, visit greatlakesbrewing.com.
Mirella Amato’s tome Beerology is a must-buy gift for anyone who enjoys the pleasure of a pint. It bills itself as the ultimate unpretentious guide to understanding and enjoying the world of beer. There is truly a beer for every food, mood and occasion, and with the growing number of beer festivals and microbreweries popping up worldwide, beer is finally getting the attention and appreciation it deserves. For fans of this complex beverage, the overwhelming choices, brewing styles and traditions can be confusing to say the least. Enter Amato, one of only seven Certified Master Cicerones in the world. With an advanced brewing certificate to her name, readers are in expert hands as they navigate the multifaceted world of beer, guided by Amato’s refreshingly accessible style. The book is broken down into fun, easy-to-read chapters starting with an introduction to beer and progressing into a complete guide to properly tasting the beverage, as well as tips for throwing beer parties, making beer cocktails and pairing beer with food.
For more information on Mirella Amato’s Beerology, visit http://beerology.ca.
Craft Brew Alliance, an independent craft brewer, recently announced that its second Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack is now available in markets across the United States. The newest Craft Beer Explorer Pack, a concept which was introduced earlier this year, features exclusive limited-release beers from Kona Brewing, Redhook Brewery and Widmer Brothers Brewing. The hand-selected, small batch beers are available nationally only in this cross-brand package, offering beer drinkers a unique opportunity to try special release beers from three different craft breweries. The latest version of the package includes Kona Lemongrass Luau Blonde Ale, Redhook Fat Chance Light IPA and Widmer Brothers Double M.A.C. Session IPA. The Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack features seasonally relevant specialty beers that are typically on tap at the brewery’s pubs but not yet available in broader distribution. For instance, many of the popular and unique craft beers from Kona Brewing in Hawaii never make it to mainland retail shelves. In this way, the Explorer Pack creates a unique opportunity for CBA to introduce new beers outside of their home markets.
For more information, visit www.craftbrew.com.
The number of U.S. breweries more than doubled from 398 to 869 between 2007 and 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released from the 2012 Economic Census Industry Series. The breweries industry reported $28.3 billion in shipments in 2012, an increase of nearly 33.6 percent since 2007.
Employment in the breweries industry also climbed over the five-year span, rising to 26,077 employees in 2012, up by 3,825 or 17.2 percent from 22,252 employed in the industry in 2007. Still, while overall employment within the brewing industry grew, the average number of employees per brewery decreased sharply from 56 in 2007 to 30 in 2012, a possible indication of the growth of smaller craft breweries within the larger American brewing landscape.
The economic census data also reveals that beer shipments in kegs have grown substantially but still represent just a fraction of overall beer shipments. Specifically, beer shipments in barrels and kegs rose 88.2 percent to $2.4 billion in 2012. However, kegs represented just 8.6 percent of all beer shipments, up from 6.1 percent in 2007.
The newly released economic census data also detailed growth within the American wine and distilled liquors industries. Data shows that the wineries industry employed 37,602 people in 2012, up from 33,390 people in 2007. Average payroll per employee increased 10.7 percent during this period.
Total product shipments of wineries was fairly evenly split between red and white wine: 31.6 percent red wine, 29.2 percent white wine. Meanwhile, rosé grape and other fruit and berry wines accounted for 2.6 percent of total shipments.
Sales of distilled liquor increased 29.9 percent from 2007 to 2012, outpacing the increases observed in wine sales (16.5 percent increase) and beer sales (9.6 percent increase) during the same period. Wine and distilled alcoholic beverage merchant wholesalers reported $78.3 billion in sales, a 23.6 percent increase from 2007 to 2012. By comparison, beer and ale merchant wholesalers reported sales of $57.7 billion in 2012, up 10.7 percent.
Future 2012 Economic Census Industry Series reports will be released through February 2015. For more information on these future releases or to see which industries’ data have been released already, see http://business.census.gov.
By Lorrie Baumann
As Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are fond of pointing out to their television audiences, you can learn a lot about a society by tasting its food. Case in point: the Orthodox Jewish community in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. If you find yourself in Crown Heights, or even if you are just wondering about kosher food, Benz’s Food Products will be happy to serve up an education in what it means to be both “kosher” and “gourmet.”
Benz’s Gourmet, the brick and mortar shop that is the retail face of the family-owned kosher grocer, opened 11 years ago in Crown Heights, a neighborhood that has since become known as a case study in gentrification. As rising real estate prices have forced middle class families out of Manhattan, they have fled in large numbers to Brooklyn neighborhoods served by an efficient public transportation system that provides easy access to the island. The population shift has generated the concerns and conflicts characteristic of any rapid cultural change.
For Benz’s Gourmet, the changes in the neighborhood have created an opportunity to serve both the neighborhood’s native Orthodox Jewish residents and ex-Manhattanites with gourmet foods that meet the strictest of kosher requirements but also the educated tastes of adventurous eaters. Aside from a few staples that are carried as convenience items, every item in Benz’s Gourmet must pass both tests: it must meet the strictest of kosher standards, and it must be a gourmet product.
“If you’re looking for a gourmet dulce de leche that’s strictly kosher, you come to Benz’s. If you’re looking for a kosher goat yogurt, Benz’s carries it. If you’re looking for truffles, Benz’s carries it. We also offer a large assortment of imported cheeses, imported olives and beers. Of course, all strictly kosher,” said Dobi Raskin, the daughter in the family that owns and operates Benz’s. Dobi does some of pretty much everything that has to be done in the store and the wholesale operation that stands behind it. “Just because you’re kosher and Orthodox doesn’t mean you don’t want a truffle mac and cheese. Just because you keep kosher shouldn’t mean that you don’t get to taste the finer things in life.”
The business was started in 1976 by Dobi Raskin’s father, Benz Raskin. Benz is still active in the business along with Dobi’s mother and her three brothers.
Benz started out making classic frozen gefilte fish logs, distinguished from competing products by the high quality of a product made with only fresh fish and fresh produce when other companies were making it with frozen fish. “We started really small, making small batches,” Dobi says. At first, the product was sold only to local families, with Benz delivering it himself in a little red pickup truck. “We’re in Brooklyn, the home of many Orthodox Jews,” Dobi says. “We ourselves are Orthodox Jews.”
As the Benz’s gefilte fish became more popular, Benz started selling it wholesale to institutional buyers serving the Orthodox community. He then began adding more groceries to his product line. Today, the business sells groceries through the Internet as well as in a brick-and-mortar store, and the company’s patriarch has become a mascot for the neighborhood. The shop is only about 20 feet by 100 feet, so it’s not hard to find him when he is there. “Our hearts are bigger than our store,” Dobi says. “He’s sort of an icon. People come in just to say hello to him. He loves it.”
Benz started the business because he saw that the people in his neighborhood were becoming more interested in some of the gourmet food products that they were hearing about from the Food Network and other influences. They wanted to try the new specialty foods, but they were not interested in abandoning religious requirements for how food is to be raised, processed and served. “That’s where Benz saw the need,” Dobi says. “It requires a lot more research and care to make sure that the products are up to the kosher standards of the community, since there are many different kosher certifications. If there’s a product with a kosher certification you don’t recognize, you have to do due diligence to make sure that it’s something we can carry … Just because something has a symbol doesn’t mean that it’s going to fly with us.”
Benz’s now carries a wide variety of refrigerated and frozen products, dry products and other specialty groceries, all with the endorsement of rabbinic authorities that it has been produced according to strict kosher law. Dobi does a great deal of the research herself to be sure that each product meets the company’s standards. “It’s quite astonishing how much time it takes to establish that a product is kosher, and if so, under which certification,” she says. “That’s what makes us unique, that we take the time.”
When customers ask for an item that’s not in the shop’s stock, Dobi seeks out suppliers who can provide a kosher gourmet product. “If you’re looking for strictly kosher goat yogurt, Benz’s will find it and bring it in. If it’s a popular item, it becomes a regular. We’ll stock it,” she says. “If it’s available on the market, we’ll try to bring it in for you.”
Finding a gourmet item with the proper kosher certification can be a challenge, and Dobi is particularly proud that she was able to find truffle products in response to a customer request. She now gets them from an Israeli company that sources them in Europe, and Benz’s now offers minced truffles, truffle sea salt and even truffle oil. “We were able to bring in the product line. That was a good one,” Dobi says. “You keep the customer happy. They keep you happy. It’s a nice cycle.”
In their eagerness to try new gourmet products, Benz’s customers have not forgotten the traditional foods they grew up with. The company still sells its classic frozen gefilte fish logs and still takes great pride in offering a gourmet product that meets customers’ dietary needs. “The fresh fish and fresh produce that goes into the product put it a step above its competitors, Dobi says. “Just because we eat gefilte fish doesn’t mean it has to taste like cardboard.”
Benz’s also imports trays of herring from Europe and offers them both in the tray and in almost 30 different preparations that combine the herring with ingredients like wasabi, scallions, jalapeños and habanero peppers. Some customers like to buy the herring already prepared, and some like to buy the plain filets and take them home to experiment with new flavor combinations. Either way, Benz’s is ready to serve.
“Our herring filets are probably the best on the market. The quality just can’t be beat. It’s just nice, buttery, good texture,” Dobi says. The herring filets are, like Dobi herself, named after Benz’s mother, so customers come into the shop and ask for Dobis. “I’m pretty famous now, I guess,” she says.
The Dobi case is a popular gathering spot for the community as they come into the store to shop for Sabbath meals, and the various preparations for the herring have become a running topic of discussion among the Orthodox community, where you can often tell which synagogue an individual attended last week by what kind of herring they’re talking about, Dobi says.
“People are expanding their horizons. The market is so vast and there are so many options that people are able to eat a gourmet diet and still adhere to the strict kosher requirements,” says Dobi. “There’s a young community here that’s blossoming that wants the better things in life, and we appreciate that we’re able to offer it to them.”