Chanukah is an odd holiday. According to the Talmud, after the Syrians conquered Judea from the Egyptians in the 2nd century BC, King Antiochus attempted to Hellenize the Jews living in his kingdom. One facet of this ill-conceived “hearts and minds” campaign was to seize the Holy Temple and sacrifice pigs on the altar. (You can see why the Jews did not appreciate this gesture.) A Jewish priest named Mattathias and his sons (who came to be known as the Maccabees, which is Hebrew for “hammer”) led a revolt and reclaimed the Temple. But they discovered that there was not enough oil to keep the eternal lamp burning for the eight days it would take to bring more oil to the Temple, and as some of us learned during Hell Week, do not let the candle go out. A great miracle happened there, as one day’s worth of oil lasted for eight days, and the eternal lamp was not extinguished.
Modern scholars are not terribly convinced by this version of the events. According to some, the Maccabee rebellion was actually Jew-on-Jew crime: two factions of Priests sparked a civil war over whether the new High Priest would be from the Hellenized faction or the traditionalist faction. The Hellenized Priests cozied up to King Antiochus, who broke from his forebears’ custom of tolerating religious practices in the empire and instead outlawed a number of traditional Jewish practices (such as being nagged by your mother? shopping at Filene’s Basement?). It is not clear if there was actually any pig-sacrificing in the Temple; it is possible that traditionalists considered it a profanity merely for the Hellenists to have locked them out of the Temple. Either way, the Temple was ultimately reclaimed by the zealous traditionalists (at least for a couple centuries before the fucking Romans destroyed it), and yes, the oil lasted for eight days. Hallelujah.
Chanukah is not a major holiday in traditional Judaism. It’s one of a number of holidays where the theme is something along the lines of “The [insert Romans, Syrians, Egyptians, Persians, etc.] tried to destroy us, we prayed very hard, we kicked their asses, let’s eat.” But for a variety of reasons it is far from the most important of those holidays. Really, the only thing that makes Chanukah more prominent than other holidays is that it usually occurs in the four weeks following Cyber Monday. So yes–it’s a shopping holiday.
This year my friend Barley McHops (who despite his fake Irish name was bar mitzvahed, not to mention he was married on Chanukah*–“let’s all eat ’em up!”) and I have decided to celebrate the great miracle of Chanukah by rewarding ourselves with eight beers that even a Maccabee would love. Night #1: Avery IPA from a bottle.
*Editor’s Note: Like the Terrapin Hop Karma, Brother Barley is actually a hybrid. He comes from Half-Jewish, Half-Catholic stock. So what does that make him? Completely indifferent.
The IPA pours a clear golden color, maybe a touch on the orange side. The head is pillowy and sticks around–this beer leaves a hearty but fine lacing on the glass. It doesn’t smell like much, other than hops. Maybe a little bit of pine or caramel.
The first taste I get is a slightly spicy maltiness. Then, BAM! Hops! It’s delicious, but not particularly subtle. I get tinges of citrus and tropical notes around the edges, but it’s a total hop blast. It is reasonably well-balanced. The finish is long and slightly bitter, but there’s not a bad aftertaste or anything.
Avery’s IPA is light-to-medium bodied, crisp, and very drinkable. I could drink several of these in a row. And I do. I am supposed to drink ’til I can’t recognize the difference between good and evil, right? Do I have the right holiday? I can’t remember, but I guess I should do it just to be on the safe side. What the hell, it’s Chanukah.
I give the Avery IPA three candles.