With the approach of Passover it would do for us all to have at least a basic understanding of what our kosher products are and what makes them kosher.
Kosher wine is not too different from normal wine in its process but there are some major noticeable differences. An observant Jew must initiate, activate, or operate every essential step of the crush, including the fermentation, standardization, and sample taking for quality control. For this reason, the winery must be manned by a sizable crew of qualified observers throughout the duration of the crush and a smaller crew during standardization operations. The wine must begin fermentation with natural yeasts. After that traditional kosher practice dictates that the pasteurization (bishul-boiling) take place before the clarification and fermentation. California kosher wine tends to achieve bishul after the clarification and fermentation. During the bishul the original yeast dies and so a new strain of yeast must be added to restart the fermentation process. The process is entirely overseen as there are a lot of parts of the process (potential barrel transfer, ageing, blending, etc), that breaches of kosher practice may occur.
There are three levels of Kosher certification to be aware of. “Kosher”, “Kosher for Passover”, and “Mevushal”. Kosher will say on the label somewhere: Kosher. “Kosher for Passover” will have a symbol on it. The symbol will be pictured below. Kosher for Passover has the added requirement of having to be kept away from grain, bread and dough for the entirety. This used to be more of a problem as a wheat based binder was used in the past to keep barrels together. Mevushal is very similar to Kosher in practice but the requirements for handling it post-production are less stringent. Most Kosher wine is actually Mevushal.
As far as finding the kosher wine in the store; as a rule Israel is a good place to start. Should you be unfamiliar, it is the skinny shelf to the left of the Spanish wine if you’re looking at the shelf. There are some differences in taste between Israeli wine and California wine but the two are very closely analogous. Thus if someone likes California Cabernet then they are likely to like an Israeli Cab. There are some non-Israeli kosher wines as well. For a sweet wine Manishewitz is the general go to for the less wealthy. There are other options as well. Ecco Domani is kosher for Passover and can be found in the Italian section on the bottom two shelves. The line for Ecco Domani includes Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Moscato for any taste profile. If you just know those lines and locations you’ll be ok for anyone that comes in.
Believe it or not there are kosher rules for beer as well. As a general rule most beer made from wholly natural ingredients will be kosher. It’s when you get into the weird ingredients that you may run into trouble. When beer contains atypical flavorings, spices, or additives, or when it’s fermented with non-brewer’s yeast (Geuze, Lambic, etc,) it’ll need certification to be kosher.
Outlined below are a couple general go-to rules:
- All unflavored beers with no additives listed on the label are acceptable, even without kosher certification.
- All unflavored beers from the following countries, including dark or malt beers are kosher: Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, Mexico, Norway, and the Netherlands.
- Even when no kosher certification is given, the Torah yields to evidence in this regard.
- ANY beer that contains lactose is NOT KOSHER (e.g. Sweet stout, milk stout)
Products that are kosher certified have a mark somewhere on them, likely on the pack itself, with Hebrew lettering detailing where it was certified and by whom.
Below you’ll find a sample list of go-to kosher beers:
- Blue Moon (ALL)
- Sam Adams (ALL AVAILABLE)
- Brooklyn Brewery (ALL)
- Lakefront Brewery
- Cream City Pale Ale
- Eastside Dark
- Fuel Café Stout
- Redbridge (ALL)
- Saranac Brewery (ALL)
- Shiner (ALL)
- Greene’s (ALL)
- Wolavers (ALL)
- New Planet (ALL)
- Gryhon’s Ciderworks (ALL)
Again, this is a shortlist. Bill, our beer expert, will have the rules and will be able to point you in more specific direction. As with any other wine questions, if you need anything explained, or if you want us to show you exactly where these wines are. We are always happy to help.