January 25, 2016

The elusive quest for a Passover beer

Jeremy (Yossi) Sulzbacher came from Antwerp, Belgium, to present me with some of his home-brewed, gluten-free beer.  (Well, he was also visiting his three sons who live here, but I was on the short list.)

Jeremy Sulzbacher gave me a bottle
of his Ginger Tipple while we both
enjoyed a glass of regular beer,
not on Passover.

Jeremy was born in the UK but has been living in Antwerp with his Belgian-born wife for 12 years.  He took a course in brewing several years ago and got hooked.

But, he says, "I've never brewed regular beer."  Indeed, he gave me a bottle of his Ginger Tipple, a beer brewed without grain at all.    

"We use non-white sugars and grated ginger in the mash," Jeremy explained.  "We ferment with wine yeast and dry-hop during fermentation for four weeks.  Just before bottling, we add lemon juice and rind, and honey.

"Although it says 7% alcohol on the label, it's really closer to 9% -- a really strong brew."

Jeremy also gave me a second bottle of Ginger Tipple with added organic apple juice.

"Wait!  You can't have beer!"
Now here's the thing about Ginger Tipple: Since it has no grain of any kind, it is 100% gluten-free.  It can also be Kosher for Passover even for people who don't eat legumes (kitniyot), since it has none of those either.

"I found rabbinical authorities in Belgium who will certify this for me," Jeremy adds.  "This includes the hops, which are not grain at all, but you must prove that they never come into contact with leavened grain.

"My plan is to sell this beer for Passover to the major Jewish communities in America, Israel and Britain.  I will be able to brew the quantity I need by using the facilities of large kosher wineries, where the equipment is kosher for Passover all through the year."

So do we finally have a beer we can serve at our Passover table which will be kosher by all accounts?  This could be big news.  With this in mind, I eagerly popped open my bottle of Ginger Tipple to have a taste.

They didn't have beer at their seder table.
Why should we?
Well, the good news is, it's a curiously refreshing beverage which would grace any table.  The interplay of the ginger, lemon and hops is a very successful blend of flavors.  Although it has a light body and is highly carbonated, this is very much an adult drink.  I think it would be especially suitable as an aperitif (before the meal) or a digestif (afterwards).  I would be happy to serve Ginger Tipple at my Passover seder meal.

But . . . beer, as we know it, it is not.  Although "beer" has a wide range of styles, colors, aromas and flavors, there is also a connecting thread which we can identify almost immediately.  Even those beers which tend strongly towards sour and salty can still find a place under the tent.  But in my humble opinion, Ginger Tipple is not there.  

So, hearty kudos to Jeremy Sulzbacher for giving us a wonderful alternative beverage to serve during Passover.  I certainly hope to see it on sale in Israel and will buy a few bottles for my own holiday table and as gifts.

But the search for a kosher for Passover beer still continues.      


  1. Meadan Date Ale has been certified Kosher for Passover and will be sold in Israel this year. But you knew that.

  2. This post is included in A Jewish Grandmother : Quickie Kosher Cooking Carnival. Take a look, and also see the other posts, comment and share, thanks.

  3. Surely its an oxymoron. Even if not following Reinheitsgebot you'll still need some form of grain in there for it to be classified as beer. Why not go for a cider or mead? I'm particularly intrigued by mead although having never tasted it, just sounds yummy.

  4. Both honey and apples, while sweet, are in fact bitter when you ferment out all of the sugars. Mead is not that delicious, otherwise you would see more of it on the shelves.


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