April 15, 2016

Kosher for Passover beer -- this year!

Is that the footsteps of the messiah we hear? 

Ever since Jews have refrained from eating leavened grain on Passover, they have been suffering without beer for the entire seven-day holiday.  Modern food technology has created Passover substitutes for almost everything else: rolls, pastry, noodles, even pizza!  But beer has remained the forbidden fruit.

That is, until this very Passover.  Now, the Meadan Brewery in Carmiel, a microbrewery specializing in producing gluten-free beer, has brewed Israel's (and maybe the world's) first certified kosher-for-Passover beer. 

"We are doing our distribution now," says Bryan Meadan, the owner and brewmaster of Meadan Brewery, "and we hope to be in as many stores as possible before Passover.  During Passover, we should be the only beer on the shelves!"

Meadan's beer is kosher-for-Passover because the fermentation comes not from grain, as it does in almost all other beers, but from date syrup, or silan.  The other ingredients, which are the same as in all beers – water, yeast and hops – are not intrinsically forbidden during Passover. 

"However," Meadan adds, "the rabbis insisted that our yeast be fresh and not be taken from any previously brewed beer.  This was no problem.  They also didn’t really know what hops were, and we had to show them that these are actually little flowers, or seed cones, with no relation to grain.  At any rate, all the hops we used were imported from the U.S., and they already had kosher-for-Passover certification."

Bryan Meadan at work in his brewery.
The other thing Meadan had to do was to ensure that leavened grain was never used in his brewing facility.  "This was not possible while we were doing contract brewing in someone else's facility," he explains.  "But we were able to find investors and open up our own brewery here in Carmiel around six months ago.  Since we have to keep our brewery stringently gluten-free, it is also in effect kosher-for-Passover year round."  
Meadan's Date Ale is certified kosher-for-Passover by the Chief Rabbinate of Carmiel and the Badatz Beit Yosef.

Without getting overly technical, in regular beers, the sugars which are digested by the yeast to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol, come from malted grain, in most instances barley or wheat.  In Meadan's kosher-for-Passover ale, the yeast feed on silan and added brown sugar.

For the yeast, the results are the same: CO2 and alcohol. 

Coming to a Seder table near you!
But for the taste, I missed the malty character that I associate with beer.  In fact, many beer drinkers appreciate the balance between the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops which defines most beers.  With Meadan's Date Ale, this complexity is missing. 

Still, the Date Ale is a historic response for those who dread the thought of going through another Passover without beer.

Meadan's Date Ale pours out a dark copper color with a frothy head.  The aroma is slightly spicy hops, wet grass and dried dates.  With the first swallow, you get a dark bitterness against a slight background of chocolate.  The body is very light and the aftertaste is not hoppy.      
In addition to the Date Ale, Meadan also brews two other gluten-free beers year round: a buckwheat beer and a hummus (chickpea) beer.

"These beers could also have received a kosher-for-Passover certificate," says Meadan.  "But because buckwheat and hummus are considered legumes, they would be forbidden to those who do not eat legumes during Passover – that is, almost all of the Ashkenazi communities. 

"By brewing a beer based on silan, we avoided the fractious problems of kitniyot altogether," explains Meadan, using the Hebrew word for 'legumes.'

Meadan Brewery produced around 15,000 liters of the Passover Date Ale, a quantity which Bryan Medan doesn't think will be enough to meet the heavy demand.

"People love the concept of being able to drink beer on Passover, and they love our beer," he says.  "By next year, we hope to expand our brewing facilities to meet the demands of the local market, and to even be able to export our beer."

But for this year, let Israeli beer lovers not quibble over nuances of aroma and taste.  We have a Passover beverage that will quench your thirst as only a beer can.  Enjoy it at your Seder and all the days of our Feast of Liberation.

This article originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine.


  1. Not really wanting to pick at details here but surely this is Date wine and not beer. Based on this I could make honey ale just by adding hops to mead. I would think that barely would have to be a key ingredient for it to be called beer? No problem with the product and I've been wanting to visit the place for a while just have an issue with calling something beer when it clearly isn't?

    1. Hilton, I share your concern. I think if you reread my post, you will see that I also consider the lack of grain a serious impediment. However, I encourage this attempt and I hope that all beer lovers will support it. I will proudly serve bottles at my seder table. Along with our traditional wine and slivovitz, we all should be pleasantly shicker by Chad Gadya! Chag Sameach!

  2. Where can we buy this beer?

    1. In Jerusalem, I know it's at the Beer Bazaar in Machane Yehuda, and the two big liquor stores on Agrippas: Hamisameach and Achim Nechmia. In Tel Aviv, there are the three big beer stores: Beer & Beyond, Beer Market in Sarona, and Beer Bazaar in the Carmel Market. Also, I'm told at every store in the chain of Yain B'Ir and Rami Levi. More stores are on the website: http://gluten-free.beer Good luck! Chag Sameach

  3. Anonymous11/29/2016

    Since when is Pesach only 7 days?
    "suffering without beer for the entire seven-day holiday"

    1. Good point, but I live in Israel, where it is seven days -- which is the way it was intended to be.


Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!