Passover Beer

The matzah of beer

I’m a little late in posting this, but I did try it during Passover. No, I don’t keep kosher, but as anyone who’s served time as part of a Jewish family can tell you, the debate over what’s kosher for Passover never ends. For the goyim out there (if you don’t know what that is, you’re one of them), the rules concerning what observant Jews can eat change for the even-worse during the holiday of Passover when, according to legend, the ancient Hebrews fleeing Egypt didn’t have time for their bread to rise. They also had to bake it hurriedly. This results in the giant cracker known as matzah. Of course one would assume the dough was prepared with leavening in mind, as usual, and even though it did not ferment fully, it must have begun to rise; nevertheless, this has translated into a conundrum for modern-day Jews.

Crackers and juice

Sephardic Jews simply don’t eat bread, because that is what the Hebrews were denied – straightforward enough. Ashkenazi Jews are a little more… shall we say… critical. There seems to be an issue about whether or not the food swells – or rises – when cooked. That eliminates such foods as rice and corn, but not potatoes or brisket, go figure. Beer is clearly not kosher for Passover, considering its status as liquid bread. It’s fermented, of all things. But wait, so is wine, which is featured so prominently in the Passover service. Could it be one of those things – like reclining when we eat on this night of all nights – to remind us of our current luxury, or could it be a specific rejection of beer, the Egyptian slave-drink? The roles of beer and wine in Judaism is a book all on its own, but regardless of the reason for wine, I still think beer can have its place. Bread is verboten but there is matzah – so beer just needs its matzah equivalent.

Beer that hasn’t yet risen is called wort. Wort is produced in the brewing process when malt is stewed in hot water. In extract  brewing, steeping specialty malts in water is often called making tea. Tea it is! Why shouldn’t a fresh malt tea be kosher for Passover? Whether or not malt swells during the process is questionable, but it sure soaks up water. I do not think this should exclude it from being kosher considering the grains aren’t being consumed, and honestly, time should be the real issue – isn’t that what the ancient Hebrews were up against? And if your Bubbe’s got time to make the brisket and boil the potatoes and make the coffee, you’ve got time to steep some malt for 20 minutes. So enjoy your fresh, hot, nonalcoholic, malt tea beer.

I used a 12 oz. french press. I added 0.15 lbs. of pale malt, 0.05 lbs. of brown malt, and 0.02 oz. of East Kent Golding hop pellets. I filled it up with water about 155 °F and let it steep about 20+ minutes. According to calculations, the gravity of this wort is less than 1.020. It’s sweet enough to have some fortifying qualities and some flavor, but not too sweet to be undrinkable. It also finishes quite dry, it seems to suck the moisture out of you. L’chaim!


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