Sunday, April 7, 2019

What could be wrong with flavored beer?

As the editor of a kosher beer blog, people occasionally contact me via email or social media with beer questions. I always try to help as much as possible. Every now and then, I'll get a question whether on the Internet or IRL, what could be wrong with flavored beer, it's just fruit?
The standard answer I give is that other flavorings can be used besides for the fruit, and the fruit can be used in many forms such as purees or zest, and can be questionable from a kosher standpoint.

The following is an actual email I recieved from someone who contacted me at the email address listed on this site. The original email asked me about a beer, that is made with raspberries and therefore should be acceptable even without proper certification. I responded that as per Rabbi Niehaus from the CRC one can be their own mashgiach on a beer, by inquiring to the brewery and try to ascertain the origin of the ingredients.
Below is his response:

The ale is from Founders Brewing and is called Blushing Monk. The bottle cheerfully states it is "fermented with pure raspberries" and "brewed with a ridiculous amount of raspberries."  The label says it's made with raspberries and Belgian style yeast.  I figured it was made with pure raspberries, i.e. whole, and there won't be bugs in the final product, so there shouldn't be any issues.

I contacted Founders for more info. They told me it was actually made from a raspberry concentrate from a "local producer." When I asked for the name of the producer, they refused to reveal the info, other than to say the supplier was not kosher certified. I asked them if the concentrate is pasteurized by the supplier, an if the supplier also sells grape products, and the answer to both was yes. I would assume there is a strong possibility the beverage is not kosher.

The basic lesson is that when it comes beer flavoring, the labeling cannot be trusted as a layman to make any determination, other than to avoid it or find out more information. Companies will present their flavorings in a manner to make them sound natural and pure, when it may in fact be outsourced and significantly processed.  A kashrus expert for one of the national kashrus agencies told me that the alcohol industry has successfully lobbied to be exempt from normal food labeling regulations.

I would like to thank the individual for allowing me to use his email, and I will respect his request for anonymity.

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  1. Hi Tzvi - i just bumped into your blog (great!). Should mention that there are craft breweries that do special small batches which treif up all their beers. Flying fish in NJ comes to mind. Unfortunately owned by a Yid. They do (or used to ) an annual small batch run of "oyster stout" using a bushel of oysters in the boil. That's not going to show up as an ingredient on any of the other beers they produce. Without supervision it's difficult to know if any such products have been made in a brewery in the past, thus the kashrus reliability is ... ? If not, would have to be a brewery adhering to
    German Reinheitsgebot? (not even isinglass allowed in that)

    1. This site is a supplement to the CRC kosher beer list which lists Flying Fish and numerous other breweries that brew with non-kosher ingredients. Also see my post on Dogfish Head.