Celebrate Hanukkah With a Beer – or Eight

Celebrate Hanukkah With a Beer – or Eight

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Monday is the 6th day of Hanukkah, and that deserves a beer. I’ve written about Christmas and beer, and now it’s time to bring beer knowledge to the eight day celebration of the rededication of the 2nd Temple at Jerusalem and the Maccabean revolt.

True, most Jewish holidays are associated with wines, but there’s no reason that beer can’t be part of the fun. First of all, for those that keep kosher, most beers are kosher by ingredient, even if not certified by K-Star or other entity (expensive). In the Jewish faith, dairy and meat should not be mixed in any fashion, from ingredients right down to cross contamination of cooking utensils.

A meal may have dairy OR meat, but not both. Lactose beers would have to be watched out for, as would bacon beers, but other than that, a beer would probably not break kashrut (dietary restriction). Certainly, all beers that conform to Reinheitsgebot are considered kosher, with or without certification. The things that can make a beer NOT kosher are numerous, everything from uncharacterized yeasts (no sours beers qualify) to extracts of hops and malts to certain clarifying agents.

image credit: bkreader

So, if you want to make sure about the kosher-ness of a beer, then by all means look for beers that have been certified kosher (many large brewery products are), but also many individual beers from lots of breweries are known kosher. There is a list of K-Star approved and inspected beers (here). No Indiana beers or breweries are on the list, but a ton of Sam Adams beers are approved, and a bunch of Southern Tier and Uinta beers are on the list as well.

Leikam Brewing in Portland, OR is the only certified kosher brewery according to Brewers Association, but I checked UnTappd for beers named for Hanukkah and I found a few beers from Begyle Brewing in Chicago and a couple from Austin Beerworks. Neither brewery is on the K-Star list, so it may just be a beer name rather than a statement about the beer itself.

There WAS a well known kosher brewery in upstate New York for many years, Shmaltz Brewing, with their famous He’Brew line of beers (the Chosen Beer). At first they contract brewed their beer and couldn’t guarantee that the process was kosher, but once they opened their own brewhouse and taproom, all their beers were certified kosher. For years they made an anniversary beer called Jewbilation that would use the same number of hops and malts as their number of years open. This is weird because they did make a Funky Jewbilation sour version, which would seem be against kashrut.

image credit: Shmaltz Brewing

In the last few years Shmaltz did make a specific Hanukkah beer called Chanukkah, Hanukkah Pass the Beer, but before that they did a doughnut beer called Golden Jelly Doughnut Ale, but not too many people would recognize that jelly doughnuts are a big Hanukkah food (called sufganiyot). Unfortunately, owner/brewer Jeremy Cowan decided to retire in 2021 and they went out with a beer appropriately called Exodus 2021.

Cicerones have stated that many of the traditional Hanukkah foods would pair well with beers (articles here and here), from the jelly doughnuts to brisket, to the potato pancake latkes.  I really like kugel and bagels and lox, and many beer styes make them taste even better.

If you don’t want to make the choices for yourself, you can buy Hanukkah beer boxes that are just like the very popular advent calendar beer collections. There is one called Hoppy Hanukkah Craft Beer-a-Day Box from Brewvana, as well as the Hoppy Hanukkah Experience from City Brew Tours that comes with virtual tasting discussions. You can even find websites to help you build a beer menorah.

The four signs of the dreidel. image credit: myjewishlearning.com

Finally, what is Hanukkah without playing the dreidel game, and what is a game if it can’t be turned into a drinking game? There are several online sites with version of a game with different drinking results for various spins. The one I like best is found here. The four signs of the dreidel each tell you to do something – Nun, you don’t drink this time (Nun for you); Shin – you drink by yourself (it’s shin to drink alone); Hay – you and the person on your right drink (Hay buddy, we drink together); and Gimmel – everyone slaps their forehead and yells “Oy vey!” The last person to o it has to drink.

You can try to goad someone into drinking by faking a Gimmel and coming close to your forehead; if someone else slaps their head and yells, then they have to drink. Finally, if you spin the dreidel off the table, you have to drink so other drink people won’t have to crawl around looking for it, and if you fail to spin the dreidel three time – then you’ve had enough and you’re out.

We hope this helps you enjoy your Hanukkah celebrations more thoroughly. Walter, being Jewish herself, has introduce me to much of this information and we have worked beer in everywhere we can. Chag Urim Sameach!

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