Choosing a Kosher Beer - dummies

By Marty Nachel, Steve Ettlinger

For millions of observant Jews around the world, following the kashrut, or Jewish dietary laws, is a very important part of everyday life. Food and drink that are in accord with halakha (Jewish law) are termed kosher in English. Kosher simply means fit for consumption by Jews according to traditional Jewish law. And beer can be kosher, too.

In order for food or drink to be kosher, it must first be inspected and certified by one of the many certifying bodies around the world. One of the largest certifying agencies in North America, Star-K, is responsible for certifying most of the beers made in, and imported to, the United States.

Based on the kashrut, most beers produced by typical methods don’t violate dietary law. In other words, beer is generically kosher; none of the raw ingredients and additives used to brew regular beer present kashrut concerns.

The rules change, however, when atypical ingredients, additives, and flavorings — fruit, fruit syrups, spices, and so on — are added. In these cases, the beer requires certification. Likewise, if beers with higher alcohol content require fermentation with yeasts other than typical beer yeast, the beers require certification.

Here are a few safe generalizations:

  • All unflavored beers with no additives listed on the ingredient label, are acceptable, even without a kosher certification. This generalization applies to both U.S.-produced and imported beers, including nonalcoholic and dark beers.

  • All unflavored beers, including dark or malt beer, from the following countries are kosher: Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, Mexico, Norway, and the Netherlands.

  • Although the safest route is to purchase beer with kosher certification, in circumstances where facts of evidence overwhelmingly prove no kashrut concerns exist, the Torah yields to whatever the evidence shows.

Any beer that contains lactose (milk sugar) is non-kosher due to its inclusion of dairy ingredients. Lactose is typically used to make Sweet Stout, which may also be marketed as Milk Stout or Cream Stout.

Products that have been certified as kosher are labeled with a mark called a hekhsher that ordinarily identifies the rabbi or organization that certified the product. The kashrut status of a product changes with changes in production methods or kashrut supervision. Always look for the kosher mark on the beer label or packaging.

A Sampling of Kosher Beers
Beer* Brewery Country
Best Extra Stout Coopers Australia
Extra Strong Vintage Ale Coopers Australia
Original Pale Ale Coopers Australia
Premium Lager Coopers Australia
Special Old Stout Coopers Australia
Amber Dry Brick Canada
Anniversary Bock Brick Canada
Brick Premium Brick Canada
Blue Moon Coors U.S.
Bohemian Black Lager Spoetzl U.S.
Boston Ale Sam Adams U.S.
Boston Lager Sam Adams U.S.
Brooklyn (all products brewed in Utica) Brooklyn U.S.
Cherry Wheat Sam Adams U.S.
Chocolate Bock Sam Adams U.S.
Copperhook Spring Ale Redhook U.S.
Cranberry Lambic Sam Adams U.S.
Cream City Pale Ale Lakefront U.S.
Double Bock Sam Adams U.S.
Eastside Dark Lakefront U.S.
Fuel Cafe Stout Lakefront U.S.
FX Matt (all products) FX Matt U.S.
Hefeweizen Sam Adams U.S.
Honey Porter Sam Adams U.S.
Imperial Stout Sam Adams U.S.
Imperial White Ale Sam Adams U.S.
Klisch Pilsner Lakefront U.S.
Longhammer IPA Redhook U.S.
Oktoberfest Sam Adams U.S.
Old Fezziwig Sam Adams U.S.
Pale Ale Sam Adams U.S.
Redbridge Gluten-free Anheuser-Busch U.S.
Redhook Blonde Redhook U.S.
Redhook ESB Redhook U.S.
Riverwest Stein Beer Lakefront U.S.
Saranac (all products) Saranac/FX Matt U.S.
Shiner Blonde Spoetzl U.S.
Shiner Bock Spoetzl U.S.
Shiner Hefeweizen Spoetzl U.S.
Shiner Kosmos Reserve Spoetzl U.S.
Shiner Smokehaus Spoetzl U.S.
Summer Ale Sam Adams U.S.
Winter Lager Sam Adams U.S.
Winterhook Winter Ale Redhook U.S.
White Ale Sam Adams U.S.

*Included in this list are all unflavored Heineken, Guinness, and Corona products.