Modern Commentary

Torah & Spirit
Family Life







Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
--Benjamin Franklin
He was a wise man who invented beer.

The first step in making beer involves combining barley and water in a process called malting. Here is how the process of malting works: Barley is composed of germ, endosperm, and a layer of bran. The living part of the barley, the germ, lies dormant until it is planted or comes in contact with water. Once the germ comes in contact with water, it germinates and begins growing. The starch in the endosperm provides the nourishment needed for the germ; however, the germ cannot digest the starch without assistance. Therefore, it secretes an enzyme that breaks the starch into simpler sugars, which can be digested more easily. Although barley is not sweet, it has been discovered that barley which is soaked in water and allowed to sprout, produces a sweet syrup. This is a result of barley's natural germination process. It is this enzymatic conversion of barley into fermentable sugars that is known as malting. The barley malting process lasts for forty-eight hours.

After malting, the sprouted barley is then roasted. Roasting is a vital step in the creation of beer's color and flavor. Adjusting the roasting time, temperature, and amount of barley will cause variation in the beer's color and flavor. A longer, higher roast produces a darker, more flavorful barley, and a darker, more flavorful beer. A lower, shorter roast produces a less flavorful beer.

The barley kernels are then ground into a grain mixture called a grist. With blander beers, the barley is often mixed with other cereal grains, such as corn, wheat, or rice to form the grist. The grist is then mixed with hot water to form a mash. The purpose of mashing is to continue the malting process where the germinating barley left off. This process allows the enzymes contained in the grain to convert the starches of the mashed grains into sugar. The sweet liquid solution created is called a wort.

Hops, dried flowers from the spice-like hops plant, are now added to the wort to create a hopped wort. There are many varieties and forms of hops. The hopped wort is brewed in a copper or stainless steel kettle, imparting a unique aroma and cooked flavor into the wort. The liquid is now ready to be converted into beer.

In order to understand how sweetened hopped wort is converted into an alcoholic beverage, one must understand the fermentation process. Fermentation is a process by which yeast converts sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. In making beer, yeast converts the sweetened wort into beer through fermentation. There are thousands of yeasts. The two most popular fermenting yeasts are Saccharomyces cerevisiae (top fermenting), which produces ales, and Saccharomyces uvarum (bottom fermenting), which produces lager.

In major beer production the key to successful brewing is consistency and uniformity. Additives and processing aids can provide the assistance needed to deliver a consistent and uniform product, though not necessarily a beer with more character. Over fifty-nine chemicals or additives are legally permitted to be used as beer additives. Hydrogen peroxide, bromade, or other alkalis can be used to accelerate malt germination. Natural enzymes such as papain or bromelin (plant derived), or industrial enzymes such as amylo-glucosidase or aspergillus niger, can supplement an enzyme deficient mash to help break the starches into sugars. Papain or tannin can assist in the removal of unwanted protein, delivering a clearer, brighter beer. After brewing, natural clarifiers such as isinglass finings (prepared from ground tropical fish - which include sturgeon, a non-kosher fish), gelatin, silica gel, or poly-vinyl poly prolamine (PVPP) remove dark particles from the beer. Caramel color may be added to darken the beer, extra carbon dioxide for carbonation, or alginates for head retention. Gelatin and isinglass clarifiers, are not used in domestic beers. Isinglass
finings is a traditional British beer clarifier that has been used for centuries in the United Kingdom.

Traditional beers do not have added flavorings. Lemon flavored grain beverages, beers with other fruit flavorings, and spices must be termed "Flavored Beers." Such a product should be considered suspect, any beer with added sugar is non-kosher (see sugar). It is best to avoid, all together, flavored beers. Two new additions have recently emerged in contemporary brewing, non alcoholic
beer and micro-breweries. The production of non alcoholic beer is similar to regular beer with one additional step. After the wort is fermented, the alcohol is distilled off through boiling or other distilling techniques. The product that remains is non alcoholic beer.

In general, most of the raw ingredients and additives used in American, Norweigian, and German beers are kasher. However, one BIG problem with Beer is brewer's yeast. Most resources that detail the production of brewer's yeast note that brewer's yeast is grown on hops. This, however, is a little inaccurate. Hops is an herb. Yeast must grown on carbohydrates. Brewer's yeast is usually grown on either blackstrap molasses or beet sugar - a quick look at the label of a package of brewer's yeast will tell you this.

Both blackstrap molasses and beet sugar are usually non-kosher (see sugar). Therefore, most beers, unfortunately, are non-kosher. The one way to insure that you have kosher beer is to make your own. This would include culturing your own yeast. Several sites on the internet are available to obtain the supplies for making your own beer (they include yeast culture kits); and most beer making stores will have these supplies as well. One site to visit for beer making supplies is: http://www.leeners.com.