Kosher beer is a form of alcoholic beverage made using techniques and ingredients that do not break the rules and regulations regarding the types of foods that can be consumed by followers of the Jewish faith. The majority of beers produced using traditional brewing techniques and simple ingredients, such as water, barley, yeast, and hops, are automatically classed as kosher. The Hebrew word kosher means fit or proper; under Jewish law, only foods and drinks declared pure by rabbis can be consumed.
Most beers are declared kosher and do not require special certification to prove this because the beverage is made solely from grains and natural ingredients that do not break any rules laid down in the Jewish rules. Beers from manufacturers from around the world who provide detailed information about their brewing process and ingredients are usually declared kosher. Brands that do not provide information on the ingredients and brewing processes are required to provide information before a special certificate can be proved declaring the brand a kosher beer.
Beer is created using a fermentation process that turns starch from grains, such as barley, into sugars that turn into alcohol. Kosher beers usually only add hops for flavoring the alcohol; artificial flavorings and spiced or naturally flavored beers may contain ingredients that are not kosher and are therefore not given the classification. Grains added to beer and any other foods or drinks in their natural state are known as parve or neutral; all parve products, including barley, are automatically classed as kosher.
Foods that contain certain types of grains, fruits, and vegetables are known as chametz or leavened; although they may be kosher, these foods cannot be consumed during the religious festival of Passover. Therefore, any kosher beer containing large amounts of barley, which is a chametz product, cannot be owned or consumed during Passover by followers of the Jewish faith. Kosher beer declared chametz cannot be consumed after Passover if it has been owned by a Jewish person during Passover.
Beverages made with derivatives of animal products are not kosher beers; for example, gelatin is an animal product often used in European beers as a clarifier to remove particles from the liquid during the brewing process. To be declared kosher, only meats and derivatives of animals with split hooves who chew their cud can be used. Isinglass is a clarifier originating in the U.K. that is used to filter particles from beer. This product is made from the fins of tropical fish and has been declared kosher.
During the Jewish festival of Purim, kosher beer and wine is consumed in a larger quantity than normal to celebrate the deliverance of Jews from the Persian king. Followers of the Jewish faith are encouraged to drink more than normal to celebrate the escape from Persia, where drunken parties were held to keep the Jewish people in the country. Kosher beer is consumed during the festival to remind people to celebrate the holiday in good spirits and humor.