Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Amber Wheat Ale + BONUS Nine Days Havdalah Guide

This week's (belated) Sunday Night Suds column looks at Saranac Amber Wheat Ale and also gives some suggestions for the vexing problem of havdalah during the Nine Days.

[I would like to apologize to the loyal kosher beers fanatics for my inability to post the Sunday Night Suds column in its regular slot. Although there are weeks where I will miss a post or two, I have been endeavoring to always post a weekly Sunday Night Suds column so as to broaden the kosher market's understanding and appreciation of good beer. Unfortunately, due to some travel and technology restrictions, I am unable to post the SNS column on Sunday. Rather than skipping the post for the duration of the summer, I will be posting it on Mondays instead.]

The Saranac Amber Wheat Ale is another example of an excellent beer which can only be found in mix packs. The Amber Wheat Ale is classified by Beer Advocate as an American Dark Wheat Ale (as opposed to the more traditional American (Pale) Wheat beers such as Blue Moon, Samuel Adams Summer Ale or most American Hefeweizens). In creating the subcategory of American Dark Wheat Ale, the experts at Beer Advocate explain:
An Americanized version of a Dunkel Weizen, these beers can range within the brown to garnet range. Often cloudy with long-lasting heads. Light to medium body with high level of carbonation. Hop characters will be low to high with some fruitiness from ale fermentation, though most examples use of a fairly neutral ale yeast, resulting in a clean fermentation with little to no diacetyl. Flavors of caramel and toasted malts might be present.
The Saranac Amber Wheat Ale certain tends towards the deeper color as it is a molasses brown in color. The head on the beer also lasts significantly longer than any other Saranac I have experienced, although like most Saranac brews it has an excellent level of carbonation.

I would recommend the Amber Wheat Ale to anyone looking to move beyond the macro brews as the beer has a little more character, but without an overwhelming hoppy bite. Actually, if this was more readily available I would recommend it as a Nine Day havdalah beer (see bonus section below) as it is easy enough to drink on its own after a long shabbos. However, since you need to buy a 12 pack of Saranac Summer Brews just to get two of these Amber Wheats, you might be better off picking something else up for your havdalah options.

Saranac Amber Wheat Ale is under the kashruth supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit, as are all other beer produced by Saranac. For the experts' take on Saranac Amber Wheat Ale, please click here

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).
Bonus section - 9 days Havdalah Guide

In years past, I have been approached in shul on shabbos chazon (the Saturday within the summer nine days mourning period) and asked what would be a good choice to make havdalah on. By way of introduction, on Saturday nights after the evening prayer is said, Jews have a special set of blessings that are said by which we separate between the holy shabbos and the rest of the week. There is a custom to say this prayer on a cup of wine, however this custom needs modification when the Saturday falls during the nine days of mourning.
As noted by the Orthodox Union on their website:
Meat and wine are prohibited during the Nine Days, except on Shabbat. Meat and wine are associated both with joy AND with Temple service. Both reasons combine to explain this prohibition.Even though havdala is officially after Shabbat, one is permitted to drink wine. It is preferable to give the wine to a child who is old enough to understand brachot but not yet old enough to understand the concept of "mourning for Jerusalem". Alternately, some authorities recommend the use of a substitute beverage for havdala such as fruit juice, beer, etc. Other authorities insist on wine as usual.
Should your local Rabbi direct you to utilize non-wine in your havdalah, there are multiple options to use to fulfill the havdalah requirement. Indeed, my father in law will use diet soda (or as he says "diet pop"). I recall as a child seeing my father on one occasion use hard alcohol for havdalah (and then burn the decorative plate my sibling made when he tried to put out the candle).

To me, the simplest answer to the havdalah dilemma (and one that is widely recommended by rabbinic authorities) is to use beer, which in the time of the talmud was called chamra d'medina - the wine of the masses. This brings us to the reason I get more summer phone calls and email around this time every year - which beer would I recommend?

The number one problem with the question is that most people who ask it don't generally drink beer, so they need to have something to use for havdalah that won't have them making faces in their attempt to drink the halachic minimum level for the blessing. The second problem is that since the havdalah cup is imbibed on its own (i.e. without the benefit of food) people who might be inclined to have a beer with a meal will still have problems finishing their cup when the beer is consumed on its own.

The easiest solution is not to have beer, but instead to make havdalah on what is commonly called alcopop. These are malt beverage drinks with some similarities to beer and a beer-like 5% alcohol content by volume, but do not have the beer taste. Some examples are the Boston Beer Company (aka Sam Adams) Twisted Teas and the Zima beverages produced by Coors. Another example would be the Smirnoff Twisted V/Twisted Ice line. However, caution is urged as not every flavor is certified Kosher. Indeed, the last time I looked at these in the beer store, most of the Smirnoff's were not certified kosher. For the complete list of those Smirnoff products and other alcopops approved by the CRC, please click here .

If you do like beer, or would like to drink something that is more manly than alcopop, the next step up would be an American wheat beer (such as the Blue Moon line, Saranac's Hefewiezen or Pomegranate Wheat) or some of the better Summer Ales such as Brooklyn Brewery's or Sam Adams' Summer Ale. Many of these beers have been reviewed on the pages of this blog and you can search through prior Sunday Night Suds reviews to find one that might appeal to you.

If you are a beer aficionado, you obviously won't need this post to tell you which ale or lager you should crack open for havdalah.

May the world have a tikkun from our three weeks/nine days observances and may tisha b'av soon be transformed to the holiday that the gemara tells it will be in the times of moshiach bimheira biyamenu.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!


Anonymous said...

Hi Neil,
Did you know that your grandfather (on your mom's side) used milk for havdalah? -- Mom (who else?)

Neil T said...

No, I did not know that. Thanks!