Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Night Suds - Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer plus Bonus Nine Days Havdalah Guide

This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Innis & Gunn's Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer. Additionally, because this is the last Sunday before the Nine Days, I have republished the Nine Days Havdalah Guide, updated for 2014.

Many years ago, I tried the Innis & Gunn original, a Scottish Ale which first was distributed in the NY Metro Area in 2006. I remember liking the beer, but also thinking that it had a strange aftertaste which reminded me of the docks in Freeport (LI). Although I had consumed the beer based on the chazkah, I was concerned about the nature of the beer and possible additives, so I wrote to the brewery to ask whether they used any grape extract, shellfish or animal by-products. They wrote back that no such additive were used in the beer, but I still felt uncomfortable about the aftertaste and did not purchase any additional I&G products.

Recently, the CRC expanded their kosher beers list based on a significant amount of research into various breweries which had not contracted for kosher supervision of their products. Having spoken to R' Niehaus who is quickly establishing himself as the young dean of kosher alcohol, it is my understanding that the CRC researched breweries to ascertain that the chazakah should apply to their products. The results of their labor is a twelve page list which contains three designations - beer which is certified kosher (along with the designated agency); beer which is recommended based on the CRC research and beer which is not recommended. Oh, and they also now certify a brewery - Minhas Brewery. I can't say I ever heard of Minhas and their products are not available on the East Coast, but I will try to find their products the next time that I head west.

I tried the Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer this past shabbos afternoon, following daf yomi. It was offered to me by the camp Rav, Rabbi B, and the quiet Tzaddik of Camp M and I shared the .750 liter bottle along with Rabbi B as we traded stories of emunah and bitachon (appropriate for the three weeks). The beer had a sweetness from the rum infused oak chips which almost masked the odd I&G aftertaste. The beer has a 6.8% abv, but it is actually low for the style of beer (Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy). In fact, the beer was not overly dark and was perfectly drinkable on the porch on a warm shabbos afternoon.

As mentioned above, the Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer is not certified kosher, but it has been checked out and approved by the CRC. To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about this brew, please follow this link -

Bonus section - Nine Days Havdalah Guide.

In years past, I would receive numerous email and cell phone messages prior to Shabbos Chazon (the Saturday within the summer nine days mourning period) with questions as to what would be a good choice to make havdalah on. As the Shabbos of the Nine Days actually falls towards the end of the period, I have presented the annual Nine Days Havdalah guide in this post to allow people to get an early look at alternatives to wine.

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 me about it don't generally drink beer. It then becomes difficult to make a recommendation of a beer that they can use for havdalah that won't have them making faces in their attempt to drink the halachic minimum level for the blessing. A 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 or the Smirnoff Twisted V/Twisted Ice line. Please be aware that not every flavor of Smirnoff is certified Kosher. Indeed, the last time I looked at the CRC list, only the following flavors were certified kosher: Green Apple, Mango,Raspberry Burst Pineapple and Wild Grape (I am unaware of whether there is actual grape in this beverage). For the complete list of those Smirnoff products and other alcopops approved by the CRC, please click here

Another alternative had been hard apple cider, but as of the present date there are no kosher hard apple ciders. Frequent readers of this blog may recall that for a time the Angry Orchard Hard Apple Cider was certified kosher by the Star-K, but they ceased their supervision of the product almost eighteen months ago.

However, there are a number of fruit flavored beers which bridge the gap between alcopop and true beer. These include the Miller/Coors line of Redd's products, including Apple Ale (reviewed here, Strawberry Ale (reviewed here, Blue Moon Blackberry Tart Ale (reviewed here, Samuel Adams Blueberry Hill Lager (reviewed here and Saranac Blueberry Blonde Ale (reviewed 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 or some of the better Summer Ales. 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.

Again, I would stress that you consult your halachic authority before selecting a havdalah alternative. My Rav advises me that beer would be the first choice, followed by malt beverages. I did not ask about how the non alcohol options fit into the list.

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.

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