Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Night Suds - Appleation Hard Ciders and Bonus Nine Days Havdalah Guide

This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at some new kosher hard ciders produced by the Appelation company and also includes the updated Nine Days Havdalah guide.

Prior to Pesach the beer and (separately) wine stores began carrying Appleation hard ciders which were certified kosher for Pesach by the OU. The concept of a hard cider being kosher for Pesach was not novel as there really is nothing about the process of making cider which involves chametz. Still, it was the first time in my memory that anything lighter than Slivovitz/Vodka was available to drink as a wine alternative on Pesach.

The Appelation company came out with three versions of their hard cider - a Dry Apple Cider, Cinnamon Apple Cider and a Sweet Apple Cider. Mrs KB and I sampled these over the last two weeks to prepare for this blog post and here are our brief tasting notes.

The Dry Cider was quite tasty with a strong apple bite. There was an obvious apple flavor but it was not cloyingly sweet. In contrast, the Cinnamon Apple Cider had a strong spice to it (although not as strong as the Henry Hotspur's Spiced Apple Cider which is swimming is nutmeg and cinnamon). Lastly the Sweet Apple Cider was in fact sweet (shock!) and certainly sweeter than the dry version, but it was not overwhelming or even as sweet as sugared soda.

The Dry Cider is the most potent of the bunch coming in at 6.55 abv. The other two are both 4.9% abv.

Important Disclaimer - If you are reading this post more than six months after it was written, please note that it is possible that the product is no longer still certified kosher. To verify that the product is still certified kosher, please click on the kosher beers list link on the top left corner of the blog.

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. There are also a limited number of kosher "hard sodas" such as Henry Hard Soda (a MillerCoors brand under the OU) and Coney Island (a Samuel Adams brand under the Star-K)..

Another alternative is hard apple cider. Frequent readers of this blog may recall that for a time the Angry Orchard Hard Apple Cider was not certified kosher by the Star-K, but they have again been certified kosher. For a current list of Angry Orchard ciders under hashgacha, please click here (this will open a link which allows for a download of the LOC). Additionally, there has been an explosion of other kosher hard apple ciders, including Strongbow out of the UK, JK Scrumpy, Smith & Forge, Henry Hotspurs Hard Cider (a Trader Joe's brand) and the Appleation reviewed above.

There are also 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, Strawberry Ale, Cranberry Ale, Mango Ale and perhaps other (just look for the OU on the label).

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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