Czechs brew a kosher beer tradition

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When the famous Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal wrote about the Nymburk brewery in his novel "Cutting It Short", he probably didn't expect that one day its beer would make it as far as the Caribbean. Now, beer from the Czech town is also heading for another market. One of its products, which recently received a kosher certificate, will now be sold in Israel.

The new Nitro beer is a rather strong lager with 5.5% alcohol. This year, the Nymburk brewery produced three hundred hectolitres of the foamy kosher beverage. If consumers take to it, the company plans to increase its production. I asked Olga Znaminkova of the Nymburk brewery, who came up with the idea of producing the kosher brand:

“The idea came from our partner in Israel. They wanted to make their own beer according to their own recipe, because they want to increase the market in Israel and the U.S.A. and around the world. That’s why we now make the kosher beer. We had to call the rabbi from the Jewish community in the Czech Republic. He came to our brewery and made an audit in the production. After the audit he issued a certification for us so that we can now produce kosher beer.”

Menachem Kalchaim is a representative of the chief rabinate of Israel issuing kosher certificates. He is also the man who gave his blessing and certification to the latest speciality from Nymburk. I spoke to him on a line from Israel and asked him about the criteria for making ordinary beer “kosher”:

“Basically the criteria are very simple because most of the beers, Czech beers, are kosher, because they are made from four kosher ingredients: barley, yeast, hop and water. Most of the beers that are made of these four ingredients are kosher. Beers that use additives and other things, some other raw materials, have to be checked that they are properly kosher and that they are made in kosher environment. It means not connected totally to all things made of wine and for sure not connected to animals and anything made of animals and any kind of meat and other things made of animals.”

The production of kosher beer is also limited by the time of year. The brewery cannot use barley that was planted before the 31st of March:

“On one of our holidays, Pesach holiday, it is not kosher. If it was planted before the holiday, at least two weeks before the holiday, it’s no problem to use it. If it was planted after the holiday, we should wait for a whole year to use it.”

So far, the Nymburk brewery is not planning to distribute their kosher beer anywhere in the Czech Republic. Beer lovers can either visit the brewery where the beer is available for tasting or travel to Israel.