August 8, 2011

Kashrus Policy on Wine and Spirits Begins to Take Shape

Chicago…So what is the kashrus policy on beer? Vodka? Sake? A sub-committee of the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO) met recently to discuss a common policy by the kashrus organizations. Headed by Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, AKO’s Executive Director and also the Rabbinic Administrator of the cRc (Chicago Rabbinical Council), the group included many experts as well as representatives of major kashrus organizations. The sub-committee deferred many decisions for further consultation with halachic (Jewish law) authorities, but did reach a consensus on many issues. For example, it concluded that “standard unflavored beer produced by a larger brewery does not require hashgacha (kosher supervision).” This includes beer produced in the US or elsewhere, and also includes low-calorie and dark beers. However, beer produced at microbreweries is only acceptable if they are certified kosher or are known to be produced on equipment which is not used for non-kosher items. As for vodka, the committee recommended that “all vodka and gin – domestic and foreign – should only be used if the label states that it is made from grain, potatoes, or some other innocuous source.” White/Clear rum, the sub-committee concluded, is acceptable without hashgachah. There were lengthy discussions at the July meeting on Sake, Scotch and many other spirits, some of which were referred for further review.

At about the same time that the AKO meeting took place, the cRc announced the certification of Taaka flavored vodkas, produced by the Sazerac Company of New Orleans. The certification applies to Taaka’s gin, 80 proof vodka, 90.4 proof vodka, and 100 proof vodka. Sazerac is one of New Orleans’ oldest family owned, privately held companies.