What to drink this Passover may take a backseat to matzah balls and brisket, but for Jeremy Sulzbacher, the brewer of gluten-free kosher for Passover Tipple Hop, beer is always a necessary part of the menu.
“It’s the fifth cup of the Seder,” said the English-born, Antwerp-dwelling former accountant.
This year is the first time — despite the coronavirus — that the Belgian Ginger IPA is available in Israel, kosher certified by the Beit Shemesh rabbinate, although in a limited number of stores.
His Ginger Tipple isn’t the only kosher for Passover ale on the market.
In 2016, Bryan Meadan, a celiac who loved beer, began making kosher for Passover date ale, and he has continued to make small batches of it.
When Meadan sold much of his brewing equipment a few years ago to the HaGibor Brewery in Carmiel, brewmaker Eran Grunwald took the kosher for Passover beer and rejiggered it with silan — date syrup — and honey.
He calls it Palma, a reference to the Italian word for the date palm tree.
“It’s really for Passover, but it has a long sell by date,” said Grunwald, who thinks of it as one of his seasonal beers. “People love it.”
He brewed some 3,000 liters of Palma for this Passover and is completely sold out, although most of the stores that sell HaGibor beers still have some Palma available on their shelves, said Grunwald.
“It was like a sci-fi movie, flowing everywhere,” said Sulzbacher.
Three weeks later, though, he was achieving better flavor and made a batch of 100 bottles, selling 70 of them for Passover. Only one of those bottles exploded, spraying ginger beer all over a customer’s ceiling.
When he decided to make the venture more commercial, Sulzbacher added special sugar hops and honey for color, flavor and preservatives.
In the strict beer world of Belgium, he rented a kitchen in order to obtain a proper alcohol license.
The product is still not legally considered to be a beer, which must have 60% of its carbohydrates from yeast, malt, barley and hops. Instead it’s classified with the wines and ciders, which means he doesn’t have to add a sell-by date.
“It’s a good drink,” he said. “I have customers who have celiac disease [a disorder including gluten sensitivities] or don’t like regular beer, and really enjoy it. It doesn’t have heavy maltiness of beer — more women like it than men.”
It’s also great for cooking and mixing in cocktails, said Sulzbacher.
Now he makes a range of six beers and brews some 25,000 bottles a year, most of it by hand. It has been a long, slow journey to gain new markets, but it is sold in one high-end Belgian supermarket chain, and top bars in Antwerp include Tipple Hop as their sole gluten-free beer, he said.
“It’s not haroset,” said Sulzbacher, referring to the traditional sweet mortar-like spread eaten on matzah during the Passover seder. “It’s a product that we sell all year long.”
The ginger beer is distributed in Israel through Oak and Ash, which also sells Buster’s hard ale and cider products. It’s available at Biratenu in Jerusale, and Beer and Beyond in Tel Aviv, or can be ordered online in boxes of 24.
HaGibor’s Palma beer is available in most liquor stores in Israel and can be ordered online as well. The brewery has waived delivery fees on all of its beer deliveries during the current crisis, said Grunwald, who brews five other beers from the HaGibor brewery and beer garden.