Rabbi Akiva Niehaus, the Chicago Rabbinical Council’s expert on the kashrus of alcoholic beverages, led a unique tour of Chicago’s only kosher brewery, Baderbrau, on Sunday evening, May 27. The tour was part of the Contemporary Issues in Kashrut Mini-Series sponsored by Kehilat Chovevei Tzion and Illinois Center for Jewish Studies.
“This series addresses the unique kashruth problems in recent times that have developed with new innovations in products and ingredients,” explained Rabbi Gelman, Rabbi of Kehilat Chovevei Tzion and cRc Vice President.
Having consulted with Rabbi Niehaus, who is the Rabbinical Coordinator for Liquor and Transportation, on numerous occasions concerning halachic questions about alcoholic drinks, Rabbi Gelman knew he would be the right person to present the kosher tour.
Rabbi Niehaus oversees the alcoholic-beverage accounts of the cRc, and also maintains the cRc-Liquor List. This requires diligent research, which has brought him to other states, like Kentucky, and to other countries, such as Scotland and Japan. This list is recognized and utilized around the world, a service that the cRc provides to the community of kosher agencies and consumers.
Although Rabbi Niehaus has spoken about kosher beer many times, and has certainly been through breweries countless of times, this was the first time he gave a presentation to the public in a kosher-certified brewery.
“Being in the brewery, seeing the equipment first-hand, hearing about the process directly from professional brewers, really brought the concepts to life for the participants,” said Rabbi Niehaus. “It made learning and understanding the kashrus concerns very real.”
The tour began with a sampling of different beers and a lesson given by a brewery employee about the history of beer, different types of beer, and how beer is made in Baderbrau.
Rabbi Niehaus then gave a presentation that covered how beer is produced and the kashrus concerns dealing with ingredients and equipment. He clarified the halachic difference between craft and large breweries, and explained the cRc beer policy, recommending using the cRc – Liquor List and www.askcRc.org .
The presentation was followed by a tour of the brewery. The attendees learned how Baderbrau products are unique in their production. They saw first-hand what was described to them earlier in the evening.
“Rabbi Niehaus provided a very informative presentation. From attending, I gained appreciation of the actions of the cRc to certify beer and the issues that need to be addressed to provide their Kashrut supervision,” said Mr. Brian Roffe.
“The tour was a fun way to engage people in Torah learning in an out-of-the-box method,” said Rabbi Gelman. “We plan to have more hands-on programs because they add depth and power to the learning experience.
“Chicago is fortunate to have experts right in our community, like Rabbi Niehaus, who while working hard to maintain the highest kashruth standards at their facilities, are willing to give of their time to share their knowledge and educate the public.”