German microbrewery finds niche market in kosher beer

The first 30,000 bottles of Simcha pilsner have sold out since being put on the market at the end of April.

A microbrewery in eastern Germany has found success with a new niche product: officially certified kosher beer. The first 30,000 bottles of Simcha pilsner - a name that means "joy" in Hebrew - have sold out since being put on the market at the end of April, said Wilfried Gotter, a spokesman for the new product. Brewed under the strict Bavarian purity laws with only water, hops, grain, and yeast, almost all German beer is technically kosher - fit for consumption according to Jewish law. But Simcha goes one step further, having Berlin Orthodox Rabbi Yitshak Ehrenberg oversee the brewing and bottling process and give it official kosher certification. "For very religious Jews the availability of kosher beer is tremendously important," Gotter said. "The certification takes it to the next level." The Jewish organization Saxonian Friends of Israel and SCHALOM, a Jewish restaurant in Chemnitz, came up with the idea of producing a certified kosher beer and approached the brewer at the Brauerei Hartmannsdorf in Saxony for help. With samples of popular kosher beer from elsewhere to work from, the brewmaster there came up with about a dozen brews before the group finally decided on what became Simcha, Gotter said. According to the Web site Tuesday, "Simcha pils is a light pilsner with 4.9 percent alcohol, which has a flavor between a classic pilsner and those from the USA and Israel, a rather neutral tasting sweet beer." The first batch sold out mainly to German Jewish organizations, restaurants, stores and private buyers but Gotter said the beer was also sold to buyers in Israel, the US, Belgium, and other European countries. The second batch should be ready by the end of August, he said. Berlin kosher grocery store owner Ore Plaezl said that, with the advent of Simcha, he has stopped stocking imported Israeli beers Maccabee and Goldstar because they are too expensive. His customers liked the Saxony brew so much that they bought out his first delivery. "It was well received," Plaezl said. ___ On the Net: (in German)