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Suppose a gentile is a homebrewer who later converts to Judaism. Fermentation and aging can be long-running processes, so even if he knew to anticipate the problem and ceased homebrewing activities when he began the conversion process, he might have product remaining when he becomes a Jew. Per halacha, is he allowed to drink what he made? Sources please.

Assumptions:

  • The equipment used for brewing is not used for anything else. Typically such equipment includes a plain metal pot (for boiling water and grain), a wort chiller (copper tubing placed in the pot through which cold water is run), glass carboys (for fermenting), glass bottles (eventually, for bottling the finished product), and various dedicated plastic or rubber items like siphon hoses and fermentation locks. Only the pot and the wort-chiller are in contact with hot liquid. The equipment, naturally, hadn't been toiveled.

  • Assume the homebrewer, like many, is fastidious about cleanliness, boiling and sterilizing everything that can be before each use.

  • The ingredients for beer are all pareve and (AFAIK -- correct me if I'm wrong) do not require a hechsher: malted barley, hops, yeast. Ingredients in mead are honey, yeast, and possibly spices or fruit (assume not grapes).

  • If it makes a difference because of terumah, ma'aser, shmita, etc., assume this person does not live in Eretz Yisrael.

  • The then-gentile was present for all stages of production.

I've limited this question to beer and mead because I know wine has special considerations.

On the one hand it seems like he can't drink it because he wasn't mindful of kashrut considerations at the time -- by happy coincidence he might not have done anything problematic, but he wasn't paying attention to that at the time. On the other hand, there might be leniencies bedieved, just as the rabbis instituted the sale of chametz rather than destroying it, for reasons of economics or waste.

I know a convert who was in this situation and was told no, but no reasoning was given and I think the equipment had been used for wine too, not just beer and mead. So I'm curious about what the answer, with reasoning, would be in the case that doesn't involve wine.

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    We generally don't require kosher certification for (commercially-produced) plain beer without non-traditional additives. I'm not sure how this applies to homebrew or to the special case thereof in this question, since not all of the assumptions that we make in commercial environments necessarily apply in home environments. This CRC article may provide some good pointers to possible issues. – Isaac Moses Dec 19 '14 at 17:15
  • @IsaacMoses At least the CRC and probably others require a hechsher even for plain unflavored beer produced by microbreweries rather than large beer manufacturers. All the more so for a home-brew. – Daniel Dec 19 '14 at 17:38
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    @CharlesKoppelman I don't think so. I could certainly see reason to differentiate between beer and wine. – MTL Dec 19 '14 at 18:48
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    I think wine is different, which is why I specifically excluded it in this question. Duplicates should be evaluated at the question; if it turns out that the same answer answers two different questions, that should be brought out in an answer IMO. – Monica Cellio Dec 19 '14 at 19:02
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This question was tweeted by @StackJudaism. I thought it was an interesting question, so I showed it to a friend of mine, as I'll often do with interesting tweets from both that account, as well as @mi_yodeya (which is run by people.)

He answered, on the spot, that it wouldn't be a problem.

He referred me to Ram"a to Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 114, who says that the prohibition against beer of gentiles only applies to beer made from dates or figs, but beer made from honey (?) or grain is fine.

Additionally, he told me that (per Avoda Zarah 31b), once beer has been brought to the home of a Jew, there is no longer any prohibition against drinking it.

  • Manufacturing processes have changed since the Ram"a. Since microbreweries are a problem, the real question here is can a convert trust himself about past facts. – Yishai Dec 19 '14 at 19:15
  • @Yishai Honestly, I don't know the first thing about homebrewing. This is just what I heard from a friend. – MTL Dec 19 '14 at 19:17
  • Actually, the Rama only permits from wheat and honey. He doesn't list dates, figs or barley (all of which were listed above as prohibited). – Double AA Apr 13 '16 at 18:24
  • @DoubleAA But the Mechaber listed them, and the Rama only mentioned a different opinion about wheat and honey. – MTL Apr 14 '16 at 15:22
  • @Shokhet Right, so it sounds like he only differs on those two items. Dates figs and barley he agrees are forbidden. (I'm nitpicking because barley is a big Nafka Mina.) – Double AA Apr 14 '16 at 16:00

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