Well we’ve reached Pesach and, of course, the dilemma that creates for all Jewish brewers. I could go the route of destroying all my chametz as we are instructed.

The problem with that is that beer really doesn’t burn so i would have to have one hell of a party…

I had eighteen bottles of whiskey in my cellar and was told by my wife to empty the contents of each and every bottle down the sink, or else… I said I would and proceeded with the unpleasant task.
I withdrew the cork from the first bottle and poured the contents down the sink with the exception of one glass, which I drank.
I then withdrew the cork from the second bottle and did likewise with it, with the exception of one glass, which I drank.
I then withdrew the cork from the third bottle and poured the whiskey down the sink which I drank.
I pulled the cork from the fourth bottle down the sink and poured the bottle down the glass, which I drank.
I pulled the bottle from the cork of the next and drank one sink out of it, and threw the rest down the glass.
I pulled the sink out of the next glass and poured the cork down the bottle. Then I corked the sink with the glass, bottled the drink and drank the pour.
When I had everything emptied, I steadied the house with one hand, counted the glasses, corks, bottles, and sinks with the other, which were twenty-nine, and as the houses came by I counted them again, and finally I had all the houses in one bottle, which I drank.
I’m not under that affluence of incohol as some tinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

From Uncle Elie’s Haggadah

As you may know, on Passover Jewish law prohibits a Jewish person from owning or deriving any benefit from anything made out of five major grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye) (Exodus 12:19, 13:7). Collectively, these grains are known as hametz. So, in the days before Pesach, all Jews remove these items from their possession.  Most goes into the trash (of the fire) but sometimes, like with a brewery, disposing of all your raw materials and finished product is financially devastating (remember to make good beer takes 3-6 weeks); therefore, the rabbis have developed a mechanism – selling chametz to a gentile – to enable Jews to abide by these Torah laws without suffering a monetary loss.

Originally, Jews destroyed all their chametz before Pesach. But the Middle Ages we see the rise of Jewish-owned bakeries and breweries. As Pesach approached, these businesses were often left with large inventories of chametz so they avoided a financial loss by selling their chametz stock to a gentile and repossessing their chametz after Pesach.

The Mishna rules that chametz owned by a non-Jews during Pesach is permitted to a Jew after Pesach. However, chametz owned by a Jew on Pesach is prohibited to a Jew after Pesach. This includes not only a prohibition on eating, but also to derive any benefit from (including to sell) that chametz.  Since beer is clearly leavened grain, the Regimental Brewmeister must sell all his beer.  Fortunately, Fort Mifflin is administered by a non-Jew.

The logic behind selling chametz is that when one sells his chametz to a gentile, he transfers ownership of the chametz and thereby avoids the Torah’s prohibition of owning the chametz, because the Jew no longer owns the chametz. (Of course, the other prohibitions of eating or otherwise deriving benefit from chametz still apply.)

In Poland in the late 16th century, many Jews worked in the liquor industry, and used fermented grain to make their product. At Passover, they didn’t want to sell their grain permanently to a non-Jew, because it was the source of their livelihood. So Rabbi Joel Sirkes, a halakhic authority of the time, known as the Bach, began allowing people to sell their hametz to non-Jews without removing the hametz from their own homes, and without selling the hametz permanently. However, Rabbi Sirkes made sure to stipulate that the sale of the hametz must be a real sale, and not a legal fiction: During Passover, you must really think that the hametz isn’t yours, and the non-Jew who buys it must really think that he can use it however he wishes.

Selling your chametz is complicated.  For the sale to be proper the gentile legally is entitled to access and use the chametz during the term of the sale.  This means the buyer can come to my house, drink all my beer, and leave the bottles which I cannot touch until after the holiday.  Furthermore, the gentile who buys your chametz is not required to sell the chametz back when Pesach ends. Since the gentile owns the chametz, they are allowed to do with it as they please. It’s important that you trust the person to whom you sell your chametz fully.

What does such a contract look like, well here is my 2023 agreement with Fort Mifflin.

Of course all the remaining chametz in my home is destined for the fire.

איר זאלט האבן א זיסער פסח — Ir zalt ​​habn a ziser fskh (May you have a sweet Pesach). And for all my goyish friends out there, Happy Easter.

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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