[Avodah] Why do beer and whiskey not require bishul Yisroel (Jewish involvement in the cooking)?

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Tue Nov 26 06:35:00 PST 2019

>From today's OU Kosher Halacha

A. Bishul akum is prohibited when two conditions are met: a) the food cannot be eaten raw and b) the food is worthy of being “oleh al shulchan melachim” (served at fancy dinners).

Beer and whiskey are made from cooked grains, which are not edible in a raw state. Thus, beer and whiskey satisfy the first condition for bishul akum. Nonetheless, Tosfos (AZ 31b: s.v. V’traveihu) writes that beer is not served at fancy dinners and therefore the second requirement for bishul akum is not present. This explanation suffices for beer, but not for whisky, which is served at fancy dinners. However, Tosfos offers a second explanation why beer is exempt from bishul akum. Although beer is made from the five grains, the bracha is Shehakol and not Mezonos because beer is primarily a water-based drink. By the same token, beer does not acquire a status of bishul akum because it is primarily water. Since water is edible in a raw state, it does not require bishul Yisroel. The same rationale applies to whiskey which is a water-based drink, and as such, does not require bishul Yisroel.

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