We’ve all stared down those remaining boxes of matzoh at the end of Passover, wondering how not to waste them without eating another bite. Tom Kramer and Brandy Grobart came up with an innovative solution: turn the leftover matzoh into beer. The partners in Ambacht Brewing, a small brewery in Hillsboro, Oregon, make their Matzobraü once a year, using up all their — and much of Portland’s — extra matzoh in the process.
Kramer and Grobart, who are both Jewish, started as homebrewers, which was when they first had the idea of using matzoh in the brewing. “You buy the five pack of matzoh, but you only eat two,” Kramer says. So he added some to one of his beers. In 2007, the pair bought a bunch of equipment from a brewery going out of business — and whose building, coincidentally, became a synagogue — and eventually used it to start their own Belgian-inspired brewery (with the tongue-in-cheek slogan, “The only brewery in Oregon without an IPA”).
They started making dark wheat beer on a much larger scale in 2009. “When you’re making beer,” Kramer says, “you’ll often add an adjunct grain to give it a different flavor.” While barley forms the base in most beers, additional grain gives it an assist. Like rye in rye beers, or wheat in wheat beers, the matzoh gives the beer a matzoh-y flavor.
Each year the brewery collects well over 100 pounds of matzoh from community members, donation bins at local synagogues, and its annual Post-Passover Pizza Party and Matzoh Round-Up event. Food pantries in Portland won’t accept matzoh as donations, so nobody has anywhere else to send it. Kramer says they even get calls to pick remaining boxes up from local grocery stores.
Today, Ambacht distributes to a few grocery stores in the area, but mostly the beer is available at the taproom. There, drinkers just think it’s an interesting name, and they enjoy the beer, “a biscuit-y dark beer with a lot of flavor, but not too heavy,” Kramer says. Jews are apprehensive about tasting it, Kramer says, but that apprehension turns to pleasant surprise. As one old man who called them from Florida said, when he heard what they were up to, “You finally found a good use for matzoh!”
1060 NE 25th Ave., Ste. B, Hillsboro, Oregon
The Hillsboro taproom is open 4–9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. They’re currently serving last year’s Matzobraü. At the Post-Passover Pizza Party and Matzoh Round-Up on April 18th, you get a slice of pizza in exchange for your matzoh. You can also drop off leftover matzoh at the taproom or at Neveh Shalom or Shaarie Torah synagogues in Portland. They collect for several weeks after Passover.