Whilst writing my post last month about our wonderful trip to Munich, I learnt a little about the Reinheitsgebot and was intrigued. I wanted to research the German Beer Purity Law in a little more depth and share some of that new knowledge with you.
What is the Reinheitsgebot?
The current Reinheitsgebot states that beer in Germany can only be brewed using 4 ingredients:
– Malted Grains
It also allows for some fining agents and hop extracts or ground hops. If other ingredients are used in the brewing process, the beverage cannot be called beer.
History of the Bavarian Beer Purity Law
The Bavarian Purity Law, or Reinheitsgebot in German, is the world’s oldest food law that is still in place today. The first predecessor of the current law was introduced into Munich in 1487. The law was adopted across the whole of Bavaria in April 1516 following the wishes of Bavaria’s ruler, Duke Wilhelm IV. This was the Bavarian Purity Law. During this era, it was often safer to drink a fermented beverage than water. The purity law was seen as a way to protect the people by providing them with a pure drink.
Interestingly, wheat was not allowed in the production of beer in the original Bavarian Purity Law. Wheat was reserved for baking of bread and it was feared that using wheat in brewing would impact the supply of the grain for baking! We all know wheat is a staple ingredient in the famous Bavarian weissbier. Wheat is no longer reserved solely for bread and has been included in the German Purity Law with the amendment to “malted grains” instead of the original requirement of Barley.
Also, the original law did not include yeast. It was not until later that the importance of yeast in the fermentation process was fully understood. It has been added to the modern version of the law as we know, you cannot brew beer without yeast.
To read the wording of the Reinheitsgebot in both English and German, take a look at this great website – The German Way and More.
Modern Amendments to the German Beer Purity Law
Germany was unified in 1871 and Bavaria pushed for the law to be instated throughout the newly unified country. This was met with resistance from German brewers but was eventually adopted by the whole country in 1906. The German Beer Purity Law has remained in place across the whole country since then.
There was a further amendment in 1993 to the Vorläufiges Biergesetz (Provisional Beer Law). This change allows for use of powdered or ground hops and hop extracts, as well as stabilisation and fining agents such as PVPP. Malted barleys are allowed for bottom fermented beers. A wider variety of malted grains are able to be used in top fermented beers.
Day of Beer
Many people agree that this law ensures the great taste of German beer and sets it apart from beverages around the world. Germans are generally very proud of their brewing history and even celebrate the Day of Beer on April 23rd every year! I am certainly someone who has come to enjoy the pure taste of German beer. Prost!