Reinheitsgebot : The German Beer Purity Law.

A brief explanation and history of the The German Beer Purity Law.

On November 30th 1487 a man by the name of Alber IV Duke of Bavaria put in to law that beer could only be made from three ingredients, Water, Malt and Hops.

Just like the Germans to be Nazi about what you can put in beer. Joking set aside, the law also set the price of beer and was in effect till 1993 when it was replaced by the Provisional German Beer Law. Up until 1993 German beer could only contain those three ingredients. No wheat, rye and or can sugar. The earliest documented mention of beer in Germany was in 974. Emperor Otto II was granting a brewing license to the church at liege known now as Belgium.

Yeast was not mentioned in the the original law. Yeast had not as of yet been discovered. It wasn’t till the 19th century that they new yeast existed and what role it played in creating beer. Brewers would have used sediment from previous batches to start the fermentation process. If they didn’t have any they would set up several vats and rely on natural airborne yeast. I sometimes wonder what they must have thought was happening.

Hops were added to the law to prevent the use some medieval ingredients used to preserve beer. Many of the old ingredients were proven to be problematic. Some of these include soot, fly agaric mushrooms, and “gruit” herbs. Hops add flavor and bitterness but they also act as a natural preservative.

The true reason behind the law was to prevent price competitions with bakers for wheat and rye. By limiting the grains to just barley they ensured the price of bread would not rise.  Today beers are once again being brewed with wheat and rye.

Violators of the law would have questionable barrels confiscated and could risk having there brewing license provoked. Many breweries in Germany still abide by this law and are very proud of it.





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