Reinheitsgebot – German Beer Purity Law

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German Beer Purity Law

529 years ago, on 30.11.1487, the German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot), is promulgated by Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria, it stating that beer should be brewed from only three ingredients – water, malt and hops. The yeast was not mentioned in the decree, it was unknown at that time (was discovered in 1880 by Louis Pasteur). It is more likely than previous similar acts, such as those enacted in Regensburg in 1453 or Landshut in 1493, the aim was to impose the hop as a spice beer at the expense of gruit (an ancient herbal blend that was used to flavor beer before the widespread use of hops). In April 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria endorses “The German Beer Purity Law” (Reinheitsgebot) and adds to it standards for the sale of beer.

 Bavaria was the main applicant of the law and made a prerequisite for the German club in 1871 to avoid having beers brewed elsewhere and who had in composition a wide range of ingredients. This limitation led to the extinction of many brewers in the North of Germany, also spiced beers gave rise to the pilsner beer style dominated the German market. Only a few regional beers survived the implementation of the legislation.

In 1906 the Reinheitsgebot extends to the whole of Germany, despite the criticism of the beer industry. Regulations similar to the Reinheitsgebot was everywhere in local legislation  and in 1952 they were included in the German Beer Tax Act and in the Provisional Beer Law. Many brewers have lodged an objection at that time against the law, but the objections were aimed primarily at the amount of tax rather than the required ingredients. Today many Bavarian beers, once brewed with wheat, no longer meet the Reinheitsgebot law.

We hereby proclaim and decree, by Authority of our Province, that henceforth in the Duchy of Bavaria, in the country as well as in the cities and marketplaces, the following rules apply to the sale of beer:
From Michaelmas to Georgi, the price for one Mass [Bavarian Liter 1,069] or one Kopf [bowl-shaped container for fluids, not quite one Mass], is not to exceed one Pfennig Munich value, and From Georgi to Michaelmas, the Mass shall not be sold for more than two Pfennig of the same value, the Kopf not more than three Heller [Heller usually one-half Pfennig].
If this not be adhered to, the punishment stated below shall be administered. Should any person brew, or otherwise have, other beer than March beer, it is not to be sold any higher than one Pfennig per Mass. Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities’ confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail. Should, however, an innkeeper in the country, city or markets buy two or three pails of beer (containing 60 Mass) and sell it again to the common peasantry, he alone shall be permitted to charge one Heller more for the Mass of the Kopf, than mentioned above. Furthermore, should there arise a scarcity and subsequent price increase of the barley (also considering that the times of harvest differ, due to location), WE, the Bavarian Duchy, shall have the right to order curtailments for the good of all concerned.

After World War II , the decree was brought up to date and incorporated into Federal Law of Taxing Beer ( Biersteuergesetz ).

  • in beer fermentation  were allowed the malt barley, hops and water,
  • in high fermentation beers were allowed, in addition, malts and other cereals, as well  a limited number of sugars and dyes.

Due to EU regulations, other ingredients are permitted in German beer, but most German brewers continue to follow the requirements of the Reinheitsgebot.

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