The long reign of Reinheitsgebot, German’s beer purity law.continue at Forbes
Humans have brewed beer since the birth of civilization. But one group – the Germans – managed to change the trajectory of the world’s brewing landscape forever by enacting Reinheitsgebot, a law that is celebrating its 500th anniversary this Saturday.
Why is this law so important? It set strict “purity” standards that resulted in a rigid consistency that many German brewers still follow – and also use as a marketing tool to say to the world that their beers are the best.
But American craft brewers contend the law’s legacy is to blame for why Germans have lagged behind on innovation in recent decades. And now the U.S., once the butt of some off-colored jokes in the beer world, have a beer culture that the rest of the world envies. “In one sense, it drives innovation and creativity because you must do things without the shortcuts,” says Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams maker Boston Beer. “On the other hand, if you don’t allow yourself as a brewer to color outside those lines, you are missing out on one of the unique things of the brewer’s art.”
The Reinheitsgebot, also called the “German beer purity law,” was first ratified on April 23, 1516, and it is regarded by many as the world’s first consumer protection law. Imposed by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, it required beer could only contain four ingredients: water, hops, malted barely and yeast. The original law was only 130 words long. [Shorter than a papal encyclical, who knew!?]
If only the Germans applied the same level of scrutiny to their nullity examinations.
Also: DW: A hoppy anniversary for the Reinheitsgebot