The Reinheitsgebot (i.e., German Beer Purity Law)
This past weekend marked the 500 year anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot (i.e., the German Beer Purity Law) and multiple articles and opinions on it have been circulating throughout the beer community as a result. This brings us to our…
Ask the Brewer
…where we ask “What the heck is the Reinheitsgebot, anyways?”
The Reinheitsgebot dictates that only 4 ingredients are allowed to be used in making beer. Those ingredients are water, barley, hops, and yeast.
Preliminary versions of beer laws were passed in Augsburg in 1156, Nuremberg in 1293, Munich in 1363 and Regensburg in 1447. Most of the laws focused on either preventing the addition of harmful ingredients to beer as either flavorings or preservatives (such as pitch, soot or henbane) or limiting brewing to using barley so that wheat and rye were reserved for bread. In 1487 the direct predecessor to the Reinheitsgebot was passed in Munich by Duke Albrecht IV. This law stated that only barley, water and hops could be used to make beer. In 1516 this law was expanded by Bavaria’s Wittelsbach Duke, Wilhelm IV, to cover all of Bavaria. Yeast was not added to the list until centuries later, when it’s role in brewing was discovered and understood.
The Reinheitsgebot matters because it is still in active use. There are over 5,000 different beers (primarily produced in Germany) that still adhere to this law and carry it’s seal. Many brewers in Germany feel that this law represents the purity and high quality of German beers, and is enough a part of their cultural heritage that it should be part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, as are the Argentinian tango, Iranian carpet weaving and French gastronomy (all considered unique and worth protecting). While many German Brewers are being more creative with their beers by using more aromatic varieties of hops while still holding true to the Reinheitsgebot, other German Brewers feel that it is outdated and restrictive.
Under the Beer Purity Law, beer made in Germany with anything other than the approved ingredients cannot be labelled “bier”. This stance is being challenged by German breweries, such as Klosterbrauerei-neuzelle, which has been brewing the same beer recipe since 1410, but falls afoul of the Reinheitsgebot because they add sugar to their brew. Small brewers like Neuzelle, who produces 6 million pints a year, and a growing number of craft beer producers who are keen to experiment with different ingredients such as fruits and spices, say the purity law stifles creativity and innovation.
As gluten-free brewers who can’t use traditional ingredients, but who also re-create traditional beer profiles, we can see the value of both points of view.
We still have a partial keg of Raspberry Pyro on tap for Thursday, but will be switching that out for the Belgian Dubbel on Friday, April 29th. For those who don’t know, a Belgian Dubbel is a mid-strength Belgian style beer with slight spicy notes. The style was originally brewed in the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle in 1856. (updated 4/30/16)
- Tap selection includes Pyro APA, Roasted Coffee Ale, Fused Orange Blossom Honey Ale, Raj-Agni IPA, Parched Lime Shandy,
Raspberry Pyro on Thursday and Belgian Dubbel on Friday
- Thirsty Thursdays $1 off pints and $2 off growler fills (no growler or grumbler fills after 8pm on Thursdays)
- Coconut Turtle Cupcake from Groundswell includes a coconut chocolate fudge cake with pecans, whipped cream, honey caramel sauce, and chocolate ganache
There are two events going this weekend, join us at either.
For those who like to keep it local (as in, your neighborhood local), we will be at Yarmo Liquor in Highland Park doing a tasting on Thursday, April 28th. They specialize in local and unique craft beers, and their Thursday tastings (from 4 to 6pm) are a chance to try something new.
On Saturday, April 29th we will be at the SNIT of MN. This event hosted by the St. Michael’s Lions Club at the Fox Hollow golf course runs from 7 to 9:30PM, and features only Minnesota breweries, distilleries and wineries. Why SNIT, well our understanding is that a Snit is the little glass of beer, served next to your Bloody Mary – who knew!