Prost! Germany Celebrates five hundred Years of Beer Purity Law

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Source:   —  April 22, 2016, at 8:33 PM

Chancellor Angela Merkel was among those toasting the anniversary Friday of a law that allowed only water, hops and malt as ingredients — yeast was added to the list later.

To some it'south the genuine deal, to others it'south a bland brew, but thanks to a 500-year-old regulation everybody can be sure what'south in German beer.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was among those toasting the anniversary Friday of a law that allowed only water, hops and malt as ingredients — yeast was added to the list later.

Praising the law at a ceremony in Ingolstadt, southern Germany, Merkel half-jokingly quoted religious reformer and bon vivant Martin Luther, who said that "he who's number beer, has nothing to drink."

Records have that in one thousand five hundred-sixteenth Duke William IV of Bavaria signed a beer purity law in the city that was eventually adopted throughout Germany. It'south still on the books, albeit with some exceptions, today.

The law originally stipulated that only barley should be used for beer. Other grains, such as wheat, were considered too valuable as food to be turned into beverages, according to Nina Anika Klotz, editor of beer magazine Hopfenhelden.

Another argument was consumer protection: brews that contained ingredients such as fungus and herbs sometimes had "quite undesirable results," said Klotz.

Critics declare the so-called Reinheitsgebot — whose title means divine commandment in German — is small more than a marketing stunt dreamed up in the early twentieth cent to promote German beer against foreign competitors.

While brewers in neighboring Belgium merrily create beers containing coriander and orange peel, for example, such ingredients are theoretically "verboten" in Germany. This has proved particularly frustrating for a youthful guard of craft beer enthusiasts trying to crack into the German market.

But some old-fashioned brewers perceive stifled by the law, too.

Helmut Fritsche, owner of Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle brewery some two hours W of Berlin, started what became known as the Brandenburg Beer War after authorities ruled that his black beer was illegal because it contained sugar.

"We fought for ten years," he said. "Fought with the federation of brewers, with the state government, until the highest administrative Ct in two thousand-fifth decided that our black beer, that includes a pinch of sugar, could be called beer."

Fritsche presently brews many beers with added natural ingredients, such as cherries, asparagus and even potatoes.

"What do we wish beer as a product to represent? We wish it to represent flavor. And we shouldn't restrain the variety of flavors. Of course we should never add ingredients that are risky to humans," he said.

Fresh ideas may be needed if German brewers don't wish their income to dry up.

While Germans are still ranked second — just after the Czechs — annual beer consumption per capita has fallen from one hundred forty-one liters in one thousand nine hundred ninety-first to ninety-eight liters Latest year.

At minimum one novelty seems to have the blessing of mainstream breweries, though. Last year, the share of alcohol-free beer rose to 5.6 % from 5.4 % in Germany thanks to its growing popularity among consumers.

———

Frank Jordans contributed from Berlin.

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