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Germany’s Beer Purity Law Over 500 Years In Action

Many countries have their own trademark drink in France it’s wine, in Japan it’s Saki, in the UK we have Tea and while there might some debate to this one I think it’s only fair that Beer goes to Germany!

From Oktoberfest to German culture in general beer is a very important aspect of Germany’s cultural identity and history. The famous beer stein mug was created in Germany after all and they are still made following traditional practices in the country.

Germany is strongly associated with beer and for good reason, Germanic tribes are in many ways responsible for beer’s spread through Europe in 300BC and today Germany ranks third in beer consumption.

One of the main reasons German beers are so well loved, by people all around the world is because they have very high standards when it comes to the creation of their beer. German beer is very pure and they have been following their Beer Purity Law since 1516!

Also known as the Reinheitsgebot (which literally translate to purity order) the German Beer Purity Law is actually a collection of regulations all concerning the formation of German beers. The history behind the creation of the Beer Purity Law is divisive but the most commonly believed theory about its creation concerns Duke Wilhelm IV.

The law is actually much simpler than you might think and its simplicity and effectiveness is likely one of the reasons it has endured for so long. Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria created the decree and it states that beer can only be created using the following ingredients.

  • Hops
  • Barley
  • Water
  • Yeast

The Purity Law also states that any beer that doesn’t use barley-malt should be top-fermented, these kinds of beers can also use sugar as well. So, the Purity Law has been altered over the years but in many ways, it is still the same.

Yeast, for example, was only introduced into the law later and while the law has been active and followed in Bavaria for over 500 years now it’s only been active in Germany for the past century or so. But I think it’s fair to say that is still a very long time.

There are around 1300 breweries in Germany and together they produce over 5000 different types of beer. Types vary but they can usually be sorted into the following categories wheat, pale, dark and unfiltered and all types of beer follow the Purity Law.

What Is The Public Opinion On The Purity Law?

Despite its age, the Purity Law is still popular in Germany and scores well in polls when it’s mentioned however there is also a growing trend of dissatisfaction with it. With some beer lovers whether they be manufacturers or patrons beginning to find the law a little outdated and inflexible.

However, it can’t be denied that the Purity Law as certainly done its job in ensuring the German beers are high-quality. German beer is well loved for many reasons but its purity is certainly one of the main advantages it as other others. And who knows a few extra-additions could be added to make it a little more modern in the future.

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