Life In Berlin: Beer Purity Law Revisited

4 minutes ago

Hugh Eckermann: 2016 brought many changes to Berlin craft beer community.

Hana Eckermann: New craft beer bars and breweries were opening faster than ever before; craft beer events witnessed thousands of new beer lovers, and hundreds of new beers.

Hugh: We met with Rory Lawton, a trained micro-biologist, an independent beer writer and beer judge.

Weihenstephan's Kellerbier 1516 is still brewed strictly following the Reinheitsgebot.
Credit Hugh and Hana Eckermann

Rory Lawton: I have been living in Berlin for the last 5 years. I am originally from Ireland, but came here because I knew interesting things would happen with the beer scene in Germany and particularly in Berlin.

Hana: What has not changed is the 500 years old German beer regulation known as a Reinheitsgebot.

Rory: It´s one of many beer laws. It´s one of many attempts of bureaucrats to stick their nose into the brew tuns and trying to tell brewers what to brew.

Hugh: Is that right, that the term Reinheitsgebot was actually introduced first in 1918, during beer tax discussions at a Bavarian state parliament?

Rory: The term itself, Reinheitsgebot, as in the Purity Law, is a modern invention and it has only been used for the last 100 years or so. Well for me its all a myth. It’s one big, large marketing conspiracy.

Hugh: Many Germans proudly view the Reinheitsgebot as their cultural heritage. For some craft brewers from Bavaria or Franken, it stands for tradition.

Rory: The smaller breweries, so for example in Franken, they have a strong sense of tradition and those are the brewers who are making beer with heart and soul. They are the genuine craft brewers. They celebrate the 500 year anniversary, but I think they are starting to question what this really means.

Hana: Let´s check out what the American craft brewers Sam Calagione and Greg Koch think…Sam?

Sam Calagione: We hold the German brewing tradition in high regard, but also hold it holy, that consumers deserve a choice and a diversity of flavors from a diversity of companies.

Hana: And Greg...

Stone Brewing's Xocoveza is brewed with cocoa, Mostra coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk sugar, ingredients not found in the Reinheitsgebot.
Credit Hugh and Hana Eckermann

Greg Koch: I think about music - the four core ingredients in music being like four ingredients in brewing: barley, hops, water, yeast. Base, guitar, drums and vocals. Imagine a world that, when you add keyboards, somebody tells you, "That is no longer music. That is forbidden."

Hugh: Apparently the Bavarian Brewers' Association management board voted for a "restructuring of the beer law" to provide legal certainty for beers that are "made with other natural ingredients than those stipulated in the purity law." Rory, what can we expect in 2017?

Rory: At the moment the tide is definitely turning. For a long time, the majority of the brewers would be on the side of so-called Purity Law.

Hana: The Big Bang is yet to come, but these might be the first steps for the German beer regulation to embrace both the "traditionalists" and the "innovators". And we will cheer to that with two awesome beers brewed in Germany.

Hugh: Weihenstephan´s Kellerbier 1516; from the oldest existing brewery worldwide dating back to 1040, located in Bavaria. Brewed strictly according to the Purity Law, following an old recipe.

Hana: ...and Stone´s Xocoveza; by the youngest Berlin brewery dating back to September 2016. It´s a winter spiced mocha stout layered with cocoa, Mostra coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk sugar - excessively out of the scope of the Purity Law.

Hana and Hugh: Cheers and Happy New Beers in 2017!