Friday, February 24, 2006

Beer Word: Reinheitsgebot

I love saying the word Reinheitsgebot (pronounced "Rhine Heights Ga-Boat"). It's a beautiful German word that conveys all that you need to know about how beer was to be originally brewed (and still, to a certain degree) in Germany and how it is differentiated from the macro muck of the largest U.S. brewers. (Credit to the Craft Beer Radio guys for 'macro muck'....another entry in beer terminology :) As with many things in life, there's a fair amount of controversy around this concept of Reinheitsgebot. So, take it for what you will. It exists and here's some material to give you background on the subject if you'd like. Following is text lifted from the BeerChurch website that gives you an idea of what Germans were thinking about 500+ years ago when it came to making beer. If anything, it helps to appreciate the German beer making history and culture, which cannot be denied. We hereby proclaim and decree, by Authority of our Province, that henceforth in the Duchy of Bavaria, in the country as well as in the cities and marketplaces, the following rules apply to the sale of beer: From Michaelmas to Georgi, the price for one Mass [Bavarian Liter 1,069] or one Kopf [bowl-shaped container for fluids, not quite one Mass], is not to exceed one Pfennig Munich value, and From Georgi to Michaelmas, the Mass shall not be sold for more than two Pfennig of the same value, the Kopf not more than three Heller [Heller usually one-half Pfennig]. If this not be adhered to, the punishment stated below shall be administered. Should any person brew, or otherwise have, other beer than March beer, it is not to be sold any higher than one Pfennig per Mass. Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities' confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail. Should, however, an innkeeper in the country, city or markets buy two or three pails of beer (containing 60 Mass) and sell it again to the common peasantry, he alone shall be permitted to charge one Heller more for the Mass of the Kopf, than mentioned above. Furthermore, should there arise a scarcity and subsequent price increase of the barley (also considering that the times of harvest differ, due to location), WE, the Bavarian Duchy, shall have the right to order curtailments for the good of all concerned. Here's a few selected sources of others' opinions on the subject of Reinheitsgebot:
  • Over at RateBeer, 'bollocks' is how one writer refers to the subject in this long, but well-articulated, argument
  • A content-heavy review, as you might expect, at Wikipedia
  • Curious material at, but you can't argue with "...Beer is such a vital part of the culture that the right to drink beer is even written into some labor contracts, and a beer with lunch in the factory cafeteria is taken for granted...."
  • A brewery in the Rocky Mountains in the State of Montana claiming to comply with the Purity Law
  • And, finally, a BBC news item describing the loosening of the law???
  • Of course, search through Beer Advocate postings and you'll find plenty of commentary on this subject

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