Are German beer purity laws a hindrance?

A beer mug picked up at a flea market, celebrating laws over 500 yrs old.

Time to let go!

Remove the ball and chain from your leg, brewers!

German beer purity laws date from the 16th century, and were needed to stop the worst abuses by brewers, who added everything in the garden and beyond, in order to get the drinkers happy, but it came with a price to drinkers’ health and eventually laws were passed in Bavaria, allowing only malted barley, hops, water and yeast to go into beer. The result is that only such pure beer can be marketed as Bier.

This was most laudable once upon a time, but centuries later we have pure tasting ‘Bier’, but pale Bier such as Pilsner, or Dortmunder taste pretty much the same throughout Germany and are boring compared to British, American, Belgian, French etc. beers. And German dark beers don’t excel in any department, either.

Of course, the German brewers are protective of their product and market aggressively in order to keep ‘beer,’ out and pretend the Reinheitsgebot (1516) is a good thing but they will lose the battle. English pubs usually have at least 6 beers on their bar, all splendid and all different, but that is poor compared to a Belgian pub, which is likely to have 60 distinctive samples. Drinkers have begun to cotton on and Craft Beer Pubs are now all the rage in Berlin.

Home and Craft Brewers are free to do as they wish – and they do. They can go for total purity, which I do with my 19th century pale ales, or go whacky with herbs, spices and other malted grains such as wheat and oats or use some unmalted grain.

Most of these would pass the purity laws in Germany, so it’s hard-hat time for the stick-in-the-mud Braumeister and his boring brews.

Try the Historical Companion to House-Brewing for a complete rundown of styles available, or Brewing Porter and Stout to get into brown beers. My favourite remains Pale Ales and India Pale Ales for the best beer flavour ever invented. All my books work on iPads, Android and Windows devices as well as Amazon Fire tablets.

A legend from the 90s
The book that rewrote home brew.
Brown beer revival – bitter and strong.

Published by Clive La Pensée

Clive La Pensée, ex-science teacher, recognised writer on history of beer, novelist, expressionist, dreamer, believer in never giving up, empathiser, hopeful for a future without class, gender or racial prejudice. It's tough and at the moment, one has to remember distance travelled, rather than where we are at.

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