|The German Reinheitsgebot|
|- why it's a load of old bollocks|
The Reinheitsgebot, the oldest consumer protection law and a guarantee of beer quality. An example to the world of how beer should be brewed, as the Germans have done for centuries. Well, not really. These are a few of the myths I would like to expose. Everyone thinks that they know what the Reinheitsgebot is and mostly consider that's it's pretty groovy. This is an attempt to have an objective look at what can be a very emotive subject.
Now, some people may be a little shocked and perhaps even outraged by
the title of this page so a few words of explanation first. German beer,
generally, is brewed to a very high standard, one which of the rest of
the world rightly envies. Unfortunately, many people seem to get confused
about the reasons for the high quality of German beer. As far as I can
tell, the Reinheitsgebot is totally irrelevant; German beer is good because
German brewers are highly skilled and make their beer with pride and care.
DDR - who needs a Reinheitsgebot?
I can well remember being in the DDR at the time when West German beer
first became available. What surprised me were how much worse
the imported beers were than the supposedly inferior DDR counterparts.
I couldn't understand how anyone could prefer these expensive, tasteless
beers over their own local, flavourful brews. Well, as time has shown,
they didn't. Even before the reintroduction of the Reinheitsgebot in the
East, people had gone back to their old favourites. Anyone who compared
the washing-up water blandness of Eschwege Pils with the wonderful Mühlhausener
Pilsator would know why: the DDR beer simply tasted better.
I realise that this is a controversial view because many, including some who really should know better are hypnotised by the 'pure' beer argument and find it hard to believe that beer with other ingredients can not only be just as pure, but also taste just as good. A crap, money-grubbing commercial brewery will manage to brew bland rubbish either within or without the constraints of the Reinheitsgebot. The problem is, that concentration on this limited list of ingredients as the core of beer quality allows compromise in many other key areas.
For me, the discussion should concentrate more around the factors which are truly crucial to the taste of a beer: the quality of the ingredients, lagering times, pasteurisation, filtration and carbonation. I think it has been all to easy for many German breweries, and not only the large ones, to gloss over the introduction of dubious techniques by insisting that they still brewed 'pure' beer.
Sorry, but I'm afraid that I find it hard to accept that a filtered, pasteurised beer, given a quick glance at the cellar and then shipped out to the unwitting or uncaring customer is a 'pure' beer, solely because only malt was in the grist. I'm not advocating huge amounts of adjuncts in the mash tun, but I know that while I may not be able to notice if a beer contains 5% non-malt in the grist, I can certainly tell if it hasn't been lagered long enough. For me this is the only thing that matters; how does it taste.
As long as it tastes good and doesn't have anything harmful in it, the brewers should be allowed to use whatever ingredients they choose. You only have to look a Belgium to see how far the frontiers of what is considered beer can be pushed back. The simple insistence that all their beer is good because it is 'pure' has been very convenient for any German brewer wanting to cut corners, lower production costs, but still maintain that they are providing a top-quality product.
good is German beer?
|11 Reasons why the Reinheitsgebot is bollocks|
With that explanation/apology done, here are my reasons why the Reinheitsgebot is a load of old bollocks:
Some misguided people, without thinking of the consequences, had proposed
the introduction of the Reinheitsgebot for the whole of the EEC. What
a disaster this would be for diversity and choice for the beer drinker!
Belgian fruit and spiced beers, Finnish sahti, even traditional Guinness,
would no longer be possible.
|The Reinheitsgebot today|
Here is an English translation of the German beer law. Note paragraph 2 where the permitted ingredients for top-fermented beer are listed. Note also paragraph 7 and its reference to "special beers". This can allow pretty well any ingredients, on a purely discretionary basis. It is this part of the law that allows Gose to be brewed with coriander and salt yet still be called beer.
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