Okay, I’ll confess my ignorance here. I figured the Reinheitsgebot (which I’ll call Reiny because it’s easier to type) was an olde worlde recommendation for beer with no legislative muscle at all. Turns out I’m wrong.
But first a little back story. Reiny is also known as the Beer Purity Law. Dating back to 1516 in Germany (yes, history pedants, I know it wasn’t called Germany then) it means that beer can only be made up of water, malt, hops and yeast (the latter was added in the 1700s when it was discovered).
There were actually two Beer Purity Laws – the strict Bavarian one and slightly more easygoing German one. The Bavarians were so enamoured of their beer law that when they joined the Weimar Republic in 1918 and the German Federal Republic in 1949 that their Beer Purity Law be adopted.
So what happens if a brewer in Germany breaks Reiny? Well, they can still sell their product, but they’re forbidden to call it beer. Brewers from outside Germany are allowed to bring in non-Reiny beers and call them beers.
Jeez, those crazy Belgian brewers over the border must look at the Germans and laugh.
What’s the go here?: For those who have just stumbled across this post, I’m going through the Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB) and posting an entry for every letter. Why? Because I have a copy at home but hadn’t really gone through it page by page and I figured this would be an exercise that would force me to do that.