History of Beer

The Reinheitsgebot, sometimes called the ” German Beer Purity Law ” or the “Bavarian Purity Law” in English, is a regulation concerning the production of beer in Germany. In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley , and hops . The law has since been repealed but many German and American beers, for marketing purposes, continue to declare that they abide by the rule, in an attempt to convince customers that only the three permissible ingredients are used (although technically all modern commercial breweries in Germany add a fourth ingredient, yeast).

The law originated in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on 23 April 1516, although first put forward in 1487, concerning standards for the sale and composition of beer .

In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water , barley , and hops . The law also set the price of beer at 1-2 Pfennig per Maß . The Reinheitsgebot is no longer part of German law: it has been replaced by the Provisional German Beer Law ( Vorläufiges Deutsches Biergesetz (Provisional German Beer-law of 1993) ), which allows constituent components prohibited in the Reinheitsgebot , such as wheat malt and cane sugar , but which no longer allows unmalted barley.

Note that no yeast was mentioned in the original text. It was not until the 1800s that Louis Pasteur discovered the role of microorganisms in the process of fermentation; therefore, yeast was not known to be an ingredient of beer. Brewers generally took some sediment from the previous fermentation and added it to the next, the sediment generally containing the necessary organisms to perform fermentation. If none were available, they would set up a number of vats, relying on natural yeast to inoculate the brew.

Hops are added to beer to impart flavours but also act as a preservative , and their mention in the Reinheitsgebot meant to prevent inferior methods of preserving beer that had been used before the introduction of hops. Medieval brewers had used many problematic ingredients to preserve beers, including, for example soot and fly agaric mushrooms . More commonly, other ” gruit ” herbs had been used, such as stinging nettle and henbane . Indeed, the German name of the latter, Bilsenkraut , may originally mean ” Plzen herb”, given that this region was a major centre of (low-quality) beer brewing long before the invention of ( Reinheitsgebot -compliant) Pilsener .

The penalty for making impure beer was also set in the Reinheitsgebot : a brewer using other ingredients for his beer could have questionable barrels confiscated with no compensation.

German breweries are very proud of the Reinheitsgebot , and many claim to still abide by it.

Reinheitsgebot was introduced in part to prevent price competition with bakers for wheat and rye . The restriction of grains to barley was meant to ensure the availability of sufficient amounts of affordable bread, as the more valuable wheat and rye were reserved for use by bakers. Today many Bavarian beers are again brewed using wheat and are thus no longer compliant with the Reinheitsgebot .

Beer in Canada was introduced by European settlers in the seventeenth century, and a number of commercial brewers thrived until Prohibition in Canada . Though short-lived, very few brewers survived, and it was only in the late twentieth century that new breweries opened up. The Canadian Beer industry now plays an important role in Canadian identity , though globalization of the brewing industry has seen the major players in Canada acquired by or merged with foreign companies, notably its three largest beer producers, Labatt , Molson and Sleeman . The result is that Moosehead has become the largest fully-Canadian-owned brewer.