Generalisations about beer culture Germany

QUICK ONE: Reinheitsgebot as Flashpoint

We expected the 500th anniversary of the German beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, to generate lots of coverage but we hadn’t expected it to be so testy.

It turns out that this has become another flashpoint in the battle between two vague, fuzzy-edged groups within the world of beer.

The Reinheitsgebot stifles innovation!’ say the cavaliers; ‘“Innovation” my arse!’cry the roundheads.

And the Campaign for Real Ale’s Revitalisation project (consultation closes on Saturday, by the way) seems to have caused a flare up in another stretch of the previously fairly calm demilitarised border area.

POSTER: Captain America: Civil War

As we say, the edges are fuzzy, but it seems to be more or less the same groups bickering over clarity vs. haze, cask vs. keg, strong vs. session, boring vs. balanced, weird additives vs. malt, hipsters vs. squares, craft vs. ‘craft’, Simcoe vs. Fuggles, and so on.

The division feels weird to us — on both sides, more about attitudes, feelings, personalities, grudges and prejudices than anything concrete. It’s tribal, even almost religious.

Meanwhile, in the real world (as we Tweeted yesterday) Cascade hops and dark lager are still regarded as exotic, and we couldn’t buy a hazy beer in Penzance if we wanted to.

9 replies on “QUICK ONE: Reinheitsgebot as Flashpoint”

Reminds me of the story about the new MP making his debut in the House of Commons. He looks at the benches opposite, then turns to an old hand sitting next to him and says “It’s good to be able to see the enemy face to face at last.”

“Ah no,” his colleague replied. “They are the Opposition. The enemy are on this side of the House.”

For me, it also all looks so contrived. A conveniently round number of little relevance to most allowing a very low point in the overall discussion to generate a small peak. England had beer regulation of one sort or another for at least as long which, like the Bavarian bylaw, was altered and amended and ignored over time. I think Ron recent wrote that R500 actually applied in Germany for about 57 years to so.

At least with the purity law we can pick a tribe on an international level. The real ale debate is so parochial and baffling to those outside Britain.

Reinheitsgebot? ReinheitsgeNOT.
Be a hottie – get Reinheitsgebotty

It’s just more fun than the real ale debate

Asahi Black Lager is ages old – its been available at Tesco for at least 5 years. I wouldn’t trust a word that bloke says if he can’t even get that right.

I wouldn’t trust a word that bloke says, solely because of his haircut

I support the law, and have argued in detail why. It’s funny seeing people raise the craft flag, innovation, diversity, etc. when craft beer – the core of it, the ales and lagers – started as all-malt to begin with – because of the PBL which was a huge inspiration. Only due to the respect of craft forbears for the law can people now have the luxury to forget its roots. The Anchor ales were all-malt, Sierra Nevada’s too, Boulder Brewing’s, New Albion, the brewers in the northwest like Hale, it goes on.

Those beers made the impact they did, including in Europe finally, in good part due to that characteristic.

Germany can remain distinctive or go the way of the others and if it does, the general market will get dumbed down pretty quickly, I predict.


Whether the Reinheitsgebot was a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion in a debate I’m not much interested in. The intention of the law was not beer quality, but protectionism. It protected local breweries from competition. Brewers from other countries who did not follow the Reinheitsgebot, and most did not, were thus successfully excluded from any markets where the law prevailed.

Well, there is no direct evidence, as far as I know, of protectionist intent. It is an inference some have made.

The very success of American all-malt beer, foundation of the craft brewing movement (until it was well-established enough that people felt confident to innovate), suggests to me the law had palate considerations in mind.

There may have been a dual rationale, as well…


I am actually in two minds on this one. In many ways the Reinheitsgebot is a load of old bollocks. But many of the arguments against look like bollocks too. Certainly arguing it stifles innovation is complete twaddle. The article you link to from the economist is indeed pure swill.

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