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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > What's so great about Reinheitsgebot?
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Old 03-13-2014, 05:42 PM   #1
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Default What's so great about Reinheitsgebot?

I've noticed some breweries advertising that they follow the Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity laws) but I don't see why that's a good thing for beer. For example: Sam Adams and Great Lakes.

From a business standpoint today, it appears to be a marketing term for adding European authenticity to styles. But I imagine it could also be used to limit competition - if you're pushing Reinheitsgebot as a marketing term that means quality then competitors can't come out of left field with new adjuncts, flavoring agents, etc.

Looking at the history of beers and their sale in England (brown ales, porters, stouts) things as simple as the legality of roasted barley were a big deal where you could produce entire new flavors and mouthfeel people were looking for. And that appears to have been the case with the beer purity laws where it knocked out a lot of historic beer styles that were in competition with the Bavarians. Any sort of new innovation in recipes becomes looked down on as not as high quality or, more severely, banned.

The original laws wouldn't cover the basic essentials of what beer has become by today (yeast and malted barley would be out). And the spirit of it is quite against a lot of the experimentation you see in the craft beer world and homebrewing.

There's certainly cultural pride and tradition behind keeping up with Reinheitsgebot but is there anything else there that makes it worth sticking to?

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Old 03-13-2014, 05:51 PM   #2
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There's nothing great about it. In the present , it's just a marketing gimmick.

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Old 03-13-2014, 05:52 PM   #3
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Old 03-13-2014, 05:54 PM   #4
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When I did the Great Lakes brewery tour, the guide asked if anyone knew about it, I (loudly, I had a beer or two before the tour started) said "Reinheitsgebot!" The guide tossed me a token for another free beer. That was pretty great!

If you look up the story of it, it was created as a quality control for german beer at the time. Yeast was not included because the role of yeast in brewing would not be understood until many years later, but obviously yeast was used in brewing then. Barley is explicitly allowed as an ingredient. The law was repealed relatively recently and obviously never governed breweries outside of Bavaria/Germany, but it's a nod to beer history and the positive impact that the Reinheitsgebot had on beer quality at the time when brewers use that term now.

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Old 03-13-2014, 05:56 PM   #5
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From my understanding of it, it wasnt as much of a purity law as a you can only use this because we need the other stuff like wheat for food. Its just a marketing thing people will see that it follows a "purity" law and will think it tastes better. Better product by marketing, even though its the same thing, happens all the time with every industry.

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Old 03-13-2014, 06:00 PM   #6
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I think the idea was to keep things as natural as possible and avoid chemicals. Although, you make a good point about it weeding out competitors. Does it make better beer? Probably not. Good beer comes from properly controlling the brewing and fermentation process. Take acid malt for example. You can adjust mash pH with acid malt or with acid additions (like phosphoric acid). Both accomplish the same thing. Is one method superior to the other? Not really. It's definitely more challenging to stick to reinheitsgebot. You have to give those brewers credit. They had to come up with innovative ways to make changes to the brewing process without "cheating" and using chemicals. Not that I would call that cheating, but you get what I'm saying?

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Old 03-13-2014, 06:11 PM   #7
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As an American brewer, I need my adjuncts! Reinheitsgebot can go to hell!

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Old 03-13-2014, 07:22 PM   #8
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I enjoyed making a German hef and followed Reinheitsgebot as close as I could. I did not even use sugar to bottle carbonate, nor Co2. Turned out great. I am gonna make it again when my German relitives come.

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Old 03-14-2014, 05:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBL_Brewer View Post
Is one method superior to the other? Not really. It's definitely more challenging to stick to reinheitsgebot. You have to give those brewers credit. They had to come up with innovative ways to make changes to the brewing process without "cheating" and using chemicals. Not that I would call that cheating, but you get what I'm saying?
I hadn't thought of making the most of what you have available as its own ingenuity. And it totally is. They were able to refine their processes so they didn't have to reach out for a new ingredient to achieve the same thing.

Looking back on it - without all the sterilization, equipment, and well-documented knowledge we have now - it's really impressive. And I think that's how I get what you're saying.

I'm certainly a fan of the decoction mash. I haven't used it because my brew days are long enough as is. But they really tried to hone the processes with the best of what they had available. Using boiling water with measurable volumes when you couldn't precisely measure the temperature was wicked clever.
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Old 03-14-2014, 07:18 PM   #10
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What kpcuster said in post #5 - save the food grains of wheat and rye for food.

From Wikipedia:
"The 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 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."

That is part. Another part was to prevent brewers from creating cheap alcoholic beverages from all kinds of stuff - beet sugar, gathered plants like bog myrtle.

Around the time of instituting the law, the English clergy had a monopoly on granting brewing privileges, and the brewers could use anything except hops. They would not import German beer. Similarly after Reinheitsgebot, Germany would not import English beer. It was part of a trade war. See an extensive artical The Fall of Gruit, various places.

Then the Protestants got into the act and leaned on the non-hop gruit brewers. See, some of the gruit herbs are psychotropic. Hops simply makes you drowsy. That attitude continued into the 20th century, outlawing any psychotropic plants.

So, what's so great about Reinheitsgebot? Nothing except a history of religious fervor, political muscle, economic battles, and forcing people to accept it. See? four ingredients, just like the law says.

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