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Tag Archives: German Beer

German beer subject of world’s oldest consumer law

reinheitsgebot-300x251If you have ever had a mug of a German beer, you know that it can be a transcendent experience. Known for their exceptional lagers, Germans reign supreme as the world’s top beer brewers. But, the road to that supremacy began more than 500 years ago when the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm IV, issued the original decree that led to what is now known as the German Purity Law. The Reinheitsgebot (pronounced: rine-hites-geh-boat) reigns as one of the oldest consumer protection laws still enforced.

In 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV sought to protect his subjects from unscrupulous brewers and tavern owners by stipulating how much could be charged for beer and what it could contain. Geographic boundaries were set for pricing beer and the law provided for fluctuations in pricing if economic circumstances warranted. By restricting the price publicans could charge for beer, the Duke made it more accessible to his subjects and limited price gouging.

The good Duke was also concerned about the purity of the beer being produced for consumption by his subjects, so he included in the decree a restriction on the ingredients. Many beers of the time were routinely brewed by irresponsible brewers with ingredients like ash, sawdust and even roots – some of them poisonous – to bring down the cost of production and maximize profit. To combat this, the original decree stated, “…in all our towns, marketplaces and the whole of the countryside, beer shall have no other ingredients than barley, hops, and water.”

While the new law put an end to beer made with dangerous additives, it was also intended to help the bakery industry by limiting brewers to the use of barley. This increased the supply of wheat and rye for baked products and insured that both bread and beer would be plentiful. The law also made it illegal to use ingredients like gruit – a mixture of herbs like sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, horehound and heather – that religious conservatives believed were used in pagan rituals.

Through the years, the original Purity Law underwent several changes, but the spirit of the law remained. It formed the basis of beer laws that spread throughout Germany and contributed to the extinction of several Northern German beer styles such as spiced and cherry beers. As Germany entered the Industrial Age, Bavaria insisted upon the Purity Law be applied throughout Germany as a condition of unification. This met with heavy opposition from brewers in the north, but the law was eventually enacted with heavy taxes placed on outside ingredients rather than an outright ban.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the law was first referred to as Reinheitsgebot and was finally applied consistently throughout Germany as the law governing beer production. Curiously, as the tumultuous events of the 1900s ground on, brewers and even consumers began to embrace the law. The purity of German beer became of pride and an important marketing tool. It became so deeply rooted in tradition that no self-respecting German would think of drinking anything other than a Reinheitsgebot-compliant beer.

Now, 500 years later, the craft beer revolution is taking Europe by storm. As a younger generation of beer-drinkers seeks styles that do not comply with the Purity Law, the law is being called in to question. Whether the Reinheitsgebot can survive is yet to be seen. But, the superiority it brought to German beer can never be denied.

Here are some traditional, Reinheitsgebot compliant German beers you can try locally:

Spaten Dunkel

Founded more than 600 years ago, the Spaten brwery has adhered to the since its inception. The brewery’s Dunkel is a malty, dark departure from the typical German light lager. This brew is highly recommended as an accompaniment with rich meats and stews.

Weihenstephaner Pilsner

Crisp and highly-carbonated, this brew is a standard of the German Pilsner style. It is especially refreshing when served very cold and enjoyed with the afternoon sea breeze.

Gaffel Koelsch

While most German beers are lagers, Koesch is an ale. Brewed only in the German city of Cologne, this style is slightly fruity with a crisp, hoppy finish.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Beer, Beer history

 

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German beer purity law to celebrate 500 years

Reinheitsgebot TrademarkWater, barley and hops; as most beer aficionados know, these are the three main ingredients – along with yeast – that makes up the basis of the world’s third favorite beverage. These are also the only three ingredients allowed in beer according to the famous German Beer Purity law known as Reinheitsgebot (pronounced Rhine-Hites-gaBoat). This year the often misunderstood law celebrates 500 years of legislating German beer production.

Originally, the law was a ducal decree issued by Duke Wilhelm IV and his brother Duke Ludwig X on April 23, 1516. The two Bavarian dukes introduced the law at Ingolstadt during a meeting of the assembly of the Estates of Bavaria. It was proposed as a means for the government to regulate the ingredients, processes and taxation of beer produced. At first, the law only covered the southern regions of the Germanic world, later it was adopted by the entire German Empire. The true intent, though, was to keep beer “pure” and safe and keep cheap, sometimes dangerous, ingredients out of beer that was sold to the general public.

In medieval times, unscrupulous brewers often added unhealthy ingredients to beer in order to produce the beverage more economically. Often items such as roots, rushes, mushrooms and animal by-products would be added to the brewing process – sometimes leading to batches of toxic brew.

To fight this practice, the Reinheitsgebot limited the brewers to using only three ingredients in beer – water, barley and hops. Yeast was not listed in the original law because it had not yet been discovered; it was added to the law later after Louis Pastor documented the part the organism plays in fermenting liquids. The law applies to bottom-fermented or lager beers leaving room for top-fermented German ales like Kolsch and Alt to use other grains.  The law provides for German ales to contain other malted grains including wheat for Weissbier as well as various forms of sugar derived cane or beet and sugar-derived coloring agents. Chemicals or other processed compounds were still expressly forbidden.

Over the centuries, the law stood the test of time and, though it was struck down by the European Court in 1987 as a restraint of free trade, many German breweries still proudly follow the law. These traditional breweries proudly announce on their labels that they still adhere to the purity law and have no intention of wavering.

At 500-years-old, the Reinheitsgebot stands as the world’s oldest consumer protection law. It is a testament to how a law once thought to be constraining actually served to spark creativity and innovation. Today, there are scores of German beer styles that adhere to the law in a dizzying array of strengths and flavors. More than enough to keep beer-lovers busy tasting the many brews still conforming to the law.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Beer, Beer Education

 

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Oktoberfest infographic tells all

It’s that magical time of the year when men don their lederhosen and women doll up in their dirndls. Yes, Oktoberfest draws near and the folks at Home Brew West in Ireland have put together an infographic that provides you with all you could ever want to know abut the world’s largest festival.

Visit Home Brew West’s website here.

Prost!

oktoberfest

 

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Posted by on September 13, 2014 in Beer

 

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Monastic Brews: Doppelbock

Monks have been brewing beer since the Middle Ages. The best known of the monastic brews are the Dubbels, Tripels, and Quadrupels of the Trappist monks in Belgium. But, the brethren in Germany also had a hand in brewing ales with the Doppelbock. Most beers are brewed by the Cistercian, Benedictine, or Trappist orders.
For the most part, monks brewed weaker beers that they drank with meals since water was rarely drinkable in its pure form in Europe. But, they also brewed stronger ales that they brewed especially for holidays and then would sell to the public. But, one style of beer, brewed by Italian monks living in Munich, Germany of the Order of Saint Francis of Paula (Paulaners), brewed a strong beer for their own needs.

Doppelbock was born of need to sustain the Paulaners through the fasts of Lent. During the Lenten season, monks were forbidden to partake of solid food. So, to see to their nutritional needs a strong, grain-heavy beer was developed. This beer was so thick with grain that it was nicknamed “liquid bread.” But, because the beer was so sweet and satisfying, the monks began to wonder if they should be drinking and enjoying it so much during Lent. So, in an attempt to gain the blessing of the Holy Father for their Lenten practice, the Paulaners sent a cask of the strong brew to the Holy See in Rome. On the journey the beer was jostled and subjected to extremes in temperatures that caused it to go sour and taste vile. Upon tasting the brew, the Pope deemed it disgusting and worthy of Lenten penance. So, without hesitation, he approved the beer as a drink for Lent due to its vile nature. Little did His Holiness know that the brew was actually quite tasty when not subjected to the extremes of travel.

The Paulaners continued producing the brew they named Salvator after their Savior from the mid-1600s until 1799 when Napoleon Bonaparte, under his policy of secularization, dissolved the monastery and thus the brewery.

Six years passed before the Dopplebock style re-emerged when a private brewer by the name of Franz Xaver Zacherl, the owner of the Münchener Hellerbräu, rented the old Paulaner brewery and began producing the Doppelbock for Lent again. But, again, the style came under fire with the law when villagers complained that partakers of the brew were too lively. But, Franz persisted and in 1837 King Ludwig I himself made a proclamation that Salvator should be available and the brewer left alone.
Soon other Doppelbock beers were brewed by competing breweries, but out of deference to the original, most were named with the –ator ending to their names.

Every spring, near March 19, a beer festival takes place that is less known than Oktoberfest, but is said to be better, called Starkbierfest (strong beer fest) takes place in Munich. This springtime festival is based on Doppelbock brews rather than the Marzen style at Oktoberfest. During this Lenten celebration, the weather is cooler and the tourists are more scarce. But, the Bavarian culture is alive and well.

The beer is still brewed according to the old methods by the brewery known as Paulaner after the monks who founded it over 350 years ago.

Until Next Time

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Beer, Beer Education, Beer Festival, Imports

 

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Epcot German Beers a Big Hit

This past weekend I helped celebrate the birthday of one of my most dear friends at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. This annual event has been going on for 16 years and has just gotten bigger and better each year. But, don’t let the name fool you, wine is not the only adult beverage featured at the festival; there is also a significant amount of beer from around the world available.

If you have never been to Epcot, let me give you a brief overview. The original concept of the park was for it to be a self-sustaining community in which people worked, lived, and played. However, after the death of Walt Disney, the plans changed to a more theme-park approach. The park is broken into two main areas; Future World, which contains pavilions dedicated to Space, Energy, The Seas, The Land, Imagination, and Test Track. The second section of the park is the World Showcase with pavilions themed to specific countries like Mexico, China, Norway, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, France, England, and Canada. It is in the World Showcase that the Food & Wine Festival is held. During this festival, other countries are represented through food and drink as well as the permanent countries.

I met my friends at 11:00 near the giant geodesic ball called Spaceship Earth in the Future World section of the park. We checked the festival guide and made our strategy for the day, deciding to attack the World Showcase starting on the Mexican side of the lagoon. The Mexican pavilion was serving Dos Equis beers, nothing spectacular, so we moved on. It was early enough in the day that the throngs of crowds had not arrived yet and we were able to stroll in a leisurely fashion from country to country. A stop was made in China for some Salt and Pepper Shrimp on Sichuan Noodles and Pork Pot Stickers. China was serving Tsing Tau beer, but I passed knowing that ahead lay the Germany pavilion and it’s Bier Garten.

We stopped at Germany and decided it was time for a few beers. The Bier Garten was sponsored by the Radeberger Gruppe, a German beer company whose goal is to maintain the traditions of German beer-making by allowing breweries to remain autonomous in their regions. This is in stark contrast to many beer conglomerates who outsource brews to the least expensive producers or opt to change traditions by using cheap ingredients. Radeberger Gruppe sees itself as a guardian of authentic German beer culture and holds the traditions of the past in the highest of esteem.

Eight beers were on offer and I first opted for the three-beer flight of Sion Kolsch, Hovels, Braufactum Roog.

As any true Kolsch should be, Sion is brewed in Cologne and because of that it is legally protected to be able to use the term Kolsch. Sion uses pale barley and wheat malts to produce a very pleasant and interesting flavor. The nose presents sweet malts and subtle hops while the texture is crisp with a pleasant fruity flavor that gives way to biscuit malts and a slight hop finish.

Braufactum Roog is a Smoked Wheat Ale that combines the flavors of a wheat ale with the smokiness of malts that have been roasted over beechwood. Not quite as smoky as a rauchbier, but the smokiness is readily apparent in its aroma. The brew pours a deep reddish-brown and rewards the taster with a smoky, almost meaty flavor with juniper and orange zest, as well as hints of banana.

Hovels is a unique beer that defies categorization. It is a top-fermented beer brewed at Hovels Hausbrauerei in Dortmund, Germany from a recipe developed in 1893. This beer pours amber red with strong citrus aromas and caramel malts. The flavor is reminiscent of caramel, bread, and dark raisins with a semi-dry finish.

After the sampler I also wanted to try the Schofferhofer Weizen a relatively new beer first produced in 1978. This tasty brew has won many awards and is often referred as the champagne among wheat beers. As a true German Hefeweizen Schofferhofer pours pale and hazy with a sweet floral aroma. The flavor is what you would expect from a hefeweizen and is rich in yeast, clove and slight lemon zest.

Finally, after hitting a few more food stands, we returned to Germany to try the Braufactum Indra, a German IPA made with wheat as well as barley malts while still adhering to the German Purity Law of 1516. This excellent brew is dark orange in color and greets you with pleasing aromas of banana and cloves as well as earthy notes. The flavor is honey, blood orange, and herbs with the bitterness typical of an IPA.

Other beers that were available at the festival were more typical of the countries they were served in. The Belgian tent was serving Stella Artois, Hoegarten, and Leffe. The Moroccan pavilion had Casa. And Italy had Moretti. England was serving the usual Guinness, Bodingtons, Bass, and Harp while Canada was serving Moosehead. There was also a Craft Beer tent serving a selection of beer like Abita Purple Haze and Blue Moon.

The Epcot Food & Wine Festival concludes for this year next weekend, so if you want to drink around the world, I suggest you head to Orlando this weekend.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Beer, Beer Styles

 

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Pour Yourself a Koelsch One

A wreath Kolsch Beer - LA Times of Kölsch.

Image via Wikipedia

 It is always fun to delve into the history of a particular style of beer. Particularly if that beer is a bit obscure to begin with. Lately I have become fascinated with several German styles of beer. Coming from a very Bavarian background, I thought it only fitting to dig a little deeper into the traditions of my forbearers and learn more about German beer styles. And so, I begin my little trip down the cobbled stones of ancient brewing with a look at a style that is emerging in the United States as an approachable, drinkable, and decidedly refreshing style: Koelsch.

Now to understand Koelsch you will need to have a basic understanding of the two categories of beers; lagers and ales. Do not confuse these two categories with beer styles. Styles reside within these two categories. The difference between these two broad categories is the type of yeast used during fermentation. Ale yeasts ferment at warmer temperatures and are sometimes called “top fermenting” yeasts. This is because the yeast tends to stay towards the top of the tank during fermentation. Lagers yeasts conversely ferment at cooler temperatures and tend to stay towards the bottom of the fermentation tank. Another major difference between these two categories of beer is that ales tend to have more yeast driven flavors then lagers. Ale yeasts lend complex spicy and fruity flavors to beers that the cooler fermenting lager yeasts do not.

Now that you know the difference between ales and lagers, it is time to learn some history. Sherman, set the dials on the Way-Back machine to the closing years of the 1300’s in Cologne, Germany. A group of Guilds gathered and peacefully over-threw the noble-run government with a more democratic style of governance that allowed more freedom to all and ended a tradition of class segregation in the city that still holds true today. The reason this is so important to the history of the Koelsch style beer is that it proved that the people of Cologne were free-thinkers and strove to be different from other German cities.

At that time the German beer landscape was dominated by what is now called an Altbier or old beer. These beers were ales that used top fermenting yeasts. In the mid-to-late 1500’s though, a wave of lagers began to take over the German brewing world. Altbiers started to be replaced by the new lager styles until only a few ales remained. The city fathers of Cologne recognized that these ales were quickly dying out and, in 1603, issued an ordinance that outlawed the brewing of all but top-fermented beers within the city limits of Cologne. Thus, bottom-fermenting beers were proscribed from Cologne which led to the beginnings of modern-day Koelsch.

From that day in 1603 until the early nineteenth century, Cologne became known for its Keutebier, or white ale similar in style to Belgian wit beer, but without the addition of spices. Keutebier was a beer that used mostly wheat as its main grain. As tastes changed over time though, more and more barley was used until wheat completely disappeared from the beer and the first Koelsch was brewed in 1906 by the Sunner Brewery. But, it wasn’t until 1918 that the name Koelsch was officially used to describe this new style.

At first the style did not gain any momentum. But, after two World Wars, the style began to catch on. In the mid-1940’s, breweries that had been devastated during the Wars began to re-emerge. Lagers were still firmly in control of the beer-drinking world, but Koelsch was making in-roads. In the 1960’s Cologne’s beer production was a mere 50 million liters, or roughly 13 million gallons. In contrast, as the style began to rise in popularity, Cologne’s beer production peaked at over 370 million liters, or almost 98 million gallons. In recent years that number has dropped down a bit, but if the resurgence I have noticed in the style holds, Koelsch could well be on its way back up the charts.

Significantly, as with Champaign, the beer can only truly be called Koelsch if it is brewed in Cologne. In 1985 the Koelsch Convention established that only breweries within the city limits of Cologne could brew Koelsch beers. All others are to be called Koelsch-style beers. In 1997 the European Union gave further protection to the style allowing only 14 breweries the right to label their beers as Koelsch. As with most German beers, this style also adheres to the Reinheitsgebot or German purity law that prohibits the use of any ingredients in beer other than water, barley, hops, and yeast.

A Koelsch beer should be the color of straw and have a rather thin mouth-feel. The official guidleines state that this style should be between 4.4 and 5.2% ABV. The flavor should be slightly sweet with little or no hopiness and practically no fruitiness. All of these characteristic combine to make this an exceedingly refreshing beer when served at about 40 degrees. This is especially true on a hot summer day in Florida when the sun is beating down with the intensity of a blast furnace.

Some Koelsch and Koelsch-style beers to try are: Reissdorf, Gaffel, Harpoon Summer Beer, and Samuel Adams East-West Koelsch. And if you are looking for a locally brewed Koelsch-stylre in Jacksonville, FL, look no further than Intuition Ale Works and their deliciously refreshing Jon Boat Ale.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 

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