Skip to main content

Purity Law or craft beer?

More and more craft breweries producing special beers are putting the purity law into question.

Craft beer
© dpa/Sophia Kembowski - Craft beer

“Hops and malt – may God watch over and protect them!” The beer Purity Law has been in force in Germany for 500 years. Besides hops and malt, only water and yeast are allowed as ingredients in the liquid cultural asset, as was already laid down in the regulation issued in Ingolstadt by the Bavarian Prince Wilhelm IV. Now a movement originating in the United States and Scandinavia has spilled over into Germany and would like to experiment with additional ingredients in the brewing of beer: craft beer brewing. In recent years, particularly in Germany’s big cities, mainly small, hip craft breweries have begun to produce unusual-tasting beers.

In craft beer – that is, artisanal brewed beer – hops, malt and yeast are also the main ingredients. There is, however, a wide range of these ingredients which, in the right mixture, gives craft beer its special taste: hops with aromas of citrus and fruit is a frequent component of craft beer, while resinous nuances and the scent of tropical fruit and red berries may likewise be found in several varieties. Special yeasts, malts and aromatic hops can conjure up all sorts of fruit flavours in beer without ever actually using real fruits.

Soon also fruits and spices in beer?

Because many craft brewers would like to experiment with other ingredients in beer such as fruits and spices, a debate has flared up as to how far exceptions may be allowed to the beer Purity Law. In some federal states, the approval of beers that do not comply with the Purity Law is easy: traditional and local beers such as the Leipziger Gose or the Berliner Weiße, which are currently enjoying a renaissance, fall under an exemption clause and are accorded a special status as so-called “special beers” and “specialities”. Not so in Bavaria, the land of beer brewers. Located here is every second brewery in Germany, and they brew in strict accordance with the Purity Law. Traditionalists are alarmed about the addition of artificial flavourings, colours or stabilizers that secure a nice head of foam. The innovators argue that they can produce a diversity of flavours which can give the market and consumption a new stimulus.

International Berlin Beer Festival, 5 to 7 August 2016