"Brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot"
Most people read that and take it to mean one simple thing. The beer is made with 4 and only 4 ingredients. Water, Barley, Hops and Yeast.
It's even more interesting when you see a beer that says:
"Brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot of 1516"The original text in 1516 says beer can only be made with Water, Barley and Hops. (Yeast wasn't discovered until Louis Pasteur in 1857).
Ok, that's what most people think of when they see Reinheitsgebot, WBH&Y. What was the reason for the Reinheitsgebot?
The "law" was put in to help prices for both wheat and rye and barley. Wheat and rye were getting too expensive to make staple bread, so the law was enacted to FORCE brewers to use only barley in beer. Barley doesn't make the greatest bread, it's too crumbly and doesn't hold well. So, the original law wasn't originally made to protect German brewers, it was made to protect the German bread makers. The original law also set the price for beer; and allowed it to change based on the price of barley. The penalty for making beer that didn't follow the law, was to have your beer confiscated.
The "law" has been changed over time and has some new parts to it. Here's a breakdown of each of 10 parts of the "German Beer Law" (which most people think of as the Reinheitsgebot).
1. Water, Barley, Hops, and Yeast are the only ingredients allowed in bottom-fermented beer. The WBH&Y rule ONLY applies to lagers.
2. Top fermented beer can use other malts and sugars.
3. Malt is germinated grains.
4. Beer can be colored.
5. Whole leaf hops doesn't have to be used; powder and hops extracts can be used.
6. Beer doesn't necessarily have to be filtered.
7. (this one is my favorite) Brewers can get permission to use other ingredients in their beers. ALSO (and pay attention) Beer brewed for export doesn't have to follow the first or second rule. Did you get that? If the beer is made in Germany and is for export (i.e. to the U.S.) it can be made with whatever ingredients they want. They could flavor a beer with rat guts if the beer was for export.
8. Homebrew can use any ingredients.
9. Once beer has been fermented, water cannot be added to it.
10. Beer cannot be mixed after the tax has been calculated. (there can be exceptions)
So the main thing we come away with from this is that beer made for export doesn't have to follow the "Purity" rule. This law also prevented the import of any drink labeled "beer" into Germany.
Everyone also says that the Reinheitsgebot is the oldest food purity law.
The Zythophile has done some excellent myth busting on various subjects.
In 1483 the London ale brewers, again trying to maintain the difference between (unhopped) ale and (hopped) beer, persuaded the city authorities to rule that in order for ale to be brewed in “the good and holesome manner of bruying of ale of old tyme used”, no one should “put in any ale or licour [water] whereof ale shal be made or in the wirkyng and bruying of any maner of ale any hoppes, herbes or other like thing but only licour, malt and yeste.”The Reinheitsgebot was first put forward in 1487. Four years earlier, in London, they had a rule that ale could only be made with licour (boiled water), malt, and yeste (which would have been the live yeast froth from the top (or bottom) of the previous batch of beer). The Brits beat the Germans by 4 years.
So you see, the Reinheitsgebot is neither the oldest food purity law; or has anything to do with ingredients put into beers consumed outside of Germany (Bavaria).
The Reinheitsgebot doesn't guarantee a good flavor of beer, Beck's claims to follow it.
Most German beer laws have been set aside since their inclusion into the EU.
So there you go; the Reinheitsgebot is crap.
Zythophile: Myth 2
The Reinheitsgebot - what a load of old b*llocks