Reinheitsgebot–or Not?

The Day of German Beers

The Day of German Beers

April 23rd marks the beginning of the Bavarian Beer Week, held in celebration of Germany’s long tradition of brewing. It is also the day the German Purity Law was decreed back in 1516.

Known as the Reinheitsgebot, the Purity Law stipulated that only water, barley and hops could be used to make beer (yeast’s role was unknown back then). The law is still honored by most German brewers today, and has encouraged a beer culture in Germany that has resisted innovation in favor of tradition and consistent quality—a choice that has resulted in its share of controversy.

Bread Before Beer

"Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water."

“Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water.”

The Reinheitsgebot was created for two reasons: to ensure the quality of Bavarian beer and to ensure an adequate supply of bread. Ancient beers had traditionally been flavored with all sorts of ingredients, collectively called gruit, and some of these ingredients could be toxic.  Also, the law was first enacted during a time when food was scarce in Bavaria, and restricting the grain to only barley ensured that the more valuable baking grains, such as wheat or rye, would remain reserved for bread.

Innovation or Tradition?

Most German brewers still honor the Reinheitsgebot, although these days there are no real penalties for failing do so. But some breweries are beginning to question the law, claiming it discourages creativity and is harming Germany’s beer industry. Beer consumption in Germany has fallen dramatically while beer imports have increased, a sign that people are becoming more interested in different sorts of beers—the kinds you can’t get in Germany.

Cascade hop--brewed for US craft beer

Cascade hop–brewed for US craft beer

Inspiration from Abroad

German microbreweries are responding to the decline in German beer’s popularity in two ways. Some of them have chosen to brew within the stipulations of the Reinheitsgebot, seeing crafting new brews within its boundaries as an interesting challenge. New varieties of hops are being bred in Germany specifically as a result of the law’s restrictions, and it is here the US craft beer scene lends a hand. At the Hops Research Center in Germany, the Cascade hop has been bred with traditional German hops to create four new breeds, including one with notes of honeydew melon and tangerine.  These new hops allow German brewers to experiment with flavors while still honoring tradition.

Hallertau hop--a German classic

Hallertau hop–a German classic

Other brewers buck tradition entirely. They’re brewing beers that are popular in the US but difficult to find in Germany, like hoppy ales or coffee stouts.  A group of German craft brewers inspired by US craft beers and the craft beer movement have started their own movement to brew more daring beers, and two German breweries have already collaborated with breweries in the US to develop new styles.

Thunder Beer--Laybourn's flavor-inspired homebrew

Thunder Beer–Laybourn’s flavor-inspired homebrew

Paying Back the Favor

Our beer history is steeped in German tradition. German immigrants in the 1800′s brought their brewing skills with them, creating many successful breweries still in operation today. Later, after pale lagers had flooded the US, it was the men returning from World War II and their taste for flavorful beer—particularly German beer—that helped to spur the growth of craft beer in the US.

Michael Laybourn, one of the founders of Mendocino Brewing, remembers:

I went into the US Army at 18 and was eventually shipped to Germany. The first thing I did on my arrival in Frankfurt was to try some German beer. What a full, great taste!  And then I had a few more. Well, this wasn’t 3.2 beer…and I had to be helped to get to the army base. There was no drinking age cutoff in Germany and much of Europe. Young people there learned to drink more or less sensibly at an early age. This is still the case. So I learned to drink slower and enjoy the flavor and to eat while drinking. I grew to love the full flavors and the flavors of malt and hops. My beer tastes had changed.

Reinheitsgebot… or Not?

What do you think about tradition and innovation? Do you prefer the traditional take on beer, or do you seek out the Chili Ales and Cucumber Lagers? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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Local Beer and Art Come Together in Tampa Brewery Art Market

SUMMER ART MARKETTAMPA, FL – Southern Brewing & Winemaking (Southern) is hosting its first Summer Art Market on Sunday, May 25, from 12-5p. The market will take place in the Southern biergarten and adjacent lot. The market will showcase 30 local artists that will have their work available for purchase. Artwork featured at the show includes paintings, […]

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Live at Lagunitas LaguMiniAmphitheater 2014

Here’s a peek at our 2014 Live at Lagunitas lineup

Check the bands’ sites for tickets!(the whole reason we do this is to turn our friends onto new bands (or new to them).
So check out their sites and open your ears. Enjoy!)

 
2014-Live-at-Lagunitas-LineUp

The Revivalists Pimps of Joytime Tumbleweed Wanderers The Wood Brothers Allen Stone David Mayfield Parade J Roddy's official site Foxygen Shakey Graves James McMurtry Lagunitas on Twitter

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Dry Dock Brewing Releases 12-packs of Apricot Blonde

Apricot_12_PackBeginning in May, Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewing Company will offer its canned Apricot Blonde ale in 12-packs. This misty golden blonde ale is fermented with shiploads of fruit. It finishes crisp and clean, creating endless pairing potential with foods like salmon, Monterey jack cheese, and lemon custard. Apricot Blonde comes in at 5.1% ABV and […]

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Dry Dock Brewing Releases 12-packs of Apricot Blonde

Apricot_12_PackBeginning in May, Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewing Company will offer its canned Apricot Blonde ale in 12-packs. This misty golden blonde ale is fermented with shiploads of fruit. It finishes crisp and clean, creating endless pairing potential with foods like salmon, Monterey jack cheese, and lemon custard. Apricot Blonde comes in at 5.1% ABV and […]

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