Tradition or Variety first… Reinheitsgebot?

What makes a beer a beer? Is it defined by strict rules and codes set in place when beer was a new trend, or can the definition of beer change with the times to allow for creativity and variety?

Beer has been around for literally thousands of years. Some cultures that still exist today such as Germany and Ireland have beer roots that go back over 5000 years! Stories of Germanic and Irish tribes spreading beer as they traveled throughout Europe have long persisted. Along with this great beer heritage comes the burden of carrying on the traditions set for a culture by its ancestors.

Germany has even gone so far as to implement the Reinheitsgebot around the 16th century! The Reinheitsgebot is referred to in Eglish as the “German beer purity law”. Everyone in the brewing industry will instantly know what you are talking about when you mention the Reinheitsgebot. According to the Bavarian founded law, the only ingredients allowed for the finished product to still be called beer are; water, barley, hops.

On contrast in countries like The United States America where the brewing history is extremely small, complacency with traditional beer styles is nearly impossible to find in a micro brewery. Alternative grains such as Rye and millet, as well as techniques for producing gluten-free beer are being experimented with across the nation. For Americans there is no traditon to break, beer brewing is increasingly being seen as an art. As with any form of art the styles are expected to evolve over time and push boundaries.

A large portion of American craft beer could not legally be sold as beer under the Reinheitsgebot.

I challenge you to go enjoy a beer that contains ingredients other than water, barely, and hops. While you do that, decide if you think it should be considered beer or something else and let me know what you think.

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4 thoughts on “Tradition or Variety first… Reinheitsgebot?

  1. Rachelle

    When I was working on my undergrad, I read this book called The History of The World in 6 Glasses. It’s an awesome read! Basically the author breaks down human civilization eras by beverage. The Beer Age is the oldest, and that’s where the book starts. Beer is SO much older than most people think it is! I don’t want to spoil it for you, since you are so passionate about beer, so I highly recommend you check out this book. It was a really fascinating way to learn about history and how influential certain beverages have been on humans.

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    1. TannerBrews Post author

      That sounds right up my alley! I’ve never thought of civilization in terms of beverage eras, but when you think about it human consumption of these beverages is obviously responsible for some major historical events unfolding.

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