Celebrating 500 years of German Beer Purity Law

Germany’s Beer Purity Law is the world’s oldest food regulation system still in existence today. It follows strict guidelines restricting the use of certain ingredients in the manufacture of beers in Germany. Due to its importance, an application has been submitted by the German Brewers Federation to UNESCO, protecting the law, therefore proclaiming it a world cultural heritage. This year marks the 500th anniversary of the law with a number of events scheduled to take place around Germany. One of the main events taking place from April 22 through April 24, 2016 is in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt in which the law was first proclaimed in 1516.

The importance of the German Beer Purity Law

Bavarian beer is considered to be among the world’s best. It comes as no surprise that for many hundreds of years, this natural resin nectar has been brewed containing only the highest grade of barley, hops and water. This was Duke William IV vision when he introduced the Bavarian Purity Law in 1516 at a gathering at the Bavarian Estates in Ingolstadt. The ruling was announced in the courtyard of the Neues Schloss, therefore extending brewing regulations throughout Bavaria. In today’s language, it reads as — “In particular we decree that from now on, no ingredients other than barley, hops and water are to be used in all beers in all our towns and markets as well as in the country.”

There are many different viewpoints with regards to the intentions associated with the Bavarian Purity Law. It remains uncertain whether or not it was simply intended as a means to signal in a new era of consumer protection or a method to protect its breweries from northern competitors, known for adding intoxicating herbs into their beer.

Nevertheless, rules were changed that included Bavaria, permitting the use of other ingredients such as wheat, an ingredient not covered by the Purity Law. Today, the classification of “beer” has become much more diverse and is protected by the Beer Act introduced in 2005. It describes what type of beers can be sold and what ingredients they must display. Simply speaking, a bottle can only declare to be beer if that is exactly what consists of.

The city is proud of its history associated with the world’s first food regulation proclaimed by Duke William at the Neues Schloss in Ingolstadt. Each year in his honor, the city celebrates the St. George’s Day Festival with a serving of a special batch of beer following the traditional procession.

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