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Kulturbrauerei, Heidelberg © Bjoern Rudek

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Beer Purity Law

Production of exceptional beer since 1516 is an ancient craft in Germany, dating back to at least the late Bronze Age, generally considered to have lasted in Central Europe between roughly 2000 and 700 B.C. The ancient Germans did not invent brewing, but they were probably the first Europeans to make beer. By insisting in 1516 that the „only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be barley, hops and water“ the German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) ensured the quality of German beer. Before 1516, the northern German brewers with their strict guild rules had the best beer quality, but the „Reinheitsgebot“ changed that. The Bavarians quickly increased their product quality and some think they surpassed the northern guilds. However, in the expanding brewing industry, there were naturally some misconducts as well. Many brewers were exposed as adulterators that wanted to get rich at the expense of the topers.
The year 2016 will mark the 500th Würzburger Hofbräu Beer ©HHoGanniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, but it is not the first law about beer: The Bavarian city of Augsburg already began very early to put the lid on the adulteration of beer. As early as 1143 Augsburg passed a first purity law! The municipal law had stipulated since 1156 that no beer of inferior quality is allowed to be brewed. Augsburg can claim that the city provides the oldest evidence of middle-class brewing within our cultural area. Today, there are still four large breweries in Augsburg. The brewery “Riegele” was founded in 1386 and is considered one of the oldest in the world.

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