The Reinheitsgebot, aka Germany’s beer purity law, turns 500 in April. The law is familiar to beer lovers but, according to Joe Stange of All About Beer magazine, is widely misunderstood. To begin with, it wasn’t the first German law that regulated ingredients. It wasn’t called a “purity law” until 100 years ago, and it was more concerned with keeping beer and bread affordable—and curbing brewers’ use of wheat, which bakers needed—than with keeping beer pure. It didn’t apply across Germany until 1906; and when it did, the law killed many regional beer styles. And the law has been tweaked since 1516.
All that said, the law remains on the books, and is known in English as “The Provisional Beer Law”. Even though it no longer bans the importation of non-Reinheitsgebot beer, thanks to various free-trade laws and treaties, a German brewery still can’t market non-compliant products as “beer”.
On a recent trip to a Munich beer bar, Stange deliberately ordered a non-compliant beer, a milk stout brewed by the bar’s parent company, a brewery called Camba Bavaria. The barman explained to Stange that it wasn’t available due to “legal troubles with the Reinheitsgebot”.
Stange contacted the brewery for an explanation of the “legal troubles”, which began with the milk stout. According to the brewery: “officials told them (1) they can’t call it beer, since it has lactose (milk sugar); (2) they can’t call it ‘milk’ anything since there is no milk in it; (3) they can’t call it Klim Touts [‘milk stout’ spelled backwards] either, by the way, because don’t be cheeky; and oh (4) you’ll have to go ahead and pay taxes on it as if it were beer, even though we say it’s not beer, because ‘milk stout’ is clearly an established international beer style, even though you can’t call it that.”
Two hundred and twenty-five years ago today, Rhode Island became the 13th and last of the original colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Even though the state ranks last in area, it has the longest name of any U.S. state: “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Hamburg, Germany, where the Astra brewery has installed a billboard that uses facial detection to detect one’s gender If a woman passes by, it plays her an Astra commercial.
Last November, Whole Foods Market added a Criveller brewing system to its store in Houston. A month later, it started brewing beer at its store in Emeryville, California.
Dock Beer, a golden saison by Dock Street Brewing, will be aged with an extra ingredient: nonstop music by Wu-Tang Clan, whose bass notes will move the yeast around.
A 2012 law raising the ABV cap on beer has kick-started craft brewing in Mississippi. Hank Sforzini of Paste magazine names five of his favorites.
A man who has been paralyzed for 13 years can once again enjoy a beer, thanks to a mind-controlled robot arm developed by Caltech and its partners.
Finally, Dick and Nancy Ponzi needed another business to generate income for their planned pinot noir winery. That business was the 31-year-old BridgePort Brewing Company, Oregon’s oldest craft brewery.
On this day in 1917, Father Edward Flanagan, a Catholic priest in Omaha, opened a home for wayward boys. That home is now a National Historic Landmark; and Boys Town’s slogan, “He ain’t heavy, mister–he’s my brother,” has become part of our popular culture.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Austin, Texas, where Lance Armstrong quit after one lap during qualifying for the inaugural Beer Mile Championship. Armstrong said he’ll never again run a Beer Mile.
Dave Lieberman of OCWeekly.com got a sales pitch for the “Sonic Foamer,” which creates a 5-millimeter head on your pint of beer. He doesn’t seem the least bit impressed with the product.
Oktoberfest tops the list of Germany’s beer festivals, but it’s not the only one. EscapeHere.com runs down the country’s top ten, some of which are hundreds of years old.
A sealed bottle of Samuel Alsopp’s Arctic Ale sold for $503,300 on eBay. It’s considered the world’s rarest bottle of beer because the the original seller misspelled the name “Allsop’s”.
The Sriracha craze has spread to beer. This month, Rogue Ales will release a limited-edition Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout Beer. Suggested pairings include soup, pasta, pizza, and chow mein.
Last weekend, MillerCoors LLC teamed up with a start-up called Drizly, and offered free home delivery of Miller Lite to customers in four cities.
Finally, David Kluft of JDSupra Business Advisor reviews this year’s beer trademark disputes. Maybe these cases will inspire someone to host a Disputed Beer Festival next year.
On this day in 1756, Prussia’s king Frederick the Great attacked Saxony, beginning the Seven Years’ War. The conflict, which took place on five continents and involved most of the world’s powers, is better known to English-speaking North Americans as the French and Indian War.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Germany, where the Mallersdorf Abbey’s Sister Doris has been a master brewer for nearly 40 years. She’s one of Bavaria’s few “ladies who lager”–and Europe’s last beer-brewing nun.
Beer historian Tom Acitelli credits a 2002 cut in the excise tax for the profusion of small breweries in Great Britain. He also credits a 1976 beer tax cut for America’s small-brewery boom.
NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon is a wine lover, but he also has a taste for good beer. Gordon recently showed up at Dogfish Head Artisan Ales, whose 61 Minute IPA really impressed him.
For years, Mexico’s brewing industry had been dominated by two large corporations, but change is slowly coming, thanks to the federal government’s efforts to curb monopolies in key industries.
Iowa officials are pondering what to do with the 150-year-old beer caves underneath I-380 in Cedar Rapids. The forgotten caves were exposed by this summer’s heavy rains.
Barrel-aged beer is becoming more popular, and brewers are looking beyond traditional bourbon barrels. Now they’re starting to age their beer in barrels once used for Scotch, rum, and wine.
Finally, the growth of microbreweries might give rise to a new breed of wholesalers. Yarmouth, Maine-based Vacationland Distributors specializes in craft breweries, especially those that have grown beyond the state’s maximum for self-distribution rights.
Forty-five years ago today, at a zebra crossing in London, photographer Iain Macmillan took the photo that became the cover of the Beatles album Abbey Road. It became one of the most famous album covers in recording history.
And now…The Mash!
We begin, appropriately, in London, where local officials might stop evening beer festivals at the zoo after festival-goers threw beer at the tigers and a drunken woman tried to enter the lion enclosure*.
Jim Koch, the CEO of Boston Beer Company, planned to open a brewery in Seattle, where he went to college. But after watching it rain for 45 straight days, Koch and his wife moved back to Boston.
Germany’s years-long slump in beer consumption was halted by its winning the World Cup. Between January and June, sales rose by 4.4 percent over a year ago.
Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company issued a recall for its popular Swill beer after it learned some bottles were undergoing secondary fermentation, which could cause them to explode.
California’s continuing drought has craft brewers worried. If the rains don’t come this winter, they might be forced to curtail production, raise prices, or even move brewing operations out of state.
Elizabeth Daly, who sued the Virginia ABC after over-zealous plainclothes officers wrongly suspected she was a minor in possession, will get a $212,500 settlement check from the state.
Finally, New Zealand health regulators warned a hotel that its sign, “Pero Says: ‘Free Beer Tomorrow’”, may violate the law by promoting excessive drinking. Haven’t they read about “Jam Tomorrow” in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass?
* Ludwig is not pleased with her.