milk stout

Making Sense of the Reinheitsgebot

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.”

The Friday Mash (Glass Houses Edition)

Eighty years ago today, in Toledo, Ohio, the first building to be completely covered in glass was completed. It was built for the Owens-Illinois Glass Company. The “Glass City” is also known for Jamie Farr and his beloved Tony Packo’s Cafe and Toledo Mud Hens.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Hollywood, where Golden Globe Awards host Ricky Gervais opened the show with a beer in his hand, and then proceeded to offend much of the audience with his jokes.

George Lenker, “The Beer Nut,” criticizes the Bavarian government for ordering a brewery to stop marketing its milk stout as beer because that beer didn’t comply with the Reinheitsgebot.

The Washington Post’s Ryan Ermey rated the top cheap beers, based on three criteria: alcoholic content, can design, and taste (“if you insist”). His top pick? Genesee Cream Ale.

Constellation Brands, which plunked down $1 billion to buy Ballast Point Brewing Company, will invest another $1.5 billion to build a brewery in Mexicali to meet growing demand for Mexican beer.

An iconic Pacific Northwest beer is coming back. The Red Hook Ale Brewery announced it will be making Rainier Pale Mountain Ale and other Rainier beers.

Nielsen NV and BARTRENDr have found out fans’ favorite brands of beer and liquor in every NFL city. Everclear didn’t make the list—even among fans of the awful Tennessee Titans.

Finally, brewer Chris Reynolds was given a chance to taste some of Alexander Keith’s IPA that was bottled in the 19th century and recently found underwater. Reynolds described the taste as “a little tree fruit note, a cherry note in there somehow—certainly a lot of sulphu,”.

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