American beer geeks love to talk about how big brewing has become in the States over the past couple of decades. Meanwhile, the Germans are like, “Coole Geschichte, Bru” while drinking lager out of a stein that holds more liquid than all the glassware in your house combined.
If you need a reminder of just how far back the German love of beer goes, this fact should put things in perspective: In 2016, the Germans will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the enactment of the Reinheitsgebot, otherwise known as the country’s famous, and sometimes infamous, “Beer Purity Law.”
The law was originally enacted on April 23, 1516 by Munich’s Duke William IX, who was worried that the beverage was becoming adulterated, according to AFP. The original rules stipulated that only three ingredients could be used in the making of beer: barley, hops and water—though yeast was later added after, you know, it was discovered.
Despite the rule’s seemingly positive intentions, the Reinheitsgebot has not been without its criticisms, especially in a modern beer culture that likes pushing beer’s boundaries. “There are small breweries and craft beer producers who would like to experiment, to embark on more daring creations,” Stefan Hempl, a spokesman for Hofbraeu Munich, told AFP. Thanks to the rules, these more experimental brews have to be called “mixed beer beverages.”
Still, the historical importance of a beer law that has stood for half a millennium is hard to debate, meaning on April 23 this year, when beer drinkers celebrate the Day of German Beer, a national celebration in honor of the enactment of the Reinheitsgebot, it will have that much more meaning. Cheers to that.