Purity Law

A Beer without Peer

Ein Mitarbeiter hält am 16.02.2016 in Mannheim (Baden-Württemberg) im Technoseum in der Ausstellung "Bier. Braukunst und 500 Jahre deutsches Reinheitsgebot" zwecks Bestimmung der Stammwürze eine Extraktspindel in ein mit Pils gefülltes Reagenzglas. Foto: Uwe Anspach/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Important anniversary: A demonstration at a Mannheim exhibition, The Art of Brewing And 500 Years of German Purity Law, in February.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s Beer Purity Law is the world’s oldest food law. It has given small and medium-sized German brewers a unique selling point and competitive edge over international competitors.

  • Facts


    • With its 1,388 breweries, Germany leads the world with a wide variety of beer makers.
    • The historic beer law anniversary will be celebrated across Germany with numerous festivals and events on Beer Day, April 23.
    • Upper Franconia, in northern Bavaria, has the most small breweries per capita in the world and over half of them have been making beer for more than 200 years.
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Nearly 500 years ago, on April 23, 1516, a gathering of Bavarian knights and noblemen summoned to the city of Ingolstadt by Duke Wilhelm IV, decreed that beer should be made only from hops, malt and water. This simple recipe formed the basis of the Reinheitsgebot, the famed “German Beer Purity Law,” which celebrates its fifth century this month.

Although yeast was later added as an acceptable ingredient, the ancient recipe remains the law of the land to German brewers to this day. Modern brewers have managed to bend the rules just a little, adding concentrated yeast extracts to inject different flavors and intensities to some of the country’s more than 500 breweries.

A half millennium later, beer production is increasingly in the hands of global companies, with brands and locations on all continents. For example, two global market leaders, AB Inbev and SAB Miller, are pursuing a merger worth €102 billion.

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