Montag, 28. Oktober 2019

Lost in the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law)

Lost in the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law)

I wanted to write that feuilleton for a while. 

I have been there when Germany was a Pilsland, I have been there when some people tried to start a craft beer revolution and I observe it dying. There were a few points of ignition for finally writing.

·   First one, quite exactly a year ago: a Bavarian craft brewer, whom I criticized for labeling the beer as “Brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot”. The guy came to me and say, they do it because they are proud of this law.

·  The second one was an interview with Marcus Rauschmann, main brewer of Braufactum @braufactum who stated that the craft beer must finally take off. (

·     The third one was my personal experience. Even if I live in Belgium now, I still visit Germany on a regular basis. I have seen craft beers getting to the masses in 2016-2017. Since 2017 I see the trend going backward dramatically. And it’s a devil’s wheel: No interest-no new breweries-no great beers-no interest.

·    A recent one, a summary of the market development that shows craft beer trend going backward. It may not be the absolute end of craft beer in Germany, but at least any development has been stopped.

A bit of history to start.

I have moved to Germany in 1999 to start my Ph.D. study. Moving around the country from Berlin to Heidelberg and later to the area of Frankfurt am Main I had a chance to live in there for 16 years. I have traveled across the land and visited the vast majority of touristic and some non-touristic places that you can find in Germany. I also went through vast all of beers styles and maybe available in this beautiful country.
What I have noticed is what I call nutrition schizophrenia. I know it sounds strong, but for me, that is what exactly describes the German way of eating and drinking.

Here a description, Germans love foreign food. Against all that people believe there is nothing like a common German cuisine. Local food is different between Berlin, Munich, Aachen, and Leipzig. Common is the love for Asian, Indian and Turkish kitchen. The national food of Germans appears to be Döner Kebab. This is not very far from the truth as the current form served in the bread with salad was invented by a Turkish immigrant in Berlin around 1979*.

On top of their love for the exotic food, Germans like to visit the world. And I don’t mean the men in short trousers, sandals, and socks, I mean real travelers through Asia, Australia, and South America. For most people, I knew, Majorca was a starting point. A sabbatical trip through Peru was nothing unusual and a trip to Asia was something they could decide on from Monday to Tuesday. I also know somebody who has traveled to Siberia with Orient Express. German airline Lufthansa uses #SayYesToTheWorld in their advertisements. Yes, it is a lot about the money, but it mostly is about being open to the world.

On the contrary, openness ends up when it comes to drinking. The first truth I have learned about Germany is that you could easily buy here any juice you love if you like apple juice. Especially in my early years there, apple juice and orange juice were literally the only choice of juice you could get. In any neighboring country, you could get multiple other sorts, but in Germany, your choice was limited to these 2. 

Then there is wine – sure there are great French, Australian, and South African Wines bur we have excellent German wines from multiple regions, why to take anything else.
These two examples only slightly visualize the scale of the problem.  The real fun is when you get to the beer.

Beer = Pils

In some cases, it may be a dark (dunkles) beer. But in general, if you go to a bar and ask for a beer, you get a Pils, Lager, Helles and similar. Bock and alt are considered exotic, drink seasonally and a margin of the whole production. Gose, which is a traditional style for Leipzig, is not even described as Beer and I know that 99% of people outside of the area are not aware of the existence of such a style. On top, they are all convinced their local Pils tastes the best, even if they are not able to differentiate it from the other ones**.

So, it looks to me that Germans have been brainwashed. And the name of the procedure is Reinheitsgebot.

For the ones that are not aware. Reinheitsgebot was introduced in Bawaria in 1516. It restricted the name of the beer to a drink made of three ingredients: barley, water, and hops (yeast was unknown in 1516). Bavarians made a pan-German acceptation of their law a prerequisite for German unification in 1879.  It only became a pan-German law in 1906.
Just to make it clear, because I got this question more than once. This was the law! This was not just the suggestion. Anything outside these very narrow and sharp borders is not a beer. Seriously, your milkshake IPA is not a beer, neither your milk stout nor sour beer. Not beer! Point!

And they meant it. It took the case under the European Court of Justice in 1987 to allow the foreign beer to be sold as beer in Germany. Even after Germans decided to keep that regulation for the beer produced inland.

One more info, Reinheitsgebot has been replaced in 1993 by a Provisional Beer Law. Few more things like hop extracts are now allowed.  Importantly, most of the breweries still use the name in their advertisements and people believe it. To be honest, this is a perfect weapon against a craft beer revolution.

To not appear negative. Reinheitsgebot was the wonder of its time. In the middle ages, people were very trigger happy when it came to what they added to a beer. And quite some things were poisonous. Thanks to strict regulation, the good name of the beer was restored and saved.

A very limited number of ingredients required from brewers to master their technology to obtain good beer. No cheating possible. No sugar to bump alcohol, no corn syrup or extracts, no spices etc… Knowing that it is easier to understand why German beer holds high quality all over the land.  Even a cheap beer from Aldi or Lidl has acceptable quality and so-called premium brands like Warsteiner or Radeberger guarantee clean, crisp Pils without flaws.

Thanks to the century-long experience German Pils is cheap. 1-liter Warsteiner costs around 1.53 Euro. For comparison, 1 liter of Gerolsteiner mineral water costs 0.87 euro (I consider both brands to be premium products, price were checked in Rewe online shop on October 7) ***

Maybe, the beer is not as cheap as water, but considering that beer requires more ingredients and some advanced technology the price tag of German beer is low.
So much for the good things. Now let’s talk about the drawbacks.

Undeniably, Reinheitsgebot has unified the German beer landscape. Without a euphemism, most of the non-Reinheitsgebot-compliant styles were killed or forced not to use the name beer.

Therefore, even is Germany is considered one of the canonical beer nations of Europe, it is not. It is Pilsland (as much and sadly only that much). I have nothing against Pils, but to be honest it is not the most complex and demanding beer style. Well, it is demanding for the brewer, but not for the people who drink it. Even as a beer lover, I cannot compare the complexity of Pils to wine, whereas good stout or barrel-aged beer can easily stand this comparison. Consequently, German beer is getting to the level where it is considered a thirst quencher. You would seek it on hot days, but you would not serve it in high society parties, or you would not enjoy it in the winter evening at the fireplace. It is not even beer, it is "beerchen" (softer, more paternalized name).

For me, this stupid sticking to Reinheitsgebot tradition is one of the things that is causing a constant drop in beer consumption in Germany. It is so simple; people expect more than just another Pils. If they cannot get it, they for more complex wines or stronger alcohols like whiskey. In a normal land, nowadays they could get their barrel-aged beers, but in Germany, they are left alone. This is at best very short sighed politics and it will have long going consequences. 

That brainwash is continuing, big brands still use the name Reinheitsgebot in their adverts. I met many people who still believe that Reinheitsgebot is an existing law in Germany. New beer styles are considered abomination.

Even worse, some of the so-called craft brewers also praise the Reinheitsgebot. A year ago, I have criticized German brewer from Bavaria for calling their IPA compliant with Reingeitsgebot. He came to me and said that this is because they are proud of that. Guy, I am proud of people learning how to ride horses, but I prefer a VW. In fact, I am grateful to that guy, at least one brewery I don’t have to try at all, I am sure they will never brew something out of the box.

I recently met a craft brewer who told me that they buy lactose obtained from barley, just to make sure that their milk IPA is Reinheitsgebot compliant. It is 5x more expensive than the regular lactose and has a dramatic impact on the price of the beer. But it allows you to write that your Milkshake IPA is Renheitshebot compliant.
I call it madness.

To summarize this lengthy drop of facts and bits, the consumption of beer in Germany is going backward. And the numbers are not small. A few years ago, Germany was the second in Europe in Beer consumption. Now they may be at place 4 or 5.

Personally, I love that citation from Süddeutsche Zeitung. Kunden sind "ihrer" Biermarke nur noch selten treu. Lieber wechseln sie wöchentlich die Sorte, um Geld zu sparen. Der Wechsel fällt umso leichter, da sich manche Biere im Geschmack nur mithilfe von Labortests auseinanderhalten lassen.

Free translation „Clients are not anymore bound to their beer brand, they are happy to change the brand to save money. This change is not very difficult, because the taste of different beers can only be differentiated using laboratory tests”.

There was a wave of articles in German newspapers earlier this year, trying to understand the phenomenon. One of the ideas was that the new generation simply does not drink that much. This is of course because of the healthy lifestyle. Apparently, young people drink less…

Well, do not get your eyes covered. According to the World Health Organization, Germany belongs to the most drinking lands in Europe. According to the 2019 report, Germany, together with Lithuania and the Czech Republic are the only winners, belonging to the group of 13-15 liter of pure alcohol per capita.

Congratulations guys.

Btw, Polish, who in the mind of average German consumes a lot of alcohol, are in group #3, consuming below 11,9 liters. And guess what Poland is now European #2 for beer consumption.

To be frank. You must be fully blind not to see the connection. Less beer consumption, more pure alcohol per capita. This must be going somewhere. Obviously either in wine or in strong alcohol. So simple, math and statistics can’t be wrong.

Based on my experience with a beer in Poland, craft beer could have been something that reverses the trend. It is obvious that people are bored with drinking the same beer over and over. As stated before, Germans are curious and interested in tasting something else than Pils. If you keep insisting that beer is only the thing that is made according to the Reinheitsgebot that is what you going to get.

Consequently, every craft brewer who is putting on a beer label a statement that the beer was brewed according to Reinheitsgebot is actively destroying the beer scene in Germany. There are no excuses for that. I am not asking you to be ashamed of Reinheitsgebot, but you have the power to educate your local fans that beer is way more than Reinheitgebot.

Not taking this chance should be considered a crime.


BTW.  If you think that beer is Reinhaitsgebot, you simply do not belong here, please stop calling yourself a craft brewer. Craft is about invention and fun. No place for 500 years old laws here,

Final word. I travel quite a lot. Very often I interact with beer geeks from Europe and the USA. There is a reason why all of them want to go to Belgium and literally, none of them asked me for the best place in Germany to have a beer. On my personal list Germany does not make it to the top 3 countries in Europe where I would like to have a beer. Considering worldwide, it does not make it to top 5. On top, I couldn’t trade any single beer form Germany in the last two years. Even great things like the wine barrel-aged bock from wouldn’t go. It is because of Germany, full of their Rienheitsgebot, just left the race for broadly recognized beer and nobody is expecting anything interesting from German brewers.

Obviously, I can’t stop today. I am fully fed up. Fed up with hearing stories that German craft brewer must sell his Ginger-Triple as “a drink on a beer basis” (Biermischgetränk). Fed up with wasting the enormous potential of German beer culture. And fed up with brewers who praise 500 years old laws.

Not asking you to blame the Reinheitsgebot, just stop praising it. For your own sake.



*No joke. I have seen a TV documentary about that. Yes, I know that you can buy identical Döner Kebab in Turkey. But it is for the tourists, it has not a lot to do with their traditional food.
** Another TV documentary, tested group of fans of a local beer. They failed miserably in the blind test.
*** Btw. cheapest Pils I found was 0.7 euro/ liter. Cheapest mineral water was 0.22.

Mittwoch, 8. Mai 2019

Stone Brewery Berlin Bye Bye

Stone Brewery Berlin Bye Bye

As probably everybody knows, Stone Brewing Berlin was sold to Brewdog earlier this month. Because of that, founder of Stone Brewing Greg Koch has published an emotional post on the Stone Brewing Blog.
That post is a must-read for any beergeek.
Because it shows that you can be a successful promoter of beer revolution and still know shit about beer roots and culture.
Let me cite Greg:
We started Stone in 1996 because we weren’t OK with the status quo of beer in the U.S. We felt Americans deserved better, so we brewed it for them. When we saw much of Germany stuck in a similar status quo of cheap beer, we were convinced we could help. As it stands now, German beer prices are the cheapest in Western Europe. As most of us know from life, the best things are rarely the cheapest.
This is enough to tell that that guy has no clue what he is talking about.
The situation of Germany and USA was never comparable. German beer culture is one of the most powerful in the world. Quality of their beer is astonishing and the cheapest piss from Aldi or Lidl is still 100x better than the Bud. Reading my other posts, you know that I do not appreciate Germans being closed to almost anything that isn’t Pils. Nevertheless, I can’t complain about the quality.
Whoever does is completely blinded.
Btw. Same goes for other European beer culture – Czech Republic (beer is literally cheaper than the water there, but nobody dares to call them brews bad)
In fact, the rest of the text is full of such ignorant statements.
One more citation:
Stone IPA was rated the #1 IPA in the country
Based on the fact that (around) 95% of beers sold in Germany are Lagers, being the best IPA has the same value as being the best vegan dish in Argentina or Brasil. It is a prize that I wouldn't care a lot.
Feel free to comment.

Sonntag, 15. April 2018

Leuven Innovation Beer Festival , Leuven, April 14015, 2018

Before the full story is published online, I have decided to feature few beers that a must try at the festival. And you have a chance today!

Double Mashem Imperial Stout with raisins and rum soaked vanilla beans
This beers is amazing. Well balanced, not to alcoholic. Perfect aroma of roasted coffee complemented with raisins and vanilla. Taste is more on rum raisin side with a delicate roasted malt. Simply stunning,

Ice Distilled Milk Stout

Milkolak is the flagship beer from Recraft. Well balanced and tasty light stout. Now they present an ice distilled version. And it is amazing. Like drinking nice thick coffee with milk. Simply great.

Red Button MERCI
Gose with rye and red caviar
A novelty from Russia. Combination of smoked-sour goose with salt and fish aroma from caviar is a blast. Rye give a smoothness. Perfect summer beer.



Samstag, 24. März 2018

The Place and The Beer 10: Golden Dog Brewery/Browar Zloty Pies, Wroclaw, Poland

Browar Złoty Pies/
Golden Dog Brewery
Wita Stwosza 1-2, 
11-400 Wrocław, Poland

Visit at the Browar Złoty Pies (Polish for Golden Dog Brewery) was on my list for a long time. As some other posts, it suffered from the speed of life and tendency not to look back too much.
But I still think that it is worth taking the time.

When visiting Wroclaw for a second time, I have found that getting good craft beer next to the city center is still not obvious. Luckily there was the Złoty Pies /Golden Dog.
Located next to the market square in a renovated old house, called Under the Golden Dog, this place is a must see for all beer geeks. Looking back, I have seen many wonderful places when visiting Wroclaw, but Golden Dog is still the one I memorize very well.

First of all – I simply love this style of the interior. The combination of brick, wood and copper brew gear is astonishing and I have never had enough yet. Steampunk pure. If you are a fan, you will be amazed. You may complain that many restaurant brewers look similar. Maybe, I still love it and never have enough.

Second – the master brewer is unusual. Łukasz Szwed is a real PhD. He has obtained his titel from the Wroclaw University of Life Sciences in 2012 and specializes in brewing technologies. For the ones interested, his thesis can be found here:
If you want to study and listen to Łukasz classes, he is still teaching at:

Third reason I still remember the brewery, is the beer. I was surprised to see that they not only brew typical restaurant beers – light, dark and weizen. They dared to go beyond. Btw. all beers are named according to the dog races, therefore Golden means Golden Retriever.
Pit Bull IPA – dry hopped with New Zeeland hops was. Is surprisingly good for a restaurant beer. Very aromatic and very bitter for a restaurant beer (60 IBU). Pleasant surprise and worth trying.

Boxer Lager was simply OK. I personally don’t like this style; therefore, I will just say that I haven’t noticed any major mistakes and it is very drinkable.

Setter sweet stout – another surprise. Solid, light stout. Aromatic enough to make many beer-geeks happy. Not bone breaking but quite drinkable.

But the clear highlight is their Golden Weizen. Winner of a craft beer competition in Poland, but also Gold Medal on the World Beer Awards 2016.  And the beer is very good. Looking on the rating at the Ratebeer, you tend to underestimate it. But it has an impressive aroma of bananas and cloves. Fresh, bit lemony in taste. Well balanced, fresh and drinkable. Not sure what more I would like to get from the Weizen. Just perfect.
My summary is clear – a must for anybody visiting Wrclw at any time of the year.

Freitag, 16. März 2018

Craft beer in Verona, Italy. Romeo and Juliet would drink it!

Osteria La Mandorla
Via Alberto Mario 23

Verona, Italy 37121

When traveling for business, I do not always have time to go to the best beer places suggested by my colleagues and online guides. That was exactly the case in Verona. The only brewery was at least 40 minutes away, the bottle shop was closed and the bar was far and open only in the evening.

Looks difficult.

Luckily, there somewhere I have found the Osteria La Mandorla as a destination. Very luckily. It is located maybe 2 minutes’ walk from the Arena of Verona, 3 minutes from my hotel and it is opened until late night.
The online description was encouraging – they are the wine bar, but would have 4 Italian craft beers on the tap.

Even if the description is not perfect (see below) I am still glad that it was there. Look at the photographs. It is not necessary a place where a tourist would step in, on top craft beers are very well hidden. The tap is covered by the bar. Neither the information on the microbrewery nor the tap are visible from the street. They also have a small fridge filled with various Italian and British craft beers – that one is even better hidden. If not the owner, I would never find it.

Given the overall great atmosphere and a climate of local bar I liked the place a lot, however, I would appreciate a bit of info visible from the outside.

One thing that is clear – that place won a lot of awards for Osteria (see photo).

All together – my tip for craft beer lovers visiting Verona.

Now the beer – it is important to mention that these guys own a microbrewery, so 2 beers we could try – an IPA and golden ale were their own productions. This makes the place even more amazing to me.

If you need more - at the time I have visited, all guys at the bar spoke English.

Below, the beers you can get now

Maso Alto Selvatica

From the tap. Aroma is not the strongest here. Delicate tropical fruits, grass and some malt. But the valanced flavor of malt and hops with some decent bitter aftertaste beat the shit out of me. There is not too much to complain here, the whole thing is just drinkable. Just go for it!

Maso Alto Interpida
Golden Ale del Trentino

I was positively surprised ow much can bergamot and orange peel bring to the style Fresh, aromatic, earl grey like. At the same time light and multifaceted. Very good beer.