The German Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot)

The German Purity Law is the oldest food and drink regulation still existing today and therefore effectively the world's first consumer protection law.

The German Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot)

The German Purity Law is the oldest food and drink regulation still existing today and therefore effectively the world's first consumer protection law. On the 23rd of April 1516 before a committee consisting of gentry and knights in Ingolstadt, the Duke of Bavaria Wilhelm IV proclaimed that only barley, hops and water could be used to brew beer.

Because at that time, beer was often adulterated and experiments were carried out using all kinds of herbs and spices, this law certainly led to an increase in the quality of beer. However the Duke was not primarily thinking about protecting beer drinkers from adulterated beer. His true aim was to create a secure market for Bavarian barley farmers and to ensure that the scarce supply of wheat was only used to make bread.

Regardless of the original motives, the German Purity Law has come to stand for pure beer and today provides a timely response to consumer fears of chemical additives and preservatives. It is simply an extraordinary symbol of quality and a standard gladly accepted by all German breweries, including the privately run brewery Gaffel Becker & Co. The German Purity Law has increasingly gained acceptance around the world.

This law also provides the foundation of the current beer tax law (provisional beer law of July 27th 1993). This law sets forth that “only barley malt, hops, yeast and water can be used to produce bottom-fermented beer”. In 1516 yeast was not yet recognised as a raw material. At that time brewers simply depended on the natural fermentation process to take its course. In addition to this, the absolute limitation to barley malt only applies to bottom-fermented beers. Top-fermented beers such as Koelsch may also contain malts from wheat or rye. By the way, your Gaffel Koelsch is brewed using barley malt according to the classic recipe.