Rory Lawton joins me from Berlin, Germany to discuss the tradition of the German Purity Law or “Reinheitsgebot” and some very controversial efforts to challenge it. Along the way we discuss the history of the law, how it has evolved and how it affects brewing in Germany.
Note: This is a controversial topic in Germany, so if you know someone who would like to come on and present the opposing view (Pro-purity law) I would certainly be willing to consider it for an upcoming podcast to present the other side. Just drop me a message from the contact us link.
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Topics in This Week’s Episode (55:42)
- Today my guest is Rory Lawton. Rory is a writer living in Berlin, Germany who has been campaigning with a small number of brewers to challenge the German Beer Purity Laws. While Rory is a critic of the law, he is a strong advocate of German Brewing traditions and German brewers in general.
- These laws have a long tradition in German brewing and are widely supported by the German Brewer’s Association and also the general public, so any talk of altering or loosening them is very controversial. However over the years several breweries have challenged various aspects of the law with mixed success.
- We start with a discussion history and the beer Purity Law’s 500th anniversary which was just marked in 2016, and started in Bavaria in 1516.
- Rory shares his thoughts on some of the “myths” versus facts surrounding the law, and we discuss how many historical beer styles and techniques actually have a more complicated history than is commonly known.
- We discuss how the Purity law has evolved over time as minor changes were made to include ingredient such as wheat and yeast.
- Brewing techniques have also evolved rapidly in recent years, so we talk about what is and is not allowed in modern German beer production.
- We discuss the interesting fact that imported beer can be made in virtually any way (due to EU trade laws) but German beer is subject to the Purity Law if it is sold for internal consumption.
- We discuss some of the recent legal challenges and how some brewers are pushing the limits of ingredients and techniques.
- We talk about the US craft beer revolution versus the German small craft brewing tradition.
- Rory shares his thoughts on the recent UNESCO world heritage bid to establish the Purity laws as a world heritage site and some of the reasons it failed.
- We both acknowledge the incredibly heritage of the German Purity law and why it is important to defend and protect the traditional beer brewing culture.
- Rory shares his closing thoughts on the subject.
- Thank you to our sponsor Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine for sponsoring this episode. I encourage you to subscribe to their great magazine!
- And also Anvil Brewing Equipment. Anvil is a new line of kettles, burners and accessories from John Blichmann at Blichmann Engineering. They make top quality brewing equipment built to last a lifetime.
- Also check out BeerSmith, BeerSmith Mobile software and the new DVDs John Palmer and I filmed – How to Brew with Malt Extract and How to Brew All Grain are available now. You can subscribe to the BeerSmith newsletter for free to get some great articles on home brewing.
Thanks to Rory Lawton for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!
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