No Oktoberfest is complete with the drinking of German beer. German beer drinkers have been protected by the famous German beer purity laws for over 500 years.

The so-called Reinheitsgebot (the purity laws) dictates how German beer should be prepared. The strict number of ingredients is key to the taste and tradition.

Without a doubt, Germans take beer seriously. Do you want to know more?

Discover a brief history of Reinheitsgebot below. Let’s go!

1. The Duke of Bavaria 

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Church doors in Wittenberg to kick start the Protestant Reformation.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Bavaria was too busy to notice such religious matters. He was too busy thinking about beer.

He issued the Reinheitsgebot in 1516. The document was largely concerned about money and the protection of the food supply. And yet, the third stipulation read:

“In all our towns, marketplaces and the whole of the countryside, that beer shall have no other ingredients than barley, hops, and water be used and employed.”

He forgets to mention the all-important ingredient of yeast.

The law only applied in Bavaria at the time, which is the birthplace of the Oktoberfest as well.

2. Unification of Germany in 1871

The Bavarian tradition of brewing beer was unique for over three-hundred years.

The rest of the German-speaking states had their own distinct traditions, which actually involved numerous ingredients.

Back then, Germany was not a unified country. Germany was unified in 1871.

When the new government introduced a law on brewing, it did not specify the number of ingredients. But rather, it was concerned with taxes.

3. The Weimar Republic 

Following the outbreak of World War One, under the Weimar Republic, Germany was reunified once again.

However, under the terms of joining the new Germany, Bavaria demanded that its purity laws be included in any agreement.

In 1919, the Reinheitsgebot came into effect. The lagers which were famous from Bavaria would be held to the standards of the purity law. 

The ales, which were traditionally brewed in the north of Germany, would be given a more lenient rule.

Therefore, while lager can only be made with barley, water, yeast, and hops. Ale can also include wheat malt, salt, and even coriander. 

4. The Introduction of Imported Beer

The years when Germany only permitted beer under the rules of the Reinheitsgebot are over. The laws remain in place. No German beer brewed in Germany can neglect the purity laws.

And yet, in 1987 the European Courts forced Germany to accept imports of beer from other countries. That’s why you can now drink Dutch beer in Munich and French beer in Berlin.

However, this doesn’t seem to have convinced the Germans. It appears many Germans are as convinced as before that German beer is purer and better than the rest.

Sipping Your German Beer at Oktoberfest

When you’re sipping your German beer at Oktoberfest, you should remember this brief history.

You’re now part of a 500-year old history of the Reinheitsgebot. You get to enjoy the purest and best beer the world has ever seen.

How much German beer can you handle? You can also register for the Beer Stein Holdings Competitions here