The Reinheitsgebot ( literally "purity order"), sometimes called the "German Beer Purity Law" or the "Bavarian Purity Law" in English, is a regulation concerning the production of beer in Germany. In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops. The law has since been repealed but many German beers, for marketing purposes, continue to declare that they abide by the rule, to reassure customers that only the three permissible ingredients are used.
The law originated in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on 23 April 1516, although first put forward in 1487, concerning standards for the sale and composition of beer.
In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops. The law also set the price of beer at 1-2 Pfennig per Maß. The Reinheitsgebot is no longer part of German law: it has been replaced by the Provisional German Beer Law (Vorläufiges Deutsches Biergesetz (Provisional German Beer-law of 1993)), which allows constituent components prohibited in the Reinheitsgebot, such as wheat malt and cane sugar, but which no longer allows unmalted barley.
The penalty for making impure beer was also set in the Reinheitsgebot: a brewer using other ingredients for his beer could have questionable barrels confiscated with no compensation.
Reinheitsgebot was introduced in part to prevent price competition with bakers for wheat and rye. The restriction of grains to barley was meant to ensure the availability of sufficient amounts of affordable bread, as the more valuable wheat and rye were reserved for use by bakers. Today many Bavarian beers are again brewed using wheat and are thus no longer compliant with the Reinheitsgebot.
The Reinheitsgebot formed the basis of legislation that spread slowly throughout Bavaria and Germany. Bavaria insisted on its application throughout Germany as a precondition of German unification in 1871, to prevent competition from beers brewed elsewhere with a wider range of ingredients. The move encountered strong resistance from brewers outside Bavaria. By restricting the allowable ingredients, it led to the extinction of many brewing traditions and local beer specialties, such as North German spiced beer and cherry beer, and led to the domination of the German beer market by pilsener style beers. Only a few regional beer varieties, such as Kölner Kölsch or Düsseldorfer Altbier, survived its implementation.
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