Culture and Traditions

Germans: Beer Purity Law Deserves a Spot in UNESCO World Heritage List

Germans: Beer Purity Law Deserves a Spot in UNESCO World Heritage List
Bernadine Racoma

For centuries, Germany has been known as a world-renowned beer making country. For its continuing legacy in beer manufacturing, a law called the “Reinheitsgebot” was introduced in 1516 in the state of Bavaria and was adopted by the whole nation in 1906. This law was thereafter referred to as German Beer Purity Law. Inasmuch as it has been in effect for five centuries now, German brewers believe it deserves a spot in UNESCO World Heritage List.

Pure beer

Reinheitsgebot requires that water, malt, yeast and hops would be the only ingredients to be used in making beer. No flavorings or preservatives are allowed in the concoction. All beer manufacturing companies must comply with the said law or their barrels run the risk of being confiscated with no reimbursements. German breweries take pride of the Reinheitsgebot and many of them, including wheat beer brewers heed the law. Outside Germany, beers that are brewed in places that are connected historically with Germany like Namibia, also recognize Reinheitsgebot.

Undisputed beer country

The president of the German Brewers Federation, Hans-Georg Eils said, “If Germany is still regarded as the undisputed beer nation, that is due to the Reinhetsgebot. Its acceptance to the world heritage list would be for German brewers and malsters a sign of appreciation and an incentive at the same time.” The Federation has high regard of the German Beer Purity law as it is the oldest valid regulation in food production in the world. Above all, the law is still valued highly by many beer makers. Thorsten Schoppe, a brewer in Berlin said Germans are proud of their Reinheitsgebot. He also said that some drinkers are at first doubtful when they learn that he also follows the same regulation when making his American-style beers.

Cultural recognition

Inasmuch as beer making is an integral part of German culture, brewers and other food manufacturers in Germany such as bakers, are seeking for cultural recognition of their crafts. It is their aspiration that the UNESCO, which is the United Nation’s cultural organization, consider their crafts to be intangible and lasting cultural heritage much like Argentina’s tango dance, Iran’s carpet weaving and France’s gastronomic four-course meal. Incidentally this year, Germany became the 153rd state party to the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. In pursuance to UNESCO listing prerequisite, Germany’s 16 federal states have put together their proposals for the potential inclusion of the country on a national checklist.

Protecting beer drinkers

To protect beer drinkers from cheap and mostly unsafe beer ingredients, the Reinheitsgebot was introduced 500 centuries ago in the city of Ingolstadt in the German state of Bavaria. Dukes Wilhelm IV and Ludwig X were the proponents of the law. Up to now, Germany remains to be the biggest beer producer in Europe despite that consumption of beer on a per person basis yearly has significantly decreased in the country. In 2004, the World Health Organization reported that Germany is only fourth in beer consumption on per-capita status, falling behind the Czech Republic, Ireland and Swaziland, which have emerged to be top beer consumer-nations.

Photo Credit: Schell’s Brewery in Germany

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