German Beer & the Purity Law

Most beer connoisseurs know there are four key ingredients to making beer: hops, barley, water and yeast.

These are the only ingredients permitted in beer, according to the old German Beer Purity Law.

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What is the German Beer Purity Law?

Referred to as Reinheitsgebot (Rine-Hites-gaBoat), the decree has come to be known as German Beer Purity Law. It is a 499 year law governing how German beer should be produced. It was one of the world’s oldest food quality regulations and has become part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Written by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516, the law states only hops, barley and water may be used to brew beer. The law was first introduced in Bavaria, but it gave the local governments the tools to enforce the regulation, which slowly spread all over Germany.

At that time, brewers simply depended on the natural fermentation process to take its course. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that yeast was added to the acceptable list of ingredients when scientists discovered the fermenting agent.

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Intent of the law

Although the law doesn’t explicitly state the reasoning behind the regulation, many say the intent of the law was designed to ensure the quality of beer, stop people using valuable grains for beer and regulate pricing.

At the time, beer was being brewed with all sorts of ingredients before the rise of hops. Spices, fruits, weeds, herbs and even poisonous seeds. By insisting that only hops, barley and water be used for the brewing of beer, it protected consumers from poor standards and harmful ingredients.

Grains like wheat and rye were also being used to make beer, which were better used in bread baking. The introduction of the law prohibited the use of cereal grains for beer, reserving wheat and rye strictly for bread bakers and to ensure the scarce supply of wheat was only used to make bread.

The law also had very detailed paragraphs stipulating the price at which beer could be sold. This law was enacted to make sure the citizens had good beer at a reasonable price (set as one Pfennig per Mass).

The purity law today

The law was repealed in 1987, when a European Union court deemed it a restriction of free trade, as the purity law was seen as protectionism. Although the law is technically not in effect today, many breweries around the world have adopted the German standard and still uphold the German Beer Purity Law.

The traditional German saying;

Hopfen und Malz – Gott erhalt’s

translates to:

Hops and malt for beer, may God preserve them here

– a pledge that remains true in our hearts today. All of our beers at Oktoberfest Brisbane, including our non-alcoholic Weissbier, are brewed in strict accordance with the ‘Bayrisches Reinheitsgebot’, the German Beer Purity Law.

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This is the largest representation of the German Beer Purity Law in the world. This is located on the production building wall of Tucher Brewery, in Nuremberg, Germany.


Oktoberfest Brisbane encourages responsible and sensible drinking behaviour at all times.