Last weekend we had a brew demo in which we brewed a German Hefeweizen. I followed the Reinheitsgebot, which is the German Purity Law. What this consists of is a set of regulations limiting you to certain ingredients when brewing a beer in Germany. The only ingredients a brewer is allowed to use are grain, hops, water, and yeast. This law was instated in 1516 to prevent price competition with bakers for wheat and rye. The restriction of grains to barley was meant to ensure the availability of affordable bread, as wheat and rye were reserved for use by bakers. It has also been argued that the rule had a protectionist role, as beers from Northern Germany often contained additives that were not present in Bavarian beer.
In 1871, the Reichstag (German parliament) enacted laws which included taxes on beer, but where the law described other allowed ingredients (starch, sugar, syrup and rice), they carved out an exception for Bavaria, Baden, and Württemberg in order to preserve their Reinheitsgebot. The purity law first became binding for Northern Germany in 1906. At the end of World War I, when the Weimar Republic was founded, Bavaria refused to be a part of it unless the purity laws were effective in all areas of the country. After World War II, the Reinheitsgebot was written into the Biersteuergesetz, or beer tax law, of 1952.
The Reinheitsgebot is largely considered to be the oldest food law in the world today. There were plenty such laws in the past: ancient Egyptians had laws protecting certain fish from being eaten and Romans had laws limiting how much sumptuous food its elite could eat (it was a lot), but none of those laws are still recognized. Even though the Reinheitsgebot was repealed by the European Union in 1987, many German breweries still uphold it, and label their beers as such. It’s a testament to the custom, and it’s for more than just the label and sales — it’s a recognition and celebration of tradition.
Here is the recipe for the Hefeweizen that we made last weekend.
- 5 lbs 2 Row
- 5lbs White Wheat
- 1 oz Hallertau
- Safbrew 06
This is a very simple recipe where we did a single infusion at 158 degrees for 1 hour using 4 gallons of water.
- Run off into kettle adding while sparging with 3 gallons of 170 degree water.
- After run off, bring to boil and add 1 oz of Hallertau.
- After 1 hour of boil cool down to 70 degrees and pitch one pack of Safbrew 06.
- After 5-7 days transfer to keg or bottle condition for an additional 3- 5 days. Enjoy.