The world’s longest lasting piece of consumer legislation, the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot, which aims to protect the purity of beer recipes, celebrated its 500th anniversary on Saturday, 23rd of April 2016.
The European Beer Consumer Union (EBCU), which speaks for beer consumer groups across Europe, hailed it a major contribution to the concept of protecting beer consumers by setting brewers some basic standards since 1516.
However, EBCU also sounds a note of caution for its future relevance.
“The strict rule that excludes the use of sugar, syrup, starch, maize and rice in beer brewing is still relevant to brewing classic German beer styles like Helles, Münchner, Märzen, Kölsch, Altbier and others” said EBCU Chair Henri Reuchlin, adding, “but the restrictions on the use of alternative ingredients is getting in the way of the German brewers developing their own take on beers from other European brewing traditions. It also has the potential to interfere with the revival of some older, local German beer styles, which is not so helpful.”
EBCU believes that a modern equivalent of the Reinheitsgebot would impose improved standards of beer labelling, by insisting that beer labels in the EU should all list ingredients and state which brewery company made the beer.
The Reinheitsgebot was originally known as the “Surrogate Prohibition”.
It was introduced in 1516 by the then Dukes of Bavaria, Wilhem IV and Ludwig X, as a way of dealing with a price war that had developed between brewers and bakers over the purchase of wheat. It also allowed them to address longer standing concerns that brewers were polluting beers with herbs, root vegetables, fungi and animal products.
It was brought in on St George’s day (23rd April) as this marked the end of the traditional brewing season in much of central Europe, which begins on St Michael’s day (29th September). Before affordable large-scale refrigeration was brought in around 1865, the summer months were deemed too hot for beer to ferment safely.
At that time there were two basic types of beer. Brown beer was made with malted barley and white beer contained a large amount of wheat. The original diktat effectively outlawed the lighter, more summery wheat beer, stipulating that beer could only be made from barley, hops, and water. Yeast was not mentioned, as its nature was not yet understood.
However, the ban on wheat was soon withdrawn in favour of a heavy tax on its use in brewing. This was replaced in 1602 by a licensing system introduced the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian Wittelsbach, though he faced much criticism when all the licenses were bought by members of his family, who held an effective monopoly for the next two centuries.
As the German states came together under Bismarck, many adopted this Bavarian standard, in doing so outlawing numerous historic local beer styles that used outlawed ingredients such as salt, spices or herbs.
The universal adoption of the Reinheitsgebot in 1919, was made a condition of Bavaria accepting its amalgamation into the new Germany.
The Reinheitsgebot was formally withdrawn in 1988 after the European Union declared it a restraint of free trade, although many German breweries abide by its tenets to the present day, as do most brewers in Austria and many in the Czech Republic. To this day it is accepted as the gold standard, by craft brewers in many parts of the world, especially when making pale lagers.
Industrial lagers, including many of the world’s best known brands, substitute sugar, syrup, starch, maize or rice for malted barley, reducing the amount of background grain flavours featuring in the beer and accounting in part for their relative lack of flavour. These may be and sometimes are substituted for up to a third of the grain bill (the fermentable sugars).
This is the fifth run of Beoir's annual awards, seeking to find the drinkers' favourites from among the beers produced in Ireland. Given the ever-growing number of breweries in Ireland, and the range of beers that the established players have been coming out with, competition was understandably intense. A record 150 different beers received a nomination by the members of Beoir who cast their votes through the month of January 2016. Every beer produced on the island of Ireland and commercially available during 2015 was eligible and as always the top three favourites receive awards. Beginning with...
2016 Beer of the Year
Of Foam & Fury
a double IPA by Galway Bay Brewery, Galway City
Galway Bay Brewery's double IPA is no stranger to the Beoir awards podium, having won a trophy every year since its release. After scooping the top prize in 2014 it was beaten into third place last year but has now regained the crown. It polled steadily throughout the month of voting and emerged as the clear winner at the end.
First brewed in late 2013, Of Foam & Fury has become something of an ambassador for Irish craft beer, its big and bright new-world hop flavours making it a world class offering. As head brewer Chris Treanor passes the baton to his successor Will Avery, Of Foam & Fury is a significant part of the legacy he leaves at Galway Bay.
a rye pale ale by Kinnegar Brewing, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal
This is the first time Kinnegar has featured in the Beoir awards though Rustbucket, brewed since 2013, has always been popular, even spawning a spin-off dark variant: Black Bucket. It's another bright and fresh hop-forward beer, bursting with tropical fruit and with a sharp, invigorating bitterness given an extra edge by the grassy rye flavour. Kinnegar's output over the last year has been phenomenal, with a seemingly endless sequence of experiments and one-offs. The affection that the drinking public has for Rustbucket shows that the core range is by no means being neglected.
a sour heather ale by The White Hag Brewery, Ballymote, Co. Sligo
Sour has never been so popular in Ireland and it was only a matter of time before one such featured in the Beoir awards. In fact, all three breweries here have been experimenting in the sour genre of late. Beann Gulban, in its current form, first appeared in late 2015. In contrast to the hoppy winners, this is made with heather in place of hops making it an incredibly complex, and unique, flavour experience.
Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all the Beoir members who took the time to vote.
- Reuben Gray
Beoir would like to offer a heartfelt congratulations to Seamus O’Hara on his appointment as the new Chairperson of the Irish Brewers Association (IBA). Seamus set up the Carlow Brewing Company in 1996 which celebrates its 20th birthday this year.
To say that Seamus was a pioneer of the craft beer industry in Ireland wouldn’t do him justice. Seamus has helped to see Ireland in to the 21st century in terms of beer choice and the promotion of independent brewing and has been at the forefront of what some might term the craft beer revolution in Ireland. He was also among the first independent breweries to export beer outside of Ireland and has done so for the last 20 years.
Beoir has an excellent relationship with Seamus and we expect that to continue in his new role. While independent brewing still makes up a small part of the market, it is growing every year. This is despite the fact that global beer consumption has been slowing down. It shows a new level of respect for what was once a fledgling industry. There are approximately 75 independent breweries on the island of Ireland now and that number increases every year.
We wish Seamus the best of luck and expect some interesting times ahead for independent brewing in Ireland.
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They don't go in for half measures at the Boyne Brewhouse. The 30hL Kaspar Shulz brewkit was commissioned last October and occupies just one part of the large facility based in a former car showroom by the M1 just outside Drogheda. When a Beoir delegation visited yesterday things were very much a work in progress, with extra fermenters due to come on-stream shortly, a bottling and canning line going through final checks before commissioning, the copper stills of the Boann Distillery awaiting their turn to be hooked up, and a gin still still in bubblewrap in its crate. When the facility is complete it will incorporate a visitors' centre and restaurant as well as a vast warehouse for maturing the whiskey.
The whole lot is owned by the Cooney family and trades under an independent umbrella company which uses the Irish form of the family name: Na Cuana. Pat Cooney bought the Gleeson bottling company in the 1970s and built it into one of the largest drinks firms in Ireland, producing, importing and distributing wine, soft drinks, cider and liqueurs. There was also a brief foray into beer with Behan's Brew No. 1 lager in the early 2000s. Then in 2012, Gleeson's was acquired by C&C, though the cider and cream liqueur arms have remained with the family and are still produced in separate facilities in Tipperary. Now the company has passed to the second generation of Cooneys, adding spirits and beer to the portfolio and expanding the cider range from budget brand Devils Bit to include a mainstream Bulmers competitor as well as a craft brand, Four Keepers, all of them produced from cider apples grown in the family's own orchard. After the sale of Gleeson's to C&C, there was money available. A distillery and brewery was the end result.
Production in Drogheda is headed by brewer and distiller Áine O'Hora who came to the company via Matilda Bay Brewery in Melbourne. Initial plans are for three core beers: Born in a Day pale ale which is already in pubs; Long Arm, a 100% Saaz Dortmunder-style export lager; and Pagan's Pillar, a traditional Irish red given a German twist with Mandarina Bavaria hops. All are 4.8% ABV and will be sold kegged and in the brewery's distinctive custom-embossed bottles. Specials and seasonals will follow in due course and the state of the art packaging facility behind the brewhouse allows for large-format bottles. Canned beer is also being planned. Though the bottles are pasteurised, a 26-metre-long tunnel pasteuriser allows a light touch, with the beer never going over 60°C. In keeping with a philosophy to use local ingredients where possible, malt is supplied by Loughran Family, topped up by speciality varieties from Weyermann.
Unusually for a start-up brewery, there's almost no room for expansion. The company has opted to go straight for the largest size possible -- capable of producing 35,000 hL of beer per year though the intention is to remain under the limit for the microbrewers' lower rate of duty.
The potential of the brewery and its suite of sister products is enormous. Na Cuana is set to become a major player in Irish beer and cider in the months to come as well as being a major tourist draw for Drogheda.
Many thanks to the Cooney family and Áine for their hospitality during our visit.