In Germany, creative craft beer brewers face off against a medieval purity law

By Patrick Costello
Do not mess with Germans and their beer.
Brewing beer is a sacred thing here. And there are rules one must follow. Serious rules.
One hugely popular tradition is the Reinheitsgebot, the “beer purity law” that says which ingredients are allowed. This past weekend it turned a sprightly 500 years old — the world’s longest-ruling food law, the German Brewers’ Federation says.
It’s such a big deal that even busy Chancellor Angela Merkel made sure to visit the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt to be seen raising a beer stein for the law’s anniversary.
But while Merkel and beer lovers worldwide may cherish German purity, the old rules are becoming quite a buzzkill for upstart brewers trying to inject a dose of creative flavor. Some craft beer makers, in effect, are losing the right to call their brews beer at all.
It started with a 1516 decree by Bavarian Duke Wilhelm IV. The Reinheitsgebot mandated that beer could only contain water, barley and hops. A later tweak to the law added yeast to the list.