As far as I am concerned, the Reinheitsgebot, or the "German Beer Purity Law", can go take a hike.
The law, first presented in the late 1400’s, but actually becoming Bavarian law in 1516, states that beer can only contain three ingredients: Water, Barley, and Hops. Keep in mind, that at that time, no one knew anything about yeast. Until Louis Pasteur (yes, that Louis Pasteur) discovered that yeast made beer. Then of course, they added that and made it four ingredients: Water, Barley, and Hops, and yeast. Don’t you get the feeling that Louis Pasteur would have been cool to know back then? Maybe sit down and have a beer with him.
The law was an early example government making laws that said one thing, but REALY only wanted a completely other thing. This is similar to laws in states that say they just want to enforce the existing law, but they REALY means, “GO WAY! Your different to me and that scares me!”. Sorry, I digress. Twitter shortens my attention span.
The law came about, to a large degree, because bakers complained that the brewers were coming in and using their primary ingredients, wheat and rye, and that this was raising the prices of those ingredients. So, in order to keep the costs low, they convinced the Bavarian Government pass a law this law, effectively making it illegal for brewers to use those ingredients.
Fortunately, that law was regional, is no longer in place and many brewers have not limited themselves to the Reinheitsgebot.
Case in point, I just had a wonderful Chocolate Stout that would not have been within Reinheitsgebot guidelines. I mean, chocolate in beer? Really?
But this example was a vey good tasting beer. Not overpowering with its chocolate, just enough to give a cocoa hint on the finish. I can’t tell you what brand of beer that it was, because it was a home brewed beer, made by an friend . But, it stood up to comparison with most commercial beers. There are a few commercial Chocolate Stouts on the market. But, it can be confusing. Traditionally, Chocolate Stout just referred to the color of the beer and a chocolaty flavor that it gets from the dark roasted barley. But, there are some, like this one, which are very good and actually add a few chocolate nibs to the brew too. Rogue Ales Brewery in Ashland, Oregon has a very tasty one. I recommend it.
Sometimes legal constraints on ingredients or process are there for good reasons, like safety or tradition. Sometimes, they force the brewer to work within a framework and push them to use their skill to use what they have and still have a great result. Like a Haiku for Beer. But, it is always refreshing to try a good beer that makes judicious use of selective adjuncts. Like that hint of paprika on an excellent Benedict, or the suggestion of saffron to a rice and shrimp, a touch of a nice complimentary ingredient takes it to the next level. Specialty components of a non-Reinheitsgebot mix it up a little bit
Go out and find some non-Reinheitsgebot beers. Maybe a Coffee Stout, or an Apricot Ale, or a Cherry Lambic ale. Go wild, share with a friend. Share with me? Or, at least comment back on what you tried and what you think of it.