Monday, 1 July 2013

Reinheitsgebot exceptions

I'm now going to quote parts of Narziss's article which do directly refer to the Reinheitsgebot.

The first is something I'd wondered about after hearing that some Hefeweizen was bottle-conditioned with bottom-fermenting yeast.

"3.1.5. Yeast. The bottom and top fermenting yeasts are clearly defined and simple control methods described. Bottom fermented beer must be pitched with bottom yeast exclusively, top fermented beer vice versa with top fermenting yeast, but in order to achieve a sufficient second fermentation 0.1% bottom fermenting yeast may be added to the bottle or instead of this 15% bottom fermenting Krausen. Mixtures of both kinds of yeast are not permitted. In order to suppress infections of coccae or other lactic acid bacteria the yeast is acidified by sulphuric acid to a pH of 2 for 3-4 hours. The acid has to be removed afterwards by washing in a conical vessel."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 90, Issue 6, November-December 1984, pages 353 - 354.

It seems a bit of a nonsense to me to insist that wheat beers can only be fermented by top-fermenting yeast but to allow secondary conditioning with a bottom-fermenting yeast. Where's the logic in that? If a Lager yeast is good enough for secondary fermentation why not for primary fermentation?

The harder I look at the Reinheitsgebot, the less sense any of it makes. Some things - like Lager yeast for bottle-conditioning - seem to be allowed just for the convenience of the brewer. And the stuff about sugar just a clumsy compromise to fit in with North German brewing practices.

"3.2. Export-Beers
In the North German Beer Tax Area, great quantities of light 'Exportbeer' were produced even prior to 1914. For these beers, which had to be kept apart from the domestic production, the use of maize, rice or sugar was permitted. This was a protective measure, to help the German export industry to meet the foreign customers' quality expectations and to attain a better shelf life. As stabilizer, tannin was used; its application had to be declared and controlled. The same referred to the use of ascorbic acid after 1948. The restriction on these raw materials and additives was that they may not exceed the amounts permitted by the regulations of the other countries. These dispensations had never been valid in Bavaria, Badenia and Württemberg. These countries had to brew their export beers according to the Purity Law. After 1948 the more liberal handling for the export beers was maintained, but the control measures achieved by the excise officers had been so tight and strong, that almost a brewery within a brewery was established. Thus, with the exception of some big export brewers the great majority of the others stopped the production of'Export-Beers'. This was favoured by the introduction of adsorbents for beer stabilisation like bentonite, but especially silica gel and PVPP. The use of tannin was dispensable."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 90, Issue 6, November-December 1984, page 354.

The North German Beer Tax Area is, of course, the Brausteuergebied. An area that covered most of the German Empire, with the exception of Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg, Alsace, Lorraine and Luxemburg. It had rather more liberal rules than the South up until 1906, when the Reinheitsgebot was applied to the whole of the Empire. So it's a little misleading to say that they were producing beers for export that contained maize or rice before 1914, because before 1906 such beers were also brewed for the domestic market. Rice beer was particularly popular.

Interesting that the reason they allowed adjuncts in export beer was so they could compete with foreign brewers. That's not very principled, is it? And I thought that was what the rules were all about, the principle of purity, not just commercial expediency. The foreigners like beer filled with crap? Let's brew it for them, then.

I'd love to know whether Beck's was brewed to the Reinheitsgebot. For a while - 1921 to 1949 - it wasn't sold at all in Germany and was a pure export beer. After Haake and Beck merged in 1921, I wonder if they used the Beck brewery just for brewing export beer? Presumably that would have masde it easier to comply with the rules if they were using adjuncts.


Rob said...

"The harder I look at the Reinheitsgebot, the less sense any of it makes."

It makes a lot more sense if you ignore the BS about "purity" and consider it a pure trade restriction law.

Rent seeking, plain and simple.

Birdman said...

With regards to the wheat beers Ron I would guess it is from a practical perspective. To get a good hefeweizen taste you need to use a hefe yeast as a lot of the characteristics of that style come from the yeast. However, from what I have read and listened to hefe strains aren't great for bottle conditioning as the yeast does not remain viable for an extended period of time (not speaking from practical experience as the hefes I have made at home I have just bottle conditioning using the same yeast). So the logic may have been that the lager yeast was better for keeping the beers in the bottle.

Of course this is pure conjecture. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can clarify.

Graeme said...

A "lager type" (bottom fermenting) yeast wouldn't give the expected characteristics of a hefe (cloves, banana) - lager stains would be far too clean and you'd get an extremely bland result.

The strains used for wheat brewing are relatively unstable for long term storage - lager yeasts are much more suitable for longer term storage than wheat yeasts.

(Wit strains also suffer the same as well - items such as Hoegaarden are pre-filtered and reseeded with a more stable yeast IIRC).

The answer of course is to drink the stuff as quickly as possible and brew some more fresh...

Gary Gillman said...

Well, I have read that Worthington White Shield was filtered (possibly pasteurized) before addition of a bottom yeast for bottle-conditioning. The idea was twofold: 1) increased stability since the original yeast might not perform as required for this role or with unpredictable results; and 2) easier settling of yeast to meet drinkers' requirements for a clearer glass of beer. Item 1) ties into Birdman's conjecture.

As for the Pure Beer Law, I believe it was brought it at a time when there was concern that alternate grains might denature so to speak the true taste of beer. It isn't needed now since the tradition of barley beer is well-established, but it performed a historical role that has been well-born out by my personal taste experience: all malt beers taste better. I will say for adjunct that when used "properly" (which means not too much in the grist), they don't essentially harm the palate of barley beer, but I doubt they do much good for it. This was Graham Wheeler's point when he used to comment here and something that resonated with me.


P.S. I am speaking of the White Shield of the 70's and 80's, I am not certain how they do it today for the one made at Marston.

Ron Pattinson said...


not all German wheat beers were brewed using that type of yeast, for example, Gose and Berliner Weisse. Or Grodziskie/Grätzer, a beer that fell under the extension if the Reinheitsgebot.

Anonymous said...

What I get from this, and I'm and cellarman who works with this type of beer, is that fermentation would take place with the hefewiezen strain and because Narziss's states that no two strains can touch that the finished beer would have to be out through a centrifuge them filtered to remove the yeast before the lager yeast is added. You guys are correct about the lager yeast having a lower flavor profile, but the beer is already fermented at this point with the hefe strain so all of those flavors like clove and banana were made during fermentation . The lager strain won't compete with it. The point Narziss's is making is about quality control. Hefe and wit yeast don't last well in the bottle as well as lager yeast would. The brewer would just need to chose a lager yeast the doesn't floculate out easly so that you achieve that hazyness desired in the beer.