I can remember some within CAMRA arguing that only beer brewed from malt and hops alone should be classified as Real Ale. Thankfully their crazy idea wasn't adopted. It would have left almost no Real Ale in Britain.
In the aftermath of the 1880 Free Mash Tun Act, there was a "Pure Beer" movement. Its aim was to re-establish a Reinheitsgebot in Britain. They even managed to get a bill to that effect into parliament. However it was never enacted and the movement petered out. (I plan returning to this movement at some point soon).
This letter sent to The Times in the 1880's demonstrates the public concern about the purity of their beer, but also ignorance about how it was brewed. The most revealing assertion in the letter is that sugar was employed "to meet the requirements of the public taste ".
MR. E. R. MORITZ, chemist to the Country Brewers' Society, sends the following letter to the Times :—
Sir,—I observe in your report of "Briant v. Faulkner," tried on Tuesday before Mr. Justice Kay, that the interesting features in the case consisted in the facts disclosed about brewing and the judge's observations on the ingredients used at the present day in the manufacture of beer. Mr. Justice Kay observed that instead of beer being nowadays brewed from good and wholesome malt and hops, chemical processes were used for extracting beer from what was called invert sugar ; and he went on to comment in severe terms upon the sulphuric acid and gypsum employed in the process in question. As a matter of fact, however, beer is not extracted from invert sugar, and the process referred to consists in the preparation from cane sugar of invert sugar, which some brewers find it advantageous to mix in small proportions with their malt worts. Sulphuric acid certainly plays a part in the conversion of the sugar, but none of it, as such, is permitted to remain in the sugar, and consequently none can enter the beer; indeed, by conversion into gypsum the acid is, to all practical purposes, removed, and against the minute quantity of gypsum which may escape separation there cannot possibly be the minutest objection. It occurs naturally in the celebrated well waters of Burton, and it is in no inconsiderable degree responsible for the delicacy and flavour of the popular ales brewed in that district.
With regard to the use of sugar in brewing, it cannot be too frequently insisted upon that its employment is adopted simply to meet the requirements of the public taste in certain districts, and not with the object, which some persons would have us believe, of putting extra profits into the brewers' pockets. Nor must it be forgotten that our malts are by no means invariably "good and wholesome," and that intermixture with sugar solutions of good quality is productive of a sounder, purer, and more wholesome beer than that obtainable from the bulk of our malts when used alone.
Persons with any leanings towards so-called "pure beer" would do well to refer to Mr. Goschen's remarks to a deputation of hop and barley growers which waited on him on April 5 last year. Mr. Goschen pointed out that during the course of the prosecutions for beer dilution, so many of which took place about that time, the beer samples had been generally tested for deleterious substances by the Government chemists at Somerset House, and that not a single sample was found to contain any. Yet some of these beers had assuredly been in part brewed from that invert sugar which Mr. Justice Kay so severely denounces. Indeed, the pure beer cry, like so many of the agitations against brewers, is almost exclusively supported by privileged and irresponsible utterances, which, when critically examined, as was the case on April 5 last year, are found unsound and devoid of proper foundation."
"The Chemical Trade Journal" by Davis, 1888, page 179
Let me know if you're getting bored with sugar. It won't stop me writing about it, but it may make you feel better.