Thursday, 13 May 2010


I haven't mentioned this for a while. German Reissbier. Or rice beer. Exactly the sort of thing the Germans weren't allowed to brew, you would have thought. Not really Reinheitsgebot, you know.

Or maybe not.

I found this yesterday:

It comes from "Chemie der menschlichen Nahrungs- und Genussmittel" by Joseph König, 1889, page 834. Who would have thought it? Weihenstephan brewing rice beer. I'm shocked, disgusted and a little bit sad.


Oblivious said...

Any idea on how they got round the law as rice can't be malted?

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, no idea how they got around the law. Though from the notes it sounds as if the Weihenstephan brew was experimental.

Graham Wheeler said...

Wasn't it one of those really ancient laws that fell into disuse? Nobody took a bit of notice about it, like a bale of hay on a taxi, or price lists displayed in British pubs (I haven't seen a price list in a pub for years, and that is a modern law).

I have always thought that it was redundant until it was revived as a trade protection measure in 1918 after the unification of Bavaria, but only applied to Bavaria, not the rest of Germany, basically to appease the Bavarians.

It gained more importance after the formation of the EEC, and was re invoked, again as a trade protection measure, and may have been extended to cover the whole of Germany.

I don't think it was taken seriously until about 60 years ago.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, the Bavarians always took the Reinheitsgebot seriously. It was applied to the whole of Germany around 1900.

Graham Wheeler said...

Maybe so, but I can only go by what I read in English, as I am not fluent enough in German to read what Germans have to say on the matter.

However, The Reinheitsgebot specifically prohibits wheat, malted or otherwise, so that it is a good indication that it is not taken seriously, leave alone enforced.

Had the Germans abided by it themselves (at least the 1952 reincarnation), then the EU would not have deemed it illegal. The Germans strengthened the law in a 1980 act that only applied to their customs law, not internal law. This is what prompted the EU investigation. The 1987 EU Commission report cited the fact that there were exceptions in Germany, and that that was a major reason for them deeming the whole thing a trade protection method and thereby illegal.

I would be very surprised to learn that it has ever been enforced internally.

Jim Johanssen said...

There are several ways to work around the law. As anyone knows for every stupid bureaucratic law there is a smarter capitalist or scofflaw. I know here in Texas we have some stupid laws for beer, ale and malt liquor. For example, beers are from .5% to 4% alcohol by weight, anything higher is an ale or malt liquor. The work a round for a Bock beer is to call it a Bock Lager not a beer, ale or malt liquor.
Another method I think they used in Germany is to use an under modified Chitted malt of rice or wheat malt, the law says malt not what kind of malt. I believe there laws about the required level of modification to be called malt.
Ron- what are the other names for bier in German or Dutch, there may some clues in these names on how they worked around the law.


Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, there was one big reason Bavaria took the Reinheitsgebot seriously: tax.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, the Reinheitsgebot was changed to include malted wheat in the 17th century. The original doesn't even say malt, just barley.

Between 1830 and 1880, when Britain taxed malt and hops but not beer, you had a similar situation to Bavaria. And the excise authorities enforce the rules on ingredients very strictly, because using other materials was a form of tax evasion. I can't see why the Bavarian authorities would have behaved any differently.

Oblivious said...

Jim Johanssen rice cant be malted so the removes the use of chitted malt (incomplete modified malt)

Seanywonton said...

Ron, I can understand shocked, but why are you disgusted and a little bit sad? Is it because of the law breaking or because it's rice?

Disregarding the legal issue of the Reinheitzbegot, I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with using rice in beer. It's stigmatized because big brewers use it, but it has its purposes. I haven't brewed with rice but I brew with pretty much tasteless sugar quite often, and this is widely accepted, as Belgian style beers wouldn't taste the same without it.

Ron Pattinson said...

Seanywonton, how to explain?

Dolores keeps telling me no-one understands all my jokes. Irony, irony.

Learning to disregard the process and only consider the results transformed my view of music. Beer is the same. The end result is all the counts.

Seanywonton said...

Thanks for the response Ron. I guess this has just been my little pet peeve after the I Am A Craft Brewer video, where they took a cheap jab at the macros for brewing with rice and corn. I liked that video but I don't like the sort of dogmatic anti-rice/corn sentiment, which doesn't stand up to reason.

Here's an interesting article on craft brewers who are using rice in creative ways:

Also, I saw some big bags of flaked maize at Ommegang, I wonder what beer(s) they use that in?

Martyn Cornell said...

Well, you've got your title for your autobiography, anyway - "I, Ronnie".

Unknown said...

Weihenstephan is also the brewing school. Theres nothing to stop them fermenting whatever they want as long as they don't sell it!!

Also quite relevant.
The germans at that time had a colony in China Xing Tao.
Sound familiar...
Yup. Theres a tasty beer that comes from there that's made from rice.
The head brewer there came from Bavaria (according to a Bavarian TV how a while ago) so no doubt studied at Weihenstephan for the 7 years to become a master brewer.

And if you work out the dates.
That record of brewing Rice Beer in Weihenstephan is from 1889. Xing Tao was set up to brew rice beer in 1903!
Sounds suspiciously linked in some way or other.

Ron Pattinson said...

Daire, that's an interesting connection.

Rice Beer seems to have been quite popular in North Germany in the 1890's:

I suspect it was German brewers who introduced brewing with rice to the USA.