Tuesday 12 July 2016

German beer classes in the 1930’s

I did promise, didn’t I? To write about tax classes in the 1930's. And I didn’t forget. Amazing.

Dolores says I forget everything. She had a long list of things I’ve forgotten. I would tell you them, but they seem to have slipped my mind. Maybe they’ll come back to me later.

Who isn’t fascinated by beer tax classes? Maybe I should recast that: who is interested in beer tax classes? Me! Me! Especially the German ones. Because they’re so odd.

Or used to be odd. They normalised them a decade or so ago. A shame, because I quite like the idea of holes. The unique feature of Herman beer classes was gravity holes, strengths at which it wasn’t legal to brew a beer. For a long while it wasn’t possible to brew a 10º Plato beer. So no Best Bitter or Desitka allowed.

It wasn’t a post-war thing. Before the war they were also holes. Though not in exactly the same places. Take a look:

German beer classes according to the Biersteuergesetz 1918 - 1993 (in º Plato)
26th July 1918 9th July 1923 10th Aug 1925 15th April 1930 1992
Einfachbier to 4.5 to 5.5 to 6.5 3 - 6.5 2 - 5.5
gap 4.5 - 8 5.5 - 8 6.5 - 11 6.5 - 11 5.5 - 7
Schankbier 8 - 9 7 - 8
Vollbier 8 -13 9 - 14 11 - 14 11 - 14 11 - 14
gap 14 - 16 14 - 16 14 - 16
Starkbier over 13 over 14 over 16 over 16 over 16
"Die Besteuerung des Haus-Brauwesens in Bayern" by Otto Rizzi, 1933, page 83.
"Die Biere Deutschlands" by Wolfgang Kaul & Dietrich Höllhuber, 1993.

Looking at that again, a thought has struck me. How did they brew Germany’s most popular Schankbier in the 1930’s? I’m talking about Berliner Weisse, which usually has a gravity of 8º Plato.

It’s weirdly restrictive at some of the lower gravities, but completely open once you hit 16º Plato. One of my favourite beers, Schlenkerla Fastenbier wouldn’t have been allowed for most of the 20th century because it’s 15º Plato. How weird is that.


Stuart Carter said...

it's amazing the impact of tax policy on brewing. I think most people never even consider it as a thing, you know?

Biff said...

Thats quite German. A strange rule that everyone abides by and no one actually thinks 'why do we do that?'. Then when you point it out, you might get some agreement but then still no actual admission that something should change. However if an 'expert' says so, then the rule would be immediately changed without asking the public.

It is quite the opposite as the Brits who distrust experts and go by commonsense (thus the Brexit?)

Unknown said...

Fascinating! Especially how the gaps move about - WTF was that all about??

Anonymous said...

Why wasn't it legal? I'd expect an ever-hungry tax agency to be looking to take in as much as it could. Why not just stick on a name on those gaps and collect the tax if someone made a beer within those ranges?