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Merkel toasts 500 years of beer purity law

Darko Janjevic (with AP, Reuters, AFP)April 22, 2016

German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the "world renown" of German beer in Ingolstadt, at a celebration marking the 500th anniversary of the beer purity law. The age-old rule has remained a staple of beer production.

Deutschland Merkel 500 Jahre Reinheitsgebot
Image: Reuters/M. Rehle

Hundreds of brewers from Germany and other European countries attended the celebration in Bavaria on Friday, with servers and guards in traditional costumes.

Ingolstadt authorities also set up a special beer fountain for the festivities dedicated to "Reinheitsgebot," the Bavarian "purity decree" on beer production standards signed on April 23, 1516.

Originally, the rule stated that only water, hops, and malt could be used to make beer. Later, the ingredients list was expanded to include yeast. To this day, the law remains deeply ingrained in the beer making process and brewing traditions, with its legacy shaping modern beer regulations in Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the guests on Friday, praising the brewers' ingenuity in combining the four ingredients to create countless kinds of beer.

German beers enjoy "world renown," she said.

Merkel also quoted religious reformer Martin Luther who said that "a person without beer has nothing to drink," and statesman Otto von Bismarck who stated that it was a "basic need to talk bad about the government when drinking beer."

In her speech, the chancellor reflected on the new developments in the German "beer culture," noting the growing number of smaller, regional brewers and rising consumption of non-alcoholic beer.

When it comes to beer consumption in general, Germans are in second place per capita, after the neighboring Czechs. However, the average consumption has fallen from 141 liters per person to 98 liters in the last 25 years.

The treasured purity rule also limits modern generations of beer brewers when it comes to new recipes, compared to their colleagues in other European countries.