Convivial celebrations for a legislative masterstroke

On 25 April we had some rather belated birthday celebrations. And we did it in style, it was really great. Together with friends, we sat together and enjoyed the whole of Saturday to the full. As is only fitting, there was plenty to eat and drink, and a whole lot of merrymaking. Now and then, the sun even deigned to appear, warming our faces, and the live music in the background made everything perfect.

 And then we devoured the birthday boy!

Come again?? Yes, you heard correctly. No, it’s nevertheless not a case for the Child Protection Agency or the Director of Public Prosecutions. Last week’s celebrant, you see, was the beer. Well, actually the German Purity Law, but that sort of means beer anyway. And because a birthday boy you know personally renders the merrymaking a bit more specific (and more fun as well), we dedicated the past few days to Germany’s beer.

But we decided to do without lighting the candles and blowing them out again – 499 candles, we thought, was overdoing things a bit. After all, the Purity Law was proclaimed back in 1516, in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt.

This had become necessary because the quality of the beer had been so abysmal that the populace was complaining throughout the land – about fungi, soot, ox blood and innumerable plant species in their amber nectar. The ordinance enacted by the dukes who then ruled this land, however, was designed not only to regulate the quality: the Purity Law was also intended to prevent the brewers from “misappropriating” from the bakers the valuable wheat and rye, and thus putting the populace’s supply of bread at risk. From then on, therefore, they we permitted to use only water, hops and barley in order to make the staple drink that is beer. Meanwhile, however, the supply of bread to the populace is no longer quite so endangered, which is why fans of the craft beer scene regard the Purity Law as outdated, and want more creative options in the brewing process. One example so far for a relaxation of the Purity Law is the yeast: this is, of course, always present in beer through airborne transmission, but meanwhile it is being intentionally added – in total conformity with the Purity Law. And of course you can brew beer with wheat and rye now.

Anyway, the brewmaster who brewed our beer for the weekend was still staying true to the Purity Law, even after well-nigh half a millennium. And because this law is a notable piece of history and of German (brewing) culture, on Saturday “Beer Day” was dedicated to the German Purity Law on Regensburg’s Haidplatz Square.

Under the patronage of District Administrator Tanja Schweiger and Lord Mayor Joachim Wolbergs, numerous city and county breweries got together to make the day a truly festive occasion.

Drinking your way through the brewery scene in and around Regensburg? In a single day? On Saturday, that was no problem, since the organisers had thought up something specifically for visitors with ambitions of this nature: for ten euros, you got a stoneware mug. And this mug was the magic talisman that conjured up a foaming free-of-charge point at every brewery tavern.

What’s my favourite beer? I’m not quite sure yet – so whether I like it or not I’m just going to have to do some more laborious tasting. But by the Purity Law’s 500th birthday at the latest, there are bound to be plenty of opportunities.