Historic Beer Birthday: Jacob Schmidt

Today is the birthday of Jacob Schmidt (October 8, 1846-September 2, 1910). He was born in Bavaria, Germany, but moved to America, worked at breweries in New York and Milwaukee, then settling in Minnesota, in 1866. In St. Paul, he was brewmaster at Hamm’s, and later left to brew for August Schell and some breweries in the midwest. In 1884, he returned to St. Paul and bought a 50% share of the North Star Brewery, but it burned to the ground, a total loss, in 1899. With his daughter and son-in-law Adolph Bremer, he acquired the Christopher Stahlmann, Cave Brewery, and in 1900 completely remodeled it turning into the iconic “Castle” brewery with the help of Chicago brewery architect Bernard Barthel. They also renamed it the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co., and after Prohibition, it became the nation’s seventh largest brewery. The brewery continued until 1972, when the brand was bought by G. Heileman. The Castle brewery in St. Paul was abandoned and only recently was renovated into the Schmidt Artist Lofts. Today the Schmidt Brewery brands are owned by Pabst.


Surprisingly, I could find very little biographical information about Jacob Schmidt himself, not even a photo. Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:

Businessman. Born in Bavaria, Germany, he arrived in America at the age of 20 and after working at several breweries for five years, he settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. In St. Paul, he was the Brewmaster for the Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Company, when he left this position in 1900, to become owner and founder of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company. He became one of the first brewers to sell more than 10,000 barrels in Minnesota, along with being one of the first brewers to bottle his own beer. He died at age 63 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Schmidt “Castle” brewery in 1905.

Here’s the brewery history from the current brand website:

In 1884, Jacob Schmidt moved to St. Paul, Minnesota and purchased a half interest in the North Star Brewery located at Commercial St. & Hudson Rd. Jacob retired in 1899, turning over the operation to his daughter and son-in-law. The following year the brewery burned to the ground and a new location was immediately found. In 1901, the brewery was incorporated as the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company and a new plant and malt house were erected next to the existing structures.

Jacob died in 1910, but the brewery continued to enjoy success until Prohibition struck. After a failed attempt at producing soft drinks, a non-alcoholic malt beverage was created and became extremely popular.

After considerable success following the repeal of Prohibition, the company continued to prosper under the Schmidt name until 1955. Most of the original buildings still stand today, looming proudly above the Mississippi River.

Schmidt beer is known as the “Official Beer of the American Sportsman”…a slogan that capitalizes on the exciting, rugged appeal of the Pacific Northwest. The quality and brewing tradition instilled by Jacob Schmidt, continues today.


And here’s the portion of Schmidt’s Wikipedia page that deals with the brewery’s namesake:

Jacob Schmidt started his brewing career in Minnesota as the Brewmaster for the Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Co. He left this position to become owner of the North Star Brewing Co. Under Schmidt’s new leadership the small brewery would see much success and in 1899 Schimdt transferred partial ownership of his new brewery to a new corporation headed by his son in law Adolph Bremer, and Adolph’s brother Otto. This corporation would later become Bremer Bank. With the new partnership the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company was established. In 1900 the North Star Brewery would suffer a fire that would close it for good. With the new management team in place a new brewery was needed, the new firm purchased the Stahlmann Brewery form the St. Paul Brewing Co. and immediately started construction on a new Romanesque brewery incorporating parts of Stahlmann’s original brewery along with it including the further excavation of the lagering cellars used in the fermentation process to create Schmidt’s Lager Beer.


This account is excerpted from the Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota, by Doug Hoverson:



Here’s a portion of a lengthier, more thorough account of the brewery’s history, from Substreet:

He came to the United States in 1865 at the age of 20 and worked in brewhouses as he moved westward. He worked in Rochester, Chicago, and Milwaukee, before coming to Minnesota, where he found a position at Schell’s brewery in New Ulm, before moving to Minneapolis’ Heinrich’s and then to Banholzer’s and Hamm’s of St. Paul.

At Theodore Hamm’s brewery, the biggest of its kind in the state, Schmidt became not just the chief brewer, but also a personal friend of the firm’s powerful owner and namesake.

Ultimately, Jacob Schmidt wanted his own brewery.

On the other end of Swede Hollow, in 1860, Edward Drewry and George Scotten founded what would become the North Star Brewery, then just called ‘Drewry & Scotten’. Though it featured a brewhouse large enough to compete with Stahlmann’s operation on the other side of St. Paul, and had adequate—though far from extensive—underground cellars to match, this brewery produced ale, not lager beer, and therefore did not compete with Stahlmann’s brand.

After changing hands several times, it was clear by the early 1880s that North Star required a talented master brewer. The owners of that humble brewery, William Constans (grocer and brewery supply dealer) and Reinhold Koch (brewer and Civil War veteran), hired Jacob Schmidt, and the former Hamm’s brewer rapidly expanded production below the bluff.

Together, Schmidt, Constans and Koch grew North Star Brewery to the point it competed directly with Hamm’s.


In a few years, the Dayton’s Bluff brewhouse became the second greatest producer of beer west of Chicago by some estimates, sending out 16,000 barrels annually as far as Illinois. In 1884, Constans and Koch decided to leave the business, thereby leaving Schmidt as sole owner. In 1899, Schmidt took down the ‘North Star Brewery’ sign and replaced it with ‘Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company’.

The next year, it all burned.

Today, all that remains of the brewery are its aging cellars, which are a part of the new Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in Lowertown off Commercial Street.

As he considered the cost of rebuilding, Schmidt received a proposal from St. Paul Brewing: they wanted to sell him their troubled brewery. The brewmaster accepted the offer and moved his operation into the former Cave Brewery, which had been only slightly modified since Stahlmann built it almost 50 years prior. Facilities were inadequate, but he would fix that.

Interestingly, Jacob Schmidt had all the bottles salvaged from the ruined brewery shipped to his new location. The glasses still bore the mark of the North Star brand, a large five-pointed star—a feature the brewer would ultimately opt to keep.

Stars cover the Schmidt brewery to this day, in signs and ironwork, hearkening to Jacob Schmidt’s time at, and the destruction of, North Star Brewery.

Observing the lowly state that Stahlmann’s brewery was in, Schmidt hired a rising Chicago architect, Bernard Barthel, to design a totally new complex to replace what was left of the Christopher Stahlmann Brewing Company, and St. Paul Brewing Company’s brash modifications to it.

It would be medieval on the outside, but totally modern and streamlined inside.

Soon, imposing red brick towers were rising on Fort Road, with obvious influences borrowed from feudal era castles, replacing the modest remains of Cave Brewery. Construction of Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co. was completed in 1904, followed in the next decade by its more significant outbuildings, notably ending in 1915 with the Bottling Department. Schmidt beer was some of the first to be bottled on-site in the state.


The new brewery complex was designed to compete with the biggest brewers in the country, and it did.

When Jacob died in 1911, his brewery was an icon of the West Side and the employer of more than 200 people. More importantly, the beer continued to flow, unlike the bust that followed the Stahlmanns. Though the man himself was gone, the name Schmidt was becoming ever more prominent across the country.

cst 07217 aerial shot of Schmidt Brewery


Schmidt’s also hired famed artist Norman Rockwell to do one of my favorite pieces of advertising art for them.


It’s a pretty awesome piece, but not the only work in beer he did. For more, see Norman Rockwell’s Beer.


The thing I personally remember about Schmidt’s was their collectible cans which were all over the place when I was a kid. There was a seemingly endless variety of their can designs, and I have read that it really helped keep the business afloat, at least for a time.



Historic Beer Birthday: Valentin Blatz

Today is the birthday of Valentin Blatz (October 1, 1826-May 26, 1894). Blatz was a German-American brewer and banker. He was born in Miltenberg, Bavaria and worked at his father’s brewery in his youth. In August 1848 Blatz immigrated to America and by 1849 had moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Blatz established a brewery next to Johann Braun’s City Brewery in 1850 and merged both breweries upon Braun’s death in 1852. He also married Braun’s widow. The brewery produced Milwaukee’s first individually bottled beer in 1874. It incorporated as the Valentin Blatz Brewing Company in 1889 and by the 1900s was the city’s third largest brewer.


Here’s a biography of Blatz from Find-a-Grave:

Businessman, Beer Magnate. Valentin Blatz, born to Casper Blatz, a brewer, in Miltenberg am Main, Bavaria, Germany, attended municipal schools until age 14 when he began an apprenticeship in his father’s brewery. He began in 1844, to acquire additional experience at breweries in Augusburg, Wurzburg and Munich until 1848 when he emigrated from Bavaria to Buffalo, New York, where he worked for a year at Philip Born’s brewery. Arriving in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1849, he became brewmaster at John Braun’s Cedar Brewery producing 150 barrels annually. He boarded at Braun’s home until 1851 when, after having saved $500, he established his own brewery. Shortly thereafter, Braun was fatally thrown from his horse-drawn beer wagon and Blatz eventually married Braun’s widow. Subsequently he combined Braun’s small brewery and his own into a new company, City Brewery; with output of 500 barrels annually it would eventually become one of the largest breweries in Milwaukee. Blatz was widely acknowledged to be the first of the great Milwaukee brewers to establish a reputation outside of Wisconsin, the first to begin developing a national distribution network, and the first to establish a bottling plant in connection with his brewery. During its early years of development, he operated the brewery as a sole proprietorship and reportedly out-paced both the Pabst and Schlitz operations. With production exceeding 200,000 barrels in 1889, he incorporated it as the Val. Blatz Brewing Company with capital stock of $2,000,000 and sold it in 1891 to a group of British and American investors, United States Brewing Company, reportedly netting himself (also a member of the syndicate) and his family $3,000,000 and full control of the Milwaukee operation. Blatz was the only beer available on tap in German restaurants at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.


A year later he died unexpectedly at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, Minnesota, returning from a trip to California, where he had vacationed and attended a midwinter exposition. Ironically, he had postponed the trip several times because of a premonition he would not return to Milwaukee alive, but made the trip because of his wife’s deteriorating health so they could spend part of the winter in California’s milder climate. At his death, he was one of Milwaukee’s wealthiest men, with an estate estimated at between $6,000,000 and $8,000,000. Throughout his life he had been active in community affairs and belonged to the Milwuakee Old Settlers Society and a host of other organizations. In 1866 he became the first president of the Merchants National Bank, and in 1868 he was elected President of the Second Ward Savings Bank, a position held until his death. A member of the Milwaukee Brewers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, he belonged to an influential group of local businessmen who organized the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition in 1879. Also served a single term as a Milwaukee city alderman in 1882. His company survived prohibition with “near beer” and other non-alcoholic products until 1933, when it resumed producing beer, until 1958 when it was purchased by Pabst. The Blatz label was sold to G. Heileman brewing in 1959, which was acquired by Stroh Brewery in 1996, which was sold to Pabst in 1999 who now owns it.


And here’s a biography of both Valentin and his Blatz Brewery, from the Blatz Brewing Company Records, 1862-1944, housed in the University of Wisconsin Library:

Valentin Blatz was born on October 1, 1826, in Miltenberg am Main, Bavaria. The son of a local brewer, Caspar Blatz and his wife Barbara, he attended school until age fourteen at which time he began an apprenticeship in his father’s business. In 1844 Blatz began an extended tour of some of Europe’s greatest breweries where he spent his time learning new techniques and the latest in brewing technology until, at age twenty-one, he was forced to return home in order to fulfill his military obligation in the army. However, his father, a prominent community leader, obtained a substitute to serve in his place and shortly thereafter, like thousands of his countrymen, Valentin Blatz left Bavaria for the United States. Landing in New York City in August 1848, Blatz found work almost immediately at the Born Brewery in Buffalo, New York.

Blatz remained in Buffalo for approximately one year after which time he journeyed west to Milwaukee. Arriving in 1849, he found work as the foreman (some sources say brewmaster) at John Braun’s Cedar Brewery that had been established in 1846. It was a small operation, employing only a few workmen and capable of producing approximately 150 barrels of beer annually. The brewery’s storage capacity was said to be only 80 barrels. Blatz worked for Braun and boarded at his home until 1851, when, after having saved $500, he purchased half of a city lot and began his own brewing business.

Around the time that Blatz was establishing his own brewery, John Braun was killed suddenly after being thrown from his horse-drawn wagon while on a trip selling beer. He left a son, John, and a wife, Louise, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child. In December of 1851 Blatz married Braun’s widow and adopted her infant child (also named Louise) who was born after Braun’s death. Blatz also raised his late employer’s son John as his own. Although he was never formally adopted, John Braun became known generally around Milwaukee as “John Blatz.” Valentin and Louise (Braun) Blatz also had five children of their own: four sons; Albert, Emil, Valentin Jr., and Louis (who died at a young age); and one daughter, Alma.


The marriage allowed Blatz to acquire Braun’s small brewery and combine it with his own operation, which he named City Brewery. This formed the basis of what would eventually become one of the largest and most prominent breweries in Milwaukee. Blatz was widely acknowledged to be the first of the great Milwaukee brewers to establish a reputation outside Wisconsin, the first to begin developing a national distribution network, and the first to establish a bottling plant in connection with his brewery. During its early years of development, the Blatz brewery reportedly out-paced both the Pabst and Schlitz operations.

Blatz operated his business as a single proprietorship until 1889 when it was incorporated as the Val. Blatz Brewing Company with a capital stock of 21 $2,000,000. Officers of the new corporation were Valentin Blatz, president; Albert C. Blatz, vice president; John Kremer (a son-in-law), secretary; and Val. Blatz, Jr., superintendent. The company was quietly sold in 1891 to a group of British and American investors incorporated as the United States Brewing Company and known variously as the “English Syndicate” or the “Chicago Syndicate.” The sale reportedly netted Blatz (who was himself a member of the syndicate) and his family $3,000,000 and left them in full control of the local operation.


Three years later, on May 26, 1894, Valentin Blatz died suddenly while staying at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, Minnesota, on his return from a trip to California, where he vacationed and attended a midwinter exposition. Ironically, it was a journey that he had reportedly postponed several times because of a premonition that he would not return to Milwaukee alive. A newspaper reported at the time that it was only because of his wife’s deteriorating health that he agreed to go to California where they could spend part of the winter in a milder climate. At the time of his death at age sixty-eight, Blatz was regarded as one of Milwaukee’s wealthiest men, with an estate estimated at between $6,000,000 and $8,000,000. Throughout his life Blatz was a generous man. In his will he not only left thousands of dollars to more than a dozen local charities, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged, but also provided for the four children (Cora, Selma, Elsie, and John) of his late step-son “John Blatz.” He was survived by his wife, Louise, who was with him in St. Paul; three sons, Albert, Emil, and Valentin, Jr.; and two daughters, Louise (Mrs. John) Kremer and Alma (Mrs. Gustav) Kletzsch. He was interred in Milwaukee’s Forest Home Cemetery.

Throughout his life, Blatz had been active in community affairs. He was a lifelong member of the Milwaukee Musical Society and belonged to a host of other groups, including the Milwaukee Old Settlers Society, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.), the Aurora Lodge of Freemasons, The Arion Club, the Frei Gemeinde, the Liederkranz Society, the Germania Maennerchor of Chicago, the Eichenkranz Maennerchor of New York, several local Turnverein Societies, and–reportedly one of his favorite haunts–the West Side Old Settlers Bowling Club. In 1866 he became the first president of the Merchants National Bank, and in 1868 he was elected President of the Second Ward Savings Bank, a position he held until his death. Blatz was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and also belonged to an influential committee of local businessmen who organized the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition in 1879. Blatz, who became an American citizen in 1855, was elected for a single term as a Milwaukee city alderman in 1882

After Blatz’s death, the brewery was operated by two of his sons, Albert C. and Val. Blatz, Jr., and John Kremer, a son-in-law. The United States Brewing Company, which purchased the brewery in 1891, owned and operated it until the onset of national prohibition in 1920.


This lengthy article is from the Industrial History of Milwaukee, published in 1886.

The Valetin Blatz home c. 1886.

This 1946 ad features a plate with founder Valentin Blatz.

Here’s a history of Blatz, from the current Blatz beer website, which is currently owned by Pabst Brewing.

Blatz was one of the premier Milwaukee breweries. It was founded by John Braun in 1846, shortly before Wisconsin achieved statehood, and was originally called the City Brewery. Braun’s fledgling business produced about 150 barrels of beer annually – until 1851 when Valentine Blatz, a former employee, established a brewery of his own next door to the City Brewery. Braun died later that year and Blatz soon married his widow, thereby uniting the City Brewery and his own operation.

At the time of the marriage, the combined breweries produced only 350 barrels per year. However, by 1880 total annual production reached 125,000 barrels. The brewery’s growth continued, and in 1884 Blatz ranked as the third-largest beer producer in Milwaukee.


Blatz was the first Milwaukee brewer to market beer nationally. He set up distribution centers in Chicago, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Memphis, Charleston, and Savannah. He was also the first of the Milwaukee brewers to include a bottling plant within his brewery. In addition, Blatz operated his own carpenter shop, railroad cars, cooper shop, machine shop and coal yard.

In 1890 Blatz sold his brewery to a group of London investors, who continued to operate the plant until Prohibition. Following the repeal of the eighteenth amendment, the Blatz brewery again flourished, producing over a million barrels annually during the 1940s and 1950s. Its labels included Blatz, Pilsener, Old Heidelberg, Private Stock, Milwaukee Dark, Culmbacher, Continental Special, Tempo, and English Style Ale.


By 1955 only six Milwaukee breweries remained open. Of these six, Miller, Pabst and Schlitz were the biggest and most successful. Blatz was big, too, but stiff competition and skyrocketing production costs prevented it from growing further. In 1958 the brewery was finally sold to Pabst; however a federal court order at the time prevented Pabst from Brewing at the Blatz facilities. In 1959 this giant, Blatz, ceased all operations. Shortly there after, Pabst purchased the Blatz brands, and relaunched the brand as a craft-style beer, true to the high-quality style that Valetine Blatz espoused.

Today, Blatz continues to be recognized for it’s quality and tradition. While the Blatz Brewery is now home to some of Milwaukee’s Finest Citizens, Blatz Beer will always be Milwaukee’s Finest Beer.


Historic Beer Birthday: Louis X, Duke of Bavaria

Today is the birthday of Louis X, Duke of Bavaria (September 18, 1495-April 22, 1545). Louis X (or in German, German Ludwig X, Herzog von Bayern), “was Duke of Bavaria (1516–1545), together with his older brother William IV, Duke of Bavaria. His parents were Albert IV and Kunigunde of Austria, a daughter of Emperor Frederick III.”


Here’s another short account of Louis X’s life:

Ludwig (Louis) X, Duke of Bavaria (Herzog von Bayern), was conjoint ruler of Bavaria with his brother Wilhelm IV (1493-1550) from 1516 to 1545. Louis was born 18 September 1495, son of Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria (1447-1508) and Kunigunde of Austria (1465-1520), a daughter of Emperor Frederick III. When his father Albert IV died in 1508, he was succeeded by his eldest son Wilhelm IV. It was Albert’s intention to not have Bavaria divided amongst his sons as had been the practice with previous successions. However, Louis became joint ruler in 1516, arguing that he had been born before his father’s edict of the everlasting succession of the firstborn prince of 1506.


Although his brother, William IV, Duke of Bavaria, wrote and signed the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Bavarian Beer Purity Law, and later the German Beer Purity Law, Louis X as co-ruler of Bavaria also had a hand in it, and was co-signatory on the historic document.


In the Bavarian town of Ingolstadt on April 23, 1516, William IV, Duke of Bavaria wrote and signed the law, along with his younger brother Louis X, Duke of Bavaria. That 1516 law was itself a variation of earlier laws, at least as early as 1447 and another in independent Munich in 1487. When Bavaria reunited, the new Reinheitsgebot applied to the entirety of the Bavarian duchy. It didn’t apply to all of Germany until 1906, and it wasn’t referred to as the Reinheitsgebot until 1918, when it was coined by a member of the Bavarian parliament.


500th Anniversary Of The Reinheitsgebot

reinheitsgebot bavaria-coa
It’s hard to believe it’s been 500 years since Bavaria signed what’s considered the first food purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Bavarian Beer Purity Law, and later the German Beer Purity Law. That’s because in 1516, when the law was decreed, Germany did not yet exist, and wouldn’t for nearly 300 years, with the formation of the German Confederation in 1815, longer if you go by the German Empire, founded in 1871. Modern Germany consists of sixteen federal states, called Bundesländers, of which Bavaria is one.
And it was in Bavarian town of Ingolstadt on April 23, 1516, that William IV, Duke of Bavaria wrote and signed the law, along with his younger brother Louis X, Duke of Bavaria. That 1516 law was itself a variation of earlier laws, at least as early as 1447 and another in independent Munich in 1487. When Bavaria reunited, the new Reinheitsgebot applied to the entirety of the Bavarian duchy. It didn’t apply to all of Germany until 1906, and it wasn’t referred to as the Reinheitsgebot until 1918, when it was coined by a member of the Bavarian parliament. But while today most people think of it as all about food purity, that was in reality only a small part of it, and probably not even the most important.


Here’s a translation of the Reinheitsgebot, from a 1993 issue of Zymurgy:

We hereby proclaim and decree, by Authority of our Province, that henceforth in the Duchy of Bavaria, in the country as well as in the cities and marketplaces, the following rules apply to the sale of beer:

From Michaelmas to Georgi [St. George’s Day], the price for one Mass [Bavarian Liter 1,069] or one Kopf [bowl-shaped container for fluids, not quite one Mass], is not to exceed one Pfennig Munich value, and

From Georgi to Michaelmas, the Mass shall not be sold for more than two Pfennig of the same value, the Kopf not more than three Heller [Heller usually one-half Pfennig].

If this not be adhered to, the punishment stated below shall be administered.

Should any person brew, or otherwise have, other beer than March beer, it is not to be sold any higher than one Pfennig per Mass.

Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities’ confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail.

Should, however, an innkeeper in the country, city or markets buy two or three pails of beer (containing 60 Mass) and sell it again to the common peasantry, he alone shall be permitted to charge one Heller more for the Mass or the Kopf, than mentioned above. Furthermore, should there arise a scarcity and subsequent price increase of the barley (also considering that the times of harvest differ, due to location), WE, the Bavarian Duchy, shall have the right to order curtailments for the good of all concerned.

Notice that the first two decrees have to do with pricing and when beer can be sold. It isn’t until paragraph six, the second last one, that the issue of what ingredients will be allowed comes up. If it had been the most important part, is seems more likely they would have led with it. Even then, it wasn’t about purity, but again commerce. Barley was designated as the only grain so that others, notably wheat and rye, were set aside to be used for baking bread.

Also, a lot of hay has been made about it not mentioning yeast, with the idea that it was because yeast wasn’t discovered until Louis Pasteur in the 19th century. But early brewers did know something about yeast, even if they didn’t have the full scientific understanding that came later. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to make consistent batches of beer. At the end of your brew, you’ll find a layer of billowing foam and other indeterminate matter at the bottom of the fermenter, which the Germans called “Zeug,” which means “stuff.” And early German brewers had a person, called a “hefener,” whose job it was to scoop out the Zeug, which was in effect the leftover yeast, and pitch it in the next batch of beer. So it’s hard to say they didn’t have some understanding of yeast.

A German postage stamp celebrating the 450th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot in 1983.

The Germans, of course, have set up a website for the 500th anniversary, and so does the Bayerischer Brauerbund, which is a a Bavarian brewers trade group along with the German Brewers Group. They also created a 50-second film marking the anniversary.

And the media is covering the Reinheitsgebot’s Quincentenary. A few examples include the BBC, Food and Wine, NPR, Spiegel, and Wired. But by far the most thorough examination of the Reinheitsgebot was by Jeff Alworth in All About Beer magazine, Attempting to Understand the Reinheitsgebot.


It’s great that it’s been 500 years, and that German brewers are justly proud of the Reinheitsgebot. It’s clearly helped create the unique German beer scene and their many native styles. But it’s also been used as a shameless marketing tool, been used as an exclusionary tactic, and has even had little-known exceptions to its rules for years, ones that most people are not even aware of, not to mention the use of other items in the brewing process that are also not mentioned by the law, but which because they’re not strictly “ingredients” more modern brewers have interpreted as not being prohibited.

Many people have voiced criticisms against it over the years. One that’s particularly thorough is The German Reinheitsgebot — Why it’s a Load of Old Bollocks. The German magazine Spiegel’s recent coverage is entitled Attacking Beer Purity: The Twilight of Germany’s Reinheitsgebot.

Back in 2001, Fred Eckhardt wrote an entertaining tale for All About Beer entitled The Spy who Saved the Reinheitsgebot, about how a brewer was able to prove Beck’s was using adjuncts and was not in adherence with the German law.

In another recent article in First We Feast, Sam Calagione, of the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, is quoted with an opinion I suspect many American brewers hold. “I hate the concept of the Reinheitsgebot, but I am essentially happy it exists.”

Deutsche Post’s 2016 commemorative stamp.