Five hundred years ago the Bavarian Purity Act of 1516 (Reinheitsgebot) was born. Declaring that all beer sold could use only three ingredients; malted barley, hops and water, the Bavarian Purity Act is certainly the best known and arguably among the earliest beer purity laws recorded in history. Yeast was later added as the forth ingredient. Following the formation of the Weimar Republic after WW1, the Bavarian Law became a national law; hence: The German Purity Act, still relevant today.
So, while we revel in the 500th anniversary celebrations of the 1516 Bavarian Purity Act, it is time to take pause and reflect how far we have come here in the North American Beer craft beer scene.
This noble idea attracted many beer adventurers from my generation and continues to hold a powerful grip most hearts and minds to this very day. We have since been joined by millions more. In fact, late last year in the US, the number of breweries exceeded the high water mark of 4131 breweries set in 1873! Check out the facts.
But for many experts, The Bavarian Purity Act is arguably an unnecessary straightjacket that restricts deep exploration into the wonderful world of brewing. Despite any truth to that claim, it cannot be ignored that the Reinheitsgebot was, and is a cornerstone that for many, defines purity, quality and at least the potential for world-class beer. So cheers to craft beer and 500 years of excellence in brewing.
Icing on the Cake
At around the time the Bavarians were busy creating brewing laws in 1516, the Icelanders were installing their first printing press to publish bibles, myths and sagas for local public consumption. Brewing beer and mead was already a tradition since the early Viking settlement just before the 1st millennium.
While Viking beer recipes included barley - when the climate allowed for its’ cultivation - they were also prone to adding other ingredients like local berries, herbs and the like as flavour enhancers. Over the years drinking gradually fell out of favour and by 1901 brewing in Iceland came to a grinding halt. Just as in Canada in 1916, the temperance powers of the day called for and won their fight for prohibition.
Incredibly, it was not until 1989 that it was possible to have a beer in Iceland, let alone brew one legally. Slowly but surely small breweries started popping up, mostly in the Arctic North. Today, beer consumption in Iceland is very healthy and the craft beer renaissance has finally taken hold.
On our upcoming Iceland Arctic North Beer Adventure, we will be exploring that most beautiful north western corner of Iceland where nature astounds and the beers flow freely.
In fact, fortune has it that we will be attending an Icelandic Beer festival in Holar. Here we expect to try some of the more exotic local specialties that include, Einstock , Steogi Whale Beer and some rare brews by Bruggsmiojan. So, in one sitting we will be able to have a complete Icelandic beer experience.
Beer Tour Blog
Stories about Breweries we've visited around the world. Photos and stories about our tours and the interesting folks we've met along the way.