As the German purity law does not clarify everything: the analysis of beer along the supply chain
Did you know that the idea of a purity law has existed for over 500 years?
Duke Wilhelm IV issued such a decree as early as April 1516, naming barley, hops and water as the sole ingredients to prevent counterfeit beer of inferior quality. He thus improved consumer protection and product quality and at the same time regulated the use of different types of grain.
The modern purity law
However, Duke Wilhelm’s decree only endured for about 35 years so that later various spices were also legitimized. In fact, over the years there have been numerous laws regulating the brewing of beer in Germany.
Today, the purity law defines hops, malt, yeast and water as the only four ingredients in beer production.
To be more precise, the purity law allows only barley malt for bottom-fermented beers, while other types of grain may also be used for top-fermented beers, as well as some types of sugar and the colorants produced from them.
The basic analysis of beer: original gravity & alcohol
First of all, the analysis of beer is concerned with the determination of some core factors that divide beer into different categories under food law.
Types of beer based on the original gravity
The basis of the subdivision of beer into categories is the original gravity. This is the content of soluble substances in the unfermented original wort from which the beer is produced. Among other things, it also influences the taste, alcohol content, nutritional value, carbon dioxide content and even the beer tax.
The original wort content is calculated from the residual extract and alcohol content of the beer. The types of beer are divided as follows:
- Light beers have an original gravity of less than 7g per 100g
- Draught beers have a gravity of 7 to 11g per 100g
- “Full” beers have an original wort content of 11 to 16g per 100g
- Strong beers have an original wort content of over 16g per 100g
Alcohol content tolerances
The original wort is also the greatest influence on the later alcohol content of the finished beer. There are also limits and tolerances for deviations. A beer with a declared alcohol content of up to 5.5% vol. may only differ by 0.5% vol. A tolerance of 1.0% vol. is permitted for a declared alcohol content of over 5.5% vol.
Product typical challenges
Thankfully, beer is fundamentally a very safe food. The four ingredients for the production of beer according to the German purity law even have positive properties: the ingredients of the hops, the slightly acidic pH value, the alcohol and the carbon dioxide in the beer inhibit the growth of pathogens.
Nevertheless, the purity law does not guarantee absolute food safety. During cultivation, production, storage and delivery, the beverage may come into contact with substances that pose various risks. A comprehensive analysis of beer and its supply chain must therefore also take these risks into account.
The food safety of beer is therefore not only guaranteed by the purity law. On the journey from the field, through production and storage, and finally to the end consumer, various risks arise that must be analysed and evaluated.