Category: Beer History Page 1 of 2

Brewing with Recycled Wastewater: Beer History Made in Arizona

I’d never heard the phrase “toilet to tap” before judging in the “Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge” brewing competition.

Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge

Let me back up.  (Ah, toilet humor.)

As a certified beer judge, my name and email address are distributed to folks who organize brewing competitions.  As of this writing, there are about 6,599 active BJCP-certified beer judges in the world, with 5,218 residing in the U.S. To put those numbers into prospective, our population size is about on par with that of the critically endangered Black Rhino.

So the call went out to beer judges at the end of July for the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge set to take place on Saturday, September 9th in Tucson, AZ.  I’ll be honest with you, I answered “yes” before I understood anything about what the competition was about.

Well, I take that back. I knew it was a brewing competition among professional breweries across the Grand Canyon State, and it seemed to have something to do with “Pure Water”.

And water, as any brewer worth his salt will tell you, is a key component in beer not just because it makes up the majority of the beverage ingredient-wise, but because the particular water composition (minerals, chemicals, pH, etc.) helps to determine the character of the beer, with even minor adjustments becoming noticeable in the final product.

Naturally, some breweries are keen to tout the purity and source of their water such as Coors beer brewed with “100% Rocky Mountain water”, or the Einstök brewery of Iceland that claims to use the “purest water on Earth”, water that flows from rain and prehistoric glaciers down the Hlíðarfjall Mountain and through ancient lava fields.  Gotta admit, that sounds pretty majestic.  [Science seems to think that the purest water on Earth is found in the southernmost Chilean village of Puerto Williams, but who’s counting.]

For clarification, the “Pure Water” used in this brewing competition wasn’t exactly the kind of pure water Coors or Einstök is talking about.

No, the kind of water we’re talking about here happens to be wastewater, treated wastewater— hence the somewhat pejorative phrase “toilet to tap”.

I neglected to realize this minor detail until about a week before the competition, and if I’m being completely honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, increasingly so as the big day drew closer.

But, I told myself, people have consumed beer brewed with less than enchanting sounding water before and lived to tell the tale.

Duck Pond Beer

Back in 2011, the documentary How Beer Saved the World featured a segment in which Dr. Charlie Bamforth, professor of brewing science at the University of California, Davis, theorized that beer was responsible for saving millions of lives in Medieval Europe.

The reasoning goes that much of the water in the Middle Ages was rife with deadly pathogens and drinking it was potentially life-threatening to humans.  However, Dr. Bamforth speculated that the fundamental brewing process (which included boiling the brew) prevented dangerous microorganisms and bacteria from making people sick.

To test this hypothesis, Bamforth and his colleagues first collected water from a duck pond.  This water was then lab-tested and confirmed to be teeming with fecal coliform bacteria such as E. coli, which likely originated from duck doo-doo.  That same water was then used to brew beer and after being lab-tested, the beer was designated safe to drink.

Finally, the duck poop beer was served to a group of seemingly unsuspecting publicans in a bar.  The test subjects initially appeared to enjoy the mystery beer, noting descriptors like “perfume-y, nutmeg and salty”.  Of course, this positive first impression only stood to compound the drinkers’ sense of shock upon learning of the beer’s fowl origins.

“Pure Water”

Unlike the duck pond water in the experiment above, the so-named “Pure Water” produced by the Pima County Southwest Water Campus team goes through a much more rigorous purification and strict testing process than simply boiling water.  The process includes ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, UV/advanced oxidation, granular activated carbon, and chlorine disinfection which remove bacteria, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, heavy metals, viruses, pathogens, etc.

Pure Water: Water Purification Process

In other words, the divisive term “toilet to tap” doesn’t really come close to accurately describing the level of purification and testing “Pure Water” undergoes, although I would have never heard of the term if it wasn’t listed on the FAQ section of the brewing competition website. But better to face these potential objections head on in a campaign to garner public buy-in.

“Our biggest challenge will not be technological; our biggest challenge will be public perception and dealing with the obvious ‘yuck’ factor,” notes Jeff Prevatt, Pima County Wastewater Reclamation Department Research and Innovation Manager.

And what better way to get the general public on board than with beer.  Heck, it seems that the public will stomach just about anything in the name of beer.  Consider commercially produced brewskis that included such eclectic ingredients as bull testicles, beard yeast, vaginal bacteria, cat feces,  and yes even as late as the beginning of 2017, Stone Brewing Co. produced “Full Circle Pale Ale”, a beer brewed with reclaimed water.

Brewing with recycled water can get you a nice media buzz, but in Arizona’s case, the state is slowly sobering to the reality that mandatory water cutbacks may be coming if water levels continue to decline to critically low levels in drought-stricken Lake Mead, a significant source of water for Arizona, California and Nevada.  Add to that Arizona’s relatively low-priory water rights in this case, and let’s just say it’s nice to have an option on deck with “Pure Water”.  [Fun fact: Parts of Australia, Singapore, New Mexico, Virginia, Texas, Georgia, Orange County, San Diego, and many other California cities have already implemented water recycling projects in recent years.  Namibia has been doing it for nearly 50 years.]

To be sure, the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge was historical in that it was the first time a statewide competition was held that utilized treated sewage water in the beer, especially at a time when water usage concerns are on the rise.  And unlike Stone’s reclaimed water beer that was brewed specifically for the PureWaterSD private one-time event and available only to politicians and VIPs, many of the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge beers were made available to the general public and have already begun showing up on the beer check-in app Untappd.

But while the brewing competition drew eyeballs, one of the most astonishing parts of this story is that the whole water purification process takes place inside a mobile lab that was converted from a shipping container that opens up like Optimus Prime.

And it was this novel concept of arranging a statewide brewing competition using recycled water produced in a mobile shipping container that won the Southwest Pima Country Water Campus the $250,000 Water Innovation grand prize, which helped make an idea reality.

I know what you’re thinking: all of this is cool and everything, but what was the beer like.

The Judge’s Table

As a competition brewer and certified beer judge, I’ve been on both sides of the judging table.  I know that anxious feeling of waiting to hear the competition results of a beer I’ve put heaps of effort and thoughtfulness into.  And secretly, I think every brewer wants to know what conversations were had about their beer at the judge’s table, especially if they made it to the Best-of-Show (BOS) final round.

Pull up a chair.

Daniel J. Leonard Judging Beer in AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge

Before the BOS, judges paired off and were assigned a few beers to judge, with each set of judges selecting only the best of the round to move forward to BOS.  As fate would have it, I judged round one with my BJCP Certified beer judge sister who had just arrived in Tucson after narrowly evacuating her home in the Caribbean ahead of the approaching catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Irma.  The beer gods work in mysterious ways, I suppose.

Of the 26 Arizona breweries competing in the competition, seven anonymous entries made it into the Best-of-Show end-game.

Sorting Beers in Beer Competition

So just how were the finalists in the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge?  The truth is, they were excellent and included a welcome variety of beer styles such as Czech Pilsner, DIPA, IPA, American Pale Ale, Kölsch, Scottish Export and a sour brown ale.  In these kinds of competitions, the winners aren’t determined by whichever beer style the judge has a personal preference for at home, but rather which beer most accurately represents the beer style it claims to be according to the BJCP Beer Style Guidelines.

It was quickly apparent that the winning beer, a Czech-style Pilsner, was stylistically on target— dangerously so— a feat that is typically more difficult to accomplish with such technical lighter beers.  Not to mention, the Pilsner wasn’t over-hopped, which is perhaps the single most common mistake American brewers make with lighter beers, if not most other beer styles.  When Dragoon Brewing Co. was announced to be the brewery behind the winning Pilsner, I immediately thought back to the Cicerone and BJCP Beer Judge certificates that hung in the office of Dragoon’s head brewer Eric Greene.

The Double IPA brewed by one of Phoenix’s most beloved breweries, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., was a close second.  From a strategic point of view, entering a big hoppy DIPA into a brewing competition is a smart move because the style is largely a crowd-pleaser.

And Wilderness would have likely won the competition if Dragoon hadn’t taken the bold, perhaps unnecessary, risk of going all in on such an unforgiving style as Czech Pilsner and gotten closer to the stylistic bull’s-eye.

But sometimes, fortune favors the bold.  Fortune, and treated wastewater.

Be Part of Beer History

For a limited time, you can take part in brewing history and sample some of the incredible beers around Arizona brewed from some of the following participating breweries:

Related Articles:

Top 20 Tips for How to Win a Brewing Competition

How to Pass the Online BJCP Entrance Exam

Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

The Difference between a Belgian Quad and a Belgian Dark Strong Ale (BDSA)

Belgian Quad and Belgian Dark Strong Ale

[“∄” and “¬∃” are the logical symbols for “does not exist”.]

In this article, we’ll attempt to shed some light on the following questions:

1. What’s the difference between the Belgian Quadrupel (Quad) and the Belgian Dark Strong Ale (BDSA) beer styles?  Is there even a difference at all?
2. Is the Belgian Quad style simply a sub-style of Belgian Dark Strong Ale?
3. What’s the difference between a Trappist beer and an Abbey beer?
4. Is a Belgian Quad four times stronger than a Belgian Enkel (Single)?
5. Where did the terms Belgian Quad, Tripel, Dubbel and Enkel come from and why are they named the way that they are?
6. What are the descriptions of a Belgian Quad and a Belgian Dark Strong Ale?

The difference between a Belgian Quad and a Belgian Dark Strong Ale can be a bit of a tricky subject.

The quick and dirty answer is that a Belgian Quad could be considered the most alcoholic version of a Belgian Dark Strong Ale (BDSA), where the BJCP describes the overall impression of BDSA style as “a dark, complex, very strong Belgian ale with a delicious blend of malt richness, dark fruit flavors, and spicy elements. Complex, rich, smooth and dangerous.”

Of course the more accurate answer as to the difference between a Belgian Quad and a BDSA is that it depends on who you ask.

To explain, some sources like the Brewer’s Association (BA) Guidelines classify “Belgian-Style Quadrupel” and “Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale” as two individual styles of beer, albeit with quite a bit of overlap. Meanwhile, the BJCP Beer Style Guidelines does not consider Belgian Quad as an official beer style, but rather it essentially equates Belgian Quads with the Belgian Dark Strong Ale beer style. [ Respective beer style descriptions below.]

In fact, the only mention of “Belgian Quad” in the entire 2015 BJCP Beer Style Guidelines is this: “Sometimes known as a Trappist Quadruple, most [Belgian Dark Strong Ales] are simply known by their strength or color designation.”

But it’s really not as simple as saying that a “Belgian Quad” is just a stronger (more alcoholic) version of a Belgian Dark Strong Ale because looking at the BA’s Beer Style Guidelines (the organization that draws a distinction between the two beer styles), you can have a BDSA at 11.2% ABV, and a Belgian Quad at 9.1%. 

Using only the BA Guidelines, at best we could say that a Belgian Quad may be stronger than the strongest BDSA because, according to the BA’s Guidelines, a BDSA is max 11.2% ABV whereas a Quad’s max ABV is 14.2%.

We could also say that what the BA Guidelines consider a Belgian Quad could more or less be at the upper ABV range of what the 2015 BJCP Beer Style Guidelines consider a BDSA, although the max ABV for a BDSA per the BJCP is 12%, which is a bit below the BA’s maximum 14.2% ABV Quad limit.  And it’s in this sense that a Belgian Quad could be considered the most alcoholic version of a Belgian Dark Strong Ale (BDSA).

Perhaps this is what some people mean when they say that the Belgian Quad style is simply a sub-style within the Belgian Dark Strong Ale style.  Though to be clear , it is certainly not the case that the BJCP description of Belgian Dark Strong Ale completely encompasses the BA description of Belgian Quad, let alone the BA description of Belgian Dark Strong Ale.  Not even the BA’s description of Quad is contained within the range of  its own description of a BDSA.  In other words, if we take the BA’s guidelines at face value, a Belgian Quad as described by the BA could not be a sub-style contained completely within either the BA’s or BJCP’s description of the BDSA style.  So in that technical sense, a Belgian Quad is not a sub-style within the BDSA style.

Strict definitions aside, it’s hard to have a discussion about Belgian Quad or Belgian Dark Strong Ale without talking about their history and their relation to their Trappist cousins.

So to give a bit of context, some classifications systems list Belgian Quads as the strongest in the continuum of Trappist (or abbey) ales arranged by ascending alcohol content.  In order, these include Enkel (Single), Dubbel (Double), Tripel (Triple), and the Quadrupel (Quadruple).

Trappist vs Abbey Beers

To briefly explain what “Trappist” ales are, Derek Walsh writes in The Oxford Companion to Beer, “Trappist breweries are breweries located within the walls of a Trappist abbey, where brewing is performed by, or under the supervision of, Trappist monks.  The name “Trappist” originates from the La Trappe abbey located close to the village of Soligny in Normandy, France, where this reform movement of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance was founded in 1664. Despite beliefs to the contrary, Trappist beers as they are now produced have only existed since the early 1930s, when Orval and Westmalle developed their first commercially available beers.”

Abbey beers, on the other hand, “are beers produced in the styles made famous by Belgian Trappist monks, but not actually brewed within the walls of a monastery.”  The need to make a distinction between Trappist and Abbey beers was due to the fact that non-Trappist brewers who may or may not have had any connection to actual Trappist brewers were attempting to profit by using the name “Trappist” and the good reputation that authentic Trappist brewers had earned for producing quality beer.

Eventually a legal line was drawn on February 28, 1962 by the Belgian Trade and Commerce court in Ghent in the form of a ruling which stated: “the word ‘Trappist’ is commonly used to indicate a beer brewed and sold by monks pertaining to a  Trappist order, or by people who would have obtained an authorization of this kind… is thus called ‘Trappist,’ a beer manufactured by Cistercian monks and not a beer in the Trappist style which will be rather called ‘abbey beer’.”

Today, there are eleven monasteries producing Trappist beer including six in Belgium (Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Westmalle and Achel), two in the Netherlands (Koningshoeven and Maria Toevlucht),  one in Austria (Stift Engelszell), one in Italy (Tre Fontane Abbey), and one it the United States (St. Joseph’s Abbey).

What’s in a Name: Belgian Enkel, Dubbel, Tripel, and Quad

To be clear, the terms Dubbel, Tripel, and Quad refer to the relative strength of the beers in question, and are not double, triple or quadruple the alcoholic strength of an Enkel (Single), respectively.

That said, there is some debate over how the individual Trappist ales (Enkel, Dubbel, Tripel, Quad) got their names. Garrett Oliver notes that “Both Trappist and secular breweries in Belgium have brewed brown beers for centuries, and beers were probably designated “dubbel” or “tripel” based on a fanciful allusion to their relative alcoholic strength.”

With respect to the Belgian Tripel, Derek Walsh seems to support this idea when writing “The term “Tripel” refers to the amount of malt with fermentable sugars and the original gravity wort prior to fermentation.  One theory of the origin is that it follows a medieval tradition where crosses were used to mark casks: a single X for the weakest beer, XX for a medium-strength beer, and XXX for the strongest beer.  Three X’s would then be synonymous with the name “tripel.”  In the days when most people were illiterate, this assured drinkers that they were getting the beer they asked for.”

For a somewhat different prospective about Trappist nomenclature, in a piece entitled Beer Made by God’s Hand from All About Beer magazine, Roger Protz writes about the brewery Westmalle, credited with producing the first Tripel.  “Nobody at Westmalle knows where the designations Dubbel and Tripel come from. The beers were first called, simply, brown and blonde. From its inception, the brewery always made a brown beer.  The revered former head brewer, Father Thomas, added blonde in the 1950s.  The change of names to Dubbel and Tripel possibly reflects the fact that other Trappist breweries produced a lower strength beer called a Single and Westmalle was keen to stress the distinctiveness of its own beer.”

Follow the Money

Economics may have played a part in the origin of the terms Enkel (Single) and Dubbel (Double).  For example, Stan Hieronymus writes that “as far back as the sixteenth century, brewers learned that they could charge more for strong beer, considerably more than the additional ingredients and labor would cost. Dubbele clauwaert was introduced in 1573, and quickly supplanted enekle clauwaert as the best-selling beer”.

Hieronymus seems to suggest that dubbele clauwaert was brewed from “first runnings” and enekle clauwaert was produced from “second runnings”.

First and second runnings are brewing terms related to an old brewing technique called parti-gyle brewing where multiple beers of different alcoholic strength could be made from the same batch of malt. You might compare parti-gyle brewing to using the same tea bag to make subsequently weaker cups of tea.

For example, the first step of parti-gyle brewing is to mash a batch of malt (mashing is the process by which malt is soaked in hot water for about an hour in order to convert the starches in the malt into fermentable sugars). The resulting sugary liquid is called wort. The first runnings is the most sugar-concentrated wort which is drained off and transferred into a separate vessel, leaving the malt behind.  Second runnings is the result of the same batch of malt being sparged (rinsed with hot water), which yields a less sugary wort and therefore produces a weaker beer.  Third runnings would be a third even less sugary wort produced by sparging the same malt, once again resulting in an even weaker beer, and so on.

In his blog, Christopher Barnes notes that the MBAA (Master Brewers Association of the Americas) theorizes that the parti-gyle system of brewing could be the origin of the names of Enkel, Duppel, and possibly Tripel as the sugar content of  the first runnings would be about 22.5%, second runnings about 15%, and third runnings 7.5%.  This results in the Dubbel having two times the sugar content as the Enkel (Single), and the Tripel having three times the amount of sugar as the Enkel (Single).

Of course this theory only works out as neatly as it does if we have three runnings, because with only two runnings, the first runnings do not contain double the amount of wort that second runnings contain (15 x’s 2 = 30, not 22.5). In other words, it’s not exactly clear how this theory accounts for the dubbele clauwaert and enekle clauwaert from 1573 that Hieronymus mentions above.  We seem to be missing the Tripel clauwaert…

In any case, Hieronymus concludes that “commercial brewers often saw little value in producing a beer from second runnings, because the cost of goods and labor exceeded what they could charge for weaker beers. Well in to the twentieth century, the Trappists had a built-in consumer base for their smaller beers, the monks themselves, making the production of stronger beers more cost-effective.  That changed as the need to supplement their diet with beer diminished and the number of members of each monastery dwindled, but by then the practice of using second runnings had pretty much disappeared as well.”

Fitting a Square Peg in a Round Hole

Of course, when it comes to discussing Belgian beer styles, it’s important to remember that the concept of grouping beer into categories called “beer styles” is relatively new, originating with Michael Jackson’s 1977 book The World Guide to Beer.  In 1977, Jackson did not refer to the “Belgian Quad” or “Belgian Dark Strong Ale” beer styles by name at all, but he did identify “Trappiste” beer as a style that contains within its range a few sub-groups which of course included the golden-colored “Triple” style.

In Jackson’s defense, it wasn’t until 1991 that the very first so-called “Quadrupel” was produced by La Trapp (Koningshoeven brewery), although Jackson does mention St Sixtus, noting that the brewery “has a selection of excellent dark ales, ranging in alcoholic content from four to twelve percent by volume.”  The twelve percent beer would, by some modern classifications, be considered a “Quad”.  Jackson also includes a photo of a bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10 (11.3% ABV), which was developed in the late 1940s and early 50s, and is also today classified by some as a Quad.

To illustrate the nature of attempting to group pre-existing kinds of beer into different categories, Gordon Strong, president of the BJCP, underscores that “The Belgian beer came first, and people are trying to categorize it.”  To expound on this point, Strong has also noted that “the Belgian Dark Strong Ale style is an artificial American judging construct, not an authentic Belgian brewing constraint. [The beer style is] a “catch-all” category for large, dark Belgian beers that fall with “Category S” (a legal classification for Belgian beers with an original gravity of 1.062+).” 

Randy Mosher echoes this idea in Tasting Beer, noting that “This [Belgian Strong Dark Ale style] really is a catchall category rather than a style with a specific history.  As the work of Lacambre points out, there were a number of historic strong, darker beers, but there is no clear lineage from these older brewers…”

And Stan Hieronymus reminds us that “some categories emerge in full focus- dubbel and tripel mean something specific to Belgian beer drinkers- but others don’t.”

Hieronymus had next to nothing to say about “Belgian Quads” aside from a small line in his 2005 book Brew Like a Monk referring to the “quadrupel” style that’s “not quite a style.”  And like Strong, Hieronymus also lumps beers some consider to be Quads under the category of Belgian dark strong ale.

When discussing Belgian Quads in relation to Belgian Dark Strong Ale in the entry on “abbey beers” in The Oxford Companion to Beer, Garrett Oliver writes “A style sometimes referred to as “Belgian strong dark ale” or “abbey ale” intensifies the character of the classic dubbel, bringing more alcohol and fruit character at ABVs of 8% to 9.5%.  Above this range, all bets are off, and waggish craft brewers, rarely Belgian, produce “quadrupels” at ABVs up to 14%.  … Some quadrupels can show a wonderful plummy, figgy fruit quality, but many are merely hot.  The Belgian brewer will often mutter under his breath that these beers are distinctly un-Belgian, but the American, Brazilian, or Danish beer enthusiast who loves “quads” is entirely unconcerned.”

In a 2005 presentation called “Designing Great Belgian Dark Strong Ales”, Strong categorized modern variations of Belgian Strong Dark ale into the following four interpretations:

1. Trappist: drier, lower final gravity, with examples being Westvleteren 12, Rochefort 10, and Chimay Grand Reserve [blue].
2. Abbey: fuller body, sweeter with examples being St. Bernardus Aby 12, Gouden Carolus Grand Cru, Abbaye des Rocs Grand Cru, and Gulden Draak.
3. Barelywine: mostly malt with examples being Scaldis (Bush), Weyerbacher QUAD, and La Trappe Quadrupel.
4. Spiced: N’ice Chouffe and Affligem Noël.

For reference, directly below is the BA’s description of what it considers to be the two overlapping beer styles that are Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale and Belgian-Style Quadrupel:

Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale:  Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ales are medium-amber to very dark. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures. Medium to high malt aroma and complex fruity aromas are distinctive. Very little or no diacetyl aroma should be perceived. Hop aroma is low to medium. Medium to high malt intensity can be rich, creamy, and sweet. Fruity complexity along with soft roasted malt flavor adds distinct character. Hop flavor is low to medium. Hop bitterness is low to medium. These beers are often, though not always, brewed with dark Belgian “candy” sugar. Very little or no diacetyl flavor should be perceived. Herbs and spices are sometimes used to delicately flavor these strong ales. Low levels of phenolic spiciness from yeast byproducts may also be perceived. Body is medium to full. These beers can be well attenuated, with an alcohol strength which is often deceiving to the senses.

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.064-1.096 (15.7-22.9 °Plato) • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.012-1.024 (3.1-6.1 °Plato) • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.6%-8.8% (7.1%-11.2%) • Bitterness (IBU) 20-50 • Color SRM (EBC) 9-35 (18-70 EBC)

Belgian-Style Quadrupel:  Belgian-Style Quadrupels are amber to dark brown. Chill haze is acceptable at low serving temperatures. A mousse-like dense, sometimes amber head will top off a properly poured and served quad. Complex fruity aromas reminiscent of raisins, dates, figs, grapes and/or plums emerge, often accompanied with a hint of winy character. Hop aroma not perceived to very low. Caramel, dark sugar and malty sweet flavors and aromas can be intense, not cloying, while complementing fruitiness. Hop flavor not perceived to very low. Hop bitterness is low to low-medium. Perception of alcohol can be extreme. Complex fruity flavors reminiscent of raisins, dates, figs, grapes and/or plums emerge, often accompanied with a hint of winy character. Perception of alcohol can be extreme. Clove-like phenolic flavor and aroma should not be evident. Diacetyl and DMS should not be perceived. Body is full with creamy mouthfeel. Quadrupels are well attenuated and are characterized by the immense presence of alcohol and balanced flavor, bitterness and aromas. They are well balanced with savoring/sipping drinkability. Oxidative character if evident in aged examples should be mild and pleasant.

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.084-1.120 (20.2-28.0 °Plato) • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.014-1.020 (3.6-5.1 °Plato) • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 7.2%-11.2% (9.1%-14.2%) • Bitterness (IBU) 25-50 • Color SRM (EBC) 8-20 (16-40 EBC)

And here is the BJCP’s description:

Belgian Dark Strong Ale: Overall impression: A dark, complex, very strong Belgian ale with a delicious blend of malt richness, dark fruit flavors, and spicy elements. Complex, rich, smooth and dangerous. Aroma: Complex, with a rich-sweet malty presence, significant esters and alcohol, and an optional light to moderate spiciness. The malt is rich and strong, and can have a deep bready-toasty quality often with a deep caramel complexity. The fruity esters are strong to moderately low, and can contain raisin, plum, dried cherry, fig or prune notes. Spicy phenols may be present, but usually have a peppery quality not clove-like; light vanilla is possible. Alcohols are soft, spicy, perfumy and/or rose-like, and are low to moderate in intensity. Hops are not usually present (but a very low spicy, floral, or herbal hop aroma is acceptable). No dark/roast malt aroma. No hot alcohols or solventy aromas. Appearance: Deep amber to deep coppery-brown in color (dark in this context implies more deeply colored than golden). Huge, dense, moussy, persistent cream- to light tancolored head. Can be clear to somewhat hazy.  Flavor: Similar to aroma (same malt, ester, phenol, alcohol, and hop comments apply to flavor as well). Moderately malty-rich on the palate, which can have a sweet impression if bitterness is low. Usually moderately dry to dry finish, although may be up to moderately sweet. Medium-low to moderate bitterness; alcohol provides some of the balance to the malt. Generally malty-rich balance, but can be fairly even with bitterness. The complex and varied flavors should blend smoothly and harmoniously. The finish should not be heavy or syrupy. Mouthfeel: High carbonation but not sharp. Smooth but noticeable alcohol warmth. Body can range from medium-light to medium-full and creamy. Most are medium-bodied.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.075 – 1.110 IBUs: 20 – 35 FG: 1.010 – 1.024 SRM: 12 – 22 ABV: 8.0 – 12.0%

So should “Belgian Quad” be considered as a unique beer style on its own, or is it really just another name for a Belgian Dark Strong Ale?

Depends who you ask.


1. Oliver, Garrett. The Oxford Companion to Beer. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 1, 3, 796. Print.
2. Hieronymus, Stan. Brew like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew Them. Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2005. 37, 138, 202-03. Print.
3. Protz, Roger. “Beer Made by God’s Hand.” All About Beer Nov. 2010: 48-49. Print.
4. Mosher, Randy. Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2009. Print.

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Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

Michael Jackson and the Origin of Beer Styles

Question: Which British journalist created the notion of ‘beer styles’, and then introduced the concept to the world at large through his book The World Guide to Beer, first published in 1977?

 Answer: Michael (James) Jackson.


Michael James Jackson

Even if you’ve never heard of Michael Jackson (the beer guy) before now, it’s safe to say that many craft beer drinkers today are familiar with at least a few different beer styles helped popularized by Jackson such as Berliner Weisse, Saison, Milk Stout, German Pilsner, Flanders Red, Doppelbock, English Porter, Märzen, Kölsch, Gueuze, Vienna Lager, etc.

To his credit, it was Jackson’s groundbreaking work in identifying and categorizing beer styles in 1977 that provided the framework for the creation of the very influential BJCP Beer Style Guidelines which, as of the 2015 edition, has listed, described and organized over 100 world beer styles.

Of course the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program), whose purpose it is to promote beer literacy and formally recognize beer evaluation skills, is well aware of the influence Michael Jackson has had on the world of beer.

In fact Gordon Strong, president of the BJCP since 2006, dedicated the 2008 edition of the Beer Guidelines to Michael Jackson, writing this after Jackson’s death in 2007:

“A man is remembered for the lives he touches and the works he leaves. Michael Jackson was the most influential authority on beer the world has ever known. He has inspired generations of beer judges with his passion, knowledge and gifted prose. His books remain definitive references on beer styles and will forever be found on the bookshelves of anyone serious about beer.”

Jackson’s influence was certainly widespread, particularly in shaping the homebrewing movement and therefore the craft beer revolution in U.S. and, to an extent, the rest of the world.

No doubt, fate had a part to play in Jackson’s success when we consider that the release of his book The World Guide to Beer (1977) preceded the legalization of homebrewing in the U.S. by just one year.  Not too long after this, the BJCP was founded (1985) after adapting and expanding upon Jackson’s work.  The BJCP fostered and promoted homebrewing by running homebrewing competitions and educating beer judges on the subject of beer styles.

In turn, homebrewers developed and honed their skills by brewing a variety of world beer styles.  Many of these homebrewers then began to open craft breweries. Consumers developed a taste for craft beer, which increased demand and inspired new generations of homebrewers to learn to brew even more world beer styles that Jackson and others continued to identify and define.

Directly or indirectly, the international brewing community has been influenced by Jackson’s beer styles whether through his original book (translated into more than ten different languages), the BJCP’s growing international presence, or the explosion of the craft beer market in the U.S.   

All of this contributed greatly to this golden age of beer we find ourselves in today.

And underneath it all was this shared vocabulary and understanding of beer styles that Jackson invented that made the world of beer more accessible to everyone, bringing both brewers and consumers together.  It opened the doors of discovery to the beers of the past, those liquid cultural time-capsules steeped in tradition that continue to enrich our lives today and inspire the beers of tomorrow.

Indeed, as new kinds of beer become popular, they may also be cataloged and canonized as new separate and distinct ‘beer styles’, thus helping to ensure the preservation of modern-day beers, and thereby a piece of world culture.

Naturally, as a brewer and BJCP beer judge who is (by requirement) acutely familiar with beer styles, I was curious to get a peek behind the curtain to see where it all started.

What did Jackson’s seminal work on beer styles look like? How similar was it to how we categorize beer today? How did he define ‘beer-style’? What were the original beer styles he identified?

So I tracked down a first edition copy of Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer to ensure there were no changes to the book in subsequent editions, and turned to the section on “the classical beer-styles”.

Here’s what I found:

Jackson’s Original Notion of ‘Beer-Style’ and his Categorization of Beer

Perhaps not fully anticipating the significant influence his conception of beer styles would have in the near future, Jackson initially devoted a scant two pages of his two hundred and fifty-five page book to the description and utility of beer styles.


Of course the number of individual beer styles and their respective descriptions and categorization have been developed since Jackson premiered them in 1977, nevertheless the following is the world’s first introduction to the concept and taxonomy of beer styles:

“Beers fall into three broad categories: those which are top-fermented; those which are brewed with some wheat content (they are also top-fermented); and those which are bottom-fermented. There are certain classical examples within each group, and some of them have given rise to the generally-accepted styles, whether regional or international. If a brewer specifically has the intention of reproducing a classical beer, then he is working within a style.  If his beer merely bears a general similarity to others, then it may be regarded as being of their type. Such distinctions can never be definitive internationally, since the understanding of terminology various between different parts of the world.”

[Jackson eventually further distinguishes lagers from ales in the book by stating that “single-cell strains of Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis are used by most bottom-fermenting brewers. Top-fermenting brewers employ the closely-related Saccharomyces Cerevisiae.”]

Jackson then identifies and briefly describes twenty-four beer styles under their three corresponding categories, which are (in order):

A) Bottom-fermented: (1) Münchener, (2) Vienna, (3) Pilsner/Pilsener, (4) Ur-, Urtyp, etc., (5) Dortmunder, (6) Bock, and (7) Doppelbock.

B) Wheat beers: (1) (Süddeutsche) Weizenbier, (2) (Berliner) Weisse, and (3) Gueuze-Lambic (Brussels).

C) Top-fermented: (1) Saisons, (2) Trappiste, (3) Kölsch (Cologne), (4) (Düsseldorfer) Alt, (5) Brown Beers, (6) Mild Ale, (7) Bitter Ale, (8) (Burton) Pale Ale, (9) Porter, (10) Bitter Stout (Dublin), (11) Milk stout, (12) Russian Stout, (13) Scotch Ales, and (14) Steam Beer.

To give an example of a description of one of the beer styles mentioned, let’s look at “Saisons”:

Saisons. Naturally-conditioned ale-type top-fermented summer beers indigenous to Wallon Belgium and French border area.  Alcohol content by volume around 5.0 per cent.  Serve at cellar temperature.”

Later in the book, Jackson gives more information about the various beer styles, often noting a style’s history, how the beer style is presented in the glass, and listing a few commercial examples.

A Very Brief Reflection on Jackson’s Original Taxonomy of Beer

So there you have it— a look back in time to the origin of beer styles.

As mentioned, the number of different beer styles identified and described in detail has significantly increased since Jackson first introduced his work in 1977.

For example, the length of a description of any given beer style in the 2015 BJCP Beer Guidelines ranges from about a half page to a page and a half (about the same length as this article) and follows a standard format that covers detailed information about the beer style’s appearance, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, overall impression, history, characteristic ingredients, style comparison, comments, vital statistics, and commercial examples.

Of course when looking back at Jackson’s original work, a few questions still remain for some people.

For example, why didn’t Jackson include other beers styles on his original list when he explicitly identified at least a dozen more beer styles throughout The World Guide to Beer?

Why was the term ‘beer style’ adopted in modern use but not ‘beer type’?  Does Jackson’s definition of ‘beer style’ run into trouble if we take a very literal interpretation of his statement that “If a brewer specifically has the intention of reproducing a classical beer, then he is working within a style.”?  For instance, what if a brewer’s intention is to create a beer that falls squarely between two or more examples of classic beers of the same style?  Is the brewer then not working within a particular beer style?  Is the resulting beer somehow a new style?

How do we measure a brewer’s intention?

Also, should the original commercial example of a beer style not be  considered to be part of the beer style it originated since the original brewer would have had to have had the intention to model his beer after some other classic example?

Why was ‘wheat beer’ considered to be one of the three broad categories of beer on par with ale and lager instead of a sub-category of ale?  Furthermore, why did Jackson only identify wheat ale as a broad category when he was well-aware of wheat lager, pointing out in his book that “Many brewers produce bottom-fermented wheat beers which they call Lager-Weisse.”?

Questions aside, Jackson has delivered to us two very powerful insights to help us simplify and talk about the world of beer: (1) seemingly all different kinds of beer in the world can be categorized into an approachable and useful hierarchy, and (2) most, if not all, kinds of beer can effectively be grouped together by the kind of micro-organism(s) used to make that beer, which at the time was ale yeast or lager yeast, although other kinds of yeast and bacteria have since been included into the micro-organism group used to make beer.

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Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter with degrees in Philosophy and Business.

How Beer Saved the World: The Mystery of Antibiotic Beer Revisited

Back in 2011, the Discovery Channel aired the beer documentary How Beer Saved the World (transcript here), a film that took a look at the origins of beer and also built a case for (spoiler alert) how beer saved the world.

The film fired off one fascinating beer fact after another like how beer was responsible for the start of the agricultural revolution in 9,000 B.C., or how beer built the pyramids of ancient Egypt, saved millions of lives in the Middle Ages, and how beer was to thank for inventions like the wheel, writing, math, and modern medicine, just to name a few.

No doubt, the documentary boasted many a bold claim, but as a beer brewer, I was interested in one claim in particular: a significant amount of tetracycline, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, was discovered in 3,000 year-old Egyptian bones, and the source of that tetracycline was from an ancient beer recipe.

The idea that a modern-day wonder drug like tetracycline was found in 3,000 year-old bones might seem unusual especially considering that tetracycline wasn’t officially discovered and produced by science until 1945 by Benjamin Minge Duggar. 1

But sure enough, Dr. George Armelagos, Professor of Anthropology at Emory University, proved conclusively that there was no mistake; tetracycline was in ancient bones, and in large quantities.

To be clear though, Armelagos was originally testing Sudanese Nubian and Egyptian bones dated between 350 A.D and 550 A.D., and later bones from a Jordanian site dating to the 2nd century B.C., not 3,000 year-old Egyptian bones. 2  Nevertheless, indirect evidence suggests that tetracycline could be found in Egyptian bones going as far back to pre-dynastic (pre-Pharaoh) Egypt (6,000 B.C – 3,100 B.C.). 3

Now, the curious story of how tetracycline was found in an ancient Nubian bone goes like this:

Around 1980, Debra Martin, a grad student of biological anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, was learning how to make thin sections of archaeological bones while visiting a research laboratory at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.  After manually grinding down a bone fragment from a 4th century ancient Nubian mummy, Martin was preparing to view it under a standard microscope, but only a UV microscope was available.

Coincidentally, researchers in this particular lab were using tetracycline to measure the rate of bone formation because tetracycline tends to bind to calcium and phosphorus in growing bones and will emit a yellow-green fluorescence when exposed to UV light at the 490-nanometer wavelength. 4

Remarkably, when Martin looked at this ancient bone section under the UV microscope, it was emitting a yellow-green fluorescence, just like tetracycline.

Martin returned to the University of Massachusetts where she told Dr. Armelagos about her discovery, and in the fall of 1980, Armelagos, Martin and three other colleagues published their findings. 5

But Armelagos and his colleagues’ work was met with skepticism, so in 2010, he teamed up with medicinal chemist Mark Nelson and after using hydrogen fluoride to first dissolve the bones, they then extracted and finally positively identified the tetracycline through chemical analysis.  No question, tetracycline was definitively in the bones.

Of course the real kicker was that the levels of tetracycline extracted from the bones were so high it suggested that the ancient Nubians and Egyptians were consuming the antibiotic on a regular basis beginning in early childhood and on into old age. 6

Searching for the source of the tetracycline, Armelagos recreated many ancient recipes to no avail.  That was until he finally came across an ancient beer recipe from around that time, brewed it, and, lo and behold, the beer contained significant enough levels of tetracycline to be considered a likely candidate for the source of the antibiotic.

And Now, the Rest of the Story

Of course the documentary How Beer Saved the World left one big fat mystery sitting on the table: what the heck was going on with that ancient beer recipe that it not only produced antibiotics, but produced the antibiotics in such large amounts?

And here’s a scary thought: if ancient brewers were somehow introducing antibiotics into their beer, is it possible that brewers today are doing the same thing and pumping us all full of tetracycline?

Sure, a steady intake of antibiotics might keep us healthy in the short term, but ultimately it could also contribute to the increase of deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs that might one day wipe mankind off the face of the Earth leading to a follow-up documentary: How Beer Destroyed the World.

But before you call the FDA, let’s examine the facts.

Like modern beer, the ancient antibiotic beer was made with grain. Naturally occurring tetracycline is produced by mold-like (spore-forming) bacteria called Streptomyces, which is common in soil and decaying vegetation, especially in warm arid regions like in ancient Nubia.  If these antibiotic-producing bacteria were to come into contact with grain, and that grain was then used to make beer, tetracycline would be in the final product.

Dr. Armelagos believes that the grains used to make the ancient beer were likely stored in mud bins, and because Streptomyces is commonly found in soil, the grains would have come into contact with the Streptomyces from the mud bins.

Now, even though modern grain is frequently covered with bacteria, it is normally stored in steel silos, not in mud bins.  This reduces the likelihood that modern beer would contain significant amounts of tetracycline.

But the mud bin theory only explains how the grain could have been contaminated, not how it was able to produce so much tetracycline.

For example, when grain covered with the antibiotic-producing bacteria was tested, there were only minimal amounts of tetracycline detected— not nearly the amount that was found in those almost 2,000 year-old bones.  So what gives?

Well, as Emily Sohn pointed out, “only when people fermented the grain would tetracycline production explode.”

But that explanation might leave some brewers scratching their heads, and here’s why: dead bacteria (Streptomyces) don’t produce tetracycline.  Allow me to clarify.

When making beer, malted grains are first soaked in hot water for about an hour.  That hot water extracts sugars from the grain.  The grain is then removed, leaving behind a kind of sugar water that brewers call “wort”.

After that, the wort is typically boiled for an hour or more, and then cooled.  Boiling the wort is key here because the boiling temperature would kill most bacteria, including Streptomyces.  It’s only after the wort is boiled and cooled that primary fermentation takes place.

In other words, if the Streptomyces bacteria are killed off during the boil, they wouldn’t survive to create any tetracycline during fermentation, certainly not the kind of levels of tetracycline found in those ancient bones.

You might then wonder how any tetracycline could be found in beer after Streptomyces-contaminated grain was boiled.  The reason that at least small amounts of tetracycline could remain after being boiled is because tetracycline doesn’t fully decompose until about 338 °F (170 °C), and boiling temperature is about 210 °F (100 °C).  Even pasteurization only seems to minimally reduce tetracycline levels by about 5-6%. 7

So, yes, tetracycline could survive the boil, but the Streptomyces bacteria couldn’t.  And we need that Streptomyces bacteria alive and well to make it to the fermentation process in order to produce the amounts of tetracycline found in those ancient bones.

Oh well- so much for our ancient antibiotic beer.  Eh, except for the fact that Dr. Armelagos and his colleagues were able to reproduce the ancient beer which was teeming with tetracycline, and he’s even had some of his student do it too.

The Secret Formula for Antibiotic Beer

Antibiotic Beer

The first thing you should know about ancient Egyptian beer recipes is that they are not exactly similar to how most beer is typically brewed today.  For example, the process for making Egyptian beer generally began first by making bread, which probably would have been made from emmer (a kind of wheat), spelt or barely grains, and there is evidence to suggest that the grains were malted.

In order to make the bread for an antibiotic beer the way the ancient Egyptians and Nubians seem to have done it, the Streptomyces-contaminated grain would go through a malting process which first begins by germinating the grain.

Anthropology student Amanda Mummert who assisted Dr. Armelagos in his research described the germination procedure like this: “This process is much like how you would do in a fourth-grade germination science project, where the grains would be soaked in water for about 24 hours, drained and then laid between sheets of cloth until they sprouted.”

Germinating the grain causes the starch inside the grain to be converted into sugars by enzymes which conveniently reside within the grain itself.  The grain is eventually dried out which stops the germination process, otherwise the sprouting plant would use up the starches and sugars in the grain needed to make beer.  

The dried grain is now called malt and contains the sugars that are important for making antibiotic beer.  Those sugars are important because they become a food source for the Streptomyces coating the grain to metabolize and convert into tetracycline.

After the grain was dried, it was milled into flour and mixed with water to create dough.  That dough was then left to rise which likely occurred as a result of exposure to naturally occurring yeast in the air.  During this time, the Streptomyces that was on the grain could produce even more tetracycline from the sugars in the fermenting dough.

The dough was then made into partially baked bread, and that bread was later tossed into water and allowed to ferment into beer.  Even modern beer recipes of villagers along the Nile today brew beer in this way, 8 and at least one ancient recipe called for taking three loaves of bread, breaking each piece up into quarters, and placing them into one crock to ferment. (By the way, fermentation is the process by which yeast consumes sugars and converts them into alcohol and CO2, which transforms our bready mush into beer.)

Even if the all of the Streptomyces would have been destroyed as a result of baking the bread, the tetracycline would have already been produced and been present in bread and any beer made from bread that used Streptomyces-contaminated grain.  However, Dr. Armelagos notes that the tetracycline bread was added to a broth of milled Streptomyces-contaminated malt, which would have further increased both the alcohol and tetracycline content.

In fact, Armelagos’ team preformed two experiments: one in which Streptomyces was added to the dough, and one where Streptomyces was added only to the malt broth.  The latter proved more successful, producing significant amounts of tetracycline.

The resulting “beer” may have been strained away from the mushy bread gruel, or simply consumed together in a bowl like a mildly alcoholic lumpy, beer-y soup.

So, as it turns out, the key to making ancient antibiotic beer is the presence of live Streptomyces bacteria during fermentation.  And if one were trying to introduce Streptomyces into beer or bread today (for scientific purposes), it is certainly possible to find the naturally occurring antibiotic-producing bacteria under certain conditions.  However, one could also probably just buy a pure culture of Streptomyces online and add it along with yeast early in the fermentation process (although personally, I generally prefer my beer antibiotic-free).

Final Comments

Although the ancient Egyptians and Nubians probably didn’t fully understand the science behind how antibiotics were being produced in their bread and beer, it does seem that they were aware of the medicinal benefits of such tetracycline-laced beer and used it as a mouth wash to treat diseases of the gums, as a dressing for wounds, as an enema, vaginal douche, and as Armelagos points out, as an anal fumigant where remaining dried grains were burned to create a smoke to treat diseases of the anus (your mileage may vary). 9

And finally, you may have wondered what were the effects of prolonged regular exposure to antibiotics for the ancient Egyptians and Nubians. Did it create a superbug that ended their cultures?  Well, Dr. Armelagos’ team wondered the same thing. “To test this, we have examined the bones in our sample for signs of periosteal reactions— roughened surfaces that form as a result of bone infection.  We have found no evidence that infections became more intense during the centuries represented by the bones, as would be expected if more resistant bacteria had evolved.” 10

To echo the late Paul Harvey: and now you know the rest of the story.


Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for Beer Syndicate, Beer and Drinking Blogger, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Judge, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler.


1. Cartwright, A. C. (n.d.). The British Pharmacopoeia, 1864 to 2014: Medicines, International Standards, and the State (p. 193).
2, 8, & 10. Armelagos, G.J. (2000). Take Two Beers and Call Me in 1,600 Years . Natural History. Vol. 109/4
3. Mills, J. O. (1992). Beyond Nutrition: Antibiotics Produced through Grain Storage Practices, Their Recognition and Implication for the Egyptian Predynastic
4. Nelson, M., Hillen, W., & Greenwald, R. A. (2001). Tetracyclines in Biology, Chemistry, and Medicine (p. 219). Basel: Birkhauser Verlag.
5. Bassett, E., Keith, M., Armelagos, G., Martin, D., & Villanueva, A. (1980). Tetracycline-Labeled Human Bone from Ancient Sudanese Nubia (A.D. 350). Science, 209(4464), 1532-1534. doi:10.1126/science.7001623
Nelson, M. L., Dinardo, A., Hochberg, J., & Armelagos, G. J. (2010). Brief Communication: Mass Spectroscopic Characterization of Tetracycline in the Skeletal Remains of an Ancient Population from Sudanese Nubia 350-550 CE. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 143(1), 151-154. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21340
7. Kellnerová, E., Navrátilová, P., & Borkovcová, I. (2015). Effect of Pasteurization on the Residues of Tetracyclines in Milk. Acta Veterinaria Brno Acta Vet. Brno, 83(10). doi:10.2754/avb201483s10s21
9. W.J. Darby, P. Ghalioungi and L. Grivetti, Foor: The Gift of Osiris, 2 volumes, Academic Press, London, 1977.


10 Things You Might Not Know About the Reinheitsgebot (Beer) Purity Law of 1516

Original Reinheitsgebot of 1516
[Segment of the original Reinheitsgebot of 1516. Credit: Deutscher Brauer-Bund e.V.]

If you’re a beer enthusiast or perhaps fond of German beer, this probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard about the “Reinheitsgebot”, or the (Beer) Purity Law of 1516. And with 2016 marking the 500th anniversary of arguably the most famous piece of beer legislation the world has ever known, it probably won’t be the last you hear of it either.

But just because the Reinheitsgebot is one of the most famous beer laws doesn’t mean it’s the most well understood.

So with that, here’s a quick rundown of ten things you might not know about the Reinheitsgebot:

1. Meaning and pronunciation of “Reinheitsgebot”: In German, “Rein” means “pure”, “Reinheit” means “purity”, and “Gebot” means “commandment” (“The Ten Commandments”/”Die Zehn Gebote”), “decree” or “ordinance”, but “Gebot” is typically translated in this case as “law”. Therefore, “Reinhietsgebot” is translated as “Purity Law”, commonly referring to beer Purity Law.

The law itself dictates, among other things, the ingredients that may be used to make beer.  To be clear, only one sentence of the original Reinheitsgebot of 1516 discusses limiting beer ingredients, while the rest of the document mainly focuses on setting price limits on the sale of beer.  Some speculate that the main impetus behind the creation of the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 was to protect consumers from brewers who may add dangerous ingredients to beer potentially poisoning the public, while others believe that in addition there were more economic motives involved (more on that later).

The correct way to pronounce “Reinheitsgebot” is like this: “Rine Heights Ge-Boat”, not “Rine Heights Ge-Bot” where “Bot” is pronounced like “Robot”.

2. There are technically two different beer Purity Laws that German breweries might be following: The Bavarian Reinheitsgebot or the German Reinheitsgebot.

In fact, many German breweries will often specifically indicate on the beer label which of the two Purity Laws their beer falls under as you can see on the images below:

Bavarian Reinheitsgebot

German Reinheitsgebot
And of course, sometimes the brewery isn’t exactly clear which “Reinheitgebot” they’re following as you can see in the label below that merely states “brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot”.

Schneider Weisse Label

Nevertheless, the distinction between the two Purity Laws is made not just because “Germany” didn’t even exist as a country in 1516 (that only happened in 1871), and therefore there was no “German Reinheitsgebot of 1516”, but also because the two Purity Laws are themselves objectively different with respect to the ingredients allowed in making beer, with the German version being the more lenient of the two:

A) The Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516: The only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be barley, hops and water. [1]

B) The German Reinheitsgebot: Bottom-fermented beer (lager) may only contain barley malt, hops, water, and yeast.  Top-fermented beer (ale) must include barley malt, hops, water, and yeast, but it is also permittable to use other malts, pure cane sugar, beet or invert sugar, as well as colorants derived from modified starch sugar and any of the aforementioned sugars. [2] If you wanted to put a date on what is referred to as the original “German Reinheitsgebot”, you could nail it down to May 31st, 1872 when Germany enacted the “Law Concerning Levying Brewing Tax” (Gesetz wegen Erhebung der Brausteuer), however the ingredients listed above come from the “Notice Concerning the Version of the Brewing Tax Act” from June 7th, 1906 (Bekanntmachung, betreffend die Fassung des Brausteuergesetzes), which was a modification to the original German Reinheitsgebot of 1872.

3. Mark your calendars! The official date of the 500th anniversary of the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516 is April 23, 2016, which conveniently happens to fall on a Saturday. Accordingly, we recommend starting the celebration with a tall cool glass of your favorite Reinheitsgebot beer on Friday at midnight.

(Wouldn’t it be cool if some breweries got the crazy idea to brew a special “Reinheitsgebot beer” to mark the occasion? Hmmm…)

4. Many sources claim that the Reinheitsgebot is the oldest, still valid food safety law in the world. Technically, that statement isn’t exactly true… and that’s putting it nicely.

First of all, the Reinheitsgebot was officially repealed by the European Court of Justice in 1987 because it was found to be in direct violation of the Rome Treaty (Article 30, banning protectionism). [3] This repeal thus allowed German brewers to produce beer for export with no regard to the Reinheitsgebot.  So, technically the Reinheitsgebot isn’t “still valid”.

Secondly, the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 was not the oldest food regulation in the world. Take, for example, the 1493 Duchy of Lower Bavaria Beer Decree which limited beer ingredients to malt, hops, and water. Before that there was the Münchner (Munich) Reinheitsgebot of 1487, and before that was the Runneburg “Wirtshausverordnung” (“Statuta thaberna”) of 1434 which stated that beer may only be brewed from hops, malt and water. [4][5]

Then of course there’s the “Novus Modus Fermentandi Cervisiam”(New Method for Fermenting Beer) introduced by Emperor Charles IV in 1364 which decreed that all beer brewed throughout the Holy Roman Empire must be brewed with hops. [6] There were even earlier beer laws: one from Erfurt in 1351, and yet another from Nuremberg in 1293. Laws and regulations specifically concerning food and alcohol existed in ancient Rome, [7] and depending on how you look at Kosher food regulations from the Talmud/Old Testament, you have a pretty solid argument against the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 being the earliest law that regulated food or food safety.

Nor has the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 remained essentially unchanged since its inception because as of the mid-1500s, Bavaria started to allow for other ingredients in making beer like coriander, laurel, etc. [8]

5. Neither the Bavarian nor the German Reinheitsgebot originally allowed for yeast as an ingredient. Now, if you know a little bit about brewing science, you know that it would have almost certainly been impossible to make beer back then without yeast.

So what’s the deal with the Reinheitsgebot missing this key ingredient?

Simple. People didn’t know about the role that yeast played in fermentation in 1516. According to the history books, Dutch naturalist Anton van Leeuwenhoek was the first to microscopically observe yeast in 1680 (although he didn’t consider yeast to be a living organism), [9] while French microbiologist Louis Pasteur was the first to prove that indeed living yeast was responsible for alcoholic fermentation in 1857. [10] Eventually, the Reinheitsgebot was revised to include yeast in 1906.

6. If the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516 only allowed for three ingredients (barely, hops, and water), how was it then that wheat beers like Hefeweizen, Berliner Weisse or Gose were allowed to be brewed in Germany after 1516? Well, it was hinted at above, but the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot was updated beginning in the mid-1500s to allow for other ingredients including wheat. [11]  (In 1616, caraway, juniper, and salt were added to the Reinheitsgebot, which allowed Gose, a beer brewed with salt, to be considered Reinheitsgebot-friendly.) [12]

Some speculate that the reason wheat [and rye] were intentionally excluded from the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 was to better control the grain-based food supply in Bavaria so that bakers could have sufficient access to wheat grain in order to produce bread in a time of food scarcity, [13] and also to prevent price competition between the brewers and bakers.  Others go further and suggest that there were indeed profit-driven motives behind the legislation as evidenced by the powerful Wittelsbach family of Bavaria (in particular, Dukes William IV and Louis X), who originally enacted the Reinheitsgebot, and later profited by selling special wheat beer brewing rights. [14]

7. In 2013, the German Brewers Association attempted to have the Reinheitsgebot added to UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage List, a list that already includes the Flamenco of Spain, Mariachi music of Mexico, and the coffee culture of Turkey. [15] The Brewers Association’s application was initially rejected, but there’s still a chance it could get approved if the paperwork is appropriately revised and resubmitted. [16]

8. Bavaria demanded that their Reinheitsgebot be adopted by Germany in 1871 as a precondition to joining the new German nation. Bavaria’s condition was met. After the first German Empire fell following World War I, a new German unification took place forming what was called the “Weimar Republic” in 1919 (officially known as the “German Reich”). Again, Bavaria refused to join unless their Reinheitsgebot was adopted by the rest of the newly reformed country. Bavaria’s condition was met. Again. [17]

9. Even though the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516 is old, it only started being called the “Reinheitsgebot” as of March 4, 1918. Prior to the term being coined by Hans Rauch of the Bavarian State Parliament in 1918, the “Reinheitsgebot” was simply known as the “Surrogatverbot”, or “Surrogate (Adjunct) Prohibition”. [18]

10. In the 19th century, Greece incorporated a nearly identical version of the Reinheitsgebot into Greek law. [19] This Greek law was later struck down around the time the Reinheitsgebot was repealed in Germany in 1987. [20]

Test Your Knowledge

Based on the information above, what’s wrong with the following two beer labels?

1. Hint: The text at the top of the Rex Pils label states “Nach dem Deutschen Reinheitsgebot von 1516 Gebraut”, or “Brewed According to the German Reinheitsgebot of 1516.”

Potsdamer Rex Pils - Berliner Kindl Brauerei

2. Hint: The small text at the top of the Erdinger Hefe-Weizen label reads “Getreu dem bayerischen Reinheitsgebot von 1516”, or “True to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516.” The only other thing you need to know is that “Hefe-Weizen” is a wheat beer.

Erdinger Hefe-Weizen Dark

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References: (Click to View)

1. Reinheitsgebot of 1516 Highlighted
[Original segment of the Reinheitsgebot highlighted to indicate the sentence documenting allowable ingredients (transcription and translation below). Credit: Deutscher Brauer-Bund e.V.]

Original German text: “Wir wollen auch sonderlichen / das füran allenthalben in unsern Stetten / Märckthen / unn auf dem Lannde / zu kainem Pier / merer stückh / dann allain Gersten / Hopfen / unn wasser / genommen unn gepraucht sölle werdn.”

Modern German translation: “Ganz besonders wollen wir, daß forthin allenthalben in unseren Städten, Märkten und auf dem Lande zu keinem Bier mehr Stücke als allein Gersten, Hopfen und Wasser verwendet und gebraucht werden sollen.”

Typical English translation of the modern German translation: “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.”

2. Deutsches Reich Law Gazette Volume 1906, No. 32, page 675 -. 693 [§ 1. Bierbereitung. Zur Bereitung von untergärigem Biere darf nur Gerstenmalz, Hopfen, Hefe und Wasser verwendet werden. Die Bereitung von obergärigem Biere unterliegt derselben Vorschrift, es ist jedoch hierbei auch die Verwendung von anderem Malze und von technisch reinem Rohr-, Rüben- oder Invertzucker, sowie von Stärkezucker und aus Zucker der bezeichneten Art hergestellten Farbmitteln zulässig.]
3. Swinnen, Johan F. M. (2011-10-27). The Economics of Beer. OUP Oxford.
4. Gaab, Jeffrey S. (2006-01-01). Munich: Hofbräuhaus & History: Beer, Culture, & Politics. Peter Lang. p. 10.
5. Hales, S. D. (2007). Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking (pp. 25). Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
6. Van Uytven, R. Geschiedenis van de Dorst. Twintig Eeuwen Drinken in de Lage Landen (Pp. 74-76). Davidsfonds Leuven, 2007.
7. Albala, Ken (2015-03-27). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Food Issues. SAGE Publications. p. 1488. ISBN 9781506317304.
8. Karin Hackel-Stehr: Das Brauwesen in Bayern vom 14. bis 16. Jahrhundert, insbesondere die Entstehung und Entwicklung des Reinheitsgebotes (1516). Dissertation. Berlin 1987, pp. 2450, 2472.
9. Huxley A (1871). “Discourses: Biological & Geological (volume VIII) : Yeast”. Collected Essays. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
10. Barnett JA. (2003). “Beginnings of Microbiology and Biochemistry: the contribution of yeast research”. Microbiology (Reading, Engl.) 149 (3): 557–567.
11. Karin Hackel-Stehr: Das Brauwesen in Bayern vom 14. bis 16. Jahrhundert, insbesondere die Entstehung und Entwicklung des Reinheitsgebotes (1516). Dissertation. Berlin 1987, pp. 2450, 2472.
12. Herrmann, S. (2016, January 22). Viel Bier vor vier. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from
13. Opinion of Advocate General Slynn in Case 178/84 Commission v. Germany, delivered Sept. 18, 1986.
14. Herrmann, S. (2016, January 22). Viel Bier vor vier. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from
15. Sarhaddi Nelson, S. (2013, December 18). Is A 500-Year-Old German Beer Law Heritage Worth Honoring? Retrieved from
16. Reinheitsgebot vorerst als UNESCO Weltkulturerbe abgelehnt – ein Appell! (2015, February 18). Retrieved from
17. Swinnen, Johan F. M. (2011-10-27). The Economics of Beer. OUP Oxford.
18. Oliver, G. (2012). The Oxford Companion to Beer (pp. 692). New York: Oxford University Press.
19. Swinnen, Johan F. M. (2011-10-27). The Economics of Beer. OUP Oxford.
20. Glenny, Misha (1986-09-25). Last orders for Reinheitsgebot. New Scientist.


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