Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Tale of Purity and a Pint of Amber Nectar (or no Kangaroos in Austria)

Hello and HAPPY New Year to my loyal (that's two) readers. Before I explain my blog title in more detail, I want to talk about beer. Yes, Another beer blog.

Well you might think that all I write or blog about is beer. Now while that may be true, I truly am a very big beer fan. Recently my travels took me to Vienna, Austria's beautiful capital city. Whilst I was there, I visited the 1516 Brewing Company. The 1516 is a very cool brewpub that, of course, brews it own beer on the premises but also has great food.

First of all, why is the place called the 1516 Brewing Company? Well, the pub takes its name from the Beer Purity Law of 1516. More popularly known as the The Reinheitsgebot Law which translates as "purity order", and is often called the "German Beer Purity Law". It is a regulation concerning the production of beer in Germany. According to the law, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops.

The law originated in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on April 23rd, 1516. Before its official repeal in 1987, it was known as the oldest food quality regulation in the world. The penalty for not following the law was also set in the Reinheitsgebot: a brewer using other ingredients for his beer could have questionable barrels confiscated with no compensation. I wonder what they did with those barrels?? The law also set the price for beer.

Now what about that other essential ingredient in beer making: yeast?? Yeast was never mentioned in the Reinheitsgebot because it was not until the 1800s that Louis Pasteur (Mr. Pasteurization himself) discovered the role of microorganisms in the process of fermentation; so before then, yeast was not known to be an ingredient of beer.

The Reinheitsgebot is no longer part of German law: it was replaced by the Provisional German Beer Law of 1993, which allows other ingredients prohibited in the Reinheitsgebot, such as wheat malt and cane sugar, but no longer allows unmalted barley.

German breweries, as well as brewers around the world (including Vienna's 1516), are very proud of the Reinheitsgebot, and many (even brewers of wheat beer) claim to still abide by it. Many beer aficionados still believe brewers who step outside of the law (like those who make wheat beers) should not be allowed to claim that they adhere to the law (even if they brew other beers that follow the law) because wheat wasn't part of the original law... whew!! This is certainly open to different opinions and interpretations.

Now at the 1516 Brewing Company they do adhere to the purity law and make excellent unfiltered lagers and ales (I should now, I've tried them all!). The 1516 Lager is crisp and way too easy to drink (thank goodness they sell it in pitchers) they also make a Belgian Trappist ale, a German Dunkel, a smooth Stout, a Wheat beer (ooops! there's the wheat exception again!), and my personal favourite, their own version of Victory Hop Devil India Pale Ale. The recipe was created by the head brewer of Victory Brewery in the US. He even brewed the first few batches for the 1516 in Vienna. It has a wonderful hop after taste and is an excellent and highly recommended choice when (or if) you visit.

Ok, back to my blog title. You now know about the purity so ...

While walking to the 1516 Brewing Company I came across the "Australian Bar" which proudly sells Fosters, referred to as the amber nectar - ah, there's the second reference. I have never been a big fan of Foster's, although they were one of the first breweries that I can think of that had King Cans for sale in Canada (they were huge and very hard for me to carry - I needed a hap sized handcart!) I can very confidently say that the beer at the 1516 is far superior. I know that may be like comparing apples to oranges or even possums to kangaroos. Kangaroos you say? Do they have Kangaroos in Austria? Well, they do have a couple in the Vienna Zoo but what zoo in a first-class city wouldn't?

Anyhow, in almost every tourist gift shop merchants sell t-shirts, as well as, mugs, hats and even beer glasses that say "No Kangaroos in Austria". I guess tourists often confuse Austria with Australia. Or more likely, they're making a play on words. I will say one thing: you certainly won't confuse the beers. You can thank the city of Ingolstadt for that. However, I'm not sure if they have kangaroos there.


Grey Bear said...

Once again you've posted a really informative post. I had a Pedavena beer in Italy this past weekend: do you know if they adhere to the Purity Laws?

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