A Trip to the Grocery Store
         (or Reinheitsgebot, Mein Arse! )

Our up coming Rhine River cruise (with beerincluded in
the cost of the trip) caused me to reflect on
“Rheinheisgebot”, the German purity law defining malt,
hops and water as the only ingredients to be used in
the brewing of beer. The origins of the law date from
the fifteenth century in the Duchy of Munich, but after
unification on April 23, 1516, the law was adopted all
across Bavaria.

Slowly the rules spread to the rest of the country and ,
in fact, Bavaria insisted upon it’s application all
throughout Germany as a condition of it’s unification in
1871. But two years later, because of opposition from
Northern Brewers, additional ingredients were merely
taxed rather than banned. Not until 1906 was the law
consistent throughout Germany and the term was not
even formally used until the Weimar republic in 1919.
Several changes in the law have been made over the
years including having it apply only to lagers and
allowing adjunct ingredients as long as the end result
was not labeled “beer”. In spite of the changes, the
term Rheinheitsgebot continues to be used as a
marketing ploy, not only in Germany but also by such
brewers as Gordon Borsch in California.

With Reinheitsgebot firmly ensconsed in my mind, Iwent
to the liquor store on a sweltering day in search of
some German style brews for hot weather drinking. I
had a powerful hankering for some helles or weissbier,
but was very dismayed to realize that there aren’t a  
heck of a lot of American craft brewers who hold
Rheinheitsgebot in the same high regard as the
Germans. The summer beer aisle contained not a single
helles and very few unflavored weiss or witbiers. I saw
blueberry wheat, blackberry wit, raspberry wheat,
watermelon wheat, pineapple lager, chili pepper beer,
peach lager, and even apple flavor ale. Who needs this  
when so many ciders are available?.

I thought to hell with the summer beer idea; I’ll just pick
up a few pale ales and IPAs to enjoy on the deck. Alas,
again I felt like I was back in the produce section of the
local Shop Rite: grapefruit IPA, mango IPA, apricot pale
ale, orange peel IPA, blood orange IPA, passionfruit pale
ale, tangerine IPA, hibiscus ale and lemon zest IPA were
all proudly displayed. I had to search hard to find the
only six pack of Ballantine left.

I fared no better in the dark beer section where
raspberry, chocolate, coffee, and black currant stout
were offered and maple, caramel and coconut porter
lined the shelves.

I have read of Dogfish Head’s Scrapple beer, Well’s
Banana Bread beer, many companies brewing peanut
butter beer, a pizza beer (I actually tried that one, after
having been given a gratis bottle….nasty, indeed), and
we are only a month away from the onslaught of
pumpkin brews which, for almost the entire fall season,
will monopolize the retailers’ shelves, making still less
room available for Rheinheitsgebot inspired brews.

Shortly after the last trick or treater knocks on the door
comes the advent of Christmas or (for the politically
correct morons amongst us) “holiday” beers, with every
imaginable spice you can think of to tickle your palate
while sitting by the fire or celebrating around the tree:
nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, coriander, and allspice to
name a few. Considering all the Christmas spices along
with the oregano, chili pepper, Old Bay, sage, Grains of
Paradise and other spices used in other seasonal brews,
if prohibition ever comes back (God forbid!), I wouldn’t
be surprised if the McCormick spice company went belly
up along with the brewers.

So far we’ve only visited the produce and spice
departments, but the supermarket is vast and varied. A
stop at the seafood counter makes us wonder why
Flying Dog’s use of Old Bay seasoning in it’s Dead Rise
Summer Ale doesn’t inspire them to take the extra step
and brew some Crab Cake Ale as an alternative to
Oyster Stout. The unbelievably horrible Bud and
Clamato would make even the most dedicated craft beer
aficionado long for a plain old Bud.

The snack aisle is next. Beer and pretzels are a long
standing tradition. Surely some enthusiastic brewer can
combine the two for a really chewy Pretzel Lager,
thereby killing two birds with one stone.

The dairy section offers a few possibilities for off-the-
wall breweries. Cheddar Ale and Limburger Rauchbier
come to mind, along with cream ale.

Condiments are required for savory dining and if Sierra
Nevada can make various mustards flavored with beer, I
see no reason why they shouldn't make beer flavored
with mustard, as it would seem to pair well in a side by
side tasting with Pretzel Lager. With so many brewers
producing gose, a detestable drink, and gose tasting
strongly of salt, another example of condiments in beer
is evident.

Some brewers have turned to the supermarket bakery
in order to seek out new ingredients. Forgotten
Boardwalk’s Funnel Cake Ale, Odd Side Ale’s Granny’s
Apple Pie Ale, Sprecher’s Hard Apple Pie Ale and
Lancaster’s Shoofly Pie Porter are some examples. Many
brewers make rye ales. Triumph’s Jewish Rye Beer
tastes just like it sounds. Can Corned Beef Altbier be far
behind?

That brings us to the last stop on our grocery shopping
trip: the meat counter. There are many on-line
controversies raging about whether or not Guinness
uses meat in it’s production. Perhaps in the middle ages
a rat or two may have found their way into the beer
before packaging (see….rats are intelligent!) but modern
disputes about this are unfounded and ridiculous.
However, while researching the question I did find out
that a brewery in Colorado had made some Rocky
Mountain Oyster stout, brewed with bull testicles, and
also uncovered an English recipe for Cock Ale, brewed
with chicken broth. That beer might be a big hit at the
Sunnyrest Nudist Beer Festival!

All this discussion of non-Rheinheitsgebot beers makes
me realize that a trip to the grocery store may never be
necessary. A visit to the liquor store may be all that’s
required to sustain life. (But give me a Pabst Blue
Ribbon anyday!)


                          Cheers!

  









             Dan
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