It’s all fun and games…or not: The Purity Law and official breweries of Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest beer barrel and beer glasses with wheat and hops on wooden table | Copyright alexraths
Oktoberfest beer barrel and beer glasses with wheat and hops on wooden table | Copyright alexraths

It’s all fun and games…or not: The Purity Law and official breweries of Oktoberfest

by Tamala Malerk
Stripes Europe

Everyone is familiar with Germany’s most popular annual event, Oktoberfest. It’s food, fun, cheers, and well, a lot of beer. If you plan on attending this year’s event, prices for the beers have been released: A liter of beer at this year’s event will cost you between  €12.60 to €13.80. However, did you know that amongst the fun and frivolity, there are strict rules and laws in place that Oktoberfest has had to follow since its inception? (And even long before that.)

There are only six official breweries that are allowed to participate in Oktoberfest and there is a Purity Law for the ingredients of beer that have been enforced since 1516. In fact, part of Bavaria’s agreement to join with Germany was that Bavarian breweries still had to adhere to the Purity Law.

The Purity Law of 1516: There are records of bad beer brewers being penalized since the 1100s and set regulations for brewing beer since the 1400s. Yet, the one that is still in place today in Bavaria is the Purity Law of 1516 which state that the only ingredients that are allowed to be used in the production of beer are barley, hops, water and yeast. Although bound by this law, breweries have managed to produce varied and delicious beers for consumers for centuries.

Augustiner Brewery: This brewery got its start in the late 13th century, but it was not until 1328 that it was referred to by name. It supplied the noble dukes of the area until they founded their own brewery (Hofbräu). In the 1800s, secularization brought about the end of the monastery that created the beer; however, the brewery lived on. Since 1987, Augustiner is the only brewery at Oktoberfest to tap its beer from wooden barrels.

Hofbräu: Duke Wilhelm V decides to found his own brewery in 1589. By 1610, you would have found innkeepers across Munich serving Hofbräu beer. In 1823, barrels of Hofbräu beer combated the fire which engulfed the Munich National Theatre in flames. Unfortunately, the theatre still burned to the ground, but the beer was able to contain the fire. Today, there are Hofbräu restaurants all over the world, including several in the U.S., and you can tour the Bavarian brewery.

Hacker Pschorr: In 1417, the first Hacker brewery is mentioned. In the early 1790s, Joseph Pschorr married Theresa Hacker, and over the next 15 years, the brewery rose to the top of the 50 operating breweries in Munich. In the 21st century, Hacker-Pschorr became the first Munich brewery to switch all of its beers to traditional swing tops in 2007.

Löwenbräu: As early as 1524, there are beer brewers mentioned in Löwengrube 17; yet it was not until the mid-1740s that “Löwenbräu” appears in the Munich beer directory. In 1864, Löwenbräu became the biggest brewery in Munich for the first time and just over 100 years later in 1971, it was brewing close to 1,500,000, hectoliters of beer a year. Today, you can tour the brewery

Paulaner: The first documented mention of the Paulaner brewery occurred in 1634. In 1881, one of the first ice cream machines was added to the brewery and the brewery was allowed to brew year-round. In 2014, Paulaner brewed the world’s first “non-alcoholic wheat beer.” Today, you can drink Paulaner in over 70 countries.

Spatenbräu: In 1894, in a world (well, Munich) filled with only “sweet, dark malty beer,” Spaten brewed the first Munich Hell. Today, you can tour the brewery in person, or, if you cannot make the drive out to the brewery you can also take a virtual tour.   

Hopefully, all this new information allows you to enjoy your beers at Oktoberfest just a little bit more. For more information on Oktoberfest such as prices, tents and other activities click here

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