German court OKs sugar in beer despite 1516 purity law

Feb 25, 2005 - A German brewer has won his battle against Reinheitsgebot, the country's 1516 beer purity law that limits beer ingredients to malted grain, hops, yeast and water.


A court has ruled that the Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle brewery can continue to add sugar syrup to its beer and call the product a beer. Helmut Fritsche has been fighting 10 years for the right to dose his Schwarzer Abt with sugar.

Threatened with a fine for daring to label his product as beer, he fought local authorities only to have the regional administrative court uphold their argument.

The Federal Administrative Court overturned that decision, ruling that because the sugar syrup is added after the beer was already fully brewed, Fritsche can market the product as a "special beer" - as do breweries that add herbs to their products at the end of the brewing process.

After Germany was split into two following World War II, some East German breweries began to add sugar to the style known as Schwarzbier or offered it to consumers with sugar on the side. When Germany reunified, their beers once against became subject to the Reinheitsgebot.

The standard applies only to beers made within Germany, after a European Union court ruled that using it to keep out imported brews would be contrary to free trade rules.

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