Reinheitsgebot - 500 Years of the Law of Beer

Happy International Beer Day! In honor of the day, our blog post features a ancient law from medieval Germany that has influenced how this popular adult beverage has been crafted over the last half millennium!


Bavarian Dukes Wilhelm and Ludwig, who issued the original German Beer Purity Law in 1516.

Reinheitsgebot - Ancient German beer law that still holds sway

Celebrating its 500th anniversary this year is the Bavarian beer purity law known as Reinheitsgebot. The law was issued by the Dukes Wilhelm and Ludwig of Bavaria in 1516 to ensure that beer was brewed with only three ingredients - barley, hops, and water. Whether it was done to promote public health (yes, beer was a health food in the 1500s) or to drive down the price of wheat to make bread more cheaply, the lasting effects of the law are undeniable. Today, the American brewery Sam Adams proudly reports on its website that it's Boston Lager was the "first American beer sold in Germany" after passing Reinheitsgebot regulations in 1985!

For more on Reinheitsgebot, visit In Custodia Legis, a blog from the Law Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Magazine, from the Smithsonian Institution.