The Bavarian purity law (the Reinheitsgebot) is well known (at least for those who spend any time around beer. The law states that beer will consist only of malt, water, hops, and yeast (though yeast was not part of the original law). But this isn’t what we will be talking about today.
You see, in the US the land of experimentation, we too have had our share of laws meant to control what constitutes beer. Times were tough in the colonies. We already know this from grade school (I mean who in the US hasn’t done the thanksgiving play in school?).
The colonists needed beer to survive. It was such a part of their daily life that they were willing to go to great lengths to find substitutes for the needed barley and hops. The natives showed them how to use maize as a replacement for the needed sugars and they also found that cane sugar could also ferment as well.
It was in 1664 after too much inferior beer that the Duke of York laid down the law (referrenced as the Duke’s Law). These laws and ordinances that followed stated what you could claim for recompense when the beer did not meet a certain standard. They also stated how much malt is required for a product to be labeled as beer.
The problem that they ran into though came from the lack of supplies. The colonists were experimenting so much mainly because they had no other choice. Something that drove the point even further home came when prices for beer and malt became completely out of disporportionate. It was from this time and shown by how important beer was that some of the first consumer protection laws came into being the US.
If you get a chance pick up the book Beer in America: The Early Years 1587- 1840. For beer history this has been an amazing book.
Time for a pint…