Sunday, 1 July 2007

Rice Beer


I have a bit of a thing about the Reinheitsgebot. Not in a sexual way, obviously. I'm a happily married man. I'm not going to start running after any pieces of consumer legislation. Oh no. Not me.

Let's start again. I was about to say that I've never cared for the Reinheitsgebot, but that's not true. Much like everyone else, I used to think it was pretty groovy. Until my RHG epiphany. Now I feel the need to proselytise.

I get very annoyed by the wilfull misrepresentation of the law's history by the German brewing industry. Generally, the impression is given that German beer has been all malt since Moses was at school. Nothing could be further from the truth. Before 1900 it was a purely Bavarian regulation.

I know, I know. I'll try and get to the point. Give me a chance. Rice beer. Or more specifically German rice beer. It's generally assumed that the use of rice in lager was an American innovation. Well maybe it wasn't.

Strange taste in reading matter, I said. One of my absolute favourites is "Zeitschrift für das gesammte Brauwesen". The 1894 edition is a cracker - I couldn't put it down. But don't worry. I'm not going to spoil the ending by revealing the killer's name. Absolute highlight is the article "Die Verhältnisse der Bierbrauerei im Deutschen Zollgebiete während des Etatsjahres 1892/93". I've never laughed so much.

Here's an example, discussing the raw materials used for brewing in North Germany:



  • Amongst malt surrogates, rice is gaining in popularity from year to year. It is used as an additive to the grist in the proportion of 1:2 or 3:5; and beers brewed with the addition of rice are renowned for their especially pleasant taste and clear pale colour. Since rice is slightly cheaper than malt and with regard to sugar content is superior (100 kg of rice is equal to 120-130 kg malt in this respect), so its use in beer is financially advantageous.


Rice was more popular even than sugar. In 1892/93 50,767 zentners of rice were used, but only 23,609 zentners of sugar. Those of you who believe in the absolute purity of German beer look away now. They also used potato starch and saccharin.

Who came up with the idea of using rice first, German or American brewers? Given that the flow of knowledge about lager brewing was pretty much one-way during the 19th century - westwards - my money's on the Germans. Why aren't they more proud of their invention?

3 comments:

Boak said...

I love that article of yours on the Reinheitsgebot and strongly advise anyone who hasn't read it to click the link!

Interesting points about rice in beer. Does it always have to signify bad quality? Why is rice bad and oats good? Presumably because the former indicates cost-cutting and the latter indicates "craft" - but there's nothing intrinsically wrong with it as an adjunct.

Ron Pattinson said...

It's a good point about whether rice necessarily = bad. It is just another sort of grass, after all.

I wonder about maize, too. Barclay Perkins loved it. They had it in almost all of their beers. Did it have an adverse effect.

The Beer Nut said...

Mmmm, rice. Is this the place where I can come out as a closet Cobra fan?