When is a beer not a beer? When it breaks the purity law. That’s the firm opinion of Prince Luitpold of Bavaria and he should know, he owns a whole brewery.
Prince Luitpold is the owner and CEO of the brewery at Kaltenberg Castle (König Ludwig GmbH & Co. KG Schlossbrauerei Kaltenberg) founded in 1871. It’s also one of his family homes and he lives in the castle much of the time.
Today though he’s raising a glass or two at Windsor Racecourse, where will hand out the prizes at the day’s racing Kaltenberg has sponsored for Oktoberfest. Outside in the stands are locals turned out in lederhosen, shorts, braces, top and hat busily increasing his family’s profits as they drink stein after stein of his lager and attempt comedy German accents.
Inside the Prince is hosting a table of journalists and beer aficionados and his own accent is gentle and refined as he talks of beer and beer related activities and especially the Purity Law.
The Law (the Reinheitsgebot) was Issued on St George’s Day, 23rd April 1516, by his ancestor the Wittelsbach Duke Wilhelm IV and it insisted that only water, barley and hops could be used in beer production.
It's a rule he insists on today across the Kaltenberg portfolio. ‘Beers with other things in them, such as tea, seaweed, spices and fruits, are perfectly drinkable,’ he concedes,’ but I call them brews not beers.’
We consider this as we drink his ‘basic’ beer, Kaltenberg Royal Lager distributed from the ancient Bavarian town of Burton on Trent by Marston’s, his business partners. Light and refreshing it has just 4.1% alcohol and partners well with a starter of salmon en croute. The pastry has been made with the pils, which gives it an extra lift, and the beer handles the fats, mushroom and salmon well.
Back on his feet before the second course, Prince Luitpold explains that the Law was nullified in 1987 by the European Courts as an unfair restriction of trade.
Another example of EU meddling, I say under my breath, but the Prince explains that German brewers like himself must still use if for beers brewed for their home market.
‘Back in 1516, there were two types of beer dominant in Bavaria, a brown beer made of malted barley and a white beer made with a large percentage of wheat,’ he says, as we crack open bottles of König Ludwig Dunkel.
Dunkel is bottom-fermented dark beer with lots of delicious caramel and malt tones and it’s a treat with a course of beef ‘dunkel’ goulash with potato cakes. This is such typical German cooking, meat and potatoes rich with flavour, and the beer is perfect to go with it,
The Reinheitsgebot effectively banned white beer from 1602 for 200 years as it contained added yeast which gives it a slight cloudiness, and only the Prince’s family continued brewing it.
The König Ludwig Weissbier Hell we have with our strudel is a top fermented beer which uses a mix of two summer barley and winter wheats for a unique flavour.
I love white beer best of all beers and this is a brilliant example.
I admire the Prince being a stickler for tradition. Obviously we would not want the Purity Laws rolled out across all beer production, but it’s good that at least one brewer is adamant about creating a beer that has (upper) class written all over it.