Pure Weissbier, brewed predominantly with wheat, is a traditional and exclusive German specialty and is one of Germany's most revered beers (this is high praise coming from a country who knows its beer). Weissbier is limited to the locality of its production methods and it maintains general popularity among beer drinkers throughout the world. Looking at the specific regional aspects of German Weissbier (history, production methods, exclusivity, etc), one can see a certain mentality surrounding the industry. Analysis of the regional and primary producers of Weissbier and the general lack of expansion to worldwide markets (except specialized breweries, despite the beer’s popularity) is an important facet to understanding the “culture” of the Weissbier market. The implications of the reductions of barriers to trade within the European Union (EU) and its effects on the cultural “personality” of the German Weissbier industry may be seen within a positive or negative light. Also emerging competitors (known to German Weissbier brewers as “Nachahmer,” or “imitators”) affect how the industry pushes for a larger production scheme and a more expansive global market. Individual German beer producers’ selection and their status as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) within the European Union also add a clear degree of restrictiveness to its trade status, affecting competition in a regional area.
History of Beer - Historians believe that the ancient Mesopotamians and Sumerians were brewing as early as 10,000 BC. Although the product would have been somewhat different from today's bottled varieties, it would be recognizable. The ancient Egyptians and Chinese brewed beer, as did pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas, who used corn instead of barley. In the middle ages, European monks were the guardians of literature and science, as well as the art of beer making. They refined the process to near perfection and institutionalized the use of hops as a flavoring and preservative. However, it wasn't until Louis Pasteur came along that a final, important development was made. Until that time, brewers had to depend on wild, airborne yeast for fermentation. By establishing that yeast is a living microorganism, Pasteur opened the gates for accurately controlling the conversion of sugar to alcohol. While grapes grow well in warm climates, barley grows better in cooler climes. This is how the northern countries of Germany and England became famous for their beers. This production was taken very seriously, as it was in the New World, where beer was a major component of the Pilgrim's diet. Different styles of beer are created by variations in the brewing process, which consists of four stages (courtesy of Historyofbeer.com).
The Brewing Process - Different styles of beer are
created by variations in the brewing process, which consists of four stages.
The first ingredient to come into play is barley, which is grain (or in other
words, a seed). The seeds are soaked and allowed to begin their development
into plants. Enzymes are released that will break down the proteins and starches
in each grain into simple sugars meant to nourish the baby plant. However, once
this process has begun, the barley is cooked in a kiln, arresting the growth
process while the enzymes are at their peak of production. This is called malting.
In the mashing stage, the grain is actually transformed into sugar. The grains
are crushed and then soaked in water. Proteins are broken down; these will eventually
give the beer its body. Starches are broken down into simple sugars that will
nourish the yeast. Complex sugars remain to give the beer its malty taste. The
mash is heated and strained to yield a substance called wort. Next, the wort
is brought to a boil and the flowers of the female hop plant are added. Bitter
resins and aromatic hop oils are released. The variety of hop, the amount added,
and the point or points in the boil at which they are added all contribute to
the flavor of the beer. They add bitterness when added early to the boil, flavor
if added in the middle, and aroma when added at the end. Then the beer is cooled
and yeast is added and allowed to consume most or all of the sugars in the wort.
This is the fermentation process, in which alcohol is produced. The beer is
separated from the yeast (racked) and then aged and carbonated by conducting
a second fermentation in a closed container, or by adding carbon dioxide artificially.
History of Weissbier - Weissbier (wheat beer) is a top fermented beer specialty of the old Bavarian-Alpine brewing tradition [Berliner Weissbier, a.k.a. Berliner Weisse (a wheatbeer as well) is a distinct beerstyle, leaving a geographical distinctiveness between the two]. A large part of this case study will focus upon the Bavarian Weissbier; however, Berliner will be discussed. Referred to as Weisse, Weissbier, and Weizenbier, Weissbier is a beer brewed with at least 60% wheat in the malt, rather than 100% barley for the mash. Weissbier is lightly hopped, thus presenting a sometimes slightly tart flavor. It has been described as somewhat sweet and aromatic in flavor, honey-gold to amber in color, with a clean, white foam, and a refreshing, not too dry after-taste. Traditionally, secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle (bottle-conditioning). This Hefe-Weisse or Hefe-Weizen contains yeast sediment and occasionally shows a durable, natural cloudiness, caused by proteins and is the traditional choice of beer drinkers in Bavaria.
The use of wheat for the brewing of beer far pre-dates the Elector
of Bavaria when he issued his mandate of 1603 that wheat be used in the brewing
of beer. Both in Babylon and Egypt wheat was often the basis for beer, even
to the extent that at certain times it became so popular that it had to be reduced
or eliminated by law in order to leave enough wheat for bread. In 1293, the
beer brewed in Dortmund was a wheat beer. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance,
Weissbier was a privilege of the nobility. The Reinheitsgebot of 1516 was not
a control relating to purity of beer for the masses, but rather a mandate to
protect this "refined" style of beer for the nobility in Bavaria.
No private brewer was allowed to brew beer with wheat, be it in the towns or
in the country, even for home consumption, - only the nobility. At that time,
beer was invariably dark in color, and hence this Weissbier (white beer) was
The known name Weissbier (White Beer) resulted in order to make a distinction from the bottom fermented Braunbier (Brown beer), a lager style that came into fashion in the middle of the 18th century because of improved brewing methods. For example, Braunbier is considered "heavy" in the sense that much of its sediment and "ingredients" were bottom-brewed (sank to the bottom and retained there). On the other hand, in Weissbier, the ingredients are more evenly distributed throughout the brewing process, resulting in a superior tasting more highly desirable beer. It was highly appreciated by the drinking audience for being a light “summer-beer.” Originally the name Weissbier was a collective term for all German pale ales and thus it referred to light barley ales as well as full-bodied wheats. Until the beginning of this century, shares of one third wheat malt were usual. However German brewing scientist Hess described a wheat brewing-style in 1850 that used wheat malt exclusively.
The nobility and the cloisters had the exclusive right for the
brewing of Wheat beer, producing a clear monopoly, and by ca. 1600 all of the
Weissbier breweries were either under the control of the nobility or the monks.
Many in the political-religious community utilized Monasteries as local taverns
and restaurants as well as congregating points. For example, in the 15th century,
many dukes within Germany (especially Bavaria) created Benedictine Monasteries
(such as Andech’s, see below; also discussed in culture
section). These monasteries were created to serve not only for the adoration
of God, but as “family” and regional monasteries for [social] congregation.
Existing areas of monasteries were expanded to include study, dining, and sleeping
areas. Ultimately breweries were focused in these areas due to their central
points of socialization and the simple fact that, in Germany, beer was (and
is) closely associated with public gatherings.
In 1602, Weissbier in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich was so successful that many other court breweries followed its pattern. Later, in 1764, the abbot of Kloster Andechs (still one of the noteworthy breweries, and tourist attractions in Bavaria), instituted Weissbier in his cloister. As economics, politics, and tastes changed, in 1806 most of the nobility relinquished their right to the brewing of Weissbier, allowing for the privatization of Weissbier breweries; anyone could now brew "white" beer. Weissbier was clearly out-of-style, with the old "brown" beer still fashionable as evidenced by the fact that as late as 1856 even the famous Hofbräuhaus in Munich was once again brewing primarily their brown beer, and gave up any right to white beer. Throughout this time-period, the beer was unfiltered, just as it is today with beers such as Hefetrüb and Dunkel. During the severe depression years in Germany, the 1920s and 30s, the upper-class decided that they did not have to drink this trüb (cloudy) beer, and all sprang to the modern, filtered version, with such enticing names such as "crystal clear," "champagne gold," etc. Some of the filtered Weissbiers still retain some of these terminologies to-day (i.e. Edelweiss Kristallklar).
An old electoral Bavarian decree of 1803 says, that beer should "sparkle strong and foam high, carry the characteristic bitterness of the hop, cause a cool and refreshing feeling on the palate and the tickling taste has to communicate with the sense of smell." This historical definition is fairly accurate to this date. In some brands the characteristic aroma of the hop is quite perceptible but a typical, properly brewed Weissbier should not taste “hop-bitter.” The predominantly fruity and malty flavor is offset by high carbonation and the particular aroma (i.e. bananas and clove) is produced by the yeast. Yeast management therefore is of great importance to Weissbier breweries, which normally use pure, fresh yeast. While, many Wheatbeer drinkers enjoy their "Hefe Weizen" even with its sediment, there is generally no objection to filtration (except in Bavaria, where it is very difficult to find Kristall).
While bottle-conditioning is still widespread, tank conditioning is increasingly applied today. Yeast slurry is then added at bottling. Kristallweizen (Crystal Wheat) on the other hand is filtered prior to bottling and its appearance is thus pure and clear. To increase durability on storage and transport, pasteurization methods are used frequently like e.g. adding (pasteurized) yeast to filtered and pasteurized wheat beer or bottle pasteurization. In the 1970s, the Germans began to realize that the filtration process removed most of the essential flavors and healthy qualities which are present in the yeast strains, and have now returned to the unfiltered versions. Today's regulations specify a share of at least 50% wheat malt.
Factors affecting Weissbier today - Secondary aspects surrounding the formulation of general German beer policy, such as the German “Beer Purity Law” and other special considerations given to the export status of German beer (including Weissbier) are important indicators of the “protected” status these types of beers have long enjoyed. The expansion of new customers to the beer market (especially in Britain, Nordic countries, and Asian markets) via the exclusivity of Weissbier indicates a change in the scope of production within the traditional industry. For example, the partial consolidation of the historically tight German beer market by larger international conglomerate brewers such as Interbrew has assisted some of the smaller, localized breweries in exporting their products (especially within the European Union). "Further moves by the international brewers in Germany appear inevitable over the next twelve months with the number 1 and number 3 domestic players ... both displaying a willingness to secure an international partner," Deutsche Bank analysts said. While Germany has over 1,300 official breweries, in order to market their particular brews, consolidation is an attractive venture within the new economic structure of the EU. Interbrew, the group who recently acquired Spaten [one of Germany’s largest breweries], claims that its two main “regional” gaps in Germany's marketing/exporting environment have been filled – “southern Germany and the fast-growing Weissbier market.”
How the rapid increase in globalization and reduction in borders (especially around the EU) affects this market will undoubtedly influence the future of the Weissbier market (at least in the traditional German-brewing sense). While there has been a decrease in the consumption of beer within Germany, increasing exports have more than made up for the disparity. How the German Brewers’ Association deals with international trade and the marketing of Weissbier (as well as Pils and Helles), domestically and internationally, is important to understanding the German “Biermentalität” behind their production schemes and laws surrounding beer purity, etc.
There is particular importance in the fermenting process of Weissbier, resulting in what makes Weissbier unique amongst others (i.e. taste, aroma, aftertaste, head, etc). Also, how other countries and local breweries (micro-) have attempted to “copy” the German Weissbier formulas and fermentation process has been a focus area regarding competition and “protection status” for these traditional brewers. There are many different types of Weissbier and the locales in which they are produced (predominantly southern Germany and Austria) are quite protective of their “formulas” and brewing techniques. Simply by looking at the historical analysis of the importance of Weissbier in German history, one can observe the intricacies in this drink, as well as the tradition, culture, and history behind the product. There is an often forgotten statute specific to Bavaria – simply translated, the Bavarian Beer Purity Law, which provides guidelines and decrees concerning the amount of wheat and overall purity of a beer brewed in Bavaria – only pure water, hops or wheat, and yeast should be used in the production of Bavarian beer. This mentality has not significantly changed in Bavaria within the past 500 years.
There are also significant variations and discord between the traditional Weissbier of southern Germany (Bavaria) versus the rather discreet "Weizen" industry of the north (Berlin). While these two beers carry the same name within the same country, they could not be more different in taste or end-product. There is a sort of playful contention between the brewers of southern Germany and the brewers of the Berlin/Bradenburg area of northern Germany - there are obvious geographical differences within this subset analysis.
Due to recent decreases in domestic German beer consumption (see economic data section for annual German beer consumption figures) and the expansion of the economic reach of the European Union (EU) into all German industries, Weissbier breweries have been hard pressed to increase exports in order to compensate for the changing trade environment. The prospect of EU cases involving a Weissbier industry classified under Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status is not unfeasible - as exports and the number (or size) of industries producing Weissbier increase, such cases involving PGI violations may be heard by the EU (involving bilateral or multilateral scopes).
3. Related Cases
- GERMBEER case
Would-be beer exporters to Germany and environmentalists rebelled for decades against the German beer purity law or Reinheitsgebot (originally enacted in 1516), which permitted only four ingredients in the beverage: water, hops, barley, and yeast. Germans claimed that the law protected public health from harmful additives and public interest from misrepresentative advertising. Though officially lifted in 1987 after an EC ruling, the purity law's tradition continues in Germany. The German beer market remains a difficult one to enter as those who want to sell German-style, limited ingredient beer may not substitute other ingredients. Details of the 1987 European Court of Justice case, similar to one against a Greek brewing law, are revealed here.
- BUDWEIS case
This issue involves United States of America and the Czech Republic. For past hundred years, an international legal dispute continued between the American brewer Anheuser-Busch and the Czech beer producer Budejovicky Budvar over the right to use the trademark name Budweiser on their products. Currently, both of the brewers produce beer beverage labeled Budweiser, and battle over who does have the legal right to the commercial use of this name. Both the brews have a long history of existence. The disagreements over the right to use the trademark started in late 1870s, when the brewers began to export their like-named products to markets beyond their national borders. Attempting to legally win the exclusive right to the trademark use, the dispute has been taken to courts in different countries. The results so far did not provide either party the exclusive right to the name, but rather resulted in the division of market.
- ONTARIO case
In April 1992, after several years of negotiations and two GATT panel decisions against Canada, the United States and Canada finally reached agreement over how to change Canadian policies that were determined to be discriminatory against imported beer. Five days later, the Ontario government placed an "environmental tax" of 10 cents per can on aluminum beer containers. The United States claimed this tax was merely economic protection because it did not apply to any other aluminum beverage containers except beer. The United States responded by placing a $3 per case tax (50 percent ad valorem) on beer imported from Ontario. The Ontario government responded equally with an additional tax of $3 per case on U.S. beer. Although Ontario offered GATT dispute settlement, the United States refused, claiming this was yet another stalling tactic, and that the case has already been settled by GATT twice before. Bilateral negotiations have been going on since late 1992, but no agreement has yet been reached. It is suspected that breweries in Ontario are now trans-shipping their beer through other provinces, such as Quebec, for export to the United States, thereby avoiding the import penalties.
- BEERCAN case
In Canada, provincial liquor boards have control over the import, distribution, and sale of all alcoholic beverages in the province. The regulations implemented by the provincial liquor boards in Canada place restrictions and fees on imported beer. As a result of complaints about access to the Canadian market filed by U.S. beer producers, the U.S. Government successfully challenged Canadian provincial liquor board practices before GATT. A series of negotiations between the U.S. and Canada resulted in a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) that improved access to the Canadian market for U.S. beer producers. However, the U.S. Government is still concerned about provincial pricing and tax policies that inhibit the ability of U.S. producers to compete in the Canadian market.
- DANISH case
Denmark implemented a new recycling system requirement in 1981 that limited the types of containers that could be used to bottle beverages. The requirement was necessary in order to improve the efficiency and success rate of the new recycling system. While manufacturers in Denmark supported the legislation because they had already begun to adapt their products to the new requirements, manufacturers outside of Denmark, particularly Germany, complained that the new requirements would unfairly force them out of the Danish market. After a period of negotiations, the case was brought before the European Court of Justice. The Court found that the Danish law did not unjustly discriminate between foreign and domestic manufacturers and was thus affirmed as a legal requirement.
- TEQULIA case
Mexicans have long identified Tequila as more than just the national drink, but a unique symbol of their culture and environment. As the reach of global trade has extended and Tequila is now consumed around the world, Mexico has vigorously sought protection for its cherished spirit in international trade agreements. In bilateral and multilateral negotiations, including those leading to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexican trade officials have demanded Tequila be protected as a "geographically indicated product" under intellectual property rights law. They have argued that Tequila is a unique cultural product that can only be called by that name if fermented from the blue agave plant indigenous to a specific climactic region of Mexico. Even domestically it is illegal to distill Tequila outside the state of Jalisco and a few surrounding areas. Mexico has been largely successful in gaining these concessions. Tequila is protected under NAFTA, as are other geographically indicated spirits such as Canadian Whiskey and Tennessee Whiskey. But the debate has rekindled as Mexico has had to defend Tequila's exclusivity in bilateral negotiations with the European Union and most recently with China. In order to become eligible for admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) China must sign bilateral trade agreements with all WTO member states. Mexico is the only remaining member with whom China has not signed such an agreement. Among the issues stalling negotiations is Mexico's insistence that China agree not to produce rival brands of Tequila, as it possesses the climactic conditions to do so.
- PISCO case
Pisco is as Peruvian as llamas and arroz con pollo. A Peruvian meal is not complete without a pisco sour. "The pisco sour is a cocktail made with a shot of pisco, a sprinkle of sugar, a bit of egg white and a splash of lime juice, then either blended or served over crushed ice, with a dash of bitters." However, pisco's future has been marred by agrarian reform, economic and political turmoil, new and more profitable crops, water pollution, and a trade dispute with Chile over its namesake.
- GRAPPA case
That tradition matters in the global age has become obvious in
the case of grappa, an alcoholic drink that has not only become popular lately,
but that has also become the bone of contention between the European Union and
South Africa. The contention has resulted in a vast dispute that has gone on
for some four years now. The disputed issue is protection of traditional denominations
in the area of wines and spirits (such as grappa or ouzo) following the application
of certain chapters of the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA)
between the European Union and South Africa. On the European Union side, Italy
is the major advocate for strict protectionism, requiring South Africa to phase
out the use of the term "grappa" by South African distillers within
five years. The dispute has delayed a crucial $17-billion free trade agreement
between South Africa and Europe that was to give way to significant tariff cuts
on South Africa's import and export trade with Europe. The dispute has not been
delegated to the World Trade Organization for resolution, but instead has been
negotiated on a bilateral level between the European Union and South Africa.
Nevertheless, as protectionist policies of the EU especially in the area of
agricultural products have grown in number and in intensity, it has become apparent
that intellectual property issues are gaining importance and can no longer be
left unnoticed. Perhaps also as a result of protectionist concerns voiced by
the EU, general guidelines on protection of intellectual property rights have
been developed just recently through the WTO mechanism. The WTO Agreement on
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS; 1995) has gained
momentum as a set of underlying principles in international trade to be observed
by all WTO members. While the TRIPS Agreement is a fairly new theoretical development,
the EU-South Africa dispute is a clear example of application of the TRIPS principles
in the area of agricultural or food products.
4. Author and Date:
Posted: 11 December 2003
II. Legal Clusters
While there are no direct cases of dispute between a particular Weissbier manufacturer and another industry, country, or regional organization, the probability for a difference in opinion still exists. The lingering presence of the German Reinheitsgebot (see “GERMBEER” case), or beer purity law, is still in practice amongst many of the Weissbier producers in modern Germany (especially in the southern province of Bavaria). The Rieser Weizenbier GmbH brewing company is currently the only major Weissbier manufacturer whose product appears [per regulation] within the European Union’s (EU) “Agricultural Quality Policy” as a protected product.
The German Weissbier brewing and production company, Rieser, falls under the category, “Protected Geographical Indication (PGI),” which has been defined by the European Union as legislation protecting producers and consumers. The reason given by the EU as to the requirement for such regulations is that, “when a product acquires a reputation which goes beyond national borders it can find itself in a market where products pass themselves off as the genuine article and take the same name. This unfair competition not only discourages producers but also misleads consumers.” According to the EU, the ultimate goal of PGI is to promote and protect food products. Rieser is only one of fifteen beer companies (12 in Germany, 3 in Great Britain) within the entire European Union who was successfully admitted to PGI status via a complex registration process. Surprisingly, no Belgian brewing companies are on this list; however, this could be attributed to the mentality surrounding the Reinheitsgebot and Bavarian Beer Purity Laws’ legacies in Germany (the need to be “protected” from outside influence). How such a stipulation could prospectively be applied in a case concerning Weissbier is examined below.
5. Discourse and Status: Disagreement [DIS] and In Progress [INPROG]
The general discourse of the status of the Rieser Weizenbier GmbH producer falls within the realm of disagreement [DIS], in that its group of producers is protected by EU Commission regulation (EC) No 2325/97 [Nov. 1997]; thus, the possibility of a legal proceeding filed by (or against) Rieser concerning its PGI status and law is present. Regulation 2325/97 was established under the quality policy of the Director General and classifies Rieser Weizenbier as certified under the “Protected Geographical Indication” statute (see below for further explanation). A case concerning the aforementioned regulation and Rieser's PGI status would fall under a status of "in progress" [INPROG]. However, looking solely at the status of the Agricultural Quality Policy of the EU, one could assume that the case would be ultimately resolved under the stipulations of the EU Commission regulation (EC) No 2325/97. The prospective issues would most likely be resolved due to the authority of the EU Courts - treaties, signed by the member countries (listed below), allow the EU High Court to supercede their judicial authority on cases concerning such issues.
6. Forum and Scope: European Union [EU]
and Regional [REGION]
European Union Members
The forum to which the Rieser Weizenbier case applies is the European Union and the Federal Government of Germany; thus, the case is held on a regional [REGION] forum due to the fact that it is the European Union [EU] regulation protecting Rieser Weizenbier - the EU courts would in fact prosecute any violation or case concerning allegations made with regards to Rieser’s PGI status.
The regional law/regulation, entitled “Protected Geographical Indication,” as defined by the European Union “is concerned with the geographical link of the product, which must occur in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation. Furthermore, the product can benefit from a good reputation.” The purpose of such a regulation is three-fold: (1) To encourage diverse agricultural production, (2) To protect product names from misuse and imitation, and (3) To help consumers by giving them information concerning the specific character of the products. The scope of a prospective EU case involving Rieser Weizenbier would focus on the second and third aspects of the above-stated purpose. Due to the cultural and geographical exclusivity of this particular Weissbier, Rieser could claim another company within another EU country (or any country for that matter) was imitating its product and attempting to market it outside of the auspice of Rieser. Also, Rieser is protected by the third statute above – giving consumers information concerning specific character of the products. Rieser considers its cultural and unique “character” of its beer to be unmistakable; thus, imitation of “character” could prospectively be used in a case against another industry.
7. Decision Breadth: 15 (EU)
A case concerning the violation of PGI stipulations for Rieser Weizenbier GmbH could involve various parties; however, a dispute would most likely stay within the regional scope of the European Union. Consequently, 15 parties, representing the current full and legal member countries of the European Union would be affected by a decision in this case. The most likely scenario involving Rieser would be on either a national dispute (within Germany, between two Weissbier industries) or on a bilateral basis concerning Rieser and a Weissbier producer in another country (i.e. Belgium, Great Britain, U.S., etc). Returning to the scope, EU courts would prospectively handle a case between two EU countries or industries – such as Rieser and a brewer in Belgium accused of imitating Rieser’s production scheme. On the other hand, a dispute between the EU regulation concerning Rieser and a brewer in the United States or another country outside of the EU would most likely be brought to the World Trade Organization and settled in a more objective manner (i.e. EU vs. US company). Of course, the objective party involved (WTO) would study the EU regulation and its relevance to particular evidence presented in the case. Thus, the number of parties involved could range from a one (for example, within Germany) to a more plausible two (Rieser vs. Belgian brewer) to a more unlikely number of 15 (such as numerous EU states involved in violating the PGI status of Rieser). The decision breadth would directly or indirectly affect all member countries of the EU due to their status as signatories to the same legal treaties. Yet, a ruling in such a case is unlikely to affect more than the countries within the regional legal capacity of the European Union.
8. Legal Standing: TREATY
The regional EU regulation, Commission Regulation (EC) No 2325/97, enforced under the Quality Policy of the Directorate General, provides a solid dimension for legal standing under the EU’s Agriculture Quality Policy. It should be noted, however, that the inspection body responsible for ensuring Rieser’s adherence to PGI status and its continued PGI status is the Bayerische Landesanstalt für Ernährung, located in the German province of Bavaria. This organization enforces EU regional law/regulation concerning PGI status at the provincial level in Germany; thus, such legal standing would fall under the category of TREATY on the EU level. The administration of EU law (under the treaty signed by member countries) by the German provincial government reinforces the treaty status of such legal standing in the EU. As stated in the first section, the lingering customs (i.e. exclusivity in beer production, PGI status, protectorate measures for particular beer industries, governmental subsidies, etc) associated with the German Reinheitsgebot still exist in Germany, especially within the Weissbier industry; hence, such traditions produce understandings that may not implicitly have the support of “official” law.
III. Geographic Clusters
9. Geographic Locations
a. Geographic Domain: EUROPE
b. Geographic Site: Western Europe [WEUR]
c. Geographic Impact: Germany
Although the application of legality is an EU-wide issue, due to the cultural importance of maintaining purity in Weissbier and the fact that almost all of the world's major Weissbier breweries are located in Germany, the primary party affected is Germany. There is also an obvious difference in the brewing techniques of Weissbier (Weizen) brewers in southern Germany (i.e. Bavaria) and northern Germany (i.e. Berlin/Bradenburg area). The finished Weissbier products in northern and southern Germany are vastly difference in taste and composition. There are tangible reasons for this difference, such as different types of wheat used in the brewing process; however, there are also claims to individual regional and cultural distinctions ("ours is different, better than yours" - i.e. Philadelphia "Philly" cheesesteaks). The "Berliners" are very local in their Weizen production - it is very difficult, even within Germany, to find many Berliner Weissbier brews outside of the northern Germany regional area (this is due mostly to very small brewing companies who do not seek to expand their operations and are considered locally "established" in the region). There are many "friendly" competitions (mostly in the form of obvious distinctions of product) between southern and northern Weissbier brewers. This in-country divergence in brewing is impacting only the Federal Republic of Germany.
10. Sub-National Factors: YES
The main sub-national entity affected through a prospective legal measure or the EU regulation stated under legal issues would be the German province of Bavaria. Since many of the main Weissbier breweries are located n Bavaria and they adhere to the traditional "Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516," the province maintains sub-national interests (below the EU regional level and the German Federal Government). Since the administration of the EU policies is left to the discretion of the provincial organization, Bayerische Landesanstalt für Ernährung, Bavaria is a main actor in possible cases concerning Weissbier production.
11. Type of Habitat: TEMPERATE
IV. Trade Clusters
12. Type of Measure: Regulatory Standard [REGSTD], Administration [ADMIN], and Not applicable [NAPP]
While there is no longer an outwardly apparent regulatory standard applied to the Weissbier industry, I argue that there is are cultural implications of the tradition and past regulations (i.e. German Reinheitsgebot [beer purity law]), which have induced a culture of regulation of an industry out of a historical, traditional, and exclusionary perspective [LAW].
Many of the Weissbier brewers (especially smaller, less export-oriented ones) operate under a standard which designates their Weissbier as “speziell” [special] brew which requires a distinctive criterion concerning exportation, sale of, and ingredients found within “their” Weissbier. For example, adherence to the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516 indicates that only domestically "German" ingredients of purity may be included in a pure Weissbier - these ingredients are limited to purified water, wheat, barley, and yeast. While the national Reinheitsgebot was repealed in the late eighties by the then European Commission, I believe the regulatory standards and individuality of this law still remain within many of the German Weissbier breweries today. Weissbier breweries are definitely guilty of this philosophy due to their traditional sense of brewing and selectiveness in their beer production schemes (i.e. pure ingredients [malted wheat, purified water, and selected yeasts]). This can also be illustrated in examining the difficult task of entering or merging into the Weissbier market – even for larger German domestic breweries who historically have not been involved in the Weissbier brewing process. Attempting to "infiltrate" the regions of the smaller, limited production scale breweries proves difficult - i.e. see Andech's Monastery Brewery.
Simply the perceived administration of the above “cultural” policies by the management and individual breweries. Such companies who still hold their beliefs that a regulatory standard remains or who simply believe that their beer is immune to the processes of the world market and globalization (“ma & pop” beer breweries); thus, this deals with the Administrative [ADMIN] section of trade measures.
While the above stated measures are what the author perceives from data present, there are no concrete measures in the world, regional, or domestic legal systems today which point to an exclusion of the Weissbier industry or regulations providing for a degree of favoritism to the industry as compared to other breweries and/or methods. Thus trade measures, to a certain extent, are not applicable [NAPP] under the "cultural" tradition of Weissbier brewing.
13. Direct v. Indirect Impacts: Indirect [IND]
While the EU PGI regulation is in fact law and would have a direct
impact on the Rieser Weizenbier GmbH producer, Rieser is the only Weissbier
brewer falling under this statute. Thus, the main Weissbier brewing industry
has indirect [IND] impacts on trade due to the culture surrounding their traditional
brewing techniques. The brewing "environment" for Weissbier within
Germany is considered to have an indirect impact on trade due to the fact that
decisions made regarding brewing techniques are carried out by individual brewers.
However, the adherence to existing (although, contemporarily obsolete regulations),
in the Reinheitsgebot law, indicate an environmental impact on ingredients found
within Weissbier brews; thus, this is an "inside-the-border" practice,
indirectly affecting trade.
14. Relation of Trade Measure to Environmental Impact
a. Directly Related to Product: YES - BEER
b. Indirectly Related to Product: NO
c. Not Related to Product: NO
d. Related to Process: YES - AGRICULTURE
While the Reinheitsgebot is no longer national law, many Weissbier brewers still adhere to the traditional Bavarian Beer Purity Law, stating the purity of ingredients utilized in production. Thus, the mentality of the brewer is to maintain this status quo, including pure domestic ingredients, harvested from the environment (related to the process of brewing).
15. Trade Product Identification: BEER
Ingredient listing in beer is not required; however, alcohol content in beer must be clearly labeled (differentiating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers as well).
16. Economic Data
Domestic beer consumption has been declining steadily since 1995 (attributed to sluggish economy, high unemployment and health-conscious public); recently, the Federal Statistics Office reported domestic beer consumption decreased 4% for the first six months of the year). German beer exports finally rose in the first half of 2003, providing a hope for brewers hurt by the slumping domestic markets. But despite the easy availability, per-capita consumption has dropped to 125 liters from a peak above 156 liters in the 1980s, sending the former world champions in Germany to third place behind the Czech Republic -- at 150 liters -- and Ireland.
The German beer industry has an annual turnover/output of approx. 11$ billion USD (9.25$ billion Euros) and some 40,000 employees. Sales are down, nevertheless, by nearly 1.22$ billion USD (1.03$ billion Euros) in the last five years.
17. Impact of Trade Restriction: HIGH
The impact of traditional beer brewing methods is being challenged within Germany as domestic beer consumption falls (see above). Altering the mentality concerning ingredients used in Weissbier production and brewing will have an apparent effect on the German Weissbier market (since Weissbier is generally localized to Germany). If the ingredient approach and/or the traditional cultural mentality regarding brewing were changed, more companies could compete in the traditionally"German market," due to changing standard/tastes for traditional domestic Weissbier.
Brewers attribute the aforementioned beer drinking slump to several factors (not restricted to trade restrictions), including stiffer drink-driving rules, increased competition from wine and non-alcoholic beverages, a new-found health consciousness and the fact that Germany is a mature market with a stagnant population. Most worrying for the beer makers is a strong shift away from beer by younger Germans who consider it a rather stuffy and old-fashioned drink (traditional beer becoming increasingly unpopular amongst the younger generation ["out with the old, in with the new" mentality]).
18. Industry Sector: FOOD
19. Exporters and Importers: GERMANY and EU /US (see below for detailed list of importers):
Total beer exports from Germany (2002): 11,056,000 hL (1,105,600,000 L ). The total percentage of aggregate exports which are Weissbier is 45.7% (c. 600,000,000 L).
Leading Countries for Beer Importation from Germany
Amount imported (2002)
|(1) Italy||2,278,000 hL (227,800,000 L)|
|(2) United States||1,517,000 hL (151,700,000 L)|
|(3) Great Britain||1,482,000 hL (148,200,000 L)|
|(4) Spain||818,000 hL (81,800,000 L)|
|(5) France||749,000 hL (74,900,000 L)|
|(6) Netherlands||729,000 hL (72,900,000 L)|
|(7) Russia||35,000 hL (3,500,000 L)|
Export notes: - Leading export countries are Germany and Belgium; however, Germany has traditionally been by far the largest exporter of Weissbier.
The sharpest increase in exports in 2002 was exports to Italy,
which rose 18% as compared to the first half of 2002 to nearly 107$ million.
U.S. sales slumped slightly, falling by .8% to 90$ million. The aforementioned
export note is also indicative of the Weissbier consumption/exportation market,
proportionally; although, Weissbier itself has become more popular abroad due
to larger conglomerate incorporation of smaller breweries and subsequent increase
in export sales – esp. in Italy, Britain, and the U.S.
Leading exporters (by German Weissbier brewery):
o Erdinger Weissbier brewery – responsible for over 20% of all German wheat beer production and exportation in the industry.
o Schneider Weisse – total production quantitative data yet to be determined
o Löwenbrauerei - total production quantitative data yet to be determined
o Privatbrauerei Glaab - total production quantitative data yet to be determined
o numerous other smaller, privately owned Weissbier breweries which comprise the total Weissbier industry within Germany – there are few large conglomerates within the specific Weissbier industry (niche market).
Importers - see table for top 7 importers (by country; listed largest to smallest).
* one must also remember the large number of domestic German beer consumers – still one of the largest in the world. Also, the European Union, taken as a whole, definitively represents the largest consumer of German Weissbier.
V. Environment Clusters
20. Environmental Problem Type: n/a - Culture
21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species
Name: Wheat, hops, and yeast (although predominant ingredient in Weissbier is wheat)
Type: plant/grass & active cultures
Diversity: 35-37 stems of wheat per meter
The Reinheitsgebot law (while enacted) required Weissbiers to be made using only malted wheat (malted cereal grains exactly). The cultures (particular ingredients) are considered key to making top-quality Weissbier. It is also considered a necessity that a “Weizen’s” grist must contain at least 50% wheat malt (some producers go as high as 70%). Although the Reinheitsgebot is no longer a rule of law, the above standards are usually strictly adhered to by most brewers and considered a prerequisite for a successful and traditional Weissbier brew. This perception is generally a traditional mindset of producing a “pure” Weissbier brew. Such a practice can be analogous to a cook producing a specialized dish – while the cook does not necessarily need all of the specific or exclusive ingredients he/she puts into a dish; nevertheless, to maintain the “statute” of the final product, he sticks with only the best ingredients.
An alteration in the composition of Weissbier could prospectively affect German wheat farmers due to the high degree of domestic types of wheat utilized in the production of Weissbier and the benefits for farmers who provide the ingredients for the brewing industry. There are also regional environmental preferences and differences in what are described by beer connoisseurs as “pockets of traditionalism” (Bavaria, Berlin, and Belgium). For example, the Bavarians use more than 50 percent wheat in their Weissbier and prefer it heavily sedimented and cloudy. This preference for sediment appears to have risen from historical considerations and established practices/inclinations (see historical analysis in description section). The thought that the sediment, representing the yeast, was healthier for the body and more natural held true during these times and stayed with tradition. Recently, these references have re-appeared in German Weissbier drinkers – Kristallweizen has become increasingly unpopular in southern Germany due to the fact that it lacks the sediment which many Germans, in these traditional regional areas, see as healthy and nourishing. In fermentation, the local yeasts used in Bavarian wheat beers can produce guaiacols. These chemical compounds are also found in the resin-like barks of tropical trees, which provide flavoring essences for gum.
22. Resource Impact and Effect: LOW and PRODUCT
While producers and workers in the Weissbier brewing industry are generally satisfied with their current production scale, environmental considerations such as bottling regulations/laws, the reduction of physical trade barriers within the industry (especially one as particularized as Weissbier), and increasing competition from larger conglomerates and agricultural multinationals (to name a few) may threaten the future of the traditional industry.
Environmental note – there was a marked increase in domestic beer consumption within in Germany (including a large increase in Weissbier consumption) in the summer of 2003 due mostly in part to the massive heat wave experienced throughout the country and the simple fact that people wanted to quench their thirsts.
23. Urgency and Lifetime: n/a - (100's of years)
While there is no direct environmental danger of losing the wheat crops which are used to produce Weissbier, there are seasons of bad harvests, thereby reducing overall production slightly. Also, from a cultural perspective, one could surmise that the danger is not to the direct environment, but the traditional environment of brewing Weissbier (i.e. decrease in domestic consumption amongst younger generations).
24. Substitutes: Recycling [RECYC] and Conservation [CONSV]
Through recycling of beer bottles and crop rotation to assist soil replenishment, wheat farmers and Weissbier brewers could contribute to a reduction in environmental problems from a reusable resource perspective. The additional problem of pollutants or pesticides used on the wheat indicates that conservation of the surrounding environment should also be a consideration. The possible environmental and health damages from agricultural pesticides used on wheat could far outweigh the benefits of a good brew. However, Germany maintains strict environmental regulations and frequently monitors the usage of agricultural pollutants and their effects on the environment.
25. Culture: YES
Culture plays a large role in the discussion of Weissbier tradition. As the pace of globalization increases, the traditions and customs of brewing German Weissbier are being challenged within its own [cultural] environment. The mindset of German Weissbier brewers has been divided between those who adapt to the world trade system and those who maintain their traditional independence in certain locales. Both schools highly value the quality of their brewing techniques and production (see examples above); however, it is the individuality of each brewery in the Weissbier industry that determines whether or not it attempts to expand operations and compete in the world market.
Below, I will provide an analysis of two Weissbier brewing companies in Germany. By comparing the history and current production capabilities of the two following companies, I attempt to illustrate the difference between a large internationalized brewing company (at least, in comparative terms) and a smaller, local brewing company, which has characterized the Weissbier industry in Germany for the last 500-600 years. The comparative focus demonstrates how globalization/internationalization of the unique Weissbier industry in Germany has affected the “culture” of the business and how those local breweries, with such small production scales, have withstood the test of time as well as competed with the larger conglomerates.
Andech’s Monastery Brewery - Located southwest of Munich, in the valleys of southern Bavaria, Andech’s Monastery Brewery is a prime example of an establishment rooted in history and committed to a localized production capacity. Beer has been brewed at Andech’s Monastery since 1455, following the founding of the Benedictine Monastery on Andechs Mountain by the Wittelsbach Duke Albrecht III. Since then, the Benedictine monks have continuously cultivated and refined the brewing tradition and the art of brewing over the centuries including recipes for their famous Weissbier Hell and Weissbier Dunkel. Yet, today Andech’s produces only a modest 9 million liters of beer annually, representative of its old-style brewing traditions.
In 1972 the Convent decided on the construction of an entirely new brewery in order to continue the brewing business on a modern basis. The buildings were relocated from their original site to the foot of the Holy Mountain and a modern barrel and bottle cellar was put into operation in 1974. The new Sudhaus, including fermentation and storage cellars, was the last portion constructed in 1983.
Andechs Monastery Brewery pursues a philosophy of quality rather than quantity;
thus, the long-term investment policies of the monastery build upon the name
of its world-renowned trademark and its Holy Mountain antecedents. The cultural
and religious component of Andech’s and its Weissbier production are rooted
in its locale, history, and its restricted production scale seen today. Limiting
the distribution of Andech’s Weissbier to its geographic “Heimat”
(home-area), indicates an exclusivity and cultural preservation of a brew which
otherwise would be popular and developed throughout the world.
Erdinger Brewery - In contrast to the locality and restricted production of Andech’s Weissbier is the Erdinger Weissbier brewing company. Erdinger (also located in Bavaria) is home to the world’s largest wheat beer brewery (solely Weissbier). Founded in 1886, Erdinger is significantly younger than Andechs and approaches its brewing from a more progressive standpoint as well.
Between 1950 and 1998, Erdinger modernized its brewery and developed a larger production capability in order to deal with increasing demands for its Weissbier. While exports increased and technology developed, Erdinger took full advantage of both the reductions in trade barriers as well as the technological means to increase/scale production to significantly higher levels. Between 1987 and 1991 a “blitz” in construction and increased brewing capacity (mainly via the creation of a new bottling plant and modern brewing houses) allowed Erdinger to have an annual capacity (hypothetically) of over 180 million liters of wheat beer.
At present, Erdinger produces over 120 million liters of Weissbier annually,
compared to the 9 million liters produced by Andech’s. The brewery has
also made traditionally unthinkable innovations within the Weissbier industry,
such as the first wheat beer to drink straight from the bottle in 2000. Today,
Erdinger exports its Weissbier to over 60 countries throughout the globe and
continues to be the world’s most popular wheat beer (at least by amount
consumed). The specialization of Erdinger to brewing Weissbier has not limited
the company from expanding operations, technology, and market involvement in
order to increase its status in the globalizing world as the leading producer
of this expert beer.
* The combination of the aforementioned traditions and controlled ingredients (found in previous sections) provide for a culture in which adherence to purity and class are dominant, even over trade development and expansion.
26. Trans-Boundary Issues: NO
27. Rights: NO
28. Relevant Literature
"Agriculture Quality Policy: Rieser Weizenbier GmbH." European Commission: Directorate General. 13 October 2003.
Available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/agriculture/qual/en/462_en.htm
Allen, Andrea Horwich. “Designing for the World?” Food Product Design. May 1995 Available at
Andech's Monastery Brewery. Website. Available at http://www.andechs.de/index_main.asp
Beer Manifesto - Available at http://members.allstream.net/~jdoakes/germany.html
“Beery Cheery.” Financial Times. London: 9 May 2001. pg. 17. Available at
"BWS - Beer, Wine, and Spirits: Industry Newsletter." Vol. 2, No 26. 23 September 2003. Available at
"Der Markt: Die Deutsche Brauwirtschaft in Zahlen." Deutscher Brauer-Bund, Bonn. 6 June 2003.
Die Geschichte der bayerischen Fastenstarkbiere Available at www.ostbayern-downloads.de/pdf/einleger_2002.pdf
Erdinger Brewery. Website. Available at http://www.erdinger.de/
“Etikettenwahnsinn und Marketingmassnahmen.” Bier für Dummies. MITP Verlag Gmbh, Int. Bier.de Available at
"German Beer Exports Up Over First Half-Year." Associated Press. 2 Oct 2003. Available at
“Getting Wise to Weissbier.” European Intelligence Wire. 25 Jul 2003. Article A105944072.
"History of Beer." Available at http://www.history-of-beer.com/
Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland 2003. Available at http://www.destatis.de/d_home.htm
“Weissbier Compass.” Netbeer. Available at http://www.netbeer.co.at/beer/english/witbeer.htm
“Weissbier No Longer Lost in Clouds.” Off Licence News. 25 July 2003. William Reed Publishing, Ltd.