Bundesverwaltungsgerichtentscheidung zu Schwarzbier (Az. BVerwG 3 C 5.04).
The German Federal Administrative Court today decided that a German beer to which sugar was added can be called beer nonetheless. It overruled a decision of the Frankfurt an der Oder Administrative Court.
A brewery in Neuzelle applied ten years ago to market its ‘Schwarzer Abt’ (Black Abbot) as a beer. Traditionally, beer may contain only hops, malt, yeast and water. The brewery argued that special beers are permitted, and that there was discrimination against domestic firms, since under EU law beer brewed outside Germany can be sold as beer in Germany even if it doesn’t comply with the Reinheitsgebot (purity law). Apparently, however, the provision for special beers applies to herbs rather than sugar.
Schwarzer Abt is based on a traditional recipe and sweetened with sugar syrup.
The court said that the Reinheitsgebot does not protect health, but tradition and quality. It was necessary to be generous with exceptions. The Schwarzer Abt beer is brewed using malt. The sugar is added only after the brewing is complete. 2 – 3% sugar syrup is added. The beer is permitted as a special beer. And if the brewery is allowed to brew it, it must also be allowed to market it.