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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February 2005, 12:21 GMT
Ruling eases Germany's beer law
Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle beer
Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle beer: Challenging traditions
A German court has upheld a brewer's challenge to the country's centuries-old beer purity laws.

The ruling means Helmut Fritsche's Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle brewery can continue adding sugar syrup to its dark brew and still call it "beer".

The 1516 beer purity law limits beer ingredients to malted grain, hops, yeast and water. Mr Fritsche's brewery adds sugar syrup after fermentation.

The ruling ends a 10-year legal battle by the small east German brewery.

The dark beer, called "Schwarzer Abt", can be marketed as "special beer", using similar provisions as some breweries add herbs at the end of the fermentation process.

Mr Fritsche's brewery adheres to the Reinheitsgebot purity law during fermentation.

He argued that the purity law stifled the creativity of small brewers and should be eased.

The Reinheitsgebot, thought to be Germany's oldest surviving law, was drawn up by a Bavarian duke in April 1516.

German brewers claim that it is the longest-established food quality standard in the world.

But the law applies only to beers made within Germany, after a European Union court ruled that using it to keep out imported brews would be contrary to free trade rules.

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