The Beer Purity Law is the oldest currently applicable food regulation in the world. It is also the outcome of a legal development reaching back several centuries in Germany, whereby the relevant legal authorities and bodies strove with their various decrees to improve the quality of beer, a staple item in the popular diet. Similar regulations are also to be found outside Germany and in the mists of early pre-Christian antiquity.
The first documented references on German soil date from the reign of Barbarossa. In 1156 the Emperor gave the City of Augsburg a new statute, the famous "Justitia Civitatis Augustensis", which is the oldest German town charter. And it gets down to the business of beer: "A publican who serves bad beer or gives short measure shall suffer punishment ..." The punishment, incidentally, was quite considerable, in the amount of 5 Gulden. The licence was withdrawn on a third offence.
A further regulation is known from the City of Nuremberg. In 1393 the local City Council decided to use only malted barley for the brewing of beer. Some 30 years later, in 1420, Munich Town Hall decided to store or "lager" the brew before sale.
In 1447 the good people of Regensburg engaged their Municipal Physician to inspect the locally brewed beer and to take particular interest as regards the ingredients used in the brewing of beer. His alarming reports led to a Brewing Regulation in 1453.