For most of human history, there has been beer. The brewing arts were conceived as a way of processing excess grain, of turning it into a longer-lived, refreshing consumable. In its earliest iterations, the introduction of yeast—thus the production of alcohol—was a happy, windborne accident. Alcohol as a by-product wasn’t the original intention. The original intention was liquid bread.
The basic recipe was more or less locked in millennia ago. In Germany, it’s even enshrined in law: the Reinheitsgebot, which defines beer as a brew of water, barley, yeast, and hops. Originally enacted in 1516, this is the world’s oldest food-purity regulation.
Of course, we’ve experimented with other ingredients, often to great success. I’m an amateur brew-smith myself, and have found various herbs, spices, and aromatics to be complimentary to the finished product. I use them cautiously, though. Because the further away you move from the four basic ingredients, the further away you are from beer.
I’ve only just learned, thanks to the in-depth analysis of culinary blogger Food Babe, that some of the world’s largest breweries have moved unforgivably away from beer, away from brewing a simple, time-tested product we can enjoy without worry or fear. Mass-marketed beer, in the U.S. at least, is regulated by the Treasury Department, not the Food and Drug Administration, which requires no labeling as to ingredients or additives. And the major brewers, including Budweiser/Busch, Miller, and Coors take advantage of this fact by loading up their product with ingredients that mock beer’s history of simple purity.
We’re talking high fructose corn syrup. Artificial coloring. Genetically modified grains. Even propylene glycol and formaldehyde. For the whole shocking truth, read Food Babe’s entire article.
I enjoy premium beers, including the ones I make myself, but I’m no beer snob. I was weaned on American beer, and I’ve probably drank more Budweiser than anything else.
But no more. I can’t forgive these brewers for what they’ve done to my beer, and I won’t drink it as long as I know, or even suspect, that it’s loaded with harmful chemicals and additives. I’ve divorced myself, formally and completely, from all brewers who are known to adulterate their beer, or who refuse to divulge their ingredients.
Fortunately, Food Babe offers some alternatives. Most German brewers, she points out, still follow the Reinheitsgebot. Micro-brews also are relatively pure. And as a third alternative, we can all go back to brewing our own.
This was simultaneously one of the toughest and easiest decisions I’ve ever made. It was tough because of nostalgia. Because I know I’ll miss Bud Light, MGD, and PBR.
But it was easy because I’ve got nothing but disdain for corporations who take my patronage for granted, and feel empowered to give me a product that’s disgustingly different from the one I paid for.
So listen up, brewers. I don’t know if you’ll miss me as much as I’ll miss you, but I don’t think I’m alone here. I think there are a few others, maybe even a lot others, who want a pure product. Give us water, barley, hops, and yeast—if you need to add anything else, tell us what it is and why it’s there.
Until you do, we’ll be taking our thirsty business elsewhere.