Tag Archives: wheat

It’s pronounced “Rine-hites-ge-boat”

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-Casey Klekas

In case you missed it, April 23 was German Beer Day—well, the official one, anyway. It is a day to celebrate the 497th anniversary of the German Beer Purity Law, known as the Reinheitsgebot. Besides appreciating the oldest food-quality regulation in the world, it is a day to celebrate the German character in its fantastic, meticulous, compulsive rigidity.

On April 23, 1516, the Duke of Bavaria, William IV, signed the Reinheitsgebot, or “purity order,” into effect. Among other things, the law contained a list of ingredients that could be used in the production of beer, a list three words long—barley, hops, water. Violation would be met with the swift punishment of confiscation of the accused kegs without monetary or sudsy compensation.

The idea was to discourage brewers from using grains that were needed for food, such as rye and wheat, thus making barley a brewing staple. Hops were found to prevent early spoilage of beer, acting as a sort of natural preservative. Their antibacterial effect also helped make beer a safe (and swell) alternative to questionable drinking water. This decree also partially reflected the German’s insatiable thirst for purity.

In 1871, Germany was born. Before the wars of unification, Germany was only a loose configuration of kingdoms. The Kingdom of Bavaria demanded that their ancient Reinheitsgebot be adopted by all of Germany, which meant bye-bye to Belgian style beers, fruit beers, spiced beers, and even the Hefeweizen (no wheat!). This also meant that Bavarian-style lagers and pilsners would forever define what we think of as German beers.

The reign of the Reinheitsgebot endured two world wars and the partition of Germany. Tragically, it didn’t live to see Germany’s reunification, having been declared illegitimate by the European Union as an interference with a free-market.

Thankfully, in 1993, the Provisional German Beer Law, or Biergesetz, reinstated the Reinheitsgebot with only minor changes. Wheat was now OK, as the Germans were no longer dealing with medieval fears of famine. Yeast was officially included, although it had really been there all along. Before the 1800s, no one knew those microorganisms existed, nor their vital role in the brewing process. They normally just scooped some germy sediment out of the last batch of beer or else hoped for some sort of natural fermentation. Cane sugar was also allowed in the production of ales (top-down fermentation), but still not in the treasured German lager (bottom-up).

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To this day breweries will label their beer as being in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot. This mark of quality has lasted nearly 500 years. So, next time you are in the German beer section, check the bottles for the little golden words that read something like, “Brewed under the purity law of 1516.” Tip your hat to the German people in all their meticulousness and enjoy half a millennium of beautiful tradition. Prost to the Reinheitsgebot!

Getting to Know Gluten

-Baylea O’Brien

Gluten-free items seem to be a trend nowadays. From gluten-free products to entire gluten-free restaurants, gluten-free appears to be foods’ newest and hottest label.

But, does the general population even know what “gluten” is?

I’ll admit I had no idea until my nutritionist recommended I stay away from gluten products to help ease my persistent stomach pains.

I nodded my head, thanked her for her time and assured her my new gluten-free diet would be nothing less than successful. “This will be easy,” I thought to myself.

Then I went to lunch.

So, what is gluten?

Gluten is present in cereal grains, like wheat, and gives dough its elasticity.  People with gluten sensitivities must be wary of ingredients such as barley, rye, wheat and triticale (a fancy blend of wheat and rye). Unless labeled otherwise, people with a gluten-intolerance cannot consume beer, pasta, cookies, cakes, bread or French Fries.

And looks can be deceiving. For example, protein like chicken is allowed, but fried chicken or chicken cover in any sort of batter isn’t.  Also, soy sauces, whose name includes the word “soy” (a consumable ingredient for gluten-intolerant people) is misleading because the soy sauce actually contains wheat as a primary ingredient.

So late-night trips to Dough Co. are no more and consider your days drooling over croissants, bagels and most pastries a thing of the past. This dietary restriction leads to a lot of pre-planning and meditation of daily meals.

More than just a trend

Aside from learning what a person can and can not eat, delving through gluten-free diet’s other aliases such as “wheat allergy”, “gluten intolerance, sensitivity” and “Celiac Disease” are a stomachache in itself.  And these terms often add more confusion for people just trying to comprehend what gluten is.

Let me try and put these in Laymen’s terms. Celiac Disease is a disease in the small intestine triggered by the intake of gluten; the term can be used interchangeably with the term gluten intolerance and sensitivity, but it generally does not lead to as much intestinal damage as with Celiac Disease.

How much intestinal damage occurs, the severity and pain varies from person to person. Some people can’t be exposed to even miniscule amounts of gluten, where others can eat gluten and only feel a slight amount of discomfort.

Another confusing term often associated with gluten is wheat allergy.  Generally, a person with a wheat allergy will experience an allergic reaction after eating a wheat product. Yet a person with a wheat allergy is not necessarily gluten intolerant and someone who is gluten intolerant does not necessarily have a allergy to wheat.

Despite the confusing jargon, gluten-free diets are more than just the latest food trend; it is a lifestyle change many are undertaking to improve their health and wellbeing. And unlike many of Hollywood’s diets and crazes, for many people, this one is not optional.