When Local Sourcing Messes With German Beer Purity Laws (Part 1)

Here at Spend Matters, we take our beer seriously. Some of us brew. Others are reformed home brewers (bottles, sippy cups and pots of sticky beer-in-process boiling over onto the kitchen floor don’t exactly mix) who hope to revisit the hobby some day. And others just enjoy a good IPA or Pilsner alongside a curry. Yet we’re all fairly conservative when it comes to what goes into a typical brew: barley, malt, hops, hope (and potentially another ingredient or two – but no more). In this regard, the Germans must have been doing something right for the past six or seven centuries, what with their brewski purity laws and all.

But sometimes procurement dictates breaking with tradition. After all, some of the big American brands use corn to save money and create a more quaffable brew for the sweet-tooth, dumbed-down US drinking palate. Yet local sourcing in Africa and beyond is introducing new ingredients into regional brewing, new even to the global conglomerates. This story in Just-Drinks (registration might be required, but we managed to get to it through Google News for free), authored by Ben Cooper, highlights some of the substitute ingredients working their way into regional beers, noting that “several of the world's largest brewers have targets for local sourcing of raw materials in Africa … shortening supply chains provides economic and environmental benefits to the brewer, while the economic benefit to local farming communities provides a further sustainability win.”

The story cites two product launches by SABMiller and Diego that “show local sourcing strategies in action and underline how sustainability goals can be addressed in harmony with other business priorities,” including the introduction of one beer focused on “locally-sourced raw materials for lower-income consumers in Africa" based on a different grain/starch—cassava. Just Drinks also suggests that the other local grain that brewers are using in Africa as a substitute for barley and wheat is sorghum, which I actually got the chance to try in a local brew in South Africa. It’s not bad!

To be continued…

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