The Renaissance 1350 – 1600

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. Though availability of paper and the invention of metal movable type sped the dissemination of ideas from the later 15th century, the changes of the Renaissance were not uniformly experienced across Europe. As a cultural movement, it encompassed innovative flowering of Latin and vernacular literatures, beginning with the 14th-century resurgence of learning based on classical sources, which contemporaries credited to Petrarch, the development of linear perspective and other techniques of rendering a more natural reality in painting, and gradual but widespread educational reform.
The Renaissance



Burdensome Ordinance Regulating Beer

Erfurt in ThuringiaIn 1351 Erfurt in Thuringia, Germany passes a burdensome ordinance regulating beer; “A calibrated tankard must always be filled to the mark. The beer in it shall cost 4-1/2 pfennigs and 8 groschen. No burgher or councilor may brew more than two beers per year, nor may he make half a brew, nor may he mill less or more than three boxes of malt to brew with. Only on Wednesday evening, and not before the beer bell is rung, may he start a fire under the tun and start brewing. But nobody may brew who does not possess containers, tuns, kilns and casks. The beer must be an entire brew. The amount to be brewed must be announced on Walpurgis Day (Feb. 25), and the precise amount announced must then be brewed. Nobody may brew with straw and twigs for fire. Anybody who breaks an innkeeper’s beer mug or runs away without paying, will pay a 10- groschen penalty or must leave town. Anybody who buys hops may not touch the measuring jar until the vendor has filled it and has removed his hand from it. In the countryside, nobody may sell beer from another region nor may he brew without the knowledge of the town. Any burgher caught brewing in the countryside will no longer be considered a burgher of the town.”

IMAGE: Decorative incunable double-leaf in folio showing Erfurt in Thuringen by Hartmann Schedel. From the Latin edition of the famous Liber chronicarum or Nuremberg Chronicle published in 1493

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Stella Artois Beginnings

Stella Artois Logo

The origins of the Stella Artois brewing company can be traced back to 1366 from dated tax papers in the town of Louvain (Leuven), in the capital of Belgium’s Flemish Brabant province. The original brewpub was known as “Den Hoorn” (Dutch for “The Horn”).  After Sebastian Artois had been admitted to the Leuven Brewer’s Guild  as Brew Master in 1708, and only nine years later purchased the Den Hoorn brewery in 1717, changing the name to Brouwerij Artois. Later, it was taken over by his son Adriaan and grandson Leonard.

The history of Stella Artois can be seen in the logo on every bottle of Stella Artois. The Anno 1366 on the logo refers to the origin of brewing in the city of Leuven. The original local Den Hoorn brewpub is represented by the horn. The name Artois was drawn from the owner, Sebastien Artois. Stella was added in 1926, when the traditional beer brewed in celebration of Christmas was christened as “Stella” – the Latin word for “star”. The frame that surrounds the name Stella Artois on the label refers to the traditional style of window frame found in Flemish architecture.

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Einbeck's Bock Beer

city of Einbeck

The region of Lower Saxony and the town of Einbeck in particular dominated the European beer market during the fourteenth century, when the Hanseatic League helped distribute Einbeck’s bock beer throughout Northern Europe. The Einbecker Brewery is the only remaining brewery from that tradition,  and was already in  operation in 1378: the first city record in Einbeck that mentions beer dates from 28 April 1378, and refers to the sale of two casks of beer (“Einbecker”) to the town of Celle, some 80 miles away. The brewery claims the tradition with a legend above the door, Ohne Einbeck gäb’s kein Bockbier (“Without Einbeck there would be no bock”). Brewing rights in Einbeck were owned by the city, and brewing operations were consolidated in 1794 in a publicly owned city brewery, from then on the sole brewery in the city.

IMAGE: City of Einbeck, ca.1616


Munich Beer Laws

Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria, portrait by Barthel BehamIn the second half of the 15th century and the early 16th century, regulations concerning beer pricing and production began to appear in a number of regions. Concrete specifications regarding raw materials were stipulated for the city of Munich on November 30th 1487 by Duke Albrecht IV (“the Wise”). He decreed that the only ingredients allowed in beer production were water, malt and hops. However, the duke’s pronouncement only applied to Munich.

IMAGE: Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria, portrait by Barthel Beham

People, Temperance Society

Germany's First Brewing Guild

Bremen was the home of Germany’s first brewing guild. The city of Bremen has a long tradition of beer brewing, and can trace its history back to the 11th century. As early as the 13th century, beer from the city’s more than 300 breweries was exported to Scandinavia, England, and Holland. In 1489 the city’s breweries formed Germany’s first brewing guild the Bremen Brewers’ Society (Brauerei Beck) to regulate the production and export of the beverage. These original breweries today comprise the corporate entity of Beck & Co.

As foreign markets clamored for Bremen’s beers in subsequent centuries, competition increased, and only the brewers whose products consistently withstood long sea journeys survived. By 1870 only 30 of the original 350 members of the Bremen Brewers’ Society remained, including the Beck Brewery, which had altered the chemical formulation of its beer to produce a heavy barley ale that survived the rigors of the trade routes.

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Brewery, Cultural

Biersatzordnung Law

George, Duke of Bavaria (1455-1503) by Paul Gertner

The immediate forerunner of the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 was written into law in Landshut in 1493 in the Duchy of Lower Bavaria, which was under the rule of Duke George (the Rich) at the time. He passed the so-called Biersatzordnung, a law that limited the production of beer to the raw materials of malt, hops and water. All of these official pronouncements clearly demonstrate the essential role that beer played in the culture at that time and continues to occupy today, and likewise since medieval times, it has been deemed as worthy of official protection.

IMAGE: Portrait of George, Duke of Bavaria (1455-1503) by Paul Gertner circa 1531-1537, based on an older model.

Temperance Society

Beer Purity Law — Reinheitsgebot


On April 23rd 1516, in the city of Ingolstadt, the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm IV, along with his brother Duke Ludwig X, issued a decree, now referred to as the Reinheitsgetbot or purity law, which pertained to certain details of beer production. Originally, three objectives concerning health and safety constituted the core of the document:

First, safeguards for the citizenry against exorbitant beer prices were written into the law. Second, utilizing wheat as a brewing grain was prohibited, because it served as a vital source of nutrition for the general populace in the form of bread. Third, ingredients, which may impart rich flavors or even intoxicating or hallucinogenic effects were banned, because they were viewed as inferior to hops and malt and were often, in fact, toxic.

Prior to the purity law some very dubious ingredients were regularly mixed into beer, such as henbane, thorn-apple, wood shavings, roots, soot or even deadly nightshade. It didn’t really matter, as long as the appearance, flavor and the intoxicating effects were convincing enough. The Reinheitsgetbot stipulated that beer contain the exclusive use of barley malt, water and hops, with the omission of other herbs and inorganic ingredients (with the exceptional of low quantities of salt, juniper berries and caraway, as specified later in 1553 and 1616). In 1857 after Louis Pasteur’s discovery yeast was added.

As the Bavarian rulers extended their sphere of influence, the Reinheitsgetbot of 1516 took on a greater significance for brewing in other regions. Convinced by the quality of Bavarian beers, which were brewed according to the purity law, other provinces (Baden 1896, Württemberg 1900) later stipulated that their brewers comply with the Reinheitsgetbot. The purity law became mandatory for the Norddeutsche Biersteuergemeinschaft (Northern German Society for Payers of Tax on Beer) by the Imperial Act of June 7th 1906 and therefore for all of Germany. It has been valid across the land ever since.

IMAGE: Page from the Bavarian State order of 1516 with various regulations on beer (“Purity Law” in the seventh line below) Information based from and image courtesy

benjamin rush
Ingredient, Law, Person

Victualler’s Licenses Law

At this time producing ale and beer and selling it had become separate activities in Britain, much like on the continent. Thus, in 1522 the licensing of alehouses was made mandatory by law. A person wanting to sell alcoholic drinks had to apply for a license from the Quarter or Petty Sessions and it is from these records in courts that the majority of today’s publican records originate. These licenses were an important revenue for the state and a century later the desperate need for money by successive governments resulted in the first excise ever on Ale, Beer, Cider and Perry in Britain early in 1643.

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Beer Recipe Book

Fünff books of divine and noble gift of Philosophy, hochthewren and wonderful art of beer brewing

Heinrich Knaust writes the first extensive book on brewing in Germany, “Fünff Bücher Von der Göttlichen und Edlen Gabe der Philosophischen, hochthewren und wunderbaren Kunst, Bier zu brawen” (Fünff books of divine and noble gift of Philosophy, hochthewren and wonderful art of beer brewing) which describes in detail about 150 different beers. He lists the “noble Hamburg beer, as the queen of all other wheat beers.”

IMAGE: Images from Fünff Bücher Von der Göttlichen und Edlen Gabe der Philosophischen, hochthewren und wunderbaren Kunst, Bier zu brawen

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Brewing Process, Ingredient, Person, Publication

Lost Colony of Roanoke

Contemporary portrait of Sir Richard Grenville
Sir Richard Grenville (Sir Walter Raleigh’s cousin) led the second expedition to America in 1585. Leaving England, this expedition would eventually settle on Roanoke Island located in what was then called Virginia— present-day North Carolina—named in honor of England’s ruling monarch and “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth I.

In 1587 John White (1540-93) (half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh) led another party of 116 English settlers to the Roanoke Colony. Upon arrival he found only a single body. The colonists made the best of things for a while. They repaired the houses that had been built on the previous trip and tried to learn how to use the foods that grew all around them. According to the record books, colonists in Roanoke brewed the first batch of non-native beer in 1587, an ale brewed with corn. Governor White returned to England later that year for supplies. Due to impending war with Spain, White was unable to return to Roanoke Island until 1590. When he arrived, the colony had vanished. The fate of those first colonists remains a mystery to this day and is one of America’s most intriguing unsolved mysteries.

IMAGE: Contemporary portrait of Sir Richard Grenville, inscribed: An(no) D(omi)ni 1571 aetatis suae 29 (In the year of Our Lord 1571, of his age 29). National Portrait Gallery, London

nathan dane
Cultural, Event, Myths, Person, U.S. History
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