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The Dangers of Fracking With the German Beer Industry

Cue the tenuous puns; fracking has hit the headlines again. This time it isn’t for fear of earthquakes or disturbance to wildlife, but the purity of water that is then used to produce… beer.

7th June 2013    |     Kate Roche: Rolton Group

Germany, like many countries, has been investigating the potential of hydraulic fracking as a way to provide a secure source of fuel through which they might counter the rising cost of fossil fuels whilst moving to a lower carbon economy. The process has been banned in France because of perceived risks to water supplies, and suspicions about contamination have been well documented globally as governments struggle against public consensus that fracking is a dangerous game to play. The UK meanwhile has granted a number of controlled licences to companies exploring shale gas onshore, having carried out offshore fracking for decades. Groups such as Frack Off! have made their opposition known through a series of sit-ins and protests, but development is slowly inching forward.

The German brewers association, Die Deutschen Brauer-Bund, has opposed planned legislation for rolling out the controversial method in their homeland, stating that it doesn’t go far enough to ensure that their wells don’t become contaminated as a result of disturbance to surrounding areas. Should contamination occur, the country’s vast beer industry is very wary of the effects it could have on the quality of their world-famous produce.

The brewers are not happy. They have called on the centuries old ‘Reinheitsgebot' to halt any further steps towards fracking before further research has been carried out. This 1516 beer purity law states that German beer may only be made from barley, hops, and water, and although it doesn’t explicitly state that the water should be of any particular quality, there is a certain reverence that enshrouds a piece of 500 year old legislation among die-hard traditionalists.

Given the substantial weight of the German beer industry, which supports the world-famous Oktoberfest every year in Berlin, speculation is growing that the German Government’s decision on Tuesday to put fracking on the back burner until after the general election ‘amid concerns about the oil and gas extraction technique’ might have had something to do with the fierce reaction of one of the country’s most celebrated producers. If there’s one message being sent out loud and clear, it is this: don’t frack with the Germans when it comes to their beer.

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