On April 23, 1516 Bavarian duke William IV. enacted a regulation titled „Wie das Pier Summer vie Winter auf dem Land sol geschenkt und prauen werden" („How beer shall be dispensed and brewed in summer as well as in winter in our country") – the original version of what late became known as "Reinheitsgebot" (purity law). Contrary to popular belief this act did not call water, malt and hops the only legal ingredients in beer – it rather says: "We want particularly that in the future in all our towns, marketplaces and in the whole countryside no other matter shall be used and applied in any beer than only barley, hops and water" („Wir wollen auch sonderlichhen dass füran allenthalben in unsern stetten märckthen un auf dem lannde zu kainem pier merer stüchh dan allain gersten, hopfen un wasser genommen un gepraucht solle werdn") – the rule said explicitly that the subjects of Bavarian rule might use barley in brewing but not wheat or other cereals for the already popular hefeweizen. By this rule wheat beers became a privileged beer that could for centuries only be brewed by the high aristocracy in their own breweries (Hofbraeuhaus).
April 23 has been celebrated Beer Day for several years and "Kampagne fuer Gutes Bier" aka KGB, a beer consumer lobbying group, has introduced „World Beer Day" to Austria in 2005 - it will be celebrated at 1516 Brewing Company in downtown Vienna.
It is no coincidence that 1516 Brewing Company carries the year of the Reinheitsgebot in their company name. They are ranking high amongst Europe’s most innovative brewpubs.
April 23 is also celebrated as Shakespeare Day as the famous author died on April 23, 1616, on his 52nd birthday – exactly a hundred years after the Reinheitsgebot was put to force in Bavaria. He himself had nothing to do with Bavaria – but his father John performed the duties of an official ale-taster in his home town Stratford and William Shakespeare wrote some often quoted lines about beer:
"For a quart of ale is a dish for a king."
(Winter’s Tale, act IV, scene 3)
"Am I a lord? and have I such a lady?
Or do I dream? or have I dream'd till now?
I do not sleep: I see, I hear, I speak;
I smell sweet savours and I feel soft things:
Upon my life, I am a lord indeed
And not a tinker nor Christophero Sly.
Well, bring our lady hither to our sight;
And once again, a pot o' the smallest ale."
(The Taming of the Shrewd, induction, scene 2)
"LAUNCE Why, I tell thee, I care not though he burn himself in love. If thou wilt go with me to the alehouse so; if not, thou art a Hebrew, a Jew, and not worth the name of a Christian.
LAUNCE Because thou hast not so much charity in thee as to go to the ale with a Christian. Wilt thou go?
SPEED At thy service."
(The Two Gentlemen of Verona, act II, scene 5)
"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"
(Twelfth Night, act II, scene 3)
"Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety."
(The Life of King Henry the Fifth, act III, scene 2)
"And here’s a pot of good double beer, neighbour: drink, and fear not your man."
(The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth, act II, secne 3)
And we find this warning in Twelfth Night (act I, scene 5):
"OLIVIA What's a drunken man like, fool?
CLOWN Like a drowned man, a fool, and a madman: one draught above heat makes him a fool, the second mads him, and a third drowns him."