Germany: AB InBev’s concealed attack on the Purity Law for beer

AB InBev plans to brew its successful Mexican Corona Extra beer brand at its Hasseröder Brewery in Wernigerode in Germany and in Samlesbury, UK, based on information from our German editorial team at inside.getraenke.

Provided that the necessary permits are granted, AB Inbev will in future brew 400,000 hl Corona Extra in Wernigerode, bypassing the German Purity Law. In contrast to the Mexican original, AB InBev will not use technical enzymes, but rather use natural enzymes from barley malt. Besides that, the beer will be produced with the tried-and-tested combination of ingredients: corn, rice, papain and ascorbic acid, among others. This is not allowed according to the more than 500 year-old German Purity Law that dictates that the ingredients for beer must be not more than water, barley malt, hops and yeast.

As a first step, AB Inbev wants to brew up to 200,000 hl at Hasseröder and transport the beer by tanker truck to its Beck's brewery in Bremen, about 250km away, where the beer will be filtered and bottled. In a second step, when the bottling in Wernigerode is ramped up, the complete production and bottling of up to 400,000 hl Corona is planned in Wernigerode.

Three years ago, AB InBev confirmed that it planned or already started production of its iconic Mexican beer brand in other countries like China, Brazil, Colombia, Belgium and in the UK. It was the first time in history, that the famous lager was produced outside its home country and critics argued that the brand will lose its soul because its brand identity is focused around Mexican heritage. (, 5.11.2019)

“We take care that [the companies will] have the same manufacturing process, the same raw materials and continue with the same legacy of the brand,” said the then CEO of AB InBev, Carlos Brito, in an interview three years ago. “And as you know, many of our global brands, international brands are made locally as Budweiser in China, Stella Artois in Brazil, Bud Light in Mexico. Therefore, it is not unknown,” he added.

The additional production of 400.000 hl is good news for Hasseröder. The brand dropped from 2.8 million hl to 1.7 million hl in 2021, and the trend is still falling. AB InBev tried in the last five years several times to sell the brand and brewery but always failed.

In 2018, a sale of the breweries Hasseröder and Diebels to a private investment group at an assumed sales price of EUR 200 million was already signed, before AB InBev realized five months later it had fallen for an imposter.(, 2.7.2018)

Three years later, after AB InBev’s new CEO Michel Doukeris took over, AB InBev explored again the sale of its German beer brands Franziskaner, Spaten and Hasseröder, this time for a said sales price of about EUR 1 billion but still without success. (, 5.1.2021)

Following the decision now made to move part of Corona Extra's production to Hasseröder, experts are expecting major investments in AB InBev's long-spurned German subsidiary, giving frustrated Wernigerode employees hope for the site's future.

However, the tricky question with the German Purity Law must first be clarified.

The German purity law for beer and for those products that may be called beer has been regulated since 2005 in the so-called Beer Ordinance. Producers of imported beer are not bound by these regulations due to German and European law; German breweries can also deviate from them if they produce bottom-fermented beer for export, or receive an exemption for "special beers."

It needs to be seen if AB InBev now applies for such an exemption or if it tries to declare the product as not being “beer”. In any case, it would go against common sense if Corona Extra produced in Germany were only allowed to be exported and, in return, Corona Extra consumed in Germany which is not brewed according the purity law had to be imported from foreign (European) countries.

In Germany, too, there are now voices that want to change the German purity law in such a way that chemical and artificial ingredients such as preservatives, stabilizers, or enzymes continue to be prohibited, but instead all malted or unmalted (but untreated) grain varieties and other natural raw materials may be used.

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