Germany: Scandal surrounding prestigious DLG Prize Award

For decades the German Agricultural Society (DLG), a German non-profit association with nearly 30,000 members from the agricultural and food industries, tests every year more than 30,000 products in the sectors beverage, coffee, tea, meat, fish, bakery, confectionery, dairy, cheese, ready meals, frozen food and edible oil. One of the biggest and most important sectors is beer.

The DLG awards prizes in gold, silver and bronze on the basis of taste tests and in relation to correct labeling, and chemical, physical and microbiological analyses. Other criteria, like quality of the raw materials or sustainability are not considered. The DLG-test is very popular amongst brewers because, in contrast to other tests like European Beer Star or World Beer Cup, there is not only one winner in each category but many more. Sometimes up to 90 percent of all tested products are awarded one of the three medals.

This year a scandal casts a dark shadow over the awarding ceremony on the occasion of the German Brewers' Day on June 5 in Berlin. One of the contestants was subsequently stripped of his medals.

As Südkurier, a local German newspaper reported, Fürstenberg Brewery, which is part-owned by Heineken through its 30 percent stake in Paulaner Group, was stripped of all medals in 2019, after allegations of fraud were made public.

According to sources close to the matter, fraud in the A and B samples was the decisive factor. Every brewery has to hand in two samples of the same beer type which are brewed and bottled at intervals of one month. When tested by DLG at the same day both beers have to taste identical. Deviations, e.g. due to aging taste or a slight change in recipe, lead to downgrading.

In order to keep the deviations as small as possible, Fürstenberg Brewery allegedly did not send in two different samples to DLG, but two samples of the same production, which were only provided with labels of different dates. Normally this fraud is difficult to detect but it seems that the brewery was denounced in this case. As a consequence, the brewery is said to have made a senior technician redundant.

However, it seems that the scandal is not only a scandal of one brewery but of the DLG Award as such. It is well known among brewers that it is common practice to send in the same beer twice, especially for beers which are brewed only rarely and at longer intervals. As long as the DLG cannot find a way to prevent this abuse, the prize will continue to lose its credibility.

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