German Beer Brewers: Nein Fracking

Wait a minute. Fracking puts beer at risk? Game-changer.

Of course, the Germans have always had more respect for beer than we Budweiser- and Miller-swilling Yanks (even if we have come a long way in the past couple of decades). So perhaps it’s no surprise that the Deutscher Brauer-Bund, the big association of beer brewers in Germany, has warned the government not to go along with a push by energy companies to allow hydraulic fracturing in some areas of the country.

Fracking is the practice in which pressurized fluids are used to crack up rock and release gas and petroleum. In the United States, fracking, along with horizontal drilling, has contributed to a boom in gas and oil production – and, along the way, raised a lot of unanswered questions about the possible nasty environmental impacts.  In Germany, where renewable energy has become nearly as big a part of life as beer, it’s not allowed. Yet.

“The water has to be pure and more than half Germany’s brewers have their own wells which are situated outside areas that could be protected under the government’s current planned legislation on fracking,” a Brauer-Bund spokesman said, according to Reuters. “You cannot be sure that the water won’t be polluted by chemicals so we have urged the government to carry out more research before it goes ahead with a fracking law.”

Since 1516, German allegiance to the purity of its sudsy beverages has been enshrined in the Reinheitsgebot, which in its original form specified that only water, barley and hops could be used in the brewing process. There have been changes to the law over the years, but methane, so far, is not among the permitted ingredients.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.