The Commitment of the German Brewing Industry

The German brewing industry employs around 35,000 people in 1,350 breweries, both large and small, across the country. All of this activity is rooted in the Reinheitsgebot (the German purity law for beer), dating from the year 1516. German brewers' products are one of the country’s national treasures and thus in many ways positively impact German society. Practically since time immemorial, German beer culture has proven to be a source of enjoyment for many.

Although beer is a considered a healthful food and its beneficial attributes are not doubted, some individuals do exhibit misguided drinking habits. German brewers recognize that beer should always be consumed responsibly and in a manner which appropriate for a given situation. They acknowledge and play an active part in communicating the risks associated with the ingestion of alcoholic beverages. For example, under the following circumstances, no alcohol should be consumed:

  • by children or minors under the legal drinking age
  • when operating motor vehicles
  • during hazardous work
  • by pregnant or nursing mothers
  • when on medication.

The brewing industry promotes responsible drinking in its ad campaigns. This is obligatory for all breweries who are members of the German Brewers' Association.

The political stance of German brewers concerning their policies on alcohol is characterized by responsibility and a readiness for dialogue as well as by education and prevention.

German Brewers’ Memorandum on the Responsible Consumption of Beer

Since the distant past, beer has quenched thirst and been a source of enjoyment, refreshment, stimulation, revitalization, relaxation and a way to generally lighten the mood. Beer serves an important social function, and due to its prominent public role, has a special place in our culture. Nothing has changed; beer remains as popular as ever.

Formerly, beer was viewed as a staple food but is now more often considered a luxury. Beer, in essence, represents a way of life and forms an essential part of Germany's identity. People reach for a beer primarily for its flavor and its thirst-quenching effect. Beer has been shown to possess a very dynamic image, and therefore commands a unique position among beverages, because of its broad appeal.

German brewers have actively engaged in a campaign against drinking and driving since 1993.

Beer stands for enjoyment and quality of life, conviviality and communication. German brewers place great emphasis on the responsible and moderate consumption of beer, as is practiced by most people in Germany today. The vast majority of the population consumes beer in a responsible manner. Consumption in this manner is neither harmful to them nor to those around them. The beneficial attributes of beer cannot be negated simply through the misguided drinking habits of a few individuals. Though rare, such aberrant behavior is usually rooted in issues much more complex than their choice of beverage. Thus, these are issues for which the brewing industry cannot assume responsibility.

Nevertheless, the German brewing industry has a considerable interest in seeing that beer is enjoyed responsibly and appropriately. Therefore, the industry takes part in promoting safe, sensible and responsible interactions with alcoholic beverages. German brewers will continue to inform the public about responsible drinking through meaningful and effective ad campaigns. Ultimately, alcohol abuse can only be prevented through a broad awareness of the responsible enjoyment of alcoholic beverages, the permanent promotion of personal responsibility and the ability of the consumer to adequately recognize and cope with alcohol-related risks.

Against this backdrop, German brewers affiliated with the German Brewers' Association have adopted the following memorandum:

  1. Beer is a food associated with happiness and enjoyment.
  2. German brewers are unequivocally against any attempt to associate or link their products in any way with illicit substances or to place any restrictions on their freedom to market their products.
  3. German brewers acknowledge that no alcohol should be consumed in certain instances, as exemplified by the following: while operating a motor vehicle especially on public thoroughfares, while performing hazardous work, while pregnant or nursing, by children or minors or while on medication. German brewers demand and support sound education regarding these specific situations in which alcohol should not be consumed at all.
  4. German brewers are vigilant and mindful that in their marketing campaigns, representations and statements in their advertising should not promote alcohol abuse or harmful consumption of beer or cannot be misunderstood as doing so. Their advertising is also designed not to appeal to children or minors.
  5. German brewers support compliance with clear legal age limits for the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages to children and adolescents.
  6. German brewers are absolutely in agreement that at a regional, national and European level, they will actively work with policies and institutions promoting health, among others, to consolidate their efforts and support new promotional campaigns.

In the Brewers' Codex, German brewers take a concrete stance in support of conscious, responsible drinking and submit to a code of conduct, which deliberately goes above and beyond the statutory and voluntary imposed framework for the beer industry and the promotion of beer. 
Download: Brewers' Codex

In particular, the protection of children and adolescents is the focus of the Guidelines for Responsible Sponsorship, which provides orientation and advice in organizing events.
Download: Guidelines for Responsible Sponsorship


German brewers have demonstrated their responsible conduct in this regard through the production, the marketing and the sale of beer and have proven they are resolute in this task through acceptance and compliance with statutory and voluntary rules –particularly those pertaining to commercial communication.

Through membership in the Central Association of Advertising Industry (ZAW) and compliance with the voluntary codes of conduct for commercial communication pertaining to alcoholic beverages, German brewers pledge to continue to take a morally and ethically unambiguous stance on the responsible use of its products. With this in mind and in light of the current alcohol policy discussion regarding increasing alcohol abuse among young people and the appearance of events such as all-you-can drink (flat-rate) parties, the codes of conduct have been refined to a more limited scope, as deemed necessary by the industry. Ensuring compliance with these codes of conduct, the organization of appeal proceedings and assessment as well as admonition of possible transgressions are incumbent upon the German Advertising Council, which in such cases serves as a neutral governing body for German breweries.

In acknowledgement of their responsibilities, German brewers have also implemented a voluntary review of all its promotional activity prior to its release by the German Advertising Council. The largest brewing groups, who advertise at the national level on television and radio, now also allow their scheduled promotional activity to be checked for compliance with competition laws and the aforementioned codes of conduct by the German Advertising Council. In this way, they support a commitment, which the umbrella organization of brewers, The Brewers of Europe, made at the EU Commission’s Forum on Alcohol & Health.

In Dialogue

With their commitment to prevent the abuse of beer, German brewers have shown a readiness to engage in dialogue. They have extended an open invitation for others to participate in this conversation, to advance a mutual strengthening of education and prevention efforts.

German brewers have sought to prompt dialogue and greater awareness of approaches for the prevention of alcohol abuse, particularly in the field of amateur and professional sports with leading representatives of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and the German Football Association (DFB). They have also continued to solidify their relationship with these organizations.

With the umbrella campaign "BIER BEWUSST GENIESSEN" ("ENJOY BEER SENSIBLY"), the industry has visibly committed itself to the responsible production and sale of beer. Many breweries have included the logo on their bottles and other packaging. The logo also adorns posters, flyers, company brochures and websites.

With the youth protection campaign "BIER? SORRY. ERST AB 16" ("BEER? SORRY, ONLY IF YOU’RE 16"), which is part of the umbrella campaign, sales personnel are made aware of the drinking age. With posters, stickers and digital training modules, brewers support retailers in complying with the existing laws. Education and other persuasive efforts are paramount in actively addressing the lack of enforcement in youth protection. An interactive test is available on the website, which both practically and playfully teaches the viewer, while testing their knowledge on how to protect minors. A successful performance on the test is rewarded with a certificate.

With the driving safety campaign "DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE", German brewers, in conjunction with other industries, have been broadcasting a strong message against drunk driving. The campaign for absolute sobriety when behind the wheel is primarily aimed at young people who are just learning to drive. The web presence contains information in the language of teenagers. A so-called Party Patrol goes to discotheques and nightclubs, and one of their tools for showing the consequences of drinking and driving is a driving simulator. By doing so, they keep this young target group from potentially abusing alcohol. The campaign is being implemented sequentially in the individual states in Germany, and in 2010, it was Hessen's turn to host it. Incidentally, the German Brewers' Association has signed the "European Road Safety Charter" (ERSC), in which a number of participants are conducting a campaign to bring about a long-term reduction in accidents caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol. Within the framework of this campaign, it has been independently confirmed by peer project activities that over 10,000 teenagers learning to drive have already been informed by their peers about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.