11 September 2015

A victory for the Puritans

Is saying something “agrees with you” actually the same as saying “it will do you lots of good”? That’s what a German law court thinks and in its verdict on 25 August 2015 prohibited a small brewery from using the word “bekömmlich” (“agreeable” and derived from the toast “wohl bekomm’s”) on its beer bottles.

Funnily, the Härle brewery from Leutkirch near the German Alps, has been praising its beers for nearly 80 years as “bekömmlich”. Every German knows what it means: it’s agreeable and does not upset your tummy.

However, the brewery’s traditional moniker does not take into account EU law. In 2012 the European Court of Justice forbade the use of “bekömmlich” in connection with alcoholic beverages because the term, in the judges’ view, implies that the beverage has health benefits – which cannot be the case if the beverage has more than 1.2 percent ABV.

Gottfried Härle, the brewery’s owner, probably could have gone on using the moniker had not a Berlin club called “Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb” (“Association for Social Competition) succeeded in getting an injunction which declares the brewery’s use of “bekömmlich” taboo.

Mr Härle said he will file an appeal. And according to local media, he will engage pupils to paint over the word “bekömmlich” on tens of thousands of beer bottles. Would it not have been more “bekömmlich” if the unspeakable EU law were blackened?

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