Legal Aspects of Beer Production in Serbia
History – From Hammurabi to Heineken
Quality is always above the flow of time, which is testified by a fact that first written traces of beer manufacture are found on old Sumera clay tablets, dated to seventh millennium BC.
The significance of this fermented beverage is also indicated by the fact that beer is found no less than in the first written code in the world – the Hamurabi Code. The provisions of this ancient act state that “beer must not contain too much water and cannot be sold at an excessive price”, as well: “If it does not charge a guest with grain, but asks for money, cheats on weight or fills bad drink, it should be thrown into water “.
As Hamurabi Code has been significantly outdated regulatory instrument (and also contained too harsh business practices on innkeepers by all means), we will return nine millennia in the future, that is, in 2010 when the current Law on Beer (“the Law”) was passed in Serbia. After a while, in 2014, the minister of Agriculture and Environmental protection enacts the Rulebook on Beer Quality (“Rulebook”).
By this Law, conditions of the production and service filling of the beer is regulated, as well as quality and quality control of the materials used in the production of the beer, quality, quality control, packaging, declaration and placing the beer on the market.
The Law defines beer as a fermented beverage obtained by the technological process of barley malt, hops, water and beer yeast.
Beer production, according to the Law, is allowed to the company or entrepreneur, registered in accordance by Company Law and registered with Register of beer manufacturers at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Beer bottling, according to the Law, is allowed to the company or entrepreneur, registered in accordance by Company Law and registered with Register of beer bottling at the same Ministry.
For enrolling into Register of beer manufacturers, conditions in following are required from manufacturers:
- Work space;
- Qualified personnel;
Manufacturer is required fulfill prescribed conditions regarding objects, work space, equipment and devices (for reception and storage of materials and devices and equipment which allows that, for bottling and labeling with required equipment, for storage of the final product, for storage of materials required for production and bottling , and also for qualified personnel (one employee with high education in food technology microbiological processes, food technology of herbal products, food biotechnology, with at least 2 years of work experience on the jobs of beer production.
Act about fulfillment of prescribed parameters in above mentioned categories is enacted by minister and, after prescribed conditions are met, one can start with beer production.
Beer manufacturer is due according to the Law to have Manufacturer’s evidences book with following data:
- Amount and quality of materials used (it is important to note that hops is one of basic materials used in beer production, and it is of utmost importance to satisfy standards for hops and its derivates, as prescribed in Rulebook on hops quality and products of hops;
- Quantities of extract in malt;
- Produced quantities of the beer; and
- Quality for each of the products separately, with documentation
Beer quality is regulated by Rulebook, and also categorization, nomenclature, physical, chemical and sensory properties, structure, class and quantity of raw materials additions and other ingredients used in beer production, as well as elements of technological procedures.
All classes of beer for which standards of quality are not prescribed are produced by the Product specification. Product specification of the beer contains: evidence number, date of enacting, date of production start, date of testing of quality requirements, short introduction to technology procedures, data on raw materials used and added ingredients , data on amount of basic ingredients in relation to net amount of the product, basic requirements of the quality (physical, chemical and sensory properties), report on security requirements and quality requirements and data in according to the act regulating labeling, marking and marketing of the food.
Beer which is placed on the market shall fulfill some technical requirements, different according to the type of the beer. According to the Rulebook, types of beer are:
- Special beer;
- Strong beer;
- Light beer;
- Alcohol-free beer;
- Wheat beer;
- Beer fermented with unified microbe cultures;
- Beer with low carbohydrates content;
- Beer with secondary alcohol fermentation.
Bottling and labeling
Manufacturer is required to place beer on the market in original packaging which enables preservation of the quality and safety of the product, labeled and marked in accordance with rules on labeling, marking and marketing of the food.
Name of the beer, according to its color is supplemented with words: light, dark or black. Beer produced with special technological procedure and which contains sediment or it is foul is marked with word “foul”. Beer placed on the market as non-filtered, is marked as non-filtered. If beer has some additions or if it mixed with other products, such data needs to be specified.
Regulation of the beer production is deficient, nevertheless the framework of the law has been set enough wide, because of omission of the acting Ministry to enact closer regulations and define closer conditions for objects, work space, equipment and device used in beer production. What can affect domestic beer manufacturers in years to come, especially small ones, so-called “craft breweries” is a start of application of the HACCP standards, which is not currently applied in our country, but it is only a matter of time when is Republic of Serbia about to adopt these standards and to commit manufacturers to to comply with it. Until then they are left in a vacuum between general and extensive legal regulations and benevolence of agricultural inspection.