The Oxford Companion to Beer definition of
a now antiquated German federal beer tax category, which was originally invented by revenue bureaucrats. The first Germany-wide beer tax law dates from 1906, and soon the Kaiser’s imperial tax authorities made a distinction between vollbier and other classes of beer for tax purposes. These found their modern codifications, forming the basis of the law that lasted until the 1990s, in the beer tax laws promulgated by Nazi Germany in 1939. The category was abolished by legislation effective January 1, 1993. Literally, the term “vollbier” meant “full beer” or “entire beer” and it referred to all beers with an original wort gravity, in the brewhouse, at the end of the kettle boil—measured in degrees Plato—of 11°P to 14°P. See original gravity and plato gravity scale. Strangely, this overarching category covered about 99% of all beers made in Germany at the time, whereas the remaining 1% of brews were covered by three additional categories: einfachbier (literally “simple beer”) of an original gravity of 2°P to 5.5°P and 0.1% market share, in the early 1990s; schankbier (literally “tap beer”) of an original gravity of 7°P to 8°P and 0.2% market share; and starkbier (literally “strong beer”) of an original gravity of more than 16°P and 0.7% market share. Note that there are gaps in this tax classification, which meant that, prior to 1993, German brewers could not legally make beers based on wort gravities of 5.6°P to 6.9°P, 8.1°P to 10.9°P, or 14.1°P to 15.9°P! As part of the progressive harmonization of all laws within the European Union, this odd German beer tax scheme was replaced in 1993 by a new, continuous system in which every degree Plato of original gravity constitutes a separate tax category. As of early 2011, therefore, brewers pay slightly less than 0.8 Euro per degree Plato per hectoliter. This rate applies to breweries with an annual volume of 200,000 hl or more. This tax rate is graduated downward for smaller breweries. The lowest tax rate of a little more than one-half of the regular tax applies to breweries with 5,000 hl or less annual volume. The term “vollbier” is now simply used to mean “regular beer,” distinguishing it from beers that are particularly light or strong in alcohol.
Harms, Diedrich. Durchschnittswerte bei Bieranalysen. Brauerei-Forum 7 (2009): 15.