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Kulturbrauerei, Heidelberg © Bjoern Rudek

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Brewery stories of Germany’s historic cities

Tour of Discovery: Long live hops, malt and water! 

/assetimage_3338_250w166.jpgOn the 23rd of April 1516 the German Beer Purity Law was once passed by the Bavarian state regulations. The golden barley juice has a tradition which is several thousand years old, it is drunk just about everywhere in the world and considered the national drink of the Germans.The history of beer, peppered with entertaining and interesting anecdotes, leads you across the whole of Germany.

Beer is a product of chance, it is said to have originated some 6000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Already the Germanic ancestors have made beerdrinking a tradition as finds of beer amphorae from around 800 BC show. Beer started its conquest quite slowly but became gradually more and more successful. Retracing the history of beer in Germany is extremely exciting as it leads through many interesting cities. Not only cultural highlights manifest themselves but also the great variety of regional beers.

In the Early Middle Ages, mainly monks busied themselves with the art of beer brewing as they said that “liquid does not break the fast”.  Even today, there are breweries that still produce beer according to the old recipes of the monks. The brewery “Brauerei zum Klosterhof” in Heidelberg, for example, belongs to the monastery of the “Stift Neuburg” (Neuburg Abbey) whose history goes back to the 12thcentury. To this day, 15 monks live in the monastery. In the midst of nature, even organic beer is produced as all ingredients used in the brewery are organically grown. The brewery “Brauerei zum Klosterhof” offers beer seminars with guided tour, tasting and three course menu. A special highlight may already be the arrival: the ships of the “Weiße Flotte” take you several times a day on a 30-minute trip on the Neckar River from Heidelberg to Neuburg Abbey.   

Living brewing traditions in the Hanseatic Cities

Soon merchants and traders discovered the art of brewing, too. With the development of international trade routes began the era of the great merchants, wealthy tradesmen and guilds. Naturally, the beer brewers benefited from the economic boom as well. Above all, the cities that had been united in the Hanseatic League since 1358 experienced a boost. Thus, the tradition of beer can still be discovered in a variety of ways in the Hanseatic City of Rostock. The “Hanseatische Brauerei Rostock” (Hanseatic Brewery Rostock) has existed since 1878 and is open for visitors. Near the Rostock Zoo lies the “Trotzenburg, a traditional restaurant that was opened in 1899 and reopened with the brewery in 2001. Historic charm and nostalgic decor can be found in Rostock’s inn “Zum Alten Fritz” where they brew their own beer, too. Located in the city harbor, the restaurant offers a view of the ships while regional specialties are served between copper kettles and red-brown bricks. Those who love feasting in a historic setting, will feel at home in the brewery “Hausbrauerei Rampendahl” in the Hanseatic City of Osnabrück. It is uncertain when this brewery was founded but it is a fact that Rampendahl is one of the oldest settlements of the city. The house has one of the few remaining gables from the Baroque era, dating back to the mid-18thcentury.         

Beer varieties and German purity law

/assetimage_2722_250w189.jpgHowever, in the expanding brewing industry, there were naturally some misconducts as well. Many brewers were exposed as adulterators that wanted to get rich at the expense of the topers. The Bavarian city of Augsburg already began very early to put the lid on the adulteration of beer: The municipal law of the free imperial city had stipulated since 1156 that no beer of inferior quality is allowed to be brewed. Augsburg can claim that the city provides the oldest evidence of middle-class brewing within our cultural area. As early as 1143 the city of Augsburg passed a purity law. Today, there are still four large breweries in Augsburg. The brewery “Riegele” was founded in 1386 and is considered one of the oldest in the world. In addition to the long tradition the brewery also has modern offers available such as tours of the brewhouse, beer brewing courses or a beer store that provides you with useful, decorative and funny accessories of the barleyjuice.
The problem with the adulteration of beer existed in other cities, too. This made Duke William IV of Bavaria and his brother Louis X pass a nationwide regulation on the 23rd of April, stipulating that solely barley malt, hops and water are to be used in the production of beer. /assetimage_3339_250w166.jpgWithin the guidelines of the German purity law is room for significant differences. This becomes particularly evident in the existence of “Altbier” which is preferably drunk in the Lower Rhine region. This has to dowith the mild climate of the region. There were hardly any refrigeration facilities but these are inevitable for the usual bottom-fermented brewing process. Therefore, a top-fermented brewing process was developed in which the yeast thrivesat temperatures between 15 and 22 degrees. There were once 150 Altbier-breweries in the NorthRhine-Westphalian city of Münster but there is only a single one left today: the brewery “Pinkus Müller”.

The breweries of the sovereigns

/assetimage_3340_250w189.jpgTowards the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) the soldiers in the Mainfranken region had drunk up nearly all the wine provisions. Thus, the idea arose that the men should be supplied with beer instead. In 1643, the “Fürstliches Hofbräuhaus” (royal court-brewery) was founded in Würzburg, today the oldest company in the city. More well worth seeing breweries of the nobility can be found in Brandenburg. The brewery in the “Krongut Bornstedt” (Bornstedt Crown Estate) in Potsdam has brewed the “Bornstedt Buffalo”since 1689. The historic ground can be explored on a guided tour. Directly located at the lake “Jungfernsee”, there is the “Meierei im Neuen Garten” which was originally built in 1791 by Frederick William II. Here, many beer specialties can be enjoyed in historic rooms. 

Did you know?

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