Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Year of the Beer Garden

In 2012 Germany celebrates the 300th birthday of Frederick the Great. It started already on January 2, with a commemorative stamp of 55 cents, the domestic postage for letters, i.e., the most common value. Many books were already written about the Prussian king in 2011 so that they were ready for last year's Christmas Season.


What Schiller once wrote about Wallenstein: Von der Parteien Gunst und Hass verwirrt, schwankt sein Charakterbild in der Geschichte (His character sketch alternates, is perturbed by favor and hatred of opposing camps) he could have written about Frederick. Some consider the man, inventor the pre-emptive war, as one of the greatest war mongers in history chasing his infantrymen into enemy fire shouting: You dogs, do you want to live forever? For others he is the enlightened monarch who made Prussia one of the Great Powers in his time, practiced religious tolerance, became in later years as Alter Fritz the first servant of his crippled people, assured his country’s provisions in introducing the potato as staple food. When Schiller was once asked to write a hymn of praise about Frederick he said: I cannot grow fond of this guy (Ich kann diesen Charakter nicht liebgewinnen) and neither can I.

Let us rather switch to the Year of the Beer Garden. Exactly 200 years ago on January 4, 1812, King Max I of Bavaria (Where else?) decreed that breweries are allowed to serve their beer on top of their beer cellars. How come?

In those times cooling equipment did not exist. So during the winter brewers cut out thick ice plates from the frozen Upper Bavarian lakes transported them to Munich, and stored them in deeply dug cellars near their breweries together with the beer. To avoid the sun heating up the top of those caves the brewers planted chestnut trees on top providing some shade. During the summer season people came to the caves and bought their cold beer in pitchers. However some of them could not wait to drink the brew at home but rather settled underneath the chestnut trees emptying the pitcher together with some food they had brought from home. This habit did not please the nearby inn keepers. Starting in 1791 a long legal and sometimes physical battle (Willst raufi?) between them and the breweries resulted. It was not until 1812 that King Max gave those breweries the right to sell their beer in their chestnut shadowed gardens provided guests are allowed to bring their own food.

Empty steins made from glass in the beer garden of the Münchener Hofbräu brewery after 11 p. m. (drink up time).
Note the two soft drink bottles being tolerated in Bavaria.
(Photo dpa)
Whether the latter rule is valid in Baden-Württemberg too I shall test during the coming summer holidays at Toni’s beautiful chestnut garden* taking along my home-made Brotzeit.
*also on Facebook

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