Celebrating Beer in Bavaria

When states or counties put on exhibitions or fairs showcasing themselves, they usually focus on important historical events, natural sights, or maybe important figures. But Bavaria’s current state exhibition is about beer – of course. After all, beer was named Bavaria’s fifth element already in 1752 by Bavarian Chancellor Kreittmayr. Since beer brewing is historically closely connected with monasteries in Central Europe, it also makes sense that this exhibition is hosted in the Abbey in Aldersbach in southeast Bavaria.

The exhibition offers much – plenty of historical background on the production and cultural impact of beer, beer facts, interactive displays, curiosities connected to beer, a large beer tent with special exhibition beers and live bands, a tour through a modern brewery, and the art of the historical abbey buildings. We spent a whole afternoon at the exhibit and would have stayed longer had it not closed at six (the beer tent often stays open longer, but was closed early on the day we visited to prepare for a special event).

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Typical Interior of a Bavarian Pub (Photo from Pixbay – artist Stux)

Like many others, I have always connected Bavaria with beer, but many historical details highlighted by the exhibit were new to me while others were “oldies but goodies.” Of course, displays mention the Reinheitsgebot (“purity order”) from 1516 that limits ingredients used in beer brewing to water, barley, and hops, but I did not know that until the 16th century wine was more popular in Bavaria than beer. Beer started to become a more popular choice because less wine was produced following cold summers and the destruction of vineyards during wars. In 1784, Bavaria wall already called the “beer country” in travel notes.

Wall of Beer Steins

Wall of Beer Steins

 

Currently, about a half of all German breweries are located in Bavaria, where in 1900 the average annual consumption of beer per person was 250 liters or 66 US gallons. This number has decreased to about 145 liters (38 gallons) per person per year in Bavaria, which is still higher than anywhere else in Germany. In comparison, the average number for 2012 in the US was 27.6 gallon according to USA Today. Bavaria used to be the land of the breweries with 4,777 different breweries in 1905. This number sank to 1,566 breweries in 1960 and 616 breweries in 2014.

Breweries

Number of Breweries in Bavaria over the Years

 

The exhibition includes a display of typical pub games as well as other artifacts connected with the Wirtshaus (pub), such as a beer mat from 1900. According to the displays, beer mats used to be made out of hair felt and are thus still called beer felts, “Bierfilzl;” paper beer mats were introduced in 1890.

Beer Mat

Beer Mat/Coaster Made out of Hair Felt from 1900

 

Memorable curiosities connected with beer are a display of motorized beer crates that are raced on race ways, a game of wearing “beer goggles” that create the visual impact of being over the driving limit, and a competition of carrying 27 beer-filled liter steins, which add up to 63 kilos (nearly 139 pounds) and were once carried by one waiter at the Munich Oktoberfest. Even Bavaria, the female personification of the state of Bavaria, is depicted carrying only 12 beer steins on posters and beer mats throughout the exhibition, so I decided it was not worth my wait at the display to even try carrying that many beer steins.

Motorized Beer Crate

Motorized Beer Crate

 

Carry Beersteims

How many full beer steins can you carry?

 

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Beer in the Fest Tent – The glass depicts Bavaria, the female personification of the state of Bavaria

The large beer tent with live music, Bavarian culinary specialties, and specially brewed exhibition beers as well as two additional on-site pubs encouraged us to make a day out of the exhibition and we enjoyed lunch but the tent was closed later on to prepare for a special evening event.

 

A nice break from all the information about and tastings of beer is a stroll through the monastery grounds (founded in 1136) and a visit to its pink Baroque church Maria Himmelfahrt with its bejeweled skeletons of saints, which are pretty common in the Alpine region and completely fascinated me (more about the bejeweled saints in this posting). I was in awe by the amount of precious stones, pearls, and gold covering the bones and amused by some of the body positions that are much more creative than just lying on the back and looking up the ceiling.

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Room Inside the Monastery as Part of the Exhibit

 

Bejeweled Saint

Reclining Bejeweled Saint in the Church Maria Himmelfahrt

 

If you are in the south-eastern part of Bavaria and are somewhat interested in beer, I highly recommend this exhibition that is open daily from 9AM till 6PM until 30 October 2016. Check the exhibition’s website for entrance fees, special events, and directions: http://www.landesausstellung-bier.de/

 

PS: All data is from the displays in the exhibition or from the official website.

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Themed Christmas

Themed Christmas trees seem to have become more popular, and if you can think of a theme, you can be sure that it has become the basis for Christmas decorations. Shopping for ornaments can be pretty overwhelming without a clear theme in mind. Every large Disney movie or actually any classic movie or movie franchise has its own line of Christmas ornaments, and then of course all major sports teams do as well.Recently, I was fascinated by a tree with a mermaid theme, another with a Disney theme, and another based on the Wizard of Oz (and all three trees were actually in the same home).

The ornaments based on an international theme in a store actually highlighted what stereotypes a country can be compressed to: Ireland is all about clovers, leprechauns, and beer; Italy is represented by a Vespa, Chianti, and a gondolier; England has its bulldog, red phone booth, and teapot.

 

Windmills, wooden shoes, and a Dutch boy represent Holland while a pretzel (or some boxes actually had a Bratwurst instead), beer, and lederhosen sum up Germany.

 

The symbols for Germany are really more about Bavaria than all of Germany, so I am wondering what the manufacturer/designer would choose for Austria (I did not see any Austrian ornaments in the “international collection”). Since beer and lederhosen are already taken by Germany, what would Austria have? Mozart, the Lipizzaner (white dancing horse), and a snow-topped mountain? A waltzing couple, a coffee cup, and St. Stephen Cathedral? A skier, a girl in a traditional dirndl, and a cow? What would make the cut to represent the typical Austria?

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A Lipizzaner Performing in Vienna (photo found on: http://www.srs.at/en_US/vorfuehrungen-en/ which also lists performance dates and prices)

What Is the Best Beer Country?

An Empty Glass of Hobo PIlsner from the Dust Bowl Brewing Company in Turlock, CA

An Empty Glass of Hobo Pilsner from the Dust Bowl Brewing Company in Turlock, CA: http://www.dustbowlbrewing.com

Fitting for St. Patrick’s Day, Yahoo Food posted an article about the 13 best beer countries in the world. Of course it is difficult to decide on objective criteria for such a  ranking, but the article focused on quality, innovation, and overall beer scene. A few countries surprised me – New Zealand in 12th place for example. If someone mentions beer, I would not think New Zealand; I am not even sure I have ever drunk a beer from New Zealand. Italy in 10th place was another surprise for me since I associate Italy more with red wine, but I am excited that I will work abroad in Italy for a semester next year and will have the opportunity to test whether Italian beer is worth the high ranking. The article also promises that Italy’s potential will come to fruition in the next few years, so it seems I will be there just at the right time.

Germany is in the surprising fourth place since I assumed Germany would be first or second – going head to head with Austria but that was clearly patriotic delusion mixed with a love for tradition. The article listed innovation but not tradition as a criterion and this in my opinion is the reason why Germany placed only fourth and Austria was not even mentioned (really – New Zealand over Austria?!?). The UK placed third and reasons mentioned are that the UK has the highest number of breweries in the country since WWII and the highest number of breweries per capita in the world.

Collection of Bottles after a Beer tasting Party

Collection of Bottles after a Beer tasting Party

The biggest surprise was the US in second place (but on the other hand, this is an American article, so the high ranking of the US is not that surprising after all). The article explains that new breweries are opening up at a rate of 1.5 breweries a day! But the article does not list a source for this number. In first place is Belgium, which is lauded for its combination of tradition meeting innovation.

Maybe based on what type of beer I started drinking when I was younger or maybe based on nostalgia, I still prefer Austrian, Bavarian or Czech beers, and choose a Pilsner or Lager over the popular US IPA beers so dominated by hops. And I am still a little suspicious about a ranking that has a none-European country in second place.

Here is the link to the article: Yahoo Article by Zach Mack

Green Beer for St. Patrick's Day - This is actually a Guinness Blond American Lager camouflaged in green.

Green Beer for St. Patrick’s Day – This is actually a Guinness Blond American Lager camouflaged in green.