As a regular total-munich.com reader, you might be aware of the fact that Munich, the Free State of Bavaria and the whole of Germany are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Bavarian Beer Purity Law (Commandment) this year. Next to the Bavarian Beer Culture Festival and other events which have and still will be organised are some very interesting exhibitions at the numerous museums of the Bavarian capital. One of the most interesting is the exhibition “BEER IS THE WINE OF THIS LAND - JEWISH BREWERY TALES” which opened in April at the Jewish Museum in Munich. The exhibition will remain open until January 17, 2017 and, amongst many other things, sheds light of the Jewish impact on the development of Munich’s beer and breweries.
Hops, water, yeast, and malt: these are the four ingredients with which beer is traditionally brewed in Bavaria. The 500th anniversary of the “Bavarian Beer Purity Law,” which has now been added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, will be celebrated in 2016. To mark this jubilee the Jewish Museum Munich is staging the first exhibition of its kind to explore the story of beer, past and present, in Jewish tradition and culture.
In Ancient Egypt beer became a staple drink and it was there that the Israelites became acquainted with it. For them the question arose as to whether beer had to be kosher and if it could be used for ritual purposes like wine. When beer is the principal beverage rather than wine, the Talmud stipulates that “beer is the wine of this Land” and may be used.
Another section of the exhibition looks at what the “Brauerstern”—the brewers’ star—and its equivalent in the Upper Palatinate region, the “Zoigl,” have to do with the Star of David. The history of the hop trade, which in southern Germany was significantly influenced by Jewish merchants over a long period, is also clearly traced. Evidence is provided of how the decoration of beer steins, namely their painting as well as the manufacture and fitting of pewter lids, was likewise an industry primarily developed and operated by Jews in Munich.
Jewish brewers from Munich and the surrounding area form one of the focal points of the exhibition. The baronial von Hirsch family built one of the first modern, industrially operated breweries in Bavaria “on a green field” site in Planegg in 1836. During the almost 100 years of its existence it became a model for other modern brewery plants. In 1895, Josef Schülein—who came from a small rural Jewish community in Middle Franconia—established Unionsbrauerei Schülein & Cie in Munich, which swiftly expanded to become Munich’s second largest brewery.
He and his son Hermann were responsible for the merger with Löwenbräu AG in 1921. While Josef Schülein withdrew to Schlossbrauerei Kaltenberg, Löwenbräu went on to become the most important export-oriented brewery in Munich under its managing director Hermann Schülein. After the National Socialists forced him to resign, Schülein emigrated to the USA where he turned the Liebmann Brewery in New York, with its “Rheingold” brand of beer, into one of the USA’s major breweries. His innovative advertising methods, such as the annual election of “Miss Rheingold” and the involvement of stars like Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Marlene Dietrich, Ella Fitzgerald, and John Wayne in advertising campaigns, are still regarded as exemplary in branding and brand management in the USA today.
The last section of the exhibition is devoted to the beer culture in present-day Israel which, on the one hand, is markedly influenced by the German brewing tradition and German types of beer and, on the other hand, has a surprisingly young and diverse craft beer scene. For the first time craft breweries from Germany and Israel—CREW Republic from Munich and Herzl Beer Workshop from Jerusalem—will jointly be creating a “collaboration brew” to mark the exhibition which will be available at the café in the Jewish Museum Munich.
Tip: on two days from June-September respectively, you can take the tour with tastings (June 8&22, July 3&24, August 7&28, September 4&28)!