Beer Birthday: Don Feinberg

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Today is Don Feinberg’s 62nd birthday, along with his wife Wendy Littlefield, ran the Belgian export company Vanberg & DeWulf. Their portfolio included such great beer lines as Dupont, Castelain and Dubuisson (Bush). They were also the original founders of Brewery Ommegang. Several years ago they celebrated their 30th anniversary of being involved in the beer industry and bringing great beer to America. Plus, they’re great fun to hang out and drink with. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago they sold Vanberg & DeWulf, and are taking some time off, before deciding on their next project. Hopefully, we’ll learn something soon. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

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Don, along with the Dubuisson brewmaster, being poured Lambrucha in Chicago in 2010.

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Wendy and Don at a dinner in Belgium last year.

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Wendy Littlefield, Don and Greg Engert at a Vanberg & DeWulf tasting in Washington, D.C. (photo by Chuck Cook)

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Wendy and Don in 1979.

Historic Beer Birthday: St. Arnulf of Metz

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While records going back this far in time are notoriously unreliable, some sources put the birthday of St. Arnulf of Metz at August 13, 583 C.E., such as Find-a-Grave, among others. He’s also known as Anou, Arnould, Arnold of Metz, and his feast day is July 18. Although even the year is not settled, and some sources give it as 580 or 582 C.E., so the actual likelihood that any of this is correct is pretty low.

“Saint Arnulf of Metz (c. 582 – 640) was a Frankish bishop of Metz and advisor to the Merovingian court of Austrasia, who retired to the Abbey of Remiremont. In French he is also known as Arnoul or Arnoulf. In English he is also known as Arnold.” Metz is located in northeastern France.

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Also, Arnulf is one of at least three patron saints of brewers with similar names, although he is the oldest, and essentially first one. That’s one of the reasons I chose his feast day, July 18, for the holiday I created in 2008, International Brewers Day.

The Saint Arnold most people are familiar with is Arnold of Soissons, and he’s from much later, almost 500 years, and is thought to have been born around 1040 C.E. Less is known about the third, St. Arnou of Oudenaarde (or Arnouldus), and he’s also a patron saint of beer and specifically Belgian brewers, because Oudenaarde is in Flanders. His story takes place in the 11th century.

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Here’s his bio from Find-a-Grave:

Saint Arnulf of Metz (c 582 — 640) was a Frankish bishop of Metz and advisor to the Merovingian court of Austrasia, who retired to the Abbey of Remiremont.

Saint Arnulf of Metz was born of an important Frankish family at an uncertain date around 582. In his younger years he was called to the Merovingian court to serve king Theudebert II (595-612) of Austrasia and as dux at the Schelde. Later he became bishop of Metz. During his life he was attracted to religious life and he retired as a monk. After his death he was canonized as a saint. In the French language he is also known as Arnoul or Arnoulf. Arnulf was married ca 596 to a woman who later sources give the name of Dode or Doda, (whose great grandmother was Saint Dode of Reims), and had children. Chlodulf of Metz was his oldest son, but more important is his second son Ansegisen, who married Saint Begga daughter of Pepin I of Landen.

Arnulf was canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. In iconography, he is portrayed with a rake in his hand.

He was the third great grandfather of Charlemagne.

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St. Arnulf in the Metz Cathedral.

The Legend of the Beer Mug

It was July 642 and very hot when the parishioners of Metz went to Remiremont to recover the remains of their former bishop. They had little to drink and the terrain was inhospitable. At the point when the exhausted procession was about to leave Champigneulles, one of the parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.” Immediately the small remnant of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims’ thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz.

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And here’s another account from Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites:

During an outbreak of the plague a monk named Arnold, who had established a monastery in Oudenburg, persuaded people to drink beer in place of water and when they did, the plague disappeared.

Arnold spent his holy life warning people about the dangers of drinking water. Beer was safe, and “from man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world,” he would say.

The small country of Belgium calls itself the ‘Beer Paradise’ with over 300 different styles of beer to choose from. Belgium boasts of centuries old tradition in the art of brewing. In the early Middle Ages monasteries were numerous in that part of Europe, being the centers of culture, pilgrimage and brewing. Belgium still has a lot of monasteries and five of these are Trappist, a strict offshoot of the Cis­tercian order, which still brews beer inside the monastery.

During one outbreak of the plague St. Arnold, who had established a monastery in Oudenburg, convinced people to drink beer instead of the water and the plague disappeared as a result. Saint Arnold (also known as St. Arnoldus), is recognized by the Catholic Church as the Patron Saint of Brewers.

St. Arnold was born to a prominent Austrian family in 580 in the Chateau of Lay-Saint-Christophe in the old French diocese of Toul, north of Nancy. He married Doda with whom he had many sons, two of whom were to become famous: Clodulphe, later called Saint Cloud, and Ansegis who married Begga, daughter of Pépin de Landen. Ansegis and Begga are the great-great-grandparents of Charlemagne, and as such, St. Arnold is the oldest known ancestor of the Carolin­gian dynasty.

St. Arnold was acclaimed bishop of Metz, France, in 612 and spent his holy life warning people about the dangers of drinking water. Beer was safe, and “from man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world,” he would say. The people revered St. Arnold. In 627, St. Arnold retired to a monastery near Remiremont, France, where he died on August 16, 640.

In 641, the citizens of Metz requested that Saint Arnold’s body be exhumed and ceremoniously carried to Metz for reburial in their Church of the Holy Apostles. During this voyage a miracle happened in the town of Champignuelles. The tired porters and followers stopped for a rest and walked into a tavern for a drink of their favorite beverage. Regretfully, there was only one mug of beer to be shared, but that mug never ran dry and all of the thirsty pilgrims were satisfied.

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A modern portrait of St. Arnulf by American artist Donna Haupt.

Beer Birthday: Hildegard Van Ostaden

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Today is the 42nd birthday of Hildegard Van Ostaden, brewmaster at Urthel, one of only a handful of female brewers working in Belgium. Inspired by a trip to Alaska’s barleywine festival, she also brewed the first American-style Imperial IPA in Belgium. Her beers are all great, and I love the illustrations on the labels that her husband Bas does. Join me in wishing Hildegard a very happy birthday.

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Hildegard with Brian Hunt of Moonlight Brewing at the Beer Chef’s Urthel dinner.

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Outside the Falling Rock, fellow GABF judges Carl Kins, from the EBCU (on left), and Hildegard (on right) along with her husband Bas (in the middle) during GABF in 2007.

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Bas van Ostaden, Bruce Paton and Hildegard after their dinner in 2007.

Visual Poetry: Let’s Have A Beer

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So this post will be chiefly for the literary, and especially poetry lovers, among you, a small subset of beer lovers who also enjoy art. Visual poetry is “a development of concrete poetry but with the characteristics of intermedia in which non-representational language and visual elements predominate. In other words, it was experimental or avant-garde poetry in which the arrangement of the text also was a part of the poem’s meaning, which was communicated both visually and through the text itself.

Two Mexican poets in the 1920s, José D. Frias and José María González de Mendoza were both expatriates living in France and became friends, later exchanging humorous letters between themselves and their literary friends. Today is Mendoza’s birthday, which is what reminded me of this.

In 1923, the pair wrote a letter from Paris to fellow poet Francisco Orozco Muñoz that included four visual poems. They were based on the work of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who a few years before wrote a book of visual poetry entitled Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War 1913-1916. They also were influenced by Japanese Haiku, which had become popular at the time in their literary circles, as opposed to Apollinaire’s more cubist or l’esprit nouveau poetry.

Three of the visual poems were written by Frias and translated visually by Mendoza. But the fourth poem was done entirely by Mendoza, and it’s the one below. All four poems contain witty references to the fact that Muñoz was living in Brussels.

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The text is in the shape of a mug of beer, sitting on a table, and reads, according to several books on visual poetry, “Let’s Have a Beer” followed by “The Sun Has Already Set in Flanders.”

Beer Birthday: Jean Moeder

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Today is the 39th birthday of Jean Moeder, founder of the Moeder Lambic bar in Brussels, Belgium. I first met Jean at his bar a few years back and have run into him since a couple of times. He’s very passionate about beer, and his place (both of them now) are amazing. Join me wishing Jean a very happy birthday.

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Jean and good friend Jean Van Roy, from Cantillon, at Brasserie de la Senne earlier this month.

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In front of Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia: Pierre Tilquin, Jean, Jean Van Roy and owner Tom Peters, in 2012.

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But this is by far my favorite, again with Jean and Jean Van Roy, this time from 2014.

[Note: all photos purloined from Facebook.]

Historic Beer Birthday: Prosper Cocquyt

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Today is the birthday of Prosper Cocquyt (June 9, 1900-October 22, 1954). He was born in Astène, Belgium, near Ghent, and is primarily famous for being an aviator.

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Prosper Cocquyt was called “the uncrowned king of the airline pilots.” Shortly after learning to fly, in his early twenties, joined Sabena World Airlines in its inception, and opened several routes for them, including to the Belgian Congo. He flew for them for over 25 years, and was even “the favorite pilot of the Belgian royal family and the personal pilot of the kings, Albert I and Leopold III.” Flying Zone has a lengthy biography of Cocquyt, and so does another website.

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He was married to Elza Timmermans, and they had two children, a boy and a girl. It’s possible she was part of the Timmermans brewing family, but I’m not sure. But there’s another reason he’s included here.

When World War I broke out, Cocquyt was only fourteen, and he had to abandon going to school and find work. He was hired by a brewery run by a friend of his father as a mechanic. He distinguished himself by his knowledge of mechanics, and so impressed his boss, at sixteen, he was named chief mechanic, and even received a degree in mechanic engineering and electrical engineering at 21, before abandoning working in brewing to begin his career as a pilot. As far as I could tell, he never looked back.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Pedro Rodenbach

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Today is the birthday of Pedro Rodenbach (June 8, 1794-January 20, 1848). He was a military officer and fought in the Battle of Waterloo. When he left the army in 1818, he married a brewer’s daughter, Regina Wauters, who was from Mechelen in Belgium. After Pedro’s father died, he and his brothers, Alexander, Ferdinand and Constantijn, bought a brewery in Roeselare. When their agreed-upon partnership ended after fifteen years, Pedro and Regina bought them out. It was originally called Brasserie et Malterie Saint-Georges, but later became known as Brouwerij Rodenbach.

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This is a translation of his Dutch Wikipedia page:

Pedro Rodenbach was the youngest brother of Alexander and Constantin Rodenbach. Like his older brothers Ferdinand Constantin and he enlisted in the French army. He joined there in February 1811 as a volunteer the Imperial Guard. He made the disastrous Russian campaign note (1812), and was second lieutenant in the 14th regiment of cuirassiers under in March 1813 Colonel About that last action came during the Battle of Leipzig (1813). Back in Belgium, he joined as a lieutenant (Belgian) carabineers, which were integrated into the Dutch army and battled in the Battle of Waterloo (1815).

Rodenbach took in 1818 resigned from the army. He married that year in Mechelen Regina Wauters, a rich brewer’s daughter. After the death of his father in 1820 he began working with his brothers Alexander and Ferdinand and his sister a company which included a distillery and a brewery.

In preparation for the Belgian revolution made by Pedro name to King William I to hand over a petition in June 1829, drawn up by his brother Alexander, the release of Louis de Potter and other political prisoners. At the outbreak of the revolution he was in the front row, he founded the “Reunion Central”, a revolutionary club including Rogier, Chazal and Ducpétiaux. He took charge of a company of volunteers, and drove at the September day gallop to Lille to the exiled Louis de Potter back to Brussels to accompany.

Pedro Rodenbach joined the new Belgian army as a colonel and was tasked to organize the 1st regiment of hunters on horseback. From August 1831 to February 1839 he was the military commander instead of Brussels.

In 1836 he bought the fortune of his wife Regina, his brothers share in the joint venture over. It was renamed Brasserie et Malterie Saint-Georges, later known as Brouwerij Rodenbach. However, he continued to live in Brussels, after his discharge from active military service in June 1839, and the effective management of the company was owned by his wife in Roeselare.

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And this is the history currently on the brewery website:

The Rodenbachs moved from Andernach am Rhein to Roeselare in West Flanders. The Rodenbach line boasted numerous military men, poets, writers, brewers and entrepreneurs, as well as pragmatic revolutionaries and politicians.

Pedro Rodenbach took part in Napoleon’s Russian campaign and was instrumental in the Belgian revolution in 1830, which led to an independent Belgium. Three Rodenbachs were members of the constitutional congress when Belgium was founded. Constantijn Rodenbach was the author of the “Brabançonne”, the Belgian national anthem.

In 1836, Pedro Rodenbach, together with his entrepreneurial wife Regina Wauters, founded the brewery. However, it is Eugène Rodenbach whom RODENBACH has to thank for its unique quality and masterful character. Not only did he study the vinification of beer, but also optimised the maturation process in oak casks, or “foeders” (maturation casks). The world-renowned cask halls with their 294 oak casks, some of which are 150 years old, are protected as part of the industrial heritage of the Flemish Community.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Louis Hennepin

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Today is the birthday of Louis Hennepin (May 12, 1626-c. 1705). Hennepin “was a Roman Catholic priest and missionary of the Franciscan Recollet order (French: Récollets) and an explorer of the interior of North America.” His names was used for a Farmhouse Saison brewed by Brewery Ommegang known as Ommegang Hennepin.

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Here’s his biography from Wikipedia:

Antoine Hennepin was born in Ath in the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Hainaut, Belgium). In 1659, Béthune, the town where he lived, was captured by the army of Louis XIV of France. Henri Joulet, who accompanied Hennepin and wrote his own journal of their travels, called Hennepin a Fleming (i.e. a native of Flanders).

At the request of Louis XIV the Récollets sent four missionaries to New France in May 1675, including Hennepin, accompanied by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. In 1678, Hennepin was ordered by his provincial superior to accompany La Salle on an expedition to explore the western part of New France. Hennepin was 39 when he departed in 1679 with La Salle from Quebec City to construct the 45-ton barque Le Griffon, sail through the Great Lakes, and explore the unknown West.

Hennepin was with La Salle at the construction of Fort Crevecouer (near present-day Peoria, Illinois) in January 1680. In February, La Salle sent Hennepin and two others as an advance party to search for the Mississippi River. The party followed the Illinois River to its junction with the Mississippi. Shortly thereafter, Hennepin was captured by a Sioux war party and carried off for a time into what is now the state of Minnesota.

In September 1680, thanks to Daniel Greysolon, Sieur Du Lhut, Hennepin and the others were given canoes and allowed to leave, eventually returning to Quebec. Hennepin returned to France and was never allowed by his order to return to North America. Local historians credit the Franciscan Récollect friar as the first European to step ashore at the site of present-day Hannibal, Missouri.

Two great waterfalls were brought to the world’s attention by Hennepin: Niagara Falls, with the most voluminous flow of any in North America, and the Saint Anthony Falls in what is now Minneapolis, the only waterfall on the Mississippi River. In 1683, he published a book about Niagara Falls called A New Discovery. The Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton created a mural, “Father Hennepin at Niagara Falls” for the New York Power Authority at Lewiston, New York.

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The Thomas Hart Benton mural “Father Hennepin at Niagara Falls”

Because of explorations with La Salle throughout the Great Lakes region, there are geographic places named for Hennepin in Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ontario Canada, but especially Minnesota, where he’s considered the unofficial godfather of the state. For example, here’s a more thorough entry on Hennepin from the Minnesota Encyclopedia:

Father Louis Hennepin, a Recollect friar, is best known as an early explorer of Minnesota. He gained fame in the seventeenth century with the publication of his dramatic stories of the exploration of the Mississippi River. Father Hennepin spent only a few months in Minnesota, but his influence is undeniable. While his widely read travel accounts were more fiction than fact, they allowed Hennepin to leave a lasting mark on the state.

Louis Hennepin was likely born in 1640, although some sources suggest it was as early as 1626. The son of a wealthy banker, he was baptized in the small town of Ath in what is now Belgium on April 7, 1640. Hennepin joined the Recollect Friars at a monastery in Béthune, France, and was ordained a priest in 1666. A few years later, Hennepin asked his superiors for permission to join the Recollect missionaries in North America. In 1675, he sailed to Quebec.

The Recollects were a French branch of the Franciscan order. They were active throughout France’s territory in North America. Hennepin spent his first three years as a missionary in the area of the eastern St. Lawrence River, ministering to voyageurs, colonists, and American Indian communities. In 1678, Hennepin was chosen to accompany René-Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle on his exploration of the Mississippi. In 1680, while on La Salle’s expedition, Hennepin and two other members of the party, Michel Accault and Antoine Auguelle (Picard du Gay), were sent to explore the section of the Mississippi north of the Illinois River.

The three men set out early in March 1680, progressing north while avoiding ice that remained on the river. They had just reached Lake Pepin on April 11 or 12 when they encountered a Dakota war party. The Dakota took the three men captive and transported them to a village near Lake Mille Lacs. Hennepin, Accault, and Auguelle lived in the Dakota village until late June or early July of 1680.

At midsummer, Hennepin and Auguelle received permission from the Dakota to canoe down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Wisconsin River. There they planned to collect supplies that the La Salle expedition had left for them. During this trip Hennepin and Auguelle first encountered the waterfall on the Mississippi that Hennepin named in honor of his patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua.

During his own expedition, Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, heard rumors that the three men were being held captive. On July 25, 1680, Greysolon arrived at the Dakota village to negotiate the release of Hennepin, Accault, and Auguelle. By August, the three captives had begun their journey back to French forts in the east. Hennepin left Canada in the fall of 1681 and returned to France.

Once in France, Hennepin embarked upon the literary career that would bring him both fame and criticism. His first book, A Description of Louisiana, newly discovered to the South-West of New France, was published in Paris in 1683. It detailed his travels, his experiences living with the Dakota, and his discovery of St. Anthony Falls. From the start, Hennepin’s work was a blend of myth and fact. In his travel accounts he made waterfalls much higher and wildlife far more dangerous. He depicted the American Indian populations of North America as barbarous savages. An egotistical and vain man, Hennepin portrayed himself as La Salle’s favorite and most trusted confidant.

In his following two books, published in 1697 and 1698, Hennepin exaggerated further. He claimed that he had traveled from Illinois down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and back before being captured by the Dakota. The details of his improbable canoe trip, covering some three thousand miles in only a month, were taken directly from accounts of La Salle’s own trip down the Mississippi two years after Hennepin’s time in Minnesota. While his books continued to circulate widely, his reputation was significantly damaged.

Little is known about the end of Hennepin’s life. Around 1700 he traveled to Rome to seek funding from Franciscan authorities. Some say that Hennepin died in Rome around 1701, while other sources suggest he returned to Utrecht and died in 1705. Hennepin’s memory lives on in the many parks, landmarks, schools, and streets, including one in his home city in Belgium, named in his honor.

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Painting of Father Louis Hennepin at St. Anthony Falls by Douglas Volk, c. 1905.

Perhaps most amazing, Hennepin is believed to be the first European to see the splendor of Niagara Falls, and at a minimum his journal account of seeing them in 1678 is the earliest known written reference to the famous falls.

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Father Hennepin at Niagara Falls in 1678. Drawing by C.W. Jefferys.

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Beer Birthday: Carl Kins

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Today is the 61st birthday of Carl Kins, who lives in Belgium, but judges all over the world. I’ve judged beer competitions with Carl in Japan, his native Belgium and the United States, too. Carl’s an active member of the ECBU, the European Consumers Beer Union, and Zythos. And most importantly, he has a great palate, and is a terrific person to spend time with talking about beer, or anything else. Join me in wishing Carl a very happy birthday.

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Carl with Bas and Hildegard Van Ostaden, from Urthel, at the Falling Rock during GABF in 2007.

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After judging in Tokyo, at an event at brewpub T.Y. Harbor Brewery, Carl is in the back, 2nd in from the right.

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Carl at the Lost Abbey during CBC in San Diego in 2012.

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Carl in Tokyo, having a conversation with me and Luc De Raedemaeker.

Historic Beer Birthday: Gambrinus

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Today is the traditional birthday of Gambrinus, sometimes called King Gambrinus, considered to be a patron saint of beer, brewing and/or Belgian beer. Not an “official” saint, at least not in the catholic church, but a legendary figure. Regardless, join me in drinking a toast to King Gambrinus today.

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Here’s the overview at Wikipedia:

Gambrinus is a legendary king of Flanders, and an unofficial patron saint of beer or beer brewing. Gambrinus is variously depicted as a European king, as an English knight of the Middle Ages, or (less commonly) as a plump old man. Gambrinus’ birthday is purported to be April 11.

The origin of the character is most widely believed to be John the Fearless (1371–1419), who some also believe to be the inventor of hopped malt beer. However, other sources report that one of the cup-bearers in the court of Charlemagne (742–814) was also called Gambrinus. In 1543, the German poet Burkart Waldis wrote of Gambrinus, explaining that Gambrinus learned the art of brewing from Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood and fertility.

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It is also possible that the original Gambrinus was Duke John I of Brabant (1254-1298), who was called Jan Primus.

Other possible Latin etymologies of the name include cambarus (cellarer) and ganeae birrinus (one who drinks in a tavern). Plzeňský Prazdroj, brewer of the Gambrinus lager, endorses the explanation that the name is a corruption of Jan Primus (John the First), referring to John I, Duke of Brabant. Alternatively, Gambrinus may be a corruption of the name Gambrivius. Although less likely, Gambrinus might also derive from camba, a word from the Celtic language family that refers to a brewer’s pan.

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The beer website Froth N Hops has the fullest account of the story of King Gambrinus in one place, though it’s unclear what the source material is. Hopefully, he won’t mind my re-printing it here.

King Gambrinus, known as “the patron saint of beer,” has long been a universal symbol of beer and brewing. Particularly during the late nineteenth century, the image of Gambrinus was used by countless brewers to promote their products and remind consumers of the rich heritage of beer-making. Many breweries were even adorned with life-size statues of the King.

But who was Gambrinus? It is Gambrinus who brought beer to earth, and here is the legend of how this came to pass, and how he came to be King: Gambrinus was a poor apprentice in glass-making, hailing from a little town in the Flandres called Fresne sur l’Escaut. With his wonderful pink cheeks, blonde hair and blonde beard, he was the most beautiful boy in the town and had great romantic success with the town girls.

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But Gambrinus had secretly fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of his master, Flandrine. In those times, glass makers were noble from birth, and taught their art only to their sons. Flandrine, as proud as she was pretty, wanted to marry a master glass maker like her father, grandfather, and great grandfather. Gambrinus, as an apprentice, would only prepare the glass for his master, who then skillfully puffed it into decorative sheets.

At last, Gambrinus gathered the courage to reveal his feelings to Flandrine. But Flandrine, offended that such a lowly apprentice sought her affection, refused so strongly that Gambrinus left Fresne, and vowed never to return to glass-working again so that he might forget about Flandrine forever.

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So Gambrinus wandered from town to town playing his violin and writing poetry to sing along while he played. Gambrinus, who was very clever and a quick-learner, soon gained a reputation as one of the best violinists in the region. He was constantly called on in towns far and wide to liven up weddings, birthdays, and other parties.

When the people of Fresne heard of the fame Gambrinus had achieved, they could barely believe it. They were so proud of their Gambrinus that they invited him back to Fresne and threw a town-wide celebration in his honor. Gambrinus, flattered by the thought of a celebration in his honor, accepted the towns invitation and returned to Fresne. When he arrived in Fresne and began playing his violin, the delighted townspeople began to sing and dance and cheer.

But soon after Gambrinus had started playing, he noticed Flandrine in the crowd. Overcome by nervousness, Gambrinus began to tremble. He trembled so much and played his violin so horribly that the townspeople began to kick him and shout at him.

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The townspeople all blamed Gambrinus for the commotion, since it was his poor playing that upset everyone. Gambrinus soon found himself arrested by the town officials and spent a full month in jail for the trouble he caused in the street and the noisy disturbance he had caused in the night. When Gambrinus was released from jail, he decided the only way he could ever make himself forget about Flandrine was to kill himself. He decided to hang himself, and headed out into the forest to set up a noose and platform. Gambrinus slid the noose over his neck, but just when he was about to step off the platform, he saw before him the devil himself. As is his custom, the devil proposed a deal to Gambrinus: if his power was not strong enough to make Flandrine love Gambrinus, the devil would oblige Gambrinus to forget Flandrine forever. This in exchange for Gambrinus’ soul in 30 years time. Gambrinus accepted the deal, and agreed to the devil’s terms.

As soon as Gambrinus returned to town, he noticed an intense desire to gamble on games. Indeed, the devil meant to turn Gambrinus’ love for Flandrine into a passion for betting. Gambrinus bet on everything he could, not caring whether he won or not. But win he did, and soon Gambrinus found himself the owner of a small fortune. Although gambling had nearly eclipsed any thought of Flandrine, Gambrinus suddenly had an idea. Because he was as rich as a prince, perhaps Flandrine would agree to marry him as a noble. Gambrinus approached Flandrine for the second time and expressed his feelings to her. But Flandrine’s rejection was as swift and as ruthless as the first time: Gambrinus wasn’t a noble; he was born a boy, and would remain a boy for life.

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King on a Barrel Gambrinus, returned to the forest to see the devil and ask him what went wrong; after all, Gambrinus still had not forgotten Flandrine, nor had Flandrine been made to fall in love with Gambrinus. Suddenly, before Gambrinus’ eyes appeared a large field with long lines of poles on which green plants began to grow. Soon the poles were covered by these green, perfumed plants. “These,” explained the devil, “are hops.” Just as quickly, two buildings burst forth from the ground. “The first building is a hophouse,” said the devil, “and the second one is a brewery. Come, and I will teach you how to make beer, Flandres’ wine. Beer will help you to forget Flandrine.”

Gambrinus learned how to make beer (not without tasting it every now and again) and found it delicious. Gambrinus soon felt like singing and dancing and playing his violin. But he remembered that the last time he had played violin he had been arrested, and his violin destroyed. Gambrinus asked the devil how he might seek revenge against the townspeople of Fresne who kicked him, sent him to jail, and broke his violin. The devil gave Gambrinus a new instrument that no one could resist, and taught Gambrinus how to play it. The devil explained that this instrument was called the chimes. The devil gave Gambrinus some seeds and the chimes and sent Gambrinus back to Fresne.

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Once he arrived home, Gambrinus planted the precious seeds given to him by Belzebuth, and practiced making beer and playing chimes. One morning, Gambrinus set up tables, chairs, barrels, and chimes on the main town square and invited all the townspeople to join him to sample his new drink called beer. The townspeople tasted the beer, which was a brown lager. At first the people complained: “It is too bitter,” “It is too strong.” The people soon began laughing at Gambrinus and his stupid drink. Then Gambrinus began to play the irresistible chimes. The people all began dancing and could not stop. All the dancing made the people thirsty, which encouraged them to drink more beer. After an hour or so, the tired and woozy townspeople pleaded with Gambrinus to stop playing chimes. But Gambrinus kept playing for hours and hours. Gambrinus was satisfied that he had gotten his revenge on those who had wronged him.

But after time the townspeople began to appreciate the beer. They begged Gambrinus to make more and called beer the best drink they ever had. Word of Gambrinus’ drink spread far and wide and crossed over all frontiers. People from other towns soon begged Gambrinus to bring beer to their towns. Everywhere Gambrinus went, he brewed beer and played the chimes. So impressed were the nobles of the region that the Dukes, Counts, and Lords offered Gambrinus the title “King of Flandres.” Gambrinus accepted the position of king, but said he preferred the title “King of the Beer.” From thence on, Gambrinus was known as “The Brewer King.”

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When Flandrine realized that Gambrinus would never come to her again, she came to talk to him. Gambrinus, however, more than a little inebriated, couldn’t recognize Flandrine, and just offered her something to drink; indeed, Gambrinus had forgotten about Flandrine.

Gambrinus lived happily with his subjects for many years, until finally the devil returned. “Thirty years have passed since we made our deal,” said the devil. “Now you must follow me.” But when the devil turned around, Gambrinus began playing the chimes, and the devil began to dance. The devil begged Gambrinus to stop playing, but Gambrinus continued, and the devil could not stop dancing. Finally, the devil agreed to break his deal with Gambrinus, releasing Gambrinus from his end of the deal.

King Gambrinus lived happily for another half century playing chimes and making beer. When Gambrinus finally died, his body disappeared, and in its place appeared a barrel of beer. This is why Gambrinus has no tombstone, and why no one knows of the resting place of The Brewer King.

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Another website lists some tall tales that have made Gambrinus famous:

  • He received the gift of beer directly from the Egyptian fertility goddess Isis
  • In medieval times he loaned his soul to the devil for 30 years to learn the art and process of brewing
  • He outwitted his opponent in a challenge to lift an impossibly heavy beer cask by first drinking the beer then triumphantly lifted the empty cask
  • During a three-day banquet he drank mug after mug of foamy beer and he was known forever after as the King of Beer

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Below is a Symphonion No. 25 GS: “Gambrinus,” a “spectacular original coin-operated disc musical box by ‘Symphonion Musikwerke, Leipzig,’ for 11 3/4 in. discs, 84 teeth in duplex comb (complete), with a wonderful wood-carved figure of the mythical Flemish King “Gambrinus”. 43 1/2 in. high. With 10 discs.”

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The German Beer Brewers Museum in Munich owns a portrait from 1526 of King Gambrinus, and it includes the following verse:

Im Leben ward ich Gambrinus gennant,
König zu Flandern und Brabant,
Ich hab aus Gersten Malz gemacht
Und Bierbrauen zuerst erdacht.
Drum können die Brauer mit Wahrheit sagen,
Daß sie einen König zum Meister haben.

Which translates roughly to:

In life I was known as Gambrinus,
King of Flanders and Brabant,
From barley I made malt
And was first at brewing beer.
Thus the brewers can truthfully say,
They have a king as master brewer.

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