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Hindenbeer To Be Auctioned

My son Porter, being a somewhat typical 8-year old, loves all things that have to do with destruction. But unlike most kids his age, he has a fascination with historical disasters, especially the Titanic and the Hindenburg. He has at least two dozen books about the Titanic and other sea disasters and three about Zeppelins and the Hindenburg, along with several more general aviation books that include airships. So it was with great joy that I told him today that a bottle of beer that was salvaged from the Hindenburg disaster was going to be auctioned this Saturday.

Apparently, on the morning of May 6, 1937, firefighter Leroy Smith fortuitously came upon six bottles of Lowenbrau beer and a silver-plated pitcher. Thinking quickly, he buried them, returning later to dig up his booty. He gave five of the bottles to colleagues and kept one, along with the pitcher, for himself. Most of the rest have been lost, though one ended up in the Spaten museum in Munich (and I saw that one a few years ago when I visited Spaten). In 1966, Smith’s niece inherited the two Hindenburg souvenirs, and will now be auctioned by Henry Aldridge and Son of London. Coincidentally, they also specialize in items from the Titanic.

According to the BBC, the burnt Lowenbrau bottle is expected to fetch around £5,000 (or $8,337). The auction catalog for the bottle has the following information:

Hindenburg memorabilia: An extremely rare bottle of Lowenbrau Beer recovered from the wreck site of the Z129 Hindenburg, May 6th 1937 when it crashed at Lakehurst Naval Air Station. It was recovered by local Fire Chief Leroy Smith of the Matawan Fire Department New Jersey, along with 5 others which he handed out to each of his colleagues. The whereabouts of all of these bottles with the exception of one is unknown. He presented one to the Lowenbrau brewery in 1977 where it remains to the present day. The example being offered for auction is sealed, with some of its original label and shows evidence of heat damage. This lot is sold with a provenance package which include correspondence from the Lowenbrau brewery regarding the bottle of beer donated to their Museum, press cuttings and signed copy of a letter of provenance and an account of how Fire Chief Smith came to acquire the bottle.

All of the accounts of this story, such as by the BBC, the New York Post and ABC News each claim this will be the highest price paid for a bottle of beer, but in August of 2007, a bottle Allsopp’s Arctic Ale that sold on eBay for $503,300.

Here’s a better view of the Lowenbrau bottle.

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