Weihenstephan Abbey, the oldest brewery in the world

After a good night’s sleep in Freising, Germany (on my way to Tbilisi) fueled with two double espressos, I took off to see the oldest brewery in the world, Weihenstephan.  This brewery has been in continuous operation since 1040.  People have been brewing beer a lot longer than a thousand years and there is evidence of brewing at this site since the mid-700s, however the monks in this monastery kept records of their beer going back to 1040.  In 1802 the Bavarian Kingdom nationalized the monastery (before Marx had the idea) and it is now part of Bayerische Stattsbraueri.

I opted to take a cab to the brewery and walk back figuring that since Monks were Christians, and Christians like to put churches in high places, the cab up and walk down would make sense.  I was right, Weihenstephan is located on a hill overlooking Freisling.  (Moslems love to put mosques right in the middle of things, in the market square.  Some Christians do too, but others like to make you work for salvation or, in this case, for beer.)

The complex houses a beer making school as well as the brewery and looks kind of like an industrial monastery with old frescoes of old brewers looking over stainless steel tanks.  Unfortunately the tours of the modern brewery don’t operate on Saturday although I was free to wander over much of the “Beer Campus.”  I ended up in the beer hall for a tasting.  Anyone who knows me knows I do not like beer, but I had to try it.  So I had a wheat beer, a brown beer and what they called Hell Beer (their marque production) which is a larger.  Each came in a small .11 liter glass.   I liked the wheat beer best, although I liked the beer sausages better with three different kinds of mustard (sweet, spicy and apple; the apple was best).

I was at a central table with convivial German beer drinkers, not just tasters like me but with big glasses.  Each different beer had its own shaped glass.  My little glasses were junior replicas of the real thing.  I was wearing a t shirt and one couple asked me if I was cold.  I said no and pulled out my iPhone and showed them the picture I took at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks temperature sign last week, It read -35.  (I didn’t tell them it was warmer in Sitka than in Freising at this point.)  We had a nice conversation, a good lunch, and to make things perfect, the bread basket was full of big pretzels.

I walked back through the old town and its Saturday market on the main square with the green market packing up after its morning run.  Also green was the display in one travel agency window promoting travel to Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day.  Last time I was here I got to know downtown pretty well because Lufthansa had lost my bag and I needed to buy clothes.  This time I could just wander and enjoy.

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