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The best beer in the world from the 18th century

In the car park in front of the “Markus Wasmeier Museum” in Schliersee, I’m suddenly revisited by myriads of minor childhood memories: images of when I was wandering through farm museums with my family. In the pouring rain. Always in the pouring rain. Local history museums, you see, were our alternative programme to mountain hikes. And when we were on holiday in the Alps and a rain front was forecast, then you could find us in age-old farms, peering over the rope barriers into what were sometimes empty rooms. Looking at ancient soot, crumbling wall-paintings, and astonishingly low doorframes.

It’s raining, too, of course, when I walk up to the Lake Schliersee Museum Village. Once I’ve reached the top, however, I’m no longer just an onlooker peering in over the rope barrier – I’m actually involved. In baking bread, brewing beer, carving edelweiss. In the museum’s buildings, there’s always something going on: the staff bring to vibrant life the rooms enclosed by 18th-century walls, they embroider, they wash, and they’re always delighted to answer your questions. “I want the buildings to be humming with activity, history needs to be experienced, there has to be cooking, smoke, fragrances,” says the museum’s founder, Markus Wasmeier. For the former professional skier, the museum is more than a project to which he has lent his name – for him, it’s a passion, his hobby, the fulfilment of some of his lifelong dreams. Not, however, that Markus is rigidly wedded to an immutable concept of tradition and regional heritage. In the Museum Village, tradition and modernity co-exist in symbiotic harmony. A responsive website and his own YouTube channel are accorded the same importance as faithfully detailed furnishings in the buildings. “I always get pretty grumpy if I see bowls standing around made of materials that were simply not yet around in the 18th century,” he admits.

This meticulous attention to detail is manifest everywhere you look. The baker bakes his wares the way they did back then, the coals are still prepared in the 18th-century manner, and the food in the “Zum Wofen” tavern is all seasonal and regional. And a char, of course, tastes best when accompanied by some homemade herbal lemonade and beer from the village’s own brewery. “We wanted to have a brewery like they had in the 18th century, and use it to brew the world’s best beer,” is how Markus succinctly describes his aspiration. The brewery’s building is a farm from Feldkirchen-Westerham, whose history extends back into Roman times. “When you excavated under the fireplace there, you found another fireplace, and underneath it yet another one.” His researches in pursuit of suitable equipment took him to the breweries of Franconia and finally to the Zoigl region in the Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate). “It was not an easy search: we also had to taste a lot of beers – hard work, but someone has to do it,” says Markus with a wink. Finally, he found what he was looking for in the Zoigl Brewery.

There, he came across the Piccolo, a labeller from Krones AG, which was premiered on the market back in 1952. Not quite the 18th century, admittedly, but definitely fit for purpose. Following a thorough overhaul in Krones’ training workshop, the Piccolo works perfectly. Brewer Olaf Krüger, who with his cap and his long beard really and truly looks as if he had time-travelled from the 18th century, goes into raptures at this vintage bit of Krones engineering: “It’s completely mechanical, it doesn’t have an electrical control system, and when it’s running at high speed we can get 1,000 bottles an hour from it!” A nice technical change for him in the ladling brewery, where the tempo is normally quite leisurely. When the beer is brewed each Friday, then Brewer Olaf, together with participants in a brewing course, stands for hours on end in front of the huge wooden brewing vats and ladles wort from A to B and from B to A. “It’s a very meditative task, I definitely enjoy it. I’m also employed by a modern brewery, you know, so this here is a nice change!” In order to really produce the world’s best beer using this brewing technology with open vats, Brewer Olaf and his boss Markus Wasmeier naturally enough had to endure tough tasting evenings in the museum’s tavern and do a lot of research. The world’s best beer finally acquired a rounded, full-bodied taste. “I’ve got an old cellar-master’s book from 1690, which contains a lot of really interesting recipes,” explains Markus. Precisely how the recipes have been arrived at, however, remains a secret – this much only can be revealed: Brewer Olaf doesn’t use any pellets, but Hallertau medium-early (Mittelfrüh) cones. “That’s a nice variety, suits us down to the ground!” The big wooden vats in which the beer then undergoes its snug storage were pitched on the spot in the museum – a craft that nowadays is almost extinct.

So what does a man want who was involved in developing the world’s best beer, who’s had a bock beer named after him (Wasinator), and who after all has won two Olympic gold medals? The answer is as simple as it’s memorable: “A house that stinks!” What? “I’d like to build something small that actually smells the way things did back then and where every single thing is done exactly as it was done back then!” That’s not all, of course – there are also plans for a malt-house, and the mill is even already on the museum’s premises and only needs to be assembled. “The aim is at some time to do everything ourselves,” says Markus. You’re left in no doubt that this goal is going to be achieved. After all, before founding the village, Markus privately restored four old houses! “I’m an inveterate flea market rummager, and I expect I always will be, but what gets included in the museum, that we check very thoroughly!” On my way home, I think to myself: “The Piccolo’s got it made – living snugly in this museum and watching every Friday how the world’s best beer is brewed!“ I’m already feeling a little bit envious. Despite the rain.

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Michael Neubauer at 25. July 2015

Klasse Artikel! Bavaria at it's best!

Maria Seywald at 27. July 2015

Vielen Dank!

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