A journey through Bavaria’s beer-drenched history

500 years, that’s what I call a round-figure birthday! When somebody is going to be half a millennium old, it’s a perfect excuse to throw a party, of course. And when the birthday boy is the Bavarian Purity Law, then the best way to celebrate it is with an exhibition.

That’s precisely what the “House of Bavarian History” is doing, taking the opportunity offered by the 2016 State Exhibition to informatively showcase not only the anniversary as such, but “Beer in Bavaria” in general.

Aldersbach Monastery was chosen as the venue for the exhibition. There, we met with the Project Manager, Dr. Rainhard Riepertinger, as to gain an initial impression of the exhibition, which will take place from 29 April to 30 October.

When we arrive at the monastery, it’s not easy to imagine that in a few months’ time tens of thousands of visitors are expected there. Because the exhibition rooms are still empty. “But you won’t recognise it when the exhibition begins,” promises Dr. Riepertinger. Sounds promising.

Then we embark on our guided tour Dr. Riepertinger leads us from room to room, and for each of them provides some succinct information on what theme will be showcased there and how this will actually be implemented, Because in addition to the Purity Law, Bavarian tavern culture will be spotlighted, for example, plus myths and legends centred around beer and brewing. But Dr. Riepertinger is reluctant to reveal too much. After all, he wants the exhibition to give us a few surprises as well.

The guided tour through the rooms of the monastery feels like a trip through Bavaria’s beer-drenched history. In some rooms, we already come across historical brewing equipment, all of which will be on show in the exhibition. This, in conjunction with the ambience of the monastery’s ancient stonework, makes it clear why Aldersbach has been chosen as the venue for the state exhibition. Most of the rooms are still empty, it’s true, but from Dr. Riepertinger’s vivid accounts I get a pretty good impression of what the exhibition is going to look like in the end. And it will definitely be multifaceted. “As a general principle, there’s one thing above all our visitors should never experience: boredom! We could also have exhibited 2,000 beer mugs, but we don’t want to make things too easy for ourselves.” He talks about extensive media coverage and quite a few technical tricks. Lots of modernity for a historical subject like this, then.

Only one thing is difficult to imagine. “Lots of the rooms will be darkened, like in a black box,” reveals. Dr Riepertinger, while we trek through brightly lit rooms. So there’s quite a lot of conversion work still to do. There’s plenty of it already to be seen on our guided tour. Wall paintings are being renovated, staircases repaired. We can’t even enter one of the rooms, because there the flooring is being replaced.

What the exhibition rooms would look like if they weren’t being redecorated is something that Dr. Riepertinger wants to demonstrate to his visitors with the final room, an unrestored chamber in the monastery building with original wall paintings, the remains of old wallpaper, and a rustic tiled oven. The flooring is tired and worn, the walls are crumbling, and faded. The room constitutes a glaring contrast to the rest of the exhibition. And at the same time, it marks the conclusion of our guided tour.

Now that I’ve seen the State Exhibition “in the raw”, I’m all the more curious to see what “Beer in Bavaria” is going to look like when it’s ready for visitors. This year, we shall definitely be paying another visit to Aldersbach. And, of course helping to celebrate the 500th birthday. 🙂