Weihenstephan Brewery, Bavaria, Germany
The Weihenstephan Brewery in Bavaria is immensely old. It’s so old that it describes itself as
the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world. While it can’t take credit for inventing the brewing process – that had occurred centuries before – it can claim to be the forerunner of the quality brewing process.
So how old is it? The first reference is a historical document from 768, describing a tax on hops grown in the grounds of Weihenstephan monastery. The brewing would have then taken place in the monastery itself. Officially the brewery came into existence in 1040 when the current Abbot, Abbot Arnold, obtained a brewing license from the city of Freising. This is the date from which the brewery says it has been continuously operating.
During the next 400 years or so the monastery was variously pillaged, ransacked, burnt down and rebuilt but brewing continued. In 1516 the quality of Bavarian beer was assured when Duke Wilhelm IV or Bavaria passed the Bavarian Beer Purity Law which ensured all beer produced in that region would contain only barley, hops and water.
By 1852 the monastery had become a brewing school for Bavarians. It became an academy in 1895 and then in 1919 it became the University of Agriculture of Brewing attached to the Technical University of Munich. Two years later it was named as the Bavarian State Brewery. This 1000 year process of brewing and innovation has enabled the Weihenstephan Brewery to retain its place as one of the world’s great breweries and has contributed significantly to the quality and reputation of Bavarian (and German) beer.
As for its beer, Weihenstephan is best known for its simply titled Weizenbier, or Wheatbeer. Several varieties are available including Dark (5.3%), Light (3.2%) and Crystal (5.4%), all great tasting beers. Surprisingly for a German brewery, they also offer a non-alcoholic version.
So if you’re on holiday in Bavaria, make sure you stop in at the brewery – it offers several guided tours which all include a beer tasting session at the end – the product of 1000 years of brewing history.