Another c. 1900 éloge of beer comes from another pen working for the Catholic Journal of Rochester, NY, this time scratching out praises to Munich, Bavaria. This pen had a unique way of talking, of which this is just a small sample:
Do you love the beautiful in all its forms – music, painting and architectures? – then go to Munich. Are you – pardon me for asking the question – partial to a flagon of real, lustrous, vitalizing, never-to-be-forgotten lager beer? Go to Munich. Would you rub shoulders with long-haired artists, ox-eyed musicians, bouncing women, hare-brained students, dreamy philosophers, ingenious workmen, sharp-nosed critics, sombre-robed clerics of all degrees of sanctity? You would? Then go to Munich. Would you, in fine, run headlong into the temptation of preferring a terrestrial, not a celestial paradise? You would? Then book for Munich, one way.
It’s not that the capital of Bavaria is so fortunate in what nature has done for her, but because of what man has done. Her kings, princes, dukes, (whatever they like to call them) have been her best benefactors. It is they who have built all that she is most proud of, – her mighty triumphal arches, her gorgeous palaces, her noble churches. They ransacked the world on her behalf…
This is one of a number of ecstatic reactions to the local beer recorded by foreign visitors around this time; the brews must have been very special. Studies of hop rates and final gravities of the day, as well as the stylistic or perhaps production variety then evident, explain why.
I did visit Munich once. The picture conveyed here didn’t quite connect, in part it was the time of year (um, December), but also, the 8th Air Force and other allied visitors during the war reduced much of the city to cinders, and the rebuilding didn’t, I think, render the original charm. Even Munich beer didn’t really impress: too little dunkel, too little draft weizen, too much green flavour in the blonde lagers.
Of course I did have some good experiences, but the “fountain head”, as the article later terms the beer culture, is too strong a term. Industry consolidation and stylistic levelling have taken their toll.
Still, we had an enjoyable time, and would certainly return, in better season.
The rest of the article is well-worth reading, not least the part which states parents send their children to university half-expecting them to be scarred in duelling. (“Fighting is part of the educational curriculum”). This suggested a lurking militarism, nay undertone of civic violence, made all too apparent later in the century.
Articles as the one cited allow us to remember the best of past eras, but in doing so more recent history can never be quite effaced, it’s like whack-a-mole…
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