May 5, 2016

The old blogger in Munich

Six months of great expectations and high hopes reached fulfillment when Trudy and I walked off the plane at Munich Airport into the warm welcome of my old friend from Georgetown University, Chris Kraiker, whom we hadn't seen for over 45 years.

The old blogger at the entrance to the
"Beer is the Wine of this Land" exhibit in the
Munich Jewish Museum.

We came to Munich not as tourists or sightseers.  We came for the beer, or more accurately, for the beer exhibition at the Jewish Museum and the unveiling of the first German-Israeli collaboration beer.  We were guests of the Museum because I had helped in the "matchmaking" for the Israeli craft brewery chosen for the collaboration beer, and publicized the event in the Israeli media.
We could see everything from our window.
From left: the Munich City Museum, the new synagogue,
the Jewish Museum (seen above the grass roof), and the
Jewish Community Building.
Trudy and I were put up in a "quaint" guest room on the upper story of the historic Ignaz Guenther House, built in 1761 or thereabouts.  It was right on St. Jakobs Plaza, which contained the Jewish Museum, the Jewish Community Building and the Synagogue, as well as the Munich City Museum.  So everything was literally at our feet.  By day, the Ignaz Guenther House is a municipal office building, so we shared our bathroom with the workers.  This was not so bad as it sounds.

The three brewers in front of their own
photograph at the entrance to the exhibit:
(from left) Maor Helfman, Timm Schnigula,
and Itai Gutman.
Like many other museums across Germany this year, the Munich Jewish Museum is mounting an exhibition to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the famous Reinheitsgebot, the so-called Bavarian beer purity law.  Each museum has its own angle, of course, and the Jewish Museum's is, what else, the Jewish contribution to the Bavarian beer industry.  The Museum also sponsored the brewing of the collaboration beer, having brought over brewers from the Herzl Beer Workshop in Jerusalem to work with their counterparts at the Crew Republic Brewery near Munich.
One of the exhibit displays:
"Beer in the Land of Israel."

(Photo: Franz Kimmel)

So there were impressive displays on:
  • Brewing in the ancient Middle East;
  • Beer in the Bible and Talmud;
  • Medieval brewers whose six-pointed "brew star" (Brauerstern) is identical to the Star of David;
  • Jewish hop merchants in Bavaria;
  • Famous Jewish brewing families who pioneered new technologies and brought German brewing to thirsty Americans;
  • Jewish beer stein (mug) decorators;
  • Modern craft brewing and beer culture in Israel.
The very popular "Rheingold Theater" exhibit.
(Photo: Franz Kimmel)

The displays were beautifully mounted using artifacts, documents, photographs and multi-media -- including computer touch-screens to retrieve information, and a movie mini-theater showing programs and commercials about Rheingold Beer in the U.S.

The night we arrived, Chris and his wife Sybille took us out to the Ratskeller, a huge beer-forward restaurant that takes up the entire basement of the city council building.  We were joined by their son Sebastian, who works for a not-so-new start-up company in Munich, and is a very modern, European-conscious young man.
The old blogger and Trudy with the Kraiker family
in the huge Munich Ratskeller.

Staying in tune with current trends, the Ratskeller offered some nice vegan options on their menu, but it was the beer list that got our attention.  All of the draft beers were either wheat ales (very popular in Germany) or European lagers like Pilsner, helles, dunkel, bock and doppelbock.  That's what the Munich crowd wants.  Pale ale, IPA, porter or stout?  Fuggedaboudit.  You could get those in bottles, but that kind of set you apart from the "real" beer drinkers.  Who orders bottled beer in a beer hall?  It was the same when we joined Chris and Sybille a few days later in the Hackerhaus, the brewpub for the famous Hacker-Pschorr Brewery.  

It was inspiring to see Chris, Sybille and Sebastian doing their part to maintain Germany's number three position in per capita beer consumption: an astounding 116 liters (30 U.S. gallons) a year!  I did my part too (I wonder if they count tourists in the statistics), while Trudy took sips from my glass.  (By comparison, the average Israeli drinks only 14 liters of beer a year!  Oh, the shame!)          
Chris (left) and the old blogger (center) join the Israeli and
German brewers in toasting the new collaboration beer.

The next day, Trudy, Chris and I joined over 50 journalists at the press conference to announce the new exhibit and the collaboration beer.  Museum Director Bernhard Purin, his assistant Lilian Harlander, and exhibit designer Martin Kohlbauer spoke to the crowd, and then all of the journalists got to drink the first public pouring of the new beer.

Has anyone tried to tell these guys that they shouldn't be drinking while on assignment?  Hah!  How can you write about a new beer without drinking it?  And drink they did.  The Museum even provided them with buttered pretzels to go with the beer, plus a branded carrying bag containing a press kit and a hard-bound catalog of the exhibit.
Mike Horton's photos of the
Jerusalem craft beer scene
on display at the exhibit.

(Photo: Franz Kimmel)

The above catalog contained my essay entitled "In the Land of Israel, beer came late: Historical brew traditions in the Near East," which I wrote in English but appeared, amazingly, in perfect German.  I had to convince some journalists that my German is really non-existent.

In the catalog section on "Craft Beer in Israel," there were four pictures taken by Israel Brews and Views photographer Mike Horton, and blow-ups were also hanging on the walls of the exhibit.

Bernhard Purin, whom I had met when he visited Israel last year on two occasions, told me that even though many other museums were having their "reinheitsgebot exhibits," none were getting the publicity of the Munich Jewish Museum.  "This is because the media went crazy over our collaboration beer," he said.  "Something like this has never been done before.  Everybody wants to write about it -- and to taste it!"

Said beer was brewed a few months earlier when the Jewish Museum brought over Herzl brewers Maor Helfman and Itai Gutman from Jerusalem to Munich to join their talents with those of Timm Schnigula and Mario Hanl of the Crew Republic Brewery.  The result was a collaboration "steam beer" (also known as "California common") which I already wrote about and you can read here.
Hebrew and German on the label:
The unveiling of the new collaboration steam beer.
The X is for "experimental." 

(Photo: Franz Kimmel)

Trudy and I tasted the now-famous beer along with the thirsty journalists, and again during a private showing that evening.  Now here was a beer that even Trudy appreciated.  In the course of three days, we imbibed our fair share of this tasty testament to German-Israeli cooperation.

We popped a bottle of the long-awaited beer and poured it into the beautifully branded tulip glasses especially made for the occasion, which were engraved with the exhibition slogan: "Bier is der Wein dieses Landes."  The color was a nice dark amber with a medium carbonated head.  The aroma was yeasty, something not unexpected in a steam beer, where lager yeast do their magic at the higher temperatures associated with ales.  The hop presence was very low and it was hard to detect a dominant taste.  Perhaps light banana and caramel, spicy citrus and toasted malt.  Bitterness was also very mild, with the label admitting to 35 IBUs.  There was a crisp finish.  Alcohol by volume is 5.2%.  My drinking companion termed this beer "a lager with added value."

The bottom line: I really enjoyed this beer, and from the looks around me, everyone else was as well.  Trudy, not a great beer drinker, gave her approval, as did Chris and Sybille.  The Herzl - Crew Republic collaborative effort had produced a superior beer which avoids extremes in taste and brings people together -- something beer has been doing for about 6,000 years.
The old blogger at the "other" reinheitsgebot exhibit
across the square at the Munich City Museum.

The next morning, our little group from Israel and a few other guests were given a private tour of another reinheitsgebot exhibit in the City Museum across the square.  It was titled "Bier. Macht. Muenchen," a play on words that could either mean "Beer. Power. Munich." or "Beer makes Munich."  I figured that out myself.  Really.

In the middle of the tour, who should appear but a rain-soaked David Cohen, founder and owner of Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv, Israel's pioneer craft brewery.  David needed to be in Munich that day, found out about our tour and joined us.  Afterwards, he was given a private tour of the Jewish Museum exhibit as well.

A display in the Jewish Museum
showing the famous
brauerstern, symbol of beer
brewers, not the Star of David.

(Photo: Franz Kimmel)
Anyway, this exhibit complemented the one at the Jewish Museum by highlighting the not inconsiderable role played by non-Jews in the growth of the Munich beer industry.  Yes, there were some of those as well.  For example, the "Big Six" breweries in Munich do not have Jewish origins (even though there might have been Jewish owners sometime during their centuries of existence).  These are: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Lowenbrau, Hofbrau and Spaten.  You might have heard of some of these.              

I also learned that Munich has never lacked places where people could go to drink beer.  From time immemorial, pubs were the social centers of the city, as indeed they were for all of southern Germany.  From around 1900, the bigger Beer Halls, which could seat hundreds, became popular, followed by boazen (little bars), Beer Gardens and Beer Cellars.

Not only do Munchners drink their beer everywhere they can sit, they also drink it in prodigious amounts.  It was only about a decade ago that beer began to be sold in third-of-a-liter bottles and glasses, long popular everywhere else in the world.  Before that, the minimum size in Munich was a half-liter.  The locals called the new little bottles a "Prussian amount," mocking their less bibacious countrymen to the north.    
The crowd at the Grand Opening of the exhibit . . . 

By the time the Grand Opening at the Jewish Museum rolled around, later that day, we were quite familiar with the exhibit and the collaboration beer.  But for the 450+ people who crammed into the lobby of the museum, it was their first time for both.  Trudy and I got two of the few reserved seats, and Bernhard mentioned me twice in his speech.  According to my understanding of the German, it sounded like he was saying,"Doug Greener, the old blogger, has five minutes to leave the building or I will call the police."  But others told me he was thanking me for all my assistance to the project.
 . . . who then pounced on the bar to get their free bottles
of the new German-Israeli collaboration beer.

(Photos: Franz Kimmel)

Afterwards, the crowd descended on -- or I should say, pounced on -- the bar, where 800 bottles of the collaboration brew were consumed or snatched up in an hour and a half.  In Israel, a few six-packs could have easily covered a crowd that size.  Also popular were the branded tulip glasses, which many guests took home as souvenirs.  I hope Bernhard took that into account when he built his opening events budget.
Trudy and the old blogger with Dr. Dan Shaham (left),
Israel Consul General in Munich, and
Bernhard Purin (right), Director of the Jewish Museum.

(Photo: Franz Kimmel)

Trudy and I enjoyed mingling with the Munich upper crust, anybody who was anybody, including an heir to the royal family of Bavaria, Prince Luitpold Rupprecht Heinrich Wittelsbach.  Besides owning two lovely castles, the Prince is also CEO of the Schloss Brewery at his very own Kaltenberg Castle, where he hosts annual jousting tournaments!  We also met two of the speakers, Dr. Dan Shaham, the Israel Consul General in Munich, and Marian Offman, the only Jew on the Munich City Council.  The brewers from Herzl and the Crew Republic were enjoying every minute, as well they should, basking in the spotlight of public appreciation for a beer well brewed.
Toasting a good-bye, shalom,
Wiedersehen to Munich
with Chris and Sybille Kraiker.

(Photo: Franz Kimmel)

After the Grand Opening, Trudy and I spent most of the next day in Munich, going out for our morning coffee and pastry (as we had been doing every day), walking through the food market, and seeing a little bit more of the city with Chris before saying good-bye.  He actually is a wonderful guide in the city he has lived in and loved since he returned from Georgetown University 52 years ago.  His love of medieval and Renaissance churches hasn't dimmed either, making Munich the perfect city for him.

Our stay in Munich, meeting Chris and Sybille, and participating in the Museum events was an extraordinary experience for Trudy and me.  We will never forget the warm welcome and hospitality we received from everyone we met, and the hearty gemutlichkeit of all those who shared their passion with us for history and beer.

A slightly different version of this article appeared in The Jerusalem Post Friday Magazine.


  1. Great, sounds like you guys had a great time and enjoyed the beer.

  2. David Cohen5/06/2016

    Glad the stars lined up just right and I was able to join you guys albeit for a little while. Thanks for keeping me in the loop and Kol HaKavod on your good work, Doug.

  3. Sounds like a fun trip, and congrats on your part in it all!

    Is there a plan to sell any of the collaboration beer here?

    1. Fun Joel, it was indeed a fun trip. As far as I know, there are no plans to export the collaboration beer, although another batch (at least) is being brewed for selling at the Museum and a few other locations in Munich. The Israelis at the event, meaning me and the brewers, brought home a few bottles in our suitcases, but that's it. You're going to have to get over to Munich if you want to taste some!

  4. Sounds like a good time brother!
    If I ever get over my extreme distaste for the language, let alone the anti-Semitism imbibed through the mothers milk (even before aquiring the taste for beer), I may get over there myself one day.
    I know I know........some of us can never be cured. Guess I'll never be enlightened.
    מה לעשות

  5. Hi Doug,
    Thanks for the interesting article and mentioning me with so kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed your stay in Munich and the beer. All the best for you and warm regards to Trudy also,

    1. Sebastian, I appreciate your comments. I hope we have occasions to share many more beers together.

  6. Hi Doug, old blogger and old friend,

    It was a great pleasure for us to have you and Trudy in Munich, and we were pleased that you enjoyed the visit. Unfortunately, it was far too short, but maybe this can be made up some other time. You were lucky with the weather, too. After you left, it started to rain cats and dogs, and then there was a strike at the airport, leaving thousands of passengers stranded for hours or even days.

    Ah --- you remember when we walked to the Marienplatz for the train back to the airport we saw lots of police cars in a side street. We learned the next day that they were there to protect the Queen of the Netherlands and her husband, who had come to walk across the Viktualienmarkt and then to visit the "Alte Pinakothek," the museum across the street from the one we visited on your last day. Sorry we missed them.

    We still have a bottle of the collaboration beer in the fridge. We keep it there like a treasure. But soon Gabi, my eldest sister, will come to Munich and we are planning to visit the Jewish Museum together. There, at the café, we will get resupplied - if there is still some left.



Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!