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The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 14/Number 82/Head-Quarters of Beer-Drinking

HEAD-QUARTERS OF BEER-DRINKING.

Besides the four elements known to us as such, namely, air, fire, earth, and water, there is a liquid substance not entirely unknown in our country, which, in the kingdom of Bavaria, is sometimes called the fifth element, under the specific name of beer. It is true, that, where this extra element is in such repute, some of the others suffer depreciation, and especially is this true of water, though this latter is still occasionally used both as a beverage and in purifying processes; and there is, too, a tradition, which these inland people have little opportunity of verifying, that it has sometimes been exclusively used for purposes of navigation, and they are aware, that, if at any time they should decide to emigrate to America, they might have occasion to test on a large scale both its utility and its perils for this purpose. The centre of gravity of this fifth element seems to be in the city of Munich, the capital of the kingdom. People in this country who have heard much of lager-beer, and seen a little of its use as introduced into our land from Germany, may, perhaps, suppose that it is equally distributed over all that extensive region known by this name. This is, however, an error. Just as our atmosphere becomes ever less dense according to its distance from the earth's centre of gravity, so this fifth element, as one retires farther from the city of Munich.

It would be an interesting inquiry for the medical man, who seeks to enlarge his knowledge of the vis medicatrix Naturæ, for the philanthropist, who would stimulate or increase the means of human happiness, and remove or diminish those of human misery, and even for the statistician, alike indifferent to both: Why do particular articles of diet and beverage concentrate their use so much in particular climates, lands, and localities? Within certain limits the question is easy. The inhabitant of the tropics lives on the bread-fruit, the plantain, the orange, the fig, and the date. They grow around him, drop as it were into his mouth, and are just what he needs to allay his hunger and support his nature. The Greenlanders and the Esquimaux of Labrador eat the flesh of bears, reindeer, and seals, and even drink their fat by the quart. Fruits, if they were to be had, would not meet their wants, and Providence has ordered accordingly. He of the tropics, in addition to the external heat, needs but the mild and gentle fire generated by the combustion of his native fruits, to keep his life-fluid in action; while he of the frigid zones must be kept in life and motion by rousing fires of seal's fat. Temperate latitudes produce most fruits, and all the cereals and animals used for food; but Nature nowhere gives us these in the shape of plum-puddings and pastries, or of beer and alcoholic drinks. The combinations and commutations must be manufactured. But does an impulse in man, like the instinct of the bee, lead him to make just what he needs in his particular climate? Does the Bavarian take to beer as the bee to honey? Does instinct or appetite in general shape itself to climate and other outward circumstances? This is but partly true. As Nature has distributed noxious vegetable and animal substances through land and sea, which must be avoided, so man may not pitch or pour indiscriminately into his stomach whatever substance may be cooked or liquid distilled and offered to him, and we are thrown back upon the direct test of their innocent or noxious properties, with full responsibility of action; but still I have a profound conviction that all such general production of the chief articles of food and drink has its origin in some deeply felt necessity of human nature in their particular localities;—the people may be on the wrong track in their attempts to provide for such necessities, but that these are felt and are the stimulus to the production is beyond doubt.

Allowing for the changes wrought by time and cultivation, we can still perceive the truth of what Tacitus wrote of Germany almost two thousand years ago:—"The land, though somewhat varied in aspect, is in the main deformed with dismal forests and foul marshes. The part next to Gaul is wetter, and that next to Pannonia and Noricum higher and more windy. It is sufficiently productive, but not adapted to fruit-trees." The whole country lies in a high latitude,—Munich, though in the southern part, being forty-eight degrees North. No large city on the continent lies at such an elevation,—about eighteen hundred feet above the level of the Adriatic. In the midst of a vast plain, it is exposed to all winds. Its site and the surrounding country are a great gravel-bed, hundreds of feet thick, a deposit from the Alps, spurs of which are within thirty miles on the south, subjecting the whole region to sudden changes of weather ranging in a few hours through many degrees of Fahrenheit. The air is raw and chilly, and although many parts of Germany have since the days of Tacitus developed an adaptation to the vine and other fruits, none flourish in the neighborhood of Munich. The whole country suffers from deficiency of nourishing and stimulating food. They may not themselves know it, but this is true of the peasants who are best to do in the world. Of the peasantry of Upper Bavaria, some have meat five times in the year, on their chief holidays,—namely, Shrove Tuesday, Easter, Whitsuntide, Church-Consecration, and Christmas; some have it on but two of these days, and some only at Christmas. The exceptions may be many, and the large cities are quite exceptional, but the change is of late introduction. When people must labor upon such a diet, they feel the lack of something; but the Bavarians have been too long in this case to think of crying, like Israel of old in the wilderness, after having left the abundance of Egypt, "Who shall give us flesh to eat?"—they attempt rather to allay the gnawings at their stomachs by potations of beer, and the appetite grows by what it feeds on.

It is plausibly maintained that the climate of this particular locality creates an actual necessity for the use of this beverage. Often, during the earlier part of my residence there, I was besought by friends, with manifestation of deepest concern, to use beer instead of water, with the remark that the climate made this a necessary measure of security against the prevalent typhus and typhoid fevers: a conviction which seems to be deeply seated in the minds of the people.

Aside from all this, there is an almost total want of the pleasant beverages used in our families. Tea is as good as unknown in Old Bavaria, its use being confined to those who have been in England, or have learned it of the English, and not one woman in twenty thousand can prepare it. Let the word tea be erased from our vocabulary, and from our minds all the cheerful associations which it awakens, and there passes from our hearts none can tell how much of that which we most fondly cherish there,—the family of both sexes, and occasionally some neighbors and friends, seated around the table,—the gently stimulating narcotic diffusing a charm over the whole social being, and communicating itself to the vocal machinery. Fanatical reformers have proclaimed its injurious effects; and it may have such; but they are a thousand times compensated by its value as a bond of union to the elements of the domestic circle. The tea-table has been the butt of many a jest and sarcasm, as a fountain of gossip and slander. This may be true; but the security it furnishes against the dissipation of the elements of the social circle outweighs thousands of such trifles, and we half suspect that this objection was originated, and is mischievously propagated, by those who are already developing a love for other beverages. If Cowper, with the "sofa" assigned as his subject, could sing so beautifully of all things social and domestic, what might he not have done with the tea-table—the rallying-point of social life to so many who never had a sofa—for his theme?

From the general use of coffee in the cities and large towns of Germany, we have inferred its general use by the peasantry; but even this is quite limited, in Upper Bavaria at least; it is found only where the influence of city-life has penetrated. Sometimes a peasant woman has a little hid in her chest, from which she stealthily prepares and drinks a cup when her husband is away; but it is little used. This article was brought into Western Europe in the seventeenth century, and found beer in possession of Germany. The monks are said to have preached against the use of coffee, as anticipating, by the dense black smoke which arose from burning it, the "fumes of hell." It came from Turkey, and at that day the Turk was still the hereditary dread of all the peoples on the middle and upper Danube. He was next thing to the Devil; and what came direct from the former could be but recent from the latter.

Their beloved beer could not be traced so directly to an origin in the nether world. The German tribes, as far back as history or tradition reports them, seem to have loved this quieting beverage. Traces of their coming together as now for banqueting purposes, under the shade of Germany's primeval forests, are still found in history and historical traditions. There is one fact which Americans, so accustomed to rapid transformations of society by migration, immigration, and intermixture of races, can scarcely comprehend, even when they know it as a fact: it is the persistency with which national traits adhere to a people in an old country, through generations and decades of generations and of centuries, withstanding the shock of revolution both in government and religion. Tacitus says of these people:—"At meals, they sit every man upon a seat by himself and at a separate table. Arising, they proceed armed to their business; and they go armed also to their banquets. It is no reproach to them to continue day and night drinking. Their drink is fermented from barley or wheat into a certain resemblance of wine. Their food is simple,—wild fruits, fresh game, or coagulated milk. They satisfy hunger without formality and without delicacies. In regard to thirst they do not exercise this moderation. Indulge their appetites by giving them all they desire, and you may conquer them by their vices not less easily than by arms."

Viewing, then, these people of Upper Bavaria, and of Munich in particular, in their cold, raw air,—in their supposed exposure to typhus and typhoid fevers,—deficiency of good food,—the want of the domestic circle as cemented in our country over other beverages,—the national abstemiousness in regard to food, and the addictedness to beer for thousands of years past,—and we have a somewhat rational explanation of the springing-up and development into such monstrous proportions of the manufacture and consumption of this article. Of the many it may be said,—

"They drink their simple beverage with a gust,
And feast upon an onion and a crust."

Bavaria, not including the Rhenish Palatinate, uses over six million bushels of barley, and upwards of seven million pounds of hops, annually, in its breweries, making over eight million eimers, that is, about five million barrels of beer. But nearly half the kingdom is wine-growing, and uses comparatively little beer; so that this is mainly consumed in the other half, that is, by about three millions of people. At an average price of three and a half cents per quart, there is consumed in the kingdom fifty million florins, or over twenty million dollars, annually, in this beverage. Both manufacture and consumption have their head-quarters in Munich. The quantity manufactured in this city alone in 1856-7 was nine hundred and fifty thousand eimers, or about five hundred and seventy thousand barrels, being nearly five barrels a head for the whole population, men, women, and children. Allowing for the amount exported, or sent out of the city, there remains something like four barrels to each person. This is one quart, or four of our common table-glasses, per day. But some drink none, others little; a man is scarcely reckoned with real beer-drinkers until he drinks six masses,—twenty-four of our common tumblers; ten masses are not uncommon; twenty to thirty masses—eighty to one hundred and twenty of our dinner-glasses—are drunk by some, and on a wager even much more. The sick man whose physician prescribed for him a quart of herb-tea as the only thing that would save him, and who replied that he was gone, then, for he held but a pint, was no Bavarian; for the most modest Bavarian girl would not feel alarmed in regard to her capacity, if ordered to drink a gallon,—certainly not, if the liquid were beer.

The aggregate labor performed in this branch of popular industry is thus seen at a glance. But how is this done, and by whom? What is the noise or noiselessness with which such torrents of this foaming liquid rush daily through the channels of human bodies made originally too small to admit half the quantity? What are the final results upon body, mind, and heart of the present and future of the race? Does government encourage, stimulate, control, and turn to account this national appetite? These questions invite, and will well repay, a few moments' attention.

I once heard a college student announce as the text of his oration Lindley Murray's well-known definition of the verb,—a word which signifies "to be, to do, or to suffer"; and he followed up his announcement by a most beautiful and conclusive argument to show that this definition describes with equal accuracy three classes of men into which the whole world may be divided: a class who have no purpose in life but simply "to be"; an active class, whose mission is "to do," to which they bend all their energies; and a passive class, who merely "suffer" themselves to be employed as the tools of the men of action. Whether he would have modified his statement, had he known something of Bavarian beer-drinkers, I do not know; for, although these belong, doubtless, in general, to the class of men which he designated as having no purpose but simply "to be," yet they certainly have a decided preference as to the means of their being, which must be beer; they have activity enough to get where this can be obtained, and to handle the needed quantity; and the man who holds and bears about fifteen or twenty quarts a day must have no small share of the grace of passive endurance.

There is a class of the nobility too poor to treat themselves with the diversions of court-life, and with notions of noble birth which forbid them to engage in business, especially as they would thereby forfeit their rank. They fund their small means, so as to yield them a stated income; and in spending this and their time, they fall into a round which brings them three or four times a day to some place where beer is to be found, and with it a billiard-table and a reading-room. This class does not, perhaps, embrace a very large number of the nobility, but it is largely reinforced from others, whose small means are similarly invested, and whose whole time is on their hands for disposal. The class of men engaged in business, and pursuing it somewhat actively, give less attention to beer during the day. They take a couple of glasses—four of our common tumblers—at dinner, and perhaps send out a servant occasionally during the day to replenish a pitcher for the counter,—not, however, to treat customers, as used to be done in our country; but as beer had been all day secondary to business, the latter is dropped for the evening, and the undivided attention bestowed upon the national beverage. A large portion of the poor, and many who cannot be called poor, have not the means for this indulgence; and yet men and women are seldom seen at their work without a mug of beer standing near them. Ladies have the same provision in their families, as also students, and all who occupy rented rooms in connection with the families of the city; from ten to one o'clock servant-girls, with pitchers in their hands and immense bunches of keys hanging to their apron-strings, are seen running to and from the neighboring beer-houses thick as butterflies floating in a summer sun, and seem far more as if on business requiring haste. No room is sought for renting without an inquiry as to the quality of the beer of the neighborhood; and the landlady feels that her chances for a tenant are exceedingly slim, if she cannot furnish a satisfactory recommendation in this respect. Scarcely a house in the city is thirty steps from where the article can be had. The places fitted up with seats and tables for drinking accommodate from twenty to five hundred persons, and even one thousand or more in summer, when a garden is generally prepared with seats for the purpose. At these larger places, music is often provided, and ladies are frequently found lending the charm and solace of their presence, and sometimes a good deal more, to the other sex, in this self-denying work, in which the men have generally been the great burden-bearers. But the greatest crowds of real beer-drinkers go to another class of houses,—that is, the breweries themselves, where rooms are always fitted up for drinking. Of these the Court Brewery is perhaps in highest repute, and is at least a great curiosity. I visited it three or four times during a six years' residence in the city, and always in company with others who wished to see the lions of the place, and for the same reason that would have taken us to see a menagerie. Why did the monks never think of applying to such places the figure by which they protested against the introduction of coffee, "the fumes of hell"? The smoke of five hundred cigars or pipes rising to a ceiling which had been thus smoked for centuries,—the hoarse hum of five hundred voices uttering the German gutturals from tongues thickened by the use of beer, and floating heavily through an atmosphere of densest smoke, dimming the lights and turning all into an indefinite and uniform brown color,—this may indeed be a picture of Elysium to some minds, but to ours it is not. I never found a vacant seat there, nor felt a desire to occupy one, had there been such. Stone mugs of double the size of the common glasses are used, perhaps to save servants' labor in drawing, which is no small matter, as a barrel of beer lasts not more than ten minutes at the height of the drinking-time of the evening.

None of the drinking-places in the city are filled until evening. In the afternoon many take their walks into the suburbs, and turn aside where a glass may be had. On all holidays the whole city is adrift, much of it in the surrounding country, and most of this drift lodges against the suburban beer-houses. In summer evenings there are frequent entertainments, some provided by the government,—as one every Saturday evening from six to seven o'clock, from May to November, a mile from the city, in the English Garden, where sometimes two thousand persons may be in attendance, to hear the royal bands play. It is presumed that there will always be a considerable number among these who will not be able to stand it an hour without beer, and a beneficent provision is made for such,—seats and tables for at least five hundred persons being there provided, and often filled, so that some must drink standing.

The regularity with which the men of Munich bring themselves around to the same place at about the same time of day, especially if that place is a beer-house, is remarkable,—indeed, amusing. A gentleman residing in Berlin, where this everlasting beer-drinking does not prevail, mentioned to me, as one of the most ludicrous occurrences of his life, an invitation which he once received to visit a Munich professor whose acquaintance he had made in Berlin. The professor told him, that, in case he should arrive in Munich after a certain hour of the day, he must go directly to the Court Brewery, and would find him there. We do indeed regard this as the consummation of the ridiculous; but to this bachelor professor it was the most natural thing in the world. He might change his lodgings half a dozen times in a year, and so might not be readily found; but the Court Brewery would remain from generation to generation, and while he lived he expected regularly to appear there, and there, of course, was the only place where he could make appointments for years to come.

This incident will intimate what an external view of this dark brown mass of humanity would never have hinted,—that it contains men of learning and parts. Could one go round and listen to each party by itself, instead of hearing the low rumble which falls upon the ears of the general observer, the profoundest problems of philosophy, statesmanship, philology, geography, ethnography, and history would be found undergoing the most searching examination. Fame says of our politicians who rise to positions which ought to be occupied only by statesmen, that they frequent low places and mingle with the boisterous crowd. This is probably not a slander. But these men frequent such places only for a purpose. Their tastes do not lead them thither. They go no oftener than serves their purpose. Not so with the learned German beer-drinker. He is in his own proper society. Chinese or Sanscrit, Arabic or Coptic, the last discoveries in the interior of Africa or about the North Pole, or the more recondite regions of chemistry or mineralogy, may be the theme of a familiar discourse, which each of the party may fully appreciate.

To these places, of course, only the men resort. Indeed, in this part of Germany there is little of family-life. The members of the family take their coffee separately, as each rises and is ready. The men quite generally dine and sup away from home, and that, too, when their business and their residence are in the same house, and the hotel or eating-house is at a distance. An English gentleman told me of a German friend of his who appeared in his seat in the beer-house on the evening of his wedding-day; and to the suggestion that this was not quite right to the newly married wife, he replied that it did indeed seem so, but he thought it better not to encourage hopes destined to disappointment. This may, too, have been one of those numerous instances in which the parties had already spent many evenings together in such a way as to have diminished the interest of both in each other's society on the first evening of married life. A genuine Munich man would never be embarrassed like the Parisian, of whom the well-known story is told, that, having been accustomed to spend all his evenings in the drawing-room of a certain lady, he was advised, on the death of her husband, to marry her, and promptly replied with the question, "Where, then, should I spend my evenings?" A true South-Bavarian's plan of spending his evenings is not affected by the trifling event of his marriage.

Indeed, there is an aspect of this virtual dissolution of family-life which has great interest as connected with German erudition. The English or American scholar, whose social hours are mainly spent with his family, or in the mixed society of the sexes, would never think of introducing the subjects of his study into such circles, and hence is without the best means of familiarizing his mind with the very topics to which all his hours of close application are devoted; for no subject is fully understood and reduced to material for ready use until it has been in some form the theme of frequent familiar discourse. It is thus turned over,—looked at on every side,—the views of men of different tastes, studies, and orders of mind, who have not disqualified themselves for this by being curled into the same nutshell, are called forth,—and the sparks thus elicited catch on other tinder, which had not been touched by those struck out in solitary study. It is thus that the thoughts of the learned are familiarized, and their area extended. It is thus that subjects which sit upon us as holiday-clothes are, in a society of German literati, who are together every day at dinner, or over their coffee after dinner, and every evening over their beer, become to them as their every-day clothing. I am not of those who deem this result well purchased at the price of the refining influence of the other sex, and the virtual breaking-up of family-life; but if some middle way could be hit upon to secure the two advantages at once, both science and society would be great gainers.

The government has regulated the manufacture of beer, and collected an income-tax upon it, for centuries past; and this is even now one of its most puzzling problems. It determines the price, both wholesale and retail, at which the beer may be sold. The calculations are based upon an estimate of the medium amount of fixed capital necessary for the manufacture, then the labor, then the average price of barley and hops at the October and November markets of each year; every item which enters into the manufacture, including interest at five per cent on capital, enters also into the government's calculation by which it determines its tax and the price of beer. The price is never increased or diminished by less than half a kreutzer, or two pfennigs, that is, one-third of a cent, per mass. The fractional parts of this half-kreutzer which may appear in the calculation are divided by a fixed rule between the public and the brewer: that is, when the fraction is one-fourth of a kreutzer, or less, the brewer must drop it for the public benefit; when more, he may call it a half for his own benefit. The government tax is nearly one kreutzer per mass, making about six millions of florins. There is also in several places an additional local beer-tax, amounting to nearly two million florins more. The population of the kingdom is about five millions. A considerable portion of this population are wine-growing, and manufacture and drink but little beer. Ledlmayr, the largest brewer in Munich, made in the year 1856—the latest statistics published—one hundred and twenty-nine thousand eimers. Allowing three hundred working-days to the year, this would be four hundred and thirty eimers, or twenty-seven thousand five hundred and twenty masses, per day, and would pay to the government, at one kreutzer per mass, one hundred and eighty dollars of our money for each of these working-days, or fifty-four thousand dollars yearly. In a time of popular sensitiveness, there is nothing which the government could do that would be so likely to be followed by a revolutionary outbreak as to add a kreutzer to the price of the mass or quart of beer. This article is ranked in all police-regulations among the necessaries of life. The bakeries and beer-houses must remain open at those holiday-hours when all other shopkeepers, except the apothecaries, must close their shops.

The statistics already given have reference to the common beer; but, besides this, the brewers have permission to brew for certain short periods what are called the double beers, without paying a tax upon them. My statistics of the beer-drinking will, therefore, fall short of the truth, at least by this uncertain quantity. During the brief periods of the sale of the double beers, there is a great rush for them, relieving somewhat the monotony of the ordinary routine. The two principal kinds of double beer are the Bock-beer and the Salvator-beer. The latter creates quite a furor. Many, led by curiosity to the head-quarters of its sale, find their amusement there in testing the capacity of some great beer-drinker,—and such are always on hand waiting the chance,—by paying for all he will drink. These curious visitors seldom return without a similar test of their own capacities; and as the article has double the alcohol of the common beer, many a one staggers a little on his homeward way who had never felt such effect from the common form of the beverage.

There is also no small amount of wine drunk in Munich. I have not the statistics, but the number of large houses with the sign, "Weinhandlung," and of the smaller ones with the sign, "Weinschenck," and then the fact that at all the large hotels wine is mainly drunk at dinner, furnish my data for this conclusion. In the wine-growing districts of Bavaria beer-drinking is reduced to about one-fourth of the Munich standard, and so we may suppose that the removal of all wine from the capital might add one-fourth to the beer-drinking as given above,—at least, it takes the place of one-fourth of that which would be the aggregate of the beer-drinking.

The government has a commission for the examination of the quality of the beer; and, indeed, aside from this, the popular taste is not a bad test in this respect. There is an error in the lines of Prior,—

"When you with High-Dutch Herren dine,
Expect false Latin and stummed wine:
They never taste who always drink;
They always talk who never think."[1]

The most common manifestation of Bavarian beer-drinking is a perpetual tasting, and not a pouring-down of the liquid a glass at a time. These people seem to have the art of doing this thing so gradually and quietly that the soothing liquor passes gently into the circulation, and produces an effect very different from that which would result from swallowing it a glass at a draught, enabling them to drink without visible effect a much larger quantity in the aggregate. They practise upon the proverb, "The still sow drinks the swill,"—a proverb which would serve admirably the purpose of those who desire to join in the general sarcasm expended upon Bavarian beer-drinking, since almost every word in it seems to express so exactly some characteristic which North Germans and others are disposed to attribute to Bavarians.

Reference was made above to the government's regulating the price of beer. The margin allowed between the wholesale and retail price is half a kreutzer on the mass,—that is, one-fourth of a kreutzer or one-sixth of a cent on the glass. What a blessing, if the retail liquor-trade in our country were reduced to such a scale of profit! This would bring less than two dollars on one thousand glasses. The work would have to be turned over to benevolence for its prosecution, and would doubtless be done much more to the advantage of the community. The profit, however, on this trade in Bavaria is somewhat increased by the manner in which servants are paid. Especially if good-looking girls are employed, the employer may pay them nothing, but leave them to get their pay from the customer. They bring him his change in kreutzers and fractions of a kreutzer, and he shoves back to them often these fractional parts; and if no such are there, a truly liberal soul may give the girl a whole kreutzer, and then in return he will receive an expression of thanks somewhat stronger than our lordly porters would allow themselves to make for half a dollar on which they had no claim. Small as this profit is, it brings to the retailers of Munich about five hundred thousand florins, somewhat more than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in gold per annum. Then, if the servants receive from the customers gratuities of half that amount, that is, an average of one-twelfth of a cent on the glass, this amounts to two hundred and fifty thousand florins per annum. In view of all these facts, it can be conceived that nothing would be so certain to be followed by a revolutionary outbreak as the addition of a kreutzer to the price of a mass of beer.

The wit which sparkles and flashes in a Bavarian beer-house may be as much less boisterous, or rather as much more quiet, than that which explodes over the distilled spirits of our bar-rooms, as the stimulant itself is less exciting, but is for this very reason the more genuine. Like the myriads of fire-flies on a warm summer evening amid the rising fog of a marshy ground, so gleams this wit in its smoky atmosphere; still it is there, notwithstanding the popular notion of Bavarian stupidity. The North German, and even English and American satirists of these people, fare generally much as did Ulysses's men on drinking of Circe's magic cup; and once turned into swine, they are seldom turned back again, at least until they leave the charmed spot. When once drawn into the vortex of students' convivial gatherings, they feel that there is no escape without flying from the place.

A drinking frolic, involving Americans, once called in my aid to settle a great international difficulty—that is, one about as threatening as most of those diplomatic cases flaunted so often in our newspapers—between the United States and Bavarian governments. Two American art-students had taken a room at Nymphenburg, a little village in the vicinity of Munich, the site of a royal château, which in summer is always occupied by a royal prince. There the great Napoleon lodged, when he visited the Bavarian capital. There the present king was born. There, at the time to which I refer, the king's youngest brother, Adalbert,—who would have succeeded Otho on the throne of Greece, if the Greeks had not otherwise determined,—was residing in the palace, and a company of cuirassiers was stationed in the town. The two students were visited on a Sunday evening by three or four more Americans, and one English and two Bavarian friends. The usual beer-guzzling prevailed; some exciting topic was up, and each must have his glass empty when the time for refilling was announced. One of the Americans felt his capacity not quite equal to the demands made upon it. The shift often resorted to in such a trying situation is quietly to empty the glass under the table or out of a window, if this can be done without observation,—and most young men are not very observing at such times. Under the window, outside, sat a party of the cuirassiers drinking, about a dozen of whom made a sudden irruption into that bacchanal chamber, and, with little explanation, proceeded to clear it of its tenants and guests, knocking down, beating, and pitching them headlong down-stairs, until the work was done. There were sundry flesh-bruises inflicted, some small blood-vessels lying near the surface tapped, one collar-bone fractured, a wrist sprained, garments torn off or left hanging in shreds; and rarely has the darkness of a summer evening concealed a more ludicrous spectacle than that of these dispersed beer-bacchanalians, each running on his own account, hatless or coatless, as he happened to have been left by some stout cuirassier into whose hands he had fallen. The next day, a deputation of the injured company and their friends came to me, desiring that redress might be demanded of the Bavarian government. They stated their case both verbally and in writing. They were conscious of no offence. If the assailants gave any reason for their assault, it was not understood. Most of the young men knew but little German, and perhaps just then less than usual of that or any other language. The supposition was, that the rough treatment grew out of the cuirassiers' jealousy that they were not so well served by the waiting-maids as the American company and their guests. One, however, stated the unimportant incident, that the coat of the man who handled him so carelessly seemed to be very wet. One of the Americans who had been present on this occasion did not present himself until sent for several days afterwards. He had observed an incident seen by no other,—one of which the performer, himself as honest a young man as ever lived, was utterly unconscious,—the pouring of a glass of beer from the window. The beer did as little harm on the cuirassiers' coats as it would have done in the American's stomach, and was at least the incidental means of bringing the whole scene to an abrupt end. The government was inclined to do us justice, but very naturally thought that the drenching of its cuirassiers might be pleaded in abatement of the insult to our national dignity; and so a nominal punishment of the offenders finally settled the question.

If asked whether inebriation and its accompaniments are as marked under the reign of beer as under that of the more fiery fluids used among us, I should feel bound to reply negatively. The common Bavarian beer has but about half the strength of the average malt liquors of our country, and seldom produces real intoxication except upon novices. It may stupefy, though this is by no means observable in the mental action of learned Bavarians. The charge of dulness, so sarcastically made against them, could be retorted with about as much show of reason against Prussians, Hanoverians, Saxons, or, indeed, any other people. The students, after their Kneips, have what they call Katzenjammer,—cat-sickness,—the effect of debauch, loss of rest, and general irregularities; and those who do most of the beer-drinking do least of the studying. I should, indeed, fear fatal effects from drinking half the quantity of water which some of them take of beer. The drunkenness produced by beer is at least a very different thing from that produced by distilled spirits. The one may be a stupor, the other is a brief and sudden insanity. Beer holds no one captive by such spell as that which seizes some natures on the first taste of ardent spirits, throwing them beyond their own control until their week's frolic is ended. The cases are rare, if they ever occur, in which the beer-drinker is enticed from the prosecution of his business, if he has one,—and beer furnishes the main substitute for business to those who have no other employment. If it causes men to pursue their avocations lazily or stupidly, it does not cause the irregularities and neglects of American inebriation. Cases of pawning clothes and impoverishing families from the appetite for beer may occur, just as from laziness, but not as from the bewitching appetite for ardent spirits.

The practice of Americans in Bavaria, even of those who never drink a drop of beer at home, is, so far as I know, to drink a little while in the country, acting from a supposed necessity in that climate, or impelled by the want of other beverages. Physicians advise it, and I suppose that American physicians would do the same in the case of their countrymen temporarily residing there. In my own family, it was taken every day at dinner as a kind of prescription, and the children were disciplined to drink their little glass daily with rather less urging than would have been necessary, had the dose been castor-oil; and they always felt that they deserved an expression of approbation as being "good children," if they drank their entire portion. Our taste for beer never increased, but rather the contrary; and should I again reside in that country, notwithstanding the general impression that its use is a kind of necessity, as a security against the fevers incident to the climate, I should feel just as secure without a drop. My little boy, born in Bavaria, and but four years old when we left the kingdom, liked the beer better than the other children, and so gave some support to the theory that the Bavarians take to beer by instinct. He shared, too, in the patriotic doubt of the people as to the possibility of successfully imitating the article in other countries. When, on our journey homeward, the train brought us into the little city of Koethen, we found evidence of one of those attempts so unsuccessfully made everywhere in North Germany to imitate the Bavarian beer. A man passed along by the train, crying at the top of his voice, "Baierisches bier!" upon which the little fellow, in the height of his indignation, cried out, "Baierisches Bier nicht!"—("Not Bavarian beer!")—and so the cry and response continued until the parties were out of each other's hearing, and all the passengers in the train had their attention called, and their main amusement furnished, by this childish outburst of patriotic indignation. At this point, my life, observation, and adventures in connection with Bavarian beer ceased, and almost the last echo of its magic name in the original tongue died on my ears. That the results may not be lost and forgotten, I now commit them to paper and to the public.


  1. This is a metrical version of the following passage of the "Scaligeriana":—"Les Allemans ne se soucient pas quel vin ils boivent pourvu que ce soit vin, ni quel Latin ils parlent pourvu que ce solt Latin."

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.