The Brewery's History

Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan – The history
Over the centuries much has changed in the world, and the future lives from change. It's nice to know that in the eventful history of Weihenstephan, with all its developments, achievements and setbacks, one thing has remained constant: our beer. Thus the Weihenstephan Monastery Brewery - after nearly a thousand years - still stands atop Nährberg Hill, proud of its quality and its tradition and conscious of its position as the oldest existing brewery in the world.

The year 725 was a decisive turning point for Weihenstephan: in that year, Saint Corbinian together with twelve companions, founded a Benedictine monastery on Nährberg Hill and, consciously or unconsciously, also founded the art of brewing at Weihenstephan.


The first historical reference to hops at Weihenstephan was in the year 768. At that time there was a hop garden in the vicinity of the Weihenstephan Monastery, whose owner was obligated to pay a tithe of 10 per cent to the monastery. It is an obvious conclusion that these hops were brewed in the monastery.

That year the Huns plundered and destroyed the Weihenstephan Monastery, thus laying the cornerstone for a long-standing tradition that condemned the Benedictine monks to repeated reconstruction of their monastery.


In 1040 er brewing officially began at Weihenstephan. That year Abbot Arnold succeeded in obtaining from the City of Freising a licence to brew and sell beer. That hour marked the birth of the Weihenstephan Monastery Brewery. Between 1085 and 1463 the Weihenstephan Monastery burned down completely four times, was destroyed or depopulated by three plagues, various famines and a great earthquake.


What the Huns started in 955 was continued successfully by Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian (!) in 1336 and later by the Swedes and French in the Thirty Years War and then by the Austrians in the War of the Spanish Succession. They destroyed and plundered the Weihenstephan Monastery. But the Benedictines did not give up easily. With Bavarian tenacity they rebuilt the monastery and brewery again and again and even succeeded in refining their brewing art.


A milestone for the art of brewing - right at the doorsteps of the Weihenstephan Monastery: in the year 1516 Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria issued the Bavarian Beer Purity Law. From then on only barley, hops and water were to be used in Bavarian beer. He thus founded the world reputation of Bavarian and thus Weihenstephan beer.


What all the catastrophes in the nearly thousand-year history of the Weihenstephan Monastery were unable to do was done on 24 March 1803 by the stroke of a pen: it was dissolved. In the course of secularisation, all the possessions and rights of the monastery were transferred to the Bavarian State. However that did not shake the brewery. The drinkers of Weihenstephan continued to pursue their passion - but under the secular supervision of the royal holdings at Schleissheim.


In 1852 the Central Agricultural School moved from Schleissheim to Weihenstephan - and with it the Bavarian brewing students. In 1895 the school became an academy, and was elevated in 1919 to the University for Agriculture and Brewing which was incorporated in the Technical University of Munich in 1930. Thus Weihenstephan developed into the centre of world brewing technology. A fact that did much for the outstanding reputation of the Bavarian State Brewery of Weihenstephan. After all, here the naïve brewing students from countries all over the world are turned into the world's best brewers.


The Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan, as the oldest brewery in the world, is today also one of the most modern. The unique combination of tradition and state-of-the-art science explains the incomparable identity of the top-quality Weihenstephan beers. Hundreds of master brewers who have learned their craft at Weihenstephan act as ambassadors, spreading this knowledge throughout the world and thus contribute to the unique reputation of the Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan.

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