it was the fest of times…

weihenstephaner festbier

I haven’t been drawing much this week, but this is one from a couple of weeks back that I forgot to scan. My wife got me some Weihenstephaner beer, ‘Festbier’ (it is October after all), and to go with it she also got me one of the really big litre-sized beer glasses. I had to draw it! (My brown sketchbook as you may know is for beer and beer glasses now). Weihenstephaner is the oldest brewery in the world, and we visited it just outside Munich when we were in Bavaria in 2005. I really like their beer a lot. One of the reasons I went there is because at the time I was studying Germanic Philology, and had just written a paper about the competing influences of Old English and Old Gothic on the vocabulary of Old High German, specifically in the field of religion (they being the chief importers of Christianity in Germania), and one of the focuses was on the two words for ‘holy’, ‘heilig’ being the Anglo-Saxon inspired word (from ‘hálig‘), and ‘weihe’ being the Gothic preference (cf ‘weihs’). Ultimately the preferred English form gained most use, though some of the old Gothic-inspired words can still be seen in place names, such as ‘Pfaff’ and ‘Weihe’, as in ‘Weihenstephaner’. Interesting, I thought, so I went there and got a beer.

wir sind die meister, mein freund


Weihenstephaner (literally ‘Holy Steve’) is one of my preferred Bavarian beers. About six years ago my wife and I visited Bavaria and drove around (well, my wife drove, while I spoke German and made old ladies giggle), and I loved all the local Bavarian beers. Every town we visited sold it own local beer, brewed locally, with very few big commercial beers available, for which I was very grateful. I remember I had one particularly nice beer in Schliersee, with one of the nicest roast duck meals I’ve ever had. One brewery we visited was on the outskirts of Munich, calling itself the oldest brewery in the world: Weihenstephaner. It’s at an abbey, and they have been brewing beer since the 8th century, though their brewery founding date is officially in the 11th century. On that day I tried a ‘Kristallweiss’ beer, and that’s what I had last night when I sketched this.

My reasons for wanting to visit the brewery back then were linguistic: I had recently written an essay for my Master’s (one of my courses was in Germanic Philology) based largely around the competing influence of both Anglo-Saxon and Gothic on Old High German, focusing on the words for holy, ‘heilig’ and ‘weih’, the latter being from the Gothic. If you’re interested, the Anglo-Saxon influence won the day for the most part (not surprising as the German patron saint, St.Boniface, was English), but I wanted to go somewhere which still used the Gothic word. I was a big Wulfila reader back then.

Anyway, a new shop opened in Davis recently, the ‘Davis Beer Shoppe’ (quite why it needs the ‘pe’ at the end of ‘shop’ is unclear) and I was pleased to see that they had my favourite Weihenstephaner beer. I still have some Hefe glasses from Bavaria (this one in fact was given to us by a talkative lady called Hildi, the now sadly passed friend of my wife’s German grandmother, in her home town of Ingolstadt. That day, I learnt a lot about the Bavarian language!).

While drinking this beer, I noticed something. The Hefe glass reminded me very much like the World Cup, which probably explains why Germans are so accustomed to lifting it. Interestingly enough, after a few of these, one tends to come over all Klinsmann and start falling over easily…

bayern some time

bavarian band at little prague, davis

I had to draw this Bavarian band that has been playing occasionally at Little Prague in Davis during this past month or so for Oktoberfest  – I finally went there to sketch them. They played interesting German-style music, sometimes donning a sombrero to add some Mexican into it. I sketched alongside fellow Davis sketcher Steve, and after the band finished our photos were taken by the singer’s wife with our sketches and the band.

The band wasn’t called ‘Bayern’ by the way, I just felt the need to write that up there. I like Bavaria – my wife and I spent a couple of weeks there back in 2005, partly in Munich, partly driving around the Alpenstrasse, to small towns and lakes, popping into Switzerland (where I spent an afternoon studying the Abrogans, a 1200-year-old manuscript and the oldest thing in German language), and then back into Bayern and up the Romantische Strasse. I loved that each town had its own beer, and we ate only local food (I had the most amazaing roast duck in Schliersee), and castles and timber-framed chalets and the odd hilarious name (there was a mountain called ‘Wank’). And it was truly ‘Bavaria’, not just another part of Germany, it felt like its own country, with that blue and white flag everywhere and the Bavarian dialect everywhere. I wouldn’t mind going back some day.