Paulaner may well have become one of the world’s leading brewers of Weissbier in recent decades, but its Salvator Doppelbock remains inseparable from the history of the brewery’s famous Salvatorkeller beer garden atop Munich’s Nockherberg.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung journalist Astrid Becker begins a recent article on Paulaner with an anecdote about a church bell. Markus Gottswinter, pastor of the Mariahilf church east of the Isar River, saves the bell for only the most special of occasions. And with good reason. When rung, the seven-tonne behemoth resounds with a force so thunderous that tiles fall from the roof of the church. The name of the bell: Salvator.
Cast in Erding in 1952, the bell was never intended for this church in the shadow of the Paulaner brewery. But the truck hauling it to its destination broke down in Nockherberg. The parishioners wasted little time in interpreting this fortuitous turn of events as a sign that the bell was meant for their church.
It’s also no surprise that the parishioners who inherited the bell called it Salvator. For here, in the vicinity of their church, the history of another behemoth named Salvator began: with the Paulaner order of Franciscan monks, who originally settled in 1629 in the Neudeck ob der Au monastery to the south of Mariahilfplatz.
The Paulaners inherited the right to brew in 1634 when the parents of one of their monks passed away. It just so happened that the parents came from a well-established brewing family. With their passing, the order acquired the Lerchl family’s brewing right (Braurecht), albeit with tight restrictions imposed by the city council. The Paulaners could brew beer in the Lerchlbräu brewery, but only for their own consumption.
Yet what the authorities decreed was a matter of indifference to the monks. They drank the beer they brewed, served it to the poor –– and sold it to the locals. Starting in 1651, the monks brewed a particularly strong beer each spring to honour the founder of their order, Franz von Paola (Francesco di Paola). Back then, the beer was euphemistically called “Sankt-Vaters-Öl” (oil of the sacred father) because the monks were allowed to consume plant oil during the Lenten fast. This salutary beverage found quite a following on account of its reputation for quality, and soon became the chief source of income for the order. So beloved was this beer that it engendered no small amount of consternation among the other brewers in the area. Their complaints kept the local magistrates busy, but to no avail. No amount of persistence could bring about a prohibition of the monks’ special form of hospitality –– perhaps because the magistrates, too, were convinced of the merits of the Paulaners’ strong beer.
It’s not entirely clear when the Paulaner monks began to brew Bock beer, a style that was all the rage in Munich well before the Paulaners came along. One detail is certain, though: the Paulaner interpretation was more formidable than the Bock that flowed forth from taps controlled by the secular authorities at the Hofbräuhaus. Not only that; the beer was also more substantial in a nutritional sense –– brewed strong enough, in fact, to carry the monks through the Lenten fast. This sweet, dark drink tapped every year on the occasion of Franz von Paola’s feast day went by several names: “Sankt-Vaters-Bier” (beer of the sacred father), “des heiligen Franz Öl,” (oil of the Holy Franz), or, simply, liquid bread.
Despite the prohibition of public sales, the good souls of Munich flocked to Nockherberg in droves every year on 2 April for a sip of that potent elixir. The beer-drinking public had spoken, and in 1660 the order’s brewing right was finally confirmed. In 1751, the Prince-Elector Max III Joseph legalized the sale of the beer for eight days in April. After all, he, too, was an enthusiast of this famed beer.The Paulaner Brewery experienced a dramatic shift when Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806. As a result of the secularization accompanying the Napoleonic Wars, the brewery was expropriated from the monks. Eventually, one Franz Xaver Zacherl acquired the brewery and all rights associated with it.
As we have seen, Paulaner’s strong beer had been known by many names over the centuries. Zacherl, however, recognized the need to sharpen the beer’s identity and worked tirelessly to turn it into a brand that beer connoisseurs recognize to this day. Inspired by the expression “Salve Pater Patriae,” he coined the term “Salvator” (saviour).
Given the popularity of the style, other breweries began calling their strong beers “Salvator.” Zacherl, one of the early combatants in the nascent field of trademark disputes, was not impressed with the flattery. He filed suit against his imitators, but passed away in 1849 before he could savour his success. In the end, the judges ruled in his favour: In a nod to tradition, the name Salvator was to remain a possession of the Paulaner Brauerei, but other brewers could use the suffix “-ator” in the branding of their Doppelbocks.
And with that begun over a century-and-a-half’s worth of Celebrators, Triumphators, Maximators, Liberators, even Alligators. The latter are particularly dangerous.
Related Tempest articles:
Astrid Becker, “Vater aller Starkbiere,” in Süddeutsche Zeitung (ed.), Mir san Bier: Braukunst und Biergärten in und um München, 2013.
Ursula Eymold (ed.), Bier.Macht.München: 500 Jahre Münchner Reinheitsgebot in Bayern, exhibition catalogue, Münchener Stadtmuseum, 2016.
Salvator-Ausschank auf dem Nockherberg, lithographed placard, 1951
Paulaner logo by Paulaner
Remaining images by F.D. Hofer
© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.