Complete Guide to Weihenstephan Brewery

Of course Germany has the oldest brewery in the world

Weihenstephan Brewery in Bavaria
••• Bernt Rostad

There are a few elite brewers that stand out for being the oldest and most respected in the world. Grolsch from the Netherlands, Yuengling from Pennsylvania, Guinness from Ireland...

But none of these have been in business as long as Weihenstephaner Brewery. This Bavarian brewery is the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world. Discover its long, long history of German brewing and plan a visit to Weihenstephaner Brewery in Germany.

History of Weihenstephaner Brewery

Like so many German breweries, Weihenstephaner began as a Benedictine abbey in 725. That's right - just triple digits and over a thousand years ago! St Corbinian (Korbinian) laid the first stones with 12 companions and brewing began in 768. However, it wasn't until 1040 that Abbot Arnold was officially permitted to brew and to sell Weihenstephan beer from the city of Freising. The official decree has been disputed, but it is certain that by the time the Bavarian beer purity law was put into place in 1516, Weihenstephaner had already been brewing for years.

Amidst all of these changes, the brewery also underwent several periods of destruction and rebuilding. Invasions by the Hungarians, Swedes, French and Austrians, fires, three plague epidemics and even an earthquake in 1348 rocked the brewery. But they just kept on brewing. 

Germany also underwent major changes with secularization and the monastery was dissolved in 1803.

All the possessions and rights of the brewery - like all that beer - were transferred to the Bavarian State. By 1921, it became the Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan (Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan) and used the seal of the Bavarian State as its corporate logo.

Weihenstephaner Brewery has continued to earn honors like the "Best Great Brewery" award by the Australian International Beer Awards in 2010 and gold medals for its Hefeweizen and Kristallweißbier for the World Beer Cup in 2016.

Despite its tremendous history, the brewery has managed to stay ahead of the curve with its brewing, education program and even social media. They have active twitter, Facebook and instagram accounts that frequently spout something that sounds like humor. Yes - humor from the Germans! For example, this video from the brewery of Americans trying to pronounce "Weihenstephaner" ("whiny steven" is my favorite).

Education Weihenstephaner Brewery

Weihenstephaner Brewery doesn't just make great beer, it teaches the art of beer-making. A move in 1852 to Weihenstephaner allowed for the school to develop into a university by 1919. It was incorporated into TUM (Technical University of Munich) in 1930 and still educates master brewers today.

The site includes a small research institute with high-tech beer technology. Students learn the traditional brewing process step by step, as well as all the microbiological principles that make beer possible.

Beers of Weihenstephaner Brewery

The brewery encompasses both traditional and cutting-edge beer technology and has won numerous awards.

Weihenstephaner Weissbier

Sample the quintessential Bavarian beer of Hefeweizen (wheat beer). A light golden-yellow beer, it is earthy with a banana finish and doesn't need an added lemon to brighten it up.

It is brewed according to the original recipe.

Tradition Bayrisch Dunkel

This reddish brown lager is full of roasted flavor with a caramel finish. It pairs with hearty German dishes, like roasts and game.

Weihenstephan Vitus

The Vitus is not a typical Bock beer. It tastes like a fruity, sparkling wheat beer, but weighs in at 7.7%. It is a top award winner taking home a past World's Best Beer as well as World’s Best Wheat Beer, World’s Best Strong Wheat Beer and Europe’s Best Strong Wheat Beer.

Weihenstephaner 1516

This Bavarian Kellerbier marked the 500 year anniversary of the Beer Purity Law. Using a recipe from 1516, it is naturally cloudy cellar beer matured for an extra-long period in low temperatures. The promotion proved popular and this will now be a regular seasonal beer in March in Germany.

Weihenstephaner Korbinian

Named for the founder of the abbey, this dark Doppelbock has malty hints of plums and figs, plus roasted toffee, nuts and chocolate. 

Read about all of Weihenstephaner's beers.

Visiting Weihenstephaner Brewery

Visit the Weihenstephaner Brewery in the city of Freising in Bavaria, just 20 minutes from the Munich airport. Tours offer an in-depth look at the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world from the museum's "Origin of Beer“ all the way through its 1,000 year history.

Tours cost €8 (and include a €2 voucher for the Weihenstephaner beverage shop) and run for approximately an hour. Want more tour? There is a two hour version for €11 that also includes the voucher, a taste of the product - the legendary wheat beer - a pretzel and a glass to take home as a souvenir

Guests under 16-years-old must be accompanied by an adult and children younger than 6 are not allowed. Wear closed toes shows and register online beforehand.

Tour Schedule:

  • Monday - 10:00
  • Tuesday - 10:00 and 13:30
  • Wednesday - 10:00

Weihenstephaner Brewery Website: https://www.weihenstephaner.de/en/

https://twitter.com/weihenstephan

There is also a traditional brewpub at the site, as well as a picturesque Biergarten up on the hill.  

There are two locations in Friesing and several branches around the country:

Weihenstephaner Locations in Freising
Braustüberl Weihenstephan
Weihenstephaner Berg 10
D-85354 Freising

Weihenstephaner am Dom
Domberg 5a,
D-85354 Freising

Weihenstephaner in Berlin
Neue Promenade 5
D-10178 Berlin

Weihenstephaner in Wiesbaden
Taunusstrasse 46-48
D-65183 Wiesbaden

Other Notable Breweries in Germany

There are no shortage of famous breweries in Germany. A few other you should consider visiting:

Weltenburg Abbey Brewery

Nearby Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei also vies for the title of oldest brewery. It has been in operation since 1050 and has also won awards from the World Beer Cup awards. Combine a visit with Weihenstephaner for more historical German beer loving than you can handle.

Bolten Brewery

Founded in 1266, Bolten- Brauerei makes the oldest Altbier in the world. 

Gaffel Brewery

The oldest brewer in one of the oldest cities in Germany, Gaffel is the proud producer of Kölsch. It was founded in 1302 and is now among the 10 largest beer manufacturers in Germany.