The Legend of Gambrinus – The King of Beers!
Anyone who can drink this beer stein full of beer in one draft is sure to earn Gambrinus’ approval and sheer delight. It was his ability to drink which prompted brewers to appoint him as their “KING” (but not: “PATRON SAINT”) many centuries ago.
One of the most often seen representations of “The King” straddling his beer barrel throne, on a Circa 1860’s stoneware relief “mud stein [from either the Westerwald or Regensberg city. ]
How it happened is related in the following legend (only one of many, many story versions out there):
Around the year 1100, the brewers of Brussels deliberated which strong and courageous man should be their leader. They organized a contest, at which a large beer barrel was placed on the ground. The one who could carry it to a spot two stone’s throws away would become their head brewer.
Among many who registered for the contest was a Duke from Brabant, whose name was Jan Primus, a man of great strength and considerable intellect. With obvious joy, he followed the futile efforts of the numerous competitors to move the beer barrel. When his turn came, he ordered the servant to beat a spigot into the bunghole. He then lay down under the barrel, opened the tap and drank until the barrel was empty. Having done this, he carried the barrel effortlessly to the winning post.
On the strength of this clever idea, the brewers of Brussels appointed him as their honorary leader. Jan Primus became “Gambrinus, the King of Beer.”
A very interesting and seldom seen blown glass, enameled stein. Ca. 1890; showing
“Jan Primus” instead of Gambrinus. Unknown maker or designer.
Historical Information of the perhaps real Gambrinus: There was indeed a Duke of Brabant (the first Duke) named Jan Primus (1251-1295). Jan was born in the region of Burgundy and ruled what is now mostly Belgium. Also, there is a brewery named after the “King of Beer” in Pilsen, Bohemia in the Czech Republic. The Gambrinus brewery was founded in 1869 and still brews beer today.
Painted bronze wall plaque showing “The King” in full regalia. Made by Dehls & Stein, New Jersey, dated 1937. (Comps=WB )
Misnomer = Gambrinus is called by some the “The Patron Saint of Beer”! Gambrinus may be the “King of Beer”, but he is NOT the “Patron Saint of beer,” nor is he a Patron Saint of anything!
The almost identical mold of Gambrinus as shown above at the beginning, this time on a 1.25 stoneware liter stein, with a great colored porcelain inlay in the lid.
That Gambrinus is the “Patron Saint” of beer is really a misnomer that has been floating around the world and especially within the SCI collector’s circle for quite some time. This I think in part due to David Harr’s article in Prosit, (Winter 2002) on what certain character stein forms mean. This misnomer now appears to have originally from SCI’s master steinologist (and dear friend) Mike Wald, who was of the Jewish faith and may not have understood the real meaning of  the word “Patron” or  “Saint”, or  the use of the phrase “Patron Saint.”
DEFINITION OF PATRON:
1. A person whose support or protection is solicited or acknowledged by the dedication of a book or other work.
DEFINITION OF SAINT:
1. Any of certain persons of exceptional holiness of life, formally recognized as such by the Christian Church, esp. by canonization. 2. a person of great holiness, virtue, or benevolence. 3. a founder, sponsor, or patron, as of a movement or organization.
DEFINITION OF PATRON SAINT.
1. A saint regarded as the special guardian of a person, group, trade, country, etc.
As can be seen above by the rudimentary definitions taken from “Info Please” on the web. Gambrinus could:
 not have ever been recognized by the Christian (read Roman Catholic or Orthodox) churches, as Gambrinus was never a real person (or an angel.) He is nothing but a legend!
 not have been a patron saint “of beer”, as “beer” is not a person or group; beer is an inanimate object.
A brass pokal lid of Gambrinus [FWTD].
Gambrinus COULD NEVER HAVE BEEN a patron saint of the beer brewers or beer keg makers or anything beer related due to condition No.1 (above) alone.
Even Wikipedia qualifies this title by saying: Gambrinus is a legendary King of Flanders, and an “unofficial patron saint” of beer or beer brewing.
Gambrinus, a porcelain character stein, .5 liter, produced by “Dresden Art”, Post World War II [Photo SA]
And to beat that already “dead horse”: Another definition from “Catholic Online”;
What is a patron saint?
“Patron saints are chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of life. These areas can include occupations, illnesses, churches, countries, causes — anything that is important to us. The earliest records show that people and churches were named after apostles and martyrs as early as the fourth century.
Recently, the popes have named patron saints but patrons can be chosen by other individuals or groups as well. Patron saints are often chosen today because an interest, talent, or event in their lives overlaps with the special area.” (EDITOR’S NOTE : IN OTHER WORDS THEY HAVE HAD TO BEEN A LIVING PERSON! – NOT A LEGEND!)
“For example, Francis of Assisi loved nature and so he is patron of ecologists. Francis de Sales was a writer and so he is patron of journalists and writers. Clare of Assisi was named patron of television because one Christmas when she was too ill to leave her bed she saw and heard Christmas Mass — even though it was taking place miles away.” Angels can also be named as patron saints. A patron saint can help us when we follow the example of that saint’s life and when we ask for that saint’s intercessory prayers to God.
Some real patron saints of BEER / BREWERS as seen on the internet:  Saint Arnold, Austrian, year 580.  Arnold (Arnoul) of Soissons, Belgium (Ca. 1040 – 1087).  and there are 100’s more as every city’s brewer’s guild was allowed to name its preferred saint!
Gambrinus on his throne, shown on a .5 liter pottery relief mug made for the Beer Wagon Drivers Convention in Philadelphia, USA in 1913.
Gambrinus, crowned, on a carved Meerschaum cheroot holder. Detail below:
Shown as a finial on a 2 liter pewter beer server. [S C]
Silver plated lid, but with what I think was a re-attached / married to a one liter “Marzi & Remi stoneware stein.
Gambrinus on an old “Arrow Beer” (American) beer bar serving tray. It is interesting to me that a fireman is the one up closest to the barrel getting his fill – and with his helmet and fire cloak still on, of course!
Below: a few other representations of Gambrinus on beer steins.
Gambrinus on a one liter “mud” stein. Circa 1870.
Gambrinus, his profile with crown, on scepter and of course a beaker of “bier.”
A variant of the lid shown at the beginning of this page. One of many similar. The source painting is unknown to me.
For information about the “Gambrinus” Stein (Collectors) Club of VA., MD., and DC. please see:
THE GAMBRINUS GAZETTE: “Serving Stein Collectors in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.”
Norman Paratore Editor, [email protected]
Photo Albums: http://picasaweb.google.com/GambrinusDC
[END – SP104 – 18 – R5]
“Whoever coined the phrase: “Quiet as a mouse” has never stepped on one.”