Genussmenschen in Bayreuth

Even in former times, Bayreuth had its share of connois­seurs who appre­ciated the specia­li­ties of its cuisine and its beer. Several reports about culinary loca­tions have also been chro­nicled. A few of them are coll­ected here.

Well-known Bayreuth gourmets

Bayreuth is known for its musical greats and also for philo­so­phers who have made the city their home over the years. However, some of them fell in love not only with the city and its unspoilt, picturesque surroun­dings, but also with the delights of tradi­tional Fran­co­nian cuisine. 

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner enjoyed his food and drink. In her diaries, his wife Cosima often spoke of her husband’s “dietary failings”. He was parti­cu­larly fond of Bayreuth’s beer. 

As a regular guest at the “Anger­mann” inn, he would often come there after his walks with his dog Russ and sit down at the so-called coachman’s table, smoke a cigar and drink a glass of beer. He usually did this slowly and in silence. He liked to eat light meals with bread there and had his own cutlery with ivory handles and his own two plates. He would also only drink from a glass reserved for his use. The tradi­tion of regular custo­mers using beer mugs reserved for their personal use still exists today in some inns.

Wagner, being the gourmet he was, would also dine on the lobster platter with figs at the “Hotel Goldener Anker”, and is said to have been very partial to Fran­co­nian “sauer­braten” (mari­nated roast beef) at the “Eule” restau­rant.

Richard Wagner
© Hanf­staengl

Jean Paul

I am stran­gely healthy. Thanks to Bayreuth’s beer …“ These were the words of Jean Paul, who on occa­sion had his friend Osmund send him a keg from Bayreuth to Weimar and Meiningen.

He took great plea­sure in the thought of moving to Bayreuth: “But once I’m in Bayreuth – heavens, how I will drink!” He too was fasci­nated by Bayreuth as a culinary centre.

In his work “Levana oder Erzieh­lehre” (Levana or Theory of Educa­tion), the follo­wing can be found on Bayreuth’s beer: “Thank God that you – like me – do not live in Saxony or in the Saxon Vogt­land, but in Bayreuth, closest to the best beer – Cham­pagne beer.

The city had only one disad­van­tage for him: There were so many locals living there …

Portrait von Jean Paul
© Litho Meier

Culinary loca­tions in Bayreuth

Places of culinary excel­lence, tradi­tional Fran­co­nian cuisine and home-brewed beer can be found in many corners of the city these days. But where did people go to treat them­selves to a fine meal in Richard Wagner’s day? Some of the culinary loca­tions still exist today, and you can imagine eating “sauer­braten” for Sunday lunch with the poets and thin­kers of the time. 

Alte Fotographie vom Redoutenhaus

Redou­ten­haus, Opernstraße

In Margra­vine Wilhelmine’s day, opulent theatre perfor­mances and lavish festi­vi­ties were held here. At these baroque feasts, all the dishes were served on the table at the same time: soup, various kinds of fish and meat, a variety of vege­ta­bles and even the desserts. A feast was always presented as a complete work of art.

On the occa­sion of the wedding of Wilhelmine’s daughter Frie­de­rike Sophie to the Duke of Würt­tem­berg, the follo­wing food was also served to the public: an ox, two stags, eight sheep and a foun­tain from which wine and beer flowed. For safety reasons, no knives were allowed. One can only imagine how the meal then proceeded.

Alte Fotographie vom Wittelsbacher Brunnen

Wittels­bach Foun­tain, Opernstraße

On 31 July 1914, one day before the First World War broke out, the Wittels­ba­cher Brunnen (Wittels­bach Foun­tain) was inau­gu­rated. The festive menu served at the Hotel Reichs­adler to mark the occa­sion was so opulent that Bayreuth’s social demo­crats were still gossi­ping about it in their party commit­tees five years later.

Hotel Goldener Anker

The hotel has been in the hands of the same family for gene­ra­tions. The history of the property can be traced back to 1500; since that time, the family has held the rights to host guests and to brew beer. 

From 1753 onwards, the family was granted the rights to run a hotel, and the hotel was named “Goldener Anker”. Mark Twain, a guest at the hotel, had the follo­wing to say about it: In the “Goldener Anker”, one could dine superbly. Then he corrected himself and said that one could watch how others dined there superbly.

In 1895, for the occa­sion of the birthday of the Bava­rian Prince Regent Luit­pold, the “Bayreu­ther Tagblatt” reported that the city council hosted a dinner for 80 people there; An enormous banquet inclu­ding Russian caviar, broth, Rhine salmon, maca­roni, various salads, game pâté, wild boar ragout, Brussels sprouts, veal roulade, goose breast, turkey stuffed with truf­fles, various compotes, cheese and frozen confectionery. 

Hotel Schwarzes Ross, Ludwig­straße 2

This estab­lish­ment, no longer in exis­tence, once housed famous guests such as Engel­bert Humper­dinck and Albert Schweizer, who embarked on his Bach biography here – despite the noise from the town’s famous beer hall located there.

Neues Schloss, Ludwigstraße

In the days of the margraves, there were nume­rous festi­vi­ties in the New Palace — a true culinary para­dise. For the margraves, only the best was (just) good enough. We know, for example, that it had around 600 employees in 1755. 14 chefs were employed there, and there was a court caterer and even a truffle hunter. It is said that from 1730 to 1755 about 35,000 game birds and animals were shot.

At the begin­ning of the 18th century, a menu for an ordi­nary midday meal on an ordi­nary Tuesday included the follo­wing dishes: potage of herbs and morels, beef and veal, dried meat, salads, lark’s breast and roast duck.

When distin­gu­ished guests were expected, the selec­tion was of course even more refined: in 1743, for example, Margaret, a farmer’s wife who deli­vered squab (young pigeon), eggs and herbs to the castle, reported a distin­gu­ished visitor from Berlin. The farmer’s niece was employed in the kitchen of the palace and had the follo­wing to report:

Special horse­back teams were sent to deliver truf­fles from Alsace; local venison was prepared in a new, refined way with exotic fruits and spices that could only be obtained from Nurem­berg or Augs­burg merchants. There were plenty of foreign wines to go with it. At very festive banquets, so-called show dishes were also served. These were deco­rated with sugar sculp­tures and foun­tains from which precious stones flowed. The more elabo­rate, the better. There were also show dishes that were simply painted porce­lain.

Neues Schloss Bayreuth (c) Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung

The margra­vial cuisine was strongly meat-based, relying heavily on game, poultry, and beef in various forms. Due to this diet, many members of the higher social classes often suffered from gout.

The lower classes in those days had a rather frugal diet: the common man seldom had meat on his plate. Flour dishes, pulses, turnips, cabbage and cereal mash made from oats or barley were the order of the day. To drink, there was water, diluted with wine for its anti­septic proper­ties, or often home-brewed beer and milk.

Mann’s Bräu, Fried­rich­straße - The tradi­tion of the “Becken­brauer”

First of all, perhaps, some general infor­ma­tion about beer-brewing in Bayreuth: Since brewing was not considered a “proper trade”, in Bayreuth, every full citizen of the city was allowed to brew his own home-brew annu­ally in the city brewery – under the super­vi­sion of the city’s brew­master, of course. 

Gradu­ally, the bakers became specia­lists in this side­line. At the begin­ning of the 20th century, a “Beck” brewed about five to six hecto­li­tres per year, which was served to gour­mets in the tavern, the so-called “Zech­stube”.

One of these “beck” fami­lies was the Mann family in Fried­rich­straße. They brewed so-called “Schenk­biere” (beer for serving) and “Lager­biere” (beer for storing) from 1823 onwards. Their “Doppel­bock” was legen­dary. This is still available today – but brewed by Becher Bräu in the Altstadt. 

Beer was not brewed from May to September. During these months, the cooling of the beer could not be guaran­teed. From 1911 onwards, the Mann family dedi­cated them­selves solely to brewing. They had comple­tely given up baking.

Very close to “Mann’s Bräu”, a “Buschen­schenke” open its doors again today: The “Bäckerei Lang” has revived the old tradi­tion and brews its own beer four times a year, the dates can be found on their website: Buschen­schänke – Lang Genuss­welt (baeckerei-lang.de). For over 250 years the family has had the right to brew beer, at the end of the 18th century brewing equip­ment was mentioned for the first time and from the begin­ning of the 19th century, beer was served to customers.

The “Bauern­wärtla”, Sophienstraße

Another well-known “Becken­brauer” was Georg Bauer, who ran the Bauern­wärtla in Sophien­straße. The „Wärtla“ (a dimi­nu­tive form of “Wirt“, or land­lord) opened at the begin­ning of the 20th century and soon became very popular. The so-called “labo­ra­tory” – the bar – earned its name because the land­lord conducted all kinds of expe­ri­ments with beer. Many a cloudy brew was disgu­ised with a dark colou­ring agent. Some guests were served a very indi­vi­dual drink, mixed from a wide variety of barrels. 

He was also well known for his jokes and sayings. When a rather pushy Prus­sian asked for a “little blonde” (beer), he is said to have replied mockingly: “Just wait until you’re a bit thir­stier, and then drink a big one”. The Bayreuth local also had a heart for young people, and many a grammar school pupil ended up with a hangover for a ridi­cu­lously low price. Even at the age of 90, Georg Bauer was still a cheerful beer drinker. The “Bauern­wärtla” is still a pub to this day.

Bayreuth’s artists’ pubs – today and in former times

In Wagner’s day, the “Anger­mann” was an insti­tu­tion. Artists and musi­cians gathered there after rehear­sals for the festival. The nights at the pub were often just as long as the rehear­sals for the festival. 

The artists also referred to the Anger­mann as “the cata­combs”. A long corridor led to very modest, narrow and low guest rooms. On the first floor was an equally unglamo­rous hall. The guests were seated at simple long wooden benches and tables, and Weihen­ste­phan beer was served there.

Genuss im Angermann
“The Anger­mann” in Kanzleistraße

The Anger­mann soon became an attrac­tion for visi­tors to the Bayreuth Festival. The inn was in such great demand during the festival at times that the crowds, tank­ards in hand, not only filled the rooms and the outside areas, but also the entire pave­ment and the street to the houses oppo­site (accor­ding to an obser­va­tion of Hans Bertolo Brand, a photographer).

Right next door there was another inn, the “Weisse Lamm”, which was equally well frequented during the festival season. To make way for the new post office, both houses were demo­lished in 1892.

Before their demo­li­tion, Chris­tian Sammet, one of Bayreuth’s real charac­ters, secured some of the furnis­hings and housed them in his café at the Old Palace. His father had already run a coffee and beer bar there. Café Sammet served a few curio­si­ties: Wotan ham, Brünn­hilde steak, Mime eggs or Sieg­mund aspa­ragus spears. 

Even before 1900, the café was a gastro­nomic high­light for the festival’s haute cuisine: “Sammet’s Musen­heim” was awarded a“Baedeker” star. For the enter­tain­ment of guests, there were musical events, vaude­ville guest perfor­mances and film screenings. 

Sammet also played a birthday sere­nade on the trumpet for Cosima Wagner, but she was not so amused and rejected this musical homage. When he carried on playing regard­less, he was reported for distur­bing the peace. At the end of 1908, Café Sammet closed its doors after the premises became the property of the Bava­rian state.

The “Eule” in Kämme­rei­gasse already existed in Richard Wagner’s day. The master book­binder Chris­tian Senfft reported that Richard Wagner had asked him for direc­tions to the Eule. He had heard that there was a restau­rant with parti­cu­larly good beer in a small lane near the Stadt­kirche (City Church). Since the direc­tions given were too compli­cated for him, Wagner simply decided to take the master book­binder with him, in his working clothes, for an evening beer. Wagner then also picked up the bill. 

However, the Eule’s mete­oric rise to fame as an artists’ pub only began after Richard Wagner’s death. What the Anger­mann was for him, the Eule was for his son Sieg­fried. The side room was even named after him. 

During the festival, cele­bri­ties and artists alike met there. Nume­rous photo­graphs on the walls bear testimony to this. From the 1970s onwards, the Eule began to fall out of favour. People met elsewhere. 

After exten­sive reno­va­tion, the Eule has now been opening its doors again for a number of years, and welcomes its guests in the tradi­tional manner once more.

For decades, the “Weihen­ste­phan” in Bahn­hof­straße enjoyed cult status among festival parti­ci­pants. Once bought and reno­vated by two world-famous Wagner singers and a theatre director, the pub quickly estab­lished itself as a meeting place for Wagnerians.

High on the Theta, a welco­ming beer garden can be found, situated under magni­fi­cent old trees. During the Richard Wagner Festival, the popular beer garden becomes a meeting place for the artists and musi­cians. Sitting toge­ther, having a bite to eat and discus­sing rehear­sals and perfor­mances is a regular evening acti­vity during the festival season.

If you want to pay the beer garden a visit yourself, the best way to do so is combine your visit with a short hike.

Sources:

Mayer Bernd, Bayreuth G´schichtla

Rückel Gert and Kolb Werner, Stadt­führer Bayreuth

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