Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Gambrinus is a very important beer for technical students in Vienna, especially for those who study physics. It's also important for bums, but that is not the point of this - article? essay? blog-entry? Probably the latter, but 'blog-entry' is awfully unwieldy. Maybe there is some expression for this I have missed. If not, I would propose 'blarticle', which strikes me as particularly onomatopoeic. Furthermore, a quick Google Search shows only 1170 results - which means I am only the 734th person to think of this. So, to return from this little tangent, this blarticle is not about bums and their choice of beverage, but rather of students and theirs, and we shall disregard any surprising or unsurprising congruencies.

When encountering Gambrinus for the first time, maybe in the hand of a bum student in the subway station, or maybe on the shelves of one of the supermarkets in Vienna, the erudite beer drinker will immediately recollect Gambrinus , inofficial patron saint of beer. First mentioned by a German poet in the 16th century, he supposedly learned the art of beer brewing from Isis. Now Isis was pretty hot by all accounts, Nephtys (her sister) tried after all to disguise herself as Isis to seduce Set (although why anyone would try to seduce old snake-face remains a mystery to me). This did not work, but Osiris (Isis husband) promptly took her to bed, which is how Anubis was conceived. Isis then had to adopt Anubis, because Nephtys feared the wrath of Set, who, although derelict in his marital duties, was her husband from the beginning.

We can see why Isis knew how to brew beer, and she was nice enough to share that secret with Gambrinus. He, in turn, sorely needed a couple of pints, since being a legendary king of Flanders gives you a powerful thirst, which is compounded by the well-known fact that Flanders is powerfully dull.

Gambrinus is only sold in cans, which means there is no smashed glass at the end of the night, another plus. Also, it is the cheapest beer you can still drink without shuddering in distaste. And, as any student of technical physics in Vienna will be quick to point out, it has the important property of tasting the same, whether it is cold or luke-warm. This athermal behavior has been the subject of many a discussion at the students association of technical physics. The depreciatory (Another tangent: I had the hell of a time deciding whether to use depreciate or deprecate - indeed, before writing this blarticle I thought them the same word and spelled 'deprecrate'. Goes to show that you are never as smart as you think.) answer that the taste just cannot get any worse is, of course, beneath notice. Proponents of this asinity are invited to try and drink warm 'Schwechater' or 'Skol' - if they dare.

The Gambrinus can has had a couple of different incarnations: Originally sold in yellow cans, it had a brief intermezzo in white-green, and presents itself now with characteristic silver-green stripes.

I do not drink it anymore if I don't have to.

To come to the point of this blarticle (yes, there is one): Imagine my delight when during a recent visit to Sopron I found the house depicted below. It is the old town hall of Sopron, constructed in the 13th century. Clearly this is then the very first mention of Gambrinus, and it shows that the Hungarians where levelheaded enough, despite their funny language (or maybe because of it?), to brew beer in the town hall.


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