King Gambrinus: The Man, the Myth, the Legend
April 11th is celebrated as King Gambrinus Day. King Gambrinus is can be seen in many depictions raising a beer stein high above his head, in toast. Gambrinus is often referred to as the patron saint of beer, however he is not a saint, or any other form of religious deity. Gambrinus is revered as a European folk hero of sorts, for it is believed that he was the first to put hops into beer. As is the case with many myths, legends, and folktales, the figure of Gambrinus seems to have stemmed from reality. Gambrinus, the father of hopped beer, is believed to have existed in history as an actual person of nobility, however historical scholars are not completely settled on his exact Identity.
The inspiration for Gambrinus is believed to have been one of two people; John I, Duke of Brabant, and John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, both Flemish nobility of the 13th and 14th centuries, respectively. The name, Gambrinus, is believed to be a corruption of Jan Primus, Jan being the Dutch/Flemmish variant of John, and Primus being Latin for, “the First.”
The legend of Gambrinus has so intensely permeated brewing culture that it has been the inspiration for the names of many breweries throughout history. The Gambrinus Stock Co. of Cincinnati, is just one of many. So today, April 11th, raise your glass, in toast, to King Gambrinus.