Historical depictions, guild signs and symbols of the brewing and malting handcraft

Reason for research

The breweries in Germany have been facing growing economic challenges in the last year. Due to the decreasing overall consumption of beer because of alternative beverages, the competition between brands has been increasingly drastic. As a consequence the quality of the product and the brand image nowadays play a major role for the economic situation of a brewery.

A common approach in brewing marketing are the historic roots of brewing in Germany, well known for the references to the bavarian purity law of 1516. In addition the connection between beer and human culture serve as instrument within this strategy.

As the main goal of marketing - the creation of a positive and unique image and hence customer loyalty - for most consumers can not be achieved by scientific essays, much of the used historic material is rather short an enriched with images and pictures. Common are depictions of old brewers and their tools as well as old symbols of the brewing guilds. Unfortunately these are very often misinterpreted and used out of context, as shown in the following examples:

1.      The website of the brewery Schumacher (Düsseldorf) shows the emblem of a "Rotbiertrinker" (red beer drinker) [1] . However this signs is actually the old city emblem of Nürnberg (Nuremberg). [2] .

2.      Many websites describe Herttel Pyrprew [3] as example for the brewing art of the monks [4] . As will be shown later, this does not concur with the facts [5] .

These false usages are however not a specific brewing industry problem, as a seminar from the Martin Luther University of Halle Wittenberg proves. [6] . Using wrong statments does obviously not help the marketing strategy, even more so, if interested customers get controversial information, as this questions the credibility of a brewery. It is necessary that all historic facts are stated as consistently as the bavarian purity law, which one can find in the same citation in many brochures.

This thesis will therefore show and interpret various images, guild signs and symbols of the brewing and malting handcraft with regards to the social, political and last but not least brewing-historical situation. The focus will be on southern Germany, specifically the free imperial city of Nürnberg, as the historical material there is most abundand. To breweries and brewers associations this thesis should serve as a tool for the correct usage of images and symbols in any marketing instrument.


[1] Internetverzeichnis: Brauerei Schumacher

[2] Red beer was common in Nürnberg, however the symbol for red beer is quite different. More in chapter 4: tapping signs.

[3] Literaturverzeichnis: Faksimile Mendelsches Hausbuch, S. 38

[4] Internetverzeichnis: Jens Hoffmann, This is however a very common mistake, in fact the majority of depictions has this false explanation.

[5] Literaturverzeichnis: Irene Krauß, S. 61

[6] Internetverzeichnis: Proseminar von Dr. Selzer, Universität Halle-Wittenberg