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Who Was He?
King Gambrinus, known as "the patron saint of beer," has long been a universal symbol of beer and brewing. Particularly during the late nineteenth century, the image of Gambrinus was used by countless brewers to promote their products and remind consumers of the rich heritage of beer-making. Many breweries were even adorned with life-size statues of the King.
But who was Gambrinus? In 1891, George Ehret, the great New York City brewer, published a book entitled Twenty-Five Years of Brewing. In his book, Ehret briefly related the common wisdom as to the origins of King Gambrinus:
"While some attribute the invention of hopped malt-beer to Jan Primus (John I), a scion of the stock of Burgundy princes, who lived about the year 1251, others ascribe it to Jean Sans Peur (1371-1419), otherwise known as Ganbrivius. A corruption of either name may plausibly be shown to have resulted in the present name of the King of Beer, viz., Gambrinus, who we are accustomed to see represented in the habit of a knight of the middle-ages, with the occasional addition of a crown. Popular imagination, it seems, attached such great importance to beer, that in according the honor of its invention, it could not be satisfied with anything less than a king."