The brewery family Georg Schneider and wheat beer.
Looking closely at the past of Schneider Weisse, one will uncover two fascinating stories: The first tells of duke Maximilian I. and his rigorous commitment to the propagation of wheat beer, leading to the foundation of the first „Weisses Bräuhaus“ in Kelheim – today's brewing site of Schneider Weisse. A seemingly wholly different story begins far from Kelheim and tells us of the brewer family Schneider, passing on their precious heritage of experience and passion over many generations. Join us on a short trip through the centuries … and see how two stories finally become one.
Duke Maximilian I.
of Bavaria (1573-1651)
Wheat beer to the people
During the regency of Bavarian Duke Maximilian I., hence roughly 400 years ago, wheat beer is the beer of the gentry and those of higher social standing. This however makes wheat beer desirable for all social classes, as in these days the lifestyle of the superiors is seen as highly exemplary. Wheat beer back than therefore even was an indicator of social advancement.
However the access to the nobel beer was restricted, as for centuries the privilege for the production and distribution of wheat beer in Bavaria lay exclusively in the hands of the aristocratic family Degenberger, the counts of Bogen, located in the Bayerischer Wald.
By inheritance the „Weissbierregal“ – the right to brew wheat beer – is passed on to Duke Maximilian I., the later Elector. Maximilian sees enormous economic potential in distributing the top fermented beer and soon starts founding new breweries all over Bavaria, the first of which was opened in 1607 in Kelheim. It is the very same brewery that will be obtained by the Schneider family in 1928.
Until the 18th century wheat beer clearly dominates the beer market. Then the tide turns: The preferences of beer drinkers change and the so called "Braunbier" (brown beer) is becoming ever more popular. Therefore the state revenue from brewing monopols drop rapidly. Still: the exclusiveness of brewing wheat beer is maintained, it is now simply less profitable.
Georg I. Schneider
Georg II. Schneider
Until 1872 the triumph of bottom-fermented beer has progressed so far as to nurture considerations of the venerable "Königlich Weisses Hofbräuhaus“ to abandon the production of wheat beer altogether, freeing precious space for the production of other sorts. With the loss of this stronghold for the production of top-fermented beer the "Weisse“ is threatened by extinction – if it wasn't for two entrepreneurs by the name of Schneider …
With the development of new refrigerating machines, such as those provided to the Bavarian breweries by legendary German engineer Carl von Linde (1842-1934) since 1871, bottom-fermented beers become increasingly available and popular, since brewing "Lager“ "Dark beers“ now is also possible during the warmer seasons.
This is the window of opportunity for Georg I. Schneider. The Munich entrepreneur believes in the future of the traditional brewing techniques for top-fermented beer and thus immediately negotiates with the Bavarian "Hofbräuamt" (the courtly administration for brewing) under King Ludwig II. of Bavaria (1856-1886), in order to obtain the „Weissbierregal“ - and is finally granted the right to brew wheat beer, as the first commoner ever.
Fortunately at the very same time Georg I. Schneider is able to take over the abandoned brewery "Zum Maderbräu“ in Munich. After roughly a year of building alterations he, together with his son Georg II. Schneider, already estabilshes his own company "G. Schneider & Sohn“ and starts production in September 1872. "Schneider Weisse“ is born …
Sometimes business and love follow the same principles: If you want to achieve something you will at times have to lean up against the conventions of society. The younger of the two Georgs is well aware of this: Already a master brewer at an early age he becomes co-owner of the father's brewery at 26, in which he invests massively, against all short-lived trends of the time.
No less in his private life is Georg II. a man who follows his heart – and marries a protestant woman, nothing short of a scandal in catholic Bavaria. The marital bliss is short-lived, as the founding member of the "Bayrischer Brauerbund" (Bavarian brewing association) dies at an early age, aged 44, and in the same year as his father. Despite this double blow the brewery remains in possession of the family.
Two originals and one "Original": already the first wheat beer creation of father and son Schneider becomes an instant classic – until today „Mein Original“ is being brewed following the recipe from 1872 … and is under its contemporary name „TAP7“ still extremely popular.
Georg Schneider III.
The world at the end of the 19th century seems to have gotten smaller: vast colonial empires extend their frontiers relentlessly, spectacular expeditions fill in the last white spots on the maps. In the German Empire in 1890 the „Zoological Society“ is founded – a manifestation of the new European interest in everything exotic in nature and culture, an interest shared by one Georg Schneider ...
Inspired by pioneering explorers as Heinrich Barth (1821-1865) countless German researchers leave their home country to travel remote parts of the world, especially in northern and central Africa. Georg III. Schneider is also fascinated by the unknown and becomes a passionate collector of exotic rarities – and a true crocodile fan. But he is also himself driven by pioneering ambitions …
Following the early death of his father Georg III. Schneider takes over the brewery at the age of 20. Soon he realises that Munich is not an enclave to the rest of the world. Farsightedly he consolidates the brand Schneider Weisse by registering its logo (consisting of two crossed yeast ears) with the Munich patent office. It is to be the world's first registered wheat beer brand.
However the focus for Georg Schneider III. lies in the expansion and reconstruction of the Munich brewery. The ever growing number of guests per se is much appreciated, but also brings the taprooms simply to the limits of their capacity. The young entrepreneur thus decides to renew and enlarge the "Bräuhaus".
Georg III. Schneider is also only granted a very limited lifespan. He dies in 1905 at the age of just 35. He leaves two daughters behind, his only 6 years old boy Georg IV. and his wife Mathilde. Together with close relatives the widow is acting as director of the brewery facilities in place of her underaged son – and withstands all adversities of her time with great endurance and will power.
The turn of the 20th century marks a fundamental change in the identity of no less than half of humanity. Initially in England, than also in the USA, France and Germany more and more courageous women fight for equal rights. Mathilde Schneider also chooses a path of confidence …
Inspired by the protest marches of the so called „suffragettes“ for women's right to vote in England more and more women question their role as foremost mothers, wives and housekeepers – and seek more responsibility in the world of emplyoment. But it still is a long road to climb. So, when Mathilde Schneider takes over the administration of the brewery from her recently deceased husband, she has to lead "covertly".
The single mother continues her husband's life's work leading from behind. Under her secret management Schneider Weisse eventually rises to become the biggest wheat beer brewery in Southern Germany before the First World War. During the following global conflagration however the brewery plunges into crisis, suffering from the confiscation of trucks, sparse resources and related brewing restraints issued by the government.
The situation for the brewing industry does not improve in the post-war years. During the inflation the beer prices climb to an all time high of 12.700.000 Reichsmark per liter. Almost half of the Bavarian breweries are forced to shut down. It proves Mathilde's outstanding strength of character that in such dark times she still manages to not only hold together the Schneider company but also her family.
The strength of a woman makes for a strong beer: Eventually Mathilde Schneider realised that the recipe of the Schneider Weisse implied such a variety of flavours and sorts that it was even suitable for the creation of a strong wheat beer. In 1907 the brewery thus introduced the „Aventinus“, named after the Bavarian historiographer Aventinus (1477-1534) – and this particular wheat beer itself was soon to make history.
Georg Schneider IV.
Georg IV. takes over the brewery in a time when many Germans traumatized by the war are attracted by political mass movements based on radical ideologies, instead of striking out on one's own. The young brewer however keeps to the liberal ideals of his family – and is rewarded with an astonishing business success.
Thanks to the fact that the Schneider brewery has with much endurance and experience been navigated through the fundamental crisis of the past years, completely new possibilities open up to Georg IV. Many competitors had to succumb to the economic downfall which allows the new company director to obtain additional brewing facilities in Munich, Straubing, Augsburg as well as the „Weisses Bräuhaus“ in Kelheim.
But it's not for long that the brewery can benefit from the expansion. The Great Depression and its dramatic consequences for mass unemployment and impoverishment accelarate the rise of the national socialists, who eventually seize power in Germany in 1933. Georg IV. withstands the pressure of the Nazi-thugs and refuses to join the national socialist party NSDAP – and endures the inevitable reprisals.
With the outbreak of the Second World War new measures of rationing are being taken, resources are sparse and the German population has to settle for small beer and whey lemonade. In the following bomb war on German cities the brewing facility in Munich as well as most of the brewery-owned outlets in Munich and Augsburg are being destroyed.
After the war Georg IV. Schneider stands before the smoking ruins of a decade-long development work. He decides to start over in the former „Kurfürstliches Weisses Hofbräuhaus" in Kelheim – at considerable risk, as, even if the production site was spared from greater damage, they still are in need of substantial reinvestments.
Soon however the courage of Georg IV. is being rewarded. The American occupation forces appreciate Bavarian wheat beer and allow the „Brauerei G. Schneider & Sohn“ to restart production only four months after the end of the war. Luckily wheat beer also increasingly appeals to broader parts of the German society.
A feast of flavour.
Only few know that Scheider Weisse used to be represented by an own festival tent on the Munich Oktoberfest. Until the relocation to Kelheim the freshly tangy "Festweisse“ was served here. Much to the delight of wheat beer enthusiasts this speciality has been available again since 1999. Even if not on the Oktoberfest …
Georg Schneider V.
Something unheard of crosses the Atlantic Ocean: in the 1950's the youth of the world is sent into ecstasies by rock'n'roll music. And a member of the Scheider family is about to strike a new chord: Initially drawn towards a life in music behind the conductor's stand young Georg V. in 1958 starts to orchestrate the future of the family brewery.
Just like rock'n'roll, beer specialities from Schneider Weisse become export hits during the leadership Georg V. Under his supervision not only Austria and Switzerland but also the US are being opened up as new target markets. Following the credo "Preserve the old, create the new“ he enforces the modernisation of the brewing facilities in Kelheim and raises output capacities significantly.
With the reconstruction of the fermentation cellar in 1983 Georg V. Schneider keeps to the traditional brewing method with open vats by applying an innovative and even patented procedure, while elsewhere cheaper tank fermentation is preferred. The next steps are the rebuilding of the brewhouse in 1989, the modernization of the botteling facilities and the new construction of the logistic centre in nearby Saal an der Donau.
Sales facilities are also renewed completely at this time. The most challenging construction project is the "Weisses Bräuhaus im Tal" in Munich. The first floor and the gable are being renovated in two construction phases, 1988 and 1993. It is only now that the devastations of the war can be restored to their original state before 1905.
"More room for a good brew“. This principle of Georg V. Schneider does not only set off extensive construction activities in and around the brewery, but also gives room to new wheat beer specialities. The "Schneider Weisse light“, "Schneider Weisse non-alcoholic“, "Schneider Weisse Kristall“ and "Schneider Weisse Weizenhell“ – a solid foundation of today's wheat beer assortment.
Georg Schneider VI.
The new millenium has dawned – and the end of the world is postponed. Fear of a global collapse of technical infrastructures due to the so called "millenium bug" prove unfounded. Instead humanity starts exploring near outer space with the International Space Station. Also in placid Kelheim Georg Schneider pushes boundaries. Not least on the scaffold …
Since having taken over as senior manager in 2000 Georg VI. Schneider is constantly seeking to broaden the range of Schneider Weisse wheat beer specialities – always driven by the highest ambitions when it comes to quality. At the same time he is extending the brewery's distribution network on a global scale. Schneider wheat beers are now available to true connoisseurs on six continents.
Especially in one respect Georg VI. resembles his ancestors – in being different. Furthermore he has inherited his passion for arts and creativity from his father. As a sophisticated painter he not only accentuates new colors in his wheat beer creations, but also on the canvas: The special look of the Schneider Weisse bottle labels is based on his design.
For Georg VI. progressivity and sustainability form a single entity. Only in the harmonic combination of tradition and innovation the different tones that make brewing special beers an art form can really shine. That's why the "Deutsches Reinheitsgebot" (German purity law) to Schneider Weisse is a foundation of a vital beer culture.
For Georg Schneider good entrepreneurship is based on social responsibility. That's why he is involved in several networks and initiatives for the improvement of the political and social foundations of our time. Besides that the unconventional employer values responsibility and trust above all as the foundation of good leader- and partnership, no matter if towards employees or partners.
Tirelessly Georg VI. explores the world of wheat beer. Apart from iconic sorts such as the "Aventinus Eisbock“ or "Marie's Rendezvous“ he also took a major part in creating the "TAP 5“, a "flavour bomb“, which was developed as a "collaboration brew“ in two distinct variants between Schneider Weisse and the "Brooklyn Brewery“ in New York. Two places, two original, fascinating Schneider "Hopfenweisse" …
Founded more than 140 years ago in Munich, Schneider Weisse continues on a course to success at home and abroad. From the original founder of the brewery to his grandchild in sixth generation the Schneiders managed to ensure sustainable economic growth through innovative entrepreneurship. Good to know that with Georg VII., son of today's head of the brewery, the future of the family business is secured.
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