Kloster Scheyern: Historic Monastic Brewery

Thu 02 Aug

History, delcicious food and beer await those pilgrims who trek to Scheyern Monastery

Just past the furthest northern reaches of the Munich S-bahn, where the hops' fields begin to dominate the landscape, lies Scheyern Abbey. If someone says "monastic brewery" I say "yes please", but this one has more than its fantastic beer. This is where the Wittelsbach family, the Bavarian dynasty that ruled from Munich for over 700 years, originated over 1000 years ago.

The easiest way to get there is drive up the A9 autobahn and before the Pfaffenhofen exit you'll see a sign directing those interested to the Stammsitz, the original seat of power, of the royal family of Bavaria. One can also undertake an ambitious bike trip from Munich, a semi-ambitious bike trip from Petershausen (the end of the S2 S-bahn line), or a non-ambitious ride from the Pfaffenhofen train station. Either way, flat fields soon give way to rolling hills, hops fields and forests.
The Wittlesbachs, or the Dukes of Scheyern as they were then called, made their home in the castle that stood here. Although their castle is gone, the Benedictine abbey still dates from 1119 and the Wittelsbachs buried their dead here until 1253. Otto von Wittelsbach, the first of his house to rule Munich, is buried here among other rulers. Amazingly, Otto started a dynasty in Munich that would last from his reign in the 1100s all the way up to the waning days of World War I.

Nowadays pilgrims come here to see the "Scheyern Cross", a piece of the True Cross officially found by Empress Helena in 326 in Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, the relic was stolen by the Count of Dachau (I'm not making this up) in the second half of the 12th century which is how it ended up in Scheyern at all. It is now on display in the Abbey's impressive basilica, which was first consecrated in 1215 but has beautiful art-deco ceiling frescoes from the 1920s. Once inside, through the not-so-obvious doors on the right, you can enter the King's Chapel and St John's Church. The King's Chapel is named for King Stephan of Hungary who married Princess Gisela of Bavaria here in 996. As a general rule, any year with less than four digits was a long, long time ago. The courtyard in front of the church, with its flower gardens and walking paths, also includes a small gift shop.

The Titanic claimed one of the monks of Scheyern but that doesn't have much to do with beer so we'll move right along. The brewery here began with the founding of the abbey and claims to be the third-oldest-brewery in Germany. They brew a Helles (lager), Dunkles (dark beer), Weißbier (wheat beer), Doppelbock (double bock), Pils (pilsner), and a "Hopfazupfabier". This last is usually ordered nonverbally by simply pointing at the bottle in order to avoid saying "Hopfazupfabier". I've tried them all except the Pils and they are, in my opinion, excellent. The restaurant serves tasty traditional but upscale Bavarian food without the Munich prices and the beer-garden, although not traditional self-serve, is shady and comfortable. A half-liter of hand-crafted fresh lager will cost you EUR2.90 and many of the meals are under EUR10. Although a little out of the way, Scheyern Abbey is well worth the trip and a wonderful place to spend a summer afternoon.

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