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Jan Primus, Duke of Brabant
(1251—1294)

Jan Primus, Duke of Brabant(1251—1294)

His name is Gambrinus. He is called the King of Beer and the Patron Saint of brewery workers. Legend claims that the King of Beer appeared in the northwestern flatlands of Old Germany an area that includes the modern day Netherlands and parts of Belgium. He taught the ancestors of the modern Dutch and Plattdeutschers how to cultivate hops, turn barley into malt and brew the malt into light effervescent German Style Lager beer. In Bavaria, the Franconians claim the Gambrinus appears every year on the evening of April 30st May Eve, which in Germany is called Walpurgis Night, an evening of pagan feasting when witches fly on brooms to mountaintops where they dance with the devil who appears as a goat. One of these Sabbaths is said to occur at Gradfenburg, Bavaria where Gambrinus sits at the ”Devil's Table”, drinking all night with the ghosts of dead Frankish kings.

At the other end of Germany on the flat farmlands of Holstein, just south of the Danish border, the Frisian natives claim that Gambrinus was the son of two giants, and that he led an invasion party of giant knights over the sea on the backs of seadragons to Flanders in north Belgium, where he overthrew the local lords and established a kingdom of his own. Later, Flemish settlers on the west coast of Ireland built breweries and taught the native Irish about Gambrinus. In parts of Ireland some of the locals still claim that you can see Gambrinus every year on the night of August 18th, standing on the very spot where St. Law shed tears of fire.

In reality "Gambrinus" sounds a lot like someone (who had too much beer to drink) might slur the name Jan Primus-John the First, the son of the Kaiser Henry III and a real historical Duke of Brabant. He was born in 1251. He loved jousting and martial arts, and he was a veteran of 76 tournaments before he was killed in a contest by Pierre Beuffremont in 1294. In spite of his military prowess and cultural accomplishments, Duke Jan was no snob. He liked to sit down and drink with his subjects so he could learn what they thought about his rule. He frequently visited the brewery workers guildhall, which was supplied with the freshest beer in Brussels. During one of his visits he asked the astonished brewers to make him an honorary member of their craft guild. So flattered were they to have the son of the Kaiser and a duke as a union brother that they plastered his picture all over the place and carved his likeness in the stone walk of their cellars.


Belgium, 1994, Reconcillation of Duce John I

Belgium, 1994, Tournament at wedding of John's son

Belgium, 1994, Battle of Woeringen (1288)

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