Kuchlbauer Brewery in Abensberg, Germany
The owner of the Kuchlbauer brewery, Herr Salleck, loves art as much as his beer and his brewery reflects his interest. Tracing its roots back to 1499, the brewery has been in the Salleck family since 1904. The current owner, Leonhard Salleck, is the 8th generation of his family to lead the brewery. He has made his mark.
Kuchlbauer brews only Weissbier and has a relatively small distribution footprint.
As such, the brewery operation itself is rather small. A simple sudhaus, a modest fermenting room, and bottling operation is not so impressive. Though the brewing systems are not of the ordinary, Kuchlbauer brews an excellent series of Weissbier styles under the direction of the brewmaster, Herr Jahney. As amazing as the rest of the brewery is, it’s important to note that it begins and ends with the product. Kuchlbauer offers excellent beer and that is the source of its success.
The tour of the brewery offers something for everyone. One of my favorite rooms which, unfortunately gets cut out of many tours due to time restraints, is the Bier-Apotheke. The “Beer Pharmacy” displays all of the different products that use the elements of beer in the product. After touring the pharmacy, you’ll be able to claim, with a straight-face, that you drink beer simply for “medicinal purposes.”
Down in the cellar of the brewery, Herr Salleck, has a half-scale copy of DaVinci’s Last Supper at one end of his beer cellar. Surprisingly, the painting appears to be right at home in the cellar. Salleck is a scholar who has studied all the details of DaVinci’s painting and has provided his analysis of the many details and secret meanings in his own book, Salleck is passionate about his work in this field and bristles at the mention of Dan Brown’s epic best seller, “The DaVinci Code.” I was lucky enough to take the tour once with Herr Salleck and was treated to hearing the full force of his passion for his subject – clearly he has devoted a great deal of study to this subject.
Another aspect of the brewery tour is the section that displays the old brewing and bottling equipment. Just before reaching the current bottling line, guests are treated to seeing the way it was done in the old days , largely a manual operation.
Similar to DaVinci, Herr Salleck clearly respects the work the artist-architect Hundertwasser. Most famous for the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, the artist is well-known for his lack of straight lines – he shuns the notion of traditional architecture and strives to incorporate nature into his buildings. Herr Salleck’s dream of developing a Hunderwasser designed tower behind his brewery was years in the making. His first contact to Hundertwasser took place in 1998 and he was turned away. Finally convincing Hundertwasser that the Kuchlabuer Dwarfs needed a place to live, Hundertwasser joined the project in March of 1999. Kuchlbauer fought with local government forces for many years for the approval to build his tower. Local officials stood against the project and often pointed to the tradition that nothing should stand taller than the “Finger of God,” the local church steeple. There were many battles and Herr Salleck endured much criticism and hurtful comments. In the end, he obviously won in the end, although he was limited to a height of 35 meters. Sadly, in February 2000, Friedensreich Hundertwasser passed away: He would never see the tower he inspired. The work was carried forward by his apprentice, Peter Pelikan.
The tower is now complete and Kuchlbauer has added a tasting room and outdoor biergarten at the foot of the tower. Each step up the tower tells piece of the story – combing brewing with art. The history of beer is portrayed as are the ingredients. A golden dome adorns the tower’s top and symbolizes Paradise. In fact, Hundertwasser once said, “We already live in paradise, man is just destroying it.”
Visiting the tower is a great experience and can be enjoyed on many levels. For beer lovers, it is a tribute to the historical and natural beverage. To art lovers, the tower exudes with though provoking hidden meanings and allusions. For architectural buffs, the Hundertwasser style offers a stark alternative to accepted methods and designs. From a human perspective, the tower represents Salleck’s struggle to realize his dream. The best way, however, to enjoy the tower is to take your time to enjoy all the small details of the creation and soak in the entire experience.
My association with Kuchlbauer reaches back many years. A colleague in the travel business turned me on to this brewery when the tower was but a dream. My first tour was with Herr Salleck himself and I was struck by his vision and passion for always striving to combine beauty with business. Instead of creating a simply efficient factory, he strove to make it a beautiful place. A simple, but powerful idea.I began taking my BayernTrips tour groups there and all of my guests have always agreed that this brewery was something quite special. A few years ago, my son was also lucky enough to spend a few days there working in the brewery as part of a personal career exploration.
How to get there
Located 25 miles south of Regensburg, getting to Abendsberg is easy. If you are coming from Munich, you can buy an inexpensive
BayernTicket and be there in about two hours after a simple change of trains in Ingolstadt. From Regensburg, a direct train comes every hour and the brewery is less than 1km from the station. Train schedules can be located at www.bahn.de and a map of Abensberg is located on Kuchlbauer’s website. It would also be good to check the latest visitor news on Kuchlbauer’s website here.