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In Search of a Beer Patron Saint (Translation)

18 March 2010

St. Patrick's Day falls on Wednesday, March 17. Traditionally, that day is a celebration of beer. But is this accurate? Shouldn't Poles, already catching up with other European beer powerhouses, have a different patron saint? Well, we could choose from at least six. Kompania Piwowarska has decided to check how many beer patron saints there are.

Poles prefer beer

Poland is undoubtedly a beer nation. Over 60% of Poles declare that beer is their favourite drink and as much as 67% of our compatriots prefer Polish beer*. An adult inhabitant of the country on the Vistula River consumes 84 litres of beer annually. The culture of drinking the golden liquid becomes more and more popular in Poland and it is consumed more frequently than, for example, wine. After all, we are learning that just like wine, beer can be carefully selected and served to complement exquisite meals. Beer can be tasted with equal ceremony as wine. The Best Beer Taster in the World, Joanna Wasilewska, hails from Poland; on a daily basis she is a coordinator of sensory evaluation at Kompania Piwowarska, who compares tasting of beer and wine in the following way: "The main difference is the treatment of bitterness. Evaluators who taste the beer to evaluate its quality must swallow a little of it. It is necessary because taste buds responsible for the perception of bitter taste are located in the rear of the tongue. Wine tasters spit out the wine and that's why they have no chance of tasting the true bitterness in wine".

Export from Ireland

In spite of great tradition, Poles do not have their own patron saint of beer so they join in the celebration of holidays popular in other countries. We usually celebrate the beer holiday on March 17, at the time of the Irish celebrations of St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick himself, the patron saint of Ireland, was in reality a bishop born in Wales. Ireland's symbol, the shamrock, was adapted from St. Patrick who referred to clover leaf in his sermons. To this day, the Irish say that he expelled snakes from their country. In addition, St. Patrick is also a patron saint of the police in USA. However, he is not the only patron of the golden liquid so well known in the world...

Gambrinus was first

Gambrinus became the first known patron saint of beer. He was the son of Henry, Duke of Brabant, and the charming Alix, Duchess of Burgundy. He was born in 1251 and later ruled the lands of Brabant, Lothier and Limburg. He made his name as a brave knight who participated in many tournaments. Holding the title of a patron of the brewers' guild, he was famous for his "miraculous" ability of gulping barrels of beer. At that time, who had not heard about Gambrinus, the plump old man sitting in his armour on a beer barrel, wearing a wreath of corn and joyfully drinking from a stein filled with the golden drink? Saint Gambrinus soon gained a large following in the Netherlands, Germany and France.

History of many patron saints
Slavs, for some reason, never fully embraced the first beer patron saint although he is a recognized patron saint of a big Moravian brewery. Soon other patrons saint came along.
St. Arnulf was one of them and he probably lived at the turn of the 6th and 7th centuries. He was a Bishop of Metz, famous for his strength as he was easily able to lift hayrack wagons and beer barrels. Allegedly, he miraculously managed to "feed the multitudes" with beer thus saving a town in southern France besieged by the Arabs.
Later on, a Second Arnulf appeared, this time at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries. Born the son of a brewer, he later became the Bishop of Soissons. Legend has it that during the plague he saved the lives of thousands of the faithful. When giving sermons, he ordered the flock to drink beer as it was unaffected by the germs of cholera, smallpox or typhoid. Every single year on August 18, large contingents of Belgian brewers come to Tieghem to give homage to and say a prayer for the soul of good old Arnulf.
When talking about patron saints of the golden liquid, one cannot possibly omit St. Florian, patron saint of Munich brewers and beer cellars. On May 4, every church in the city celebrates a mass devoted to his memory. In our Polish tradition, this saint is already "reserved" as the patron saint of fire-fighters.
According to the Bible, St. Nicolas of Myra is the patron saint of brewers. He died on December 6 and to commemorate him we give presents to one another on that very day. He is also assigned to distillers, fishermen, sailors, farmers, bakers, and some other professions.
In Germany they have a patron saint not only for brewers but also for those that trade beer. It is St. Martin who in Poland is a patron saint of Poznan because of quite a different tradition. He also happens to be a patron saint of teetotallers and reformed alcoholics.

As shown in the presented analysis, the beer holiday has not only many patron saints but also many different dates for celebration. Hence the question: When should brewers and beer drinkers celebrate the holiday of one of the most popular beverages in Poland? Should they follow the fad or the Bible, or should they simply celebrate at the time convenient for them?

To the Editor:

Kompania Piwowarska - leader of the brewing industry in Poland
Kompania Piwowarska is the biggest brewing enterprise in Poland. Several centuries of experience in the brewing industry, state-of-the-art technology and the rigorous observance of the norms of production on the world-class level guarantee the highest quality of the product. The company offers, among others, the most popular Polish brands: Tyskie, Żubr, Lech, Dębowe Mocne, Redd's, as well as international premium brands like Pilsner Urquell, Grolsch and Peroni Nastro Azzurro. Kompania Piwowarska (established in 1999) owns three breweries (Tychy, Poznan, and Bialystok) and 14 retail outlets all over the country. Kompania Piwowarska also engages in social activities like fighting against exclusion due to poverty as well as educational programs popularizing responsibility and moderation in alcohol consumption. The volume of sales by the KP reached 15.1 M hectolitres of beer in the financial year concluded on March 31, 2009.

SABMiller - one of the world's biggest manufacturers of beer

Kompania Piwowarska is a part of one of the biggest manufacturers of beer in the world - SABMiller plc. The group produces or distributes beer on six continents, and its portfolio includes internationally known Premium brands such as Grolsch, Miller Genuine Draft, Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell, as well as leading local brands like Aquilla, Castle, Miller Lite, Snow, and Tyskie. SABMiller plc is among the biggest companies in the world (outside of the US) bottling the products of Coca-Cola. In the financial year of 2009, concluded on March 31, SABMiller registered gross receipts of 25.3 B dollars and reached gross profits of 3.4 billion dollars. SABMiller plc is listed on London and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges.

Additional information can be obtained from:

Klaudyna Polanowska-Skrzypek
Public Relations Specialist 
tel. +48 (61) 66 77 473
mobile: +48 695 592 926
fax: +48 (61) 66 77 850

Data gathered by Added Value in 2007 for the report "Pora na piwo" [Time for Beer] of SABMiller

This SABMiller subsidiary news release has been translated from its local market language to English language for publication on We have attempted to provide an accurate translation of the original material but due to the difficulties of translation slight differences may exist. 
Note, the news release was first published in its local market on [18/03/2010].

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