The old quarry that was reused as a beer brewery

Old horse cart with beer barrel in the historic Wabern quarry by Berne, Switzerland. Photo: Per Storemyr

Old horse cart with beer barrel in the historic Wabern quarry by Berne, Switzerland. Photo: Per Storemyr

Working with the Berne Minster Workshop on mapping the quarries used for the cathedral, I visited the Wabern quarry just outside the city centre yesterday. Though it is unclear to what extent it was employed for the cathedral in the Middle Ages, it is a most remarkable quarry: For it was reused as a brewery for “Gurten Beer” from the 1860s on. Since I have noted  the link between stone extraction and beer drinking through history (see last part of this story), I thought I ought to post the photo above of a wonderful old horse cart with a beer barrel remaining in the quarries.

The Wabern quarry delivered one of the better molasse sandstone varieties for the City of Berne, at least from the 17th century and probably also back in the Middle Ages. The stone is generally harder and slightly more resistant to weathering than other regional molasse qualities and thus was largely reserved for official and elite buildings.

Sketch of the Wabern quarry by 1854, by J.E. von Deschwanden: Source: Labhart 2006

Sketch of the Wabern quarry by 1854, by J.E. von Deschwanden: Source: Labhart 2006

But by 1860 stone extraction seems to have stopped. The quarry was bought by Johann Juker, who established a successful brewery at the premises. “Gurten Bier” was brewed in the quarry until the late 1990s, but by then the brewery had since long been taken over by Feldschlösschen, which is – alas – just another company under big Heineken. We have heard the same story again and again, local breweries, sadly, being eaten by the giants.

Old photo of the Gurten beer brewery in the Wabern sandstone quarry by Bern. Source: Burgerbibliothek Bern

Old photo of the Gurten beer brewery in the Wabern sandstone quarry by Berne. Source: Burgerbibliothek Bern

Real estate developers were the next to move in, and now the brewery and the quarry are transformed to a modern residential area. Though part of the quarry will remain relatively intact, let this blog post be my humble, nostalgic contribution to a story of stone and beer not to be entirely forgotten…

Thanks to Prof. Toni Labhart and Peter Völkle for a rewarding fieldtrip!

Sources

  • Toni Labhart, 2006. Der Stein des Monats. Steht das Berner Münster auf Wabererstein? Wabern Post, 11, 8.
  • Website of the current real estate development, with history of the brewery

On quarrying of Bernese sandstone in general, see this blog post: With pickaxe into modern times: Quarrying of Bernese sandstone

The Workshop of the Berne Minster: www.bernermuensterstiftung.ch

Map

About Per Storemyr

I work with the archaeology of old stone quarries, monuments and rock art. And try to figure out how they can be preserved. For us - and those after us. For the joy of old stone!
This entry was posted in Archaeology, New projects, Old quarries, Switzerland and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The old quarry that was reused as a beer brewery

  1. Per Storemyr says:

    Thanks, Peter, for the story, which also relates to “Grundnahrungsmittel Bier”. Things have changed…

  2. Peter says:

    There is definitely a connection between beer and natural stone as former underground quarries (caves) were reused as storage for food and beverages. Such a place in Germany close to the city of Bamberg is under restoration: see (in German language) http://www.stone-ideas.com/2012/02/01/miszellen-trinkvergnugen-im-18-jahrhundert/.

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