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.
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.
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!
- 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