Sitting in the late afternoon sunshine in the father-in-law’s back garden I am handed a cool weizen beer. Malteser. The brand I know well from a town in northern Bavaria: Amberg. There used to be 12 breweries in Amberg but with only 40,000 inhabitants some had to fall by the wayside. One of them was the biggest, and probably most inflexible. It sold up to Bischofshof in Regensburg which I also know well from my student days in the city. The brewery was officially owned by the Catholic Church (like many other traditional institutions in Bavaria). But they then sold on the rights to a Stuttgart brewery. Stuttgarter Hofbräu. A tenuous link? Actually not. The master brewer at the Stuttgart outfit is an Amberg man, his brother once treated me for a dust mite allergy. He will have grown up with the brew like anyone in the town. So having it under his custodianship out in Stuttgart would have felt like a home-coming to a man from a town with more breweries than the whole of Munich.
So here I sat on the outskirts of Stuttgart, sipping a beer all so familiar to me – when what do I see on the beer glass that came in a multi-pack promotion? Pope Benedikt XVI, endorsing one of my favourite tipples. The POPE?!
Now normally you’d wonder who pulled that one off. But not if you know the story. That’s marketing Johnnies for you, and one heck of a bizarre pope. And one of the weirdest product endorsements – “testimonials” – I’ve ever seen.
But the beer was good, a lovely ending to a 36°C corker.