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Schlitz: Drink in the ancient German origin of Schlitz beer

"The beer that made Milwaukee famous" … do you remember that slogan? Well, the American beer and a small town in the middle of Germany bear the same name: Schlitz.

And while the link between the two is not particularly strong, they do have Germany and beer in common.

Beer played a prominent role in the development of the small town in northern Hessen near Fulda.

The family Schlitz — who ruled the town of Schlitz — lost its brewing rights in the town to the citizens of Schlitz when the family chose the wrong side in a local uprising and wound up with the losers. But the family did not give up its feud, and in 1725 Friedrich Wilhelm von Schlitz founded a new brewery outside the town to rival the one in town and to maintain some influence over the townspeople.

The beer that made Milwaukee famous was originally brewed there by one German and got its name from another, Joseph Schlitz, who arrived in the country from Mainz. Schlitz worked as a bookkeeper for the brewery’s founder, and when he died, Schlitz took over the company, married the owner’s widow and gave the brewery his name.

The town of Schlitz was first mentioned in history books when Archbishop Richolf of Mainz consecrated a church on the hill of Schlitz in September 812. By 1439, it was officially recognized as a city with a fortified castle and defensive wall. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the castle and fortifications were converted into residential dwellings with a growing population.

Today, Schlitz is a charming and peaceful town, ideal for a stroll on cobblestone streets between half-timbered houses and centuries-old sites.

The main attractions are concentrated on the hill at the center of town. A string of four castles, watchtowers and walls formed a ring atop the hill. Today, only the Hinterturm — a tall tower — and parts of the Vorder- and Hinterburgs — two of the four original castles — can be recognized. With a little bit of imagination, one can assemble the remains of the structures and visualize what they looked like.

An excellent place to get a good view of the town and surrounding area is the towering Hinterturm, once part of the Hinterburg. Almost 150 feet high and built in the 14th century, it offers a splendid view over Schlitz and the surrounding landscape.

During the Christmas season, the tower is wrapped to resemble a candle and is topped by a large electric light that resembles a flame that can be seen from a long distance.

The tower is among the few medieval towers in Germany that has an elevator. It is operated by friendly Georg Eichenauer, who also sells tickets and acts as a guide on top.

And if you are afraid of heights, he will bolster you with a taste of schnapps and bitters produced by the Schlitz Kornbrennerei, Germany’s oldest grain distillery. You can get a glass in Eichenauer’s Turmstube, where he sells the distillery’s products and other souvenirs of Schlitz.

Aha is the name of the well-composed bitter of herbs, roots and berries from the forests around Schlitz that Eichenauer serves up.

“Aha!” you will say after your first taste, and then “Prost” as you toast the town of Schlitz.


Know and Go ...

Directions: Schlitz is off Autobahn 7; take exit 90, Hünfeld/Schlitz, and follow Route 3176 west to the town. From the Frankfurt area, use A66 toward Fulda, then onto A7.

Times: The Hinterturm is open 10 a.m to noon and 1-6 p.m. daily during May, September and October, and one hour longer in the evening during June, July and August. The tower is also open four weekends before Christmas when the Christmas market is held on the market square underneath and the tower is decorated as a gigantic candle.

Costs: Admission for the Hinterturm, including the elevator, is 1 euro for adults and 50 cents for children.

Food: Schlitz has several reasonable restaurants, taverns and pizzerias.

Information: For information, call the tourist office at 06642-97013 or e-mail info@schlitz.de. The town’s Web site is www.schlitz.de.

— Peter Jaeger


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