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Pub Visit - Germany

Leipzig-Probstheida, Sachsen (Saxony):
Brauhaus Napoleon

Friday 3rd June 2011

Bob Thompson

It is certainly remarkable how many pubs that feature in BeerVisits have also been involved in pivotal moments of history and this one is certainly no exception. It is easily deduced that there is a big Napoleonic connection with the pub but please allow me to mention its earlier history.

The inn is thought to have opened in 1624 and as a place where travellers and those transporting goods could rest for a while. Leipzig was an important city then and this was the first stop on the road south to Bohemia. During the destructive 30 Years War the inn was repeatedly occupied by Austrian and Swedish troops. It was rebuilt in 1744, one of many! In the first part of the 7 Years War it was occupied by Prussian troops.

Napoleon 1After Napoleon's enforced retreat from Moscow in 1812 he regrouped in Germany with fresh troops from France and also with men from the Rhineland, Italy and Poland. He was facing a confederation of troops from Prussia, Russia, Austria and Sweden. Their other allies Britain, Spain and Portugal were fighting in the Iberian Peninsular. During May of 1813 he had small victories at Lützen and Bautzen. Then he won the important Battle of Dresden in August.

This then set the stage for the decisive Battle of Leipzig; also known as the Battle of the Nations.

Napoleonic troops occupied positions to the north, west and south of the city with the coalition forces surrounding them. It began on 16th October and consisted of several separate battlefields around the city. The day ended in a sort of stalemate. The next day saw two battles but it was when there were a vast amount of reinforcements.

Napoleon gained 14,000 additional troops but the coalition received a further 145,000. This obviously tipped the balance in their favour. The battles began at dawn and it wasn't long before Napoleon could see he was being beaten. So he got on his horse and rode to where his brother, King Murat of Naples was fighting and this happened to be the garden of what is now the Brauhaus Napoleon.

Napoleon 2He decided to sue for peace and offered up all of the territories east of the River Saale in exchange for safe passage. The captured General von Merveldt was sent to the Czar of Russia with the offer.

This was rejected by the coalition and the Battle of Probstheida started. This was the bloodiest action in the bloodiest war of Napoleon's German campaign. In all, around 100,000 died: 45,000 Napoleonic and 54,000 from the coalition.

Under the cover of darkness Napoleon started to withdraw his troops through the city and over the Elster river bridge. The Czar and his allies didn't realise this until 07.00 the following morning. More bloody battles continued in the streets and at the bridge and many lives were lost when it was blown up prematurely. Napoleon retreated over the French border and the coalition regrouped.

The Czar of Russia had wanted to chase Napoleon and continue the actions on French soil but the allies were against it at that time. However France was invaded in 1814 which culminated in Paris being taken, Napoleon being deposed and sent into exile. As can been seen, the Battle of Leipzig was the most significant of the many battles of the Napoleonic era as it was the end of the German campaign.

Napoleon 3As it was in the middle of a battlefield there wasn't much left of the inn still standing so it was rebuilt again in 1814. In 1856 the stables were converted in to a beer hall. By the end of the 19th century the pub became extremely popular as it could now be reached by tramcar from the city centre and still is. In 1913 it boasted the largest biergarten in Leipzig with a capacity of 1,500.

I'm not sure how the pub continued through the intervening years up to the modern age. Just for once it didn't get destroyed during the Second World War.

Its current incarnation came about in 1997 when it reopened after redecoration with its own internal brewery. Then it was known as Kaiser Napoleon but now it is under the same ownership as the Brauhaus Zwickau, hence the name change. It is a listed preserved building so there is a traditional feel about the pub.

The main room is called the Braustube because it contains the brewing equipment and is very traditional with dark stained wooden chairs and varnished wood tables. The room is vaulted, showing its age, and the walls are hung with paintings and prints relating to the pub's history. The brewery is to be found on the far side of the room from the entrance door. I settled in the Bierschwemme, which is the area dedicated to those non-dining visitors, like me. Actually, it is usually populated with the drinking regulars from the locality.

Napoleon 4There is another room; the Festsaal, which is opened at busy rimes or special events. Outside is a covered terrace known as the Wintergarten and of course, there is the biergarten at the front of the pub.

There are three regular beers and these are: Hell (light) (5.0%), Dunkel (dark) (5.0%) and Hefe-Weizen (wheat) (5.0%). I had the first two and liked them both although I think my preference was the Dunkel. They have brewed seasonal beers previously, yet there was no evidence of any on sale during this visit.

Naturally, there is a full menu. This pub comes recommended so; should you be in Leipzig, please make the journey out here to consume some beers you won't get anywhere else and pay a visit to the exact place where Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to sue for an amnesty.

Important Information:

Brauhaus Napoleon, Pragerstrasse 233, 04289, Leipzig-Probstheida. Tel: 0341 246 7676

Open: Monday-Sunday 11.00-24.00

The pub is closest to the Pragerstrasse/Russenstrasse tram stop and the No 15 tram is the best way to get there. The number 2 also runs to this stop in peak times (see photo above).