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Gambrinus is a legendary king of Flanders, and an unofficial patron saint of beer or beer brewing. The character originated with one of two early-16th century German authors, either Johannes Aventinus or Burkart Waldis, but he did not receive his name until 1574, when an Antwerp edition of a work of Annius of Viterbo misprinted an earlier Gambrivius as Gambrinus. He is variously depicted as a European king, as an English knight of the Middle Ages, or (less commonly) as a plump old man. Gambrinus' birthday is purported to be April 11.
Though the character was originally envisioned as an ancient Germanic prince of the Roman era, the main inspiration for his interests was most probably John the Fearless (1371–1419), who some believe to be the inventor of hopped malt beer. However, some sources report that one of the cup-bearers in the court of Charlemagne (742–814) was called Gambrinus. It is also possible that the original Gambrinus was Duke John I of Brabant (1254–98), who was called Jan Primus.
Other possible Latin etymologies of the name include cambarus (cellarer) and ganeae birrinus (one who drinks in a tavern). Plzeňský Prazdroj, brewer of the Gambrinus lager, endorses the explanation that the name is a corruption of Jan Primus (John the First), referring to John I, Duke of Brabant. Alternatively, Gambrinus may be a corruption of the name Gambrivius. Although less likely, Gambrinus might also derive from camba, a word from the Celtic language family that refers to a brewer's pan.
Brands and breweries
Because of Gambrinus' significance, numerous European and North American brewers have appropriated the character for their beer brands. In addition, several notable breweries are named for Gambrinus:
- In Belgium, the Cantillon Brewery of Brussels brews a framboise called Rosé de Gambrinus, and uses Gambrinus in their logo.
- In Canada, The Gambrinus Malting Corporation is based in Armstrong, British Columbia.
- In the Czech Republic, Pilsner Urquell Brewery brews their Gambrinus beer.
- In France, a brewery in Mulhouse, Alsace brews a beer called Gambrinus.
- In Mexico, Grupo Modelo brews Cerveza Victoria, which depicts Gambrinus on the label.
- In Romania, Gambrinus beer has been brewed in Bucharest since 1869. The beer is now a brand of Heineken Romania.
- In Spain, the brewery Cruzcampo, now a subsidiary of Heineken International, employs Gambrinus as its corporate mascot.
- In the United States, there is the Gambrinus Company of San Antonio, Texas and the Gambrinus Brewing Co. of Oshkosh, Wisconsin (not to be confused with the defunct Gambrinus Brewing Company of Columbus, Ohio). The Rhode Island based brewery, Narragansett Brewing Company, also uses his likeness on their fall seasonal beer, Fest Lager.
- In Luxembourg, The Battin Brewery of Bascharage brews a beer called Gambrinus
- In Latvia, The Aldaris Brewery brews a beer called Dizais Gambrinus
- In Norway, a famous song made by the three largest breweries Ringnes, Frydenlund and Schous in 1938 for promotion is called "The Gambrinus song".