King Gambrinus, Inventor of Beer. Columbus, Ohio

This statue of King Gambrinus, legendary inventor of beer (or its patron saint, depending on who you talk to) is a survivor. Giant statues in the USA usually date from the mid-twentieth century, but this one is over 100 years old.

Bavaria apparently has the highest density of breweries per capita of anywhere in the world. So was probably no surprise that when August Wagner emigrated from Bavaria to the United States in the 1890s that he would found his own brewery. In 1906, Wagner’s Gambrinus Brewery opened at the corner of West Sycamore and Front in Columbus, Ohio’s Brewery District. Above the entrance, August placed this giant statue of King Gambrinus (source, image from the 1930s or 40s):

During Prohibition, the company changed its name to August Wagner and Sons Products. They returned to brewing beer in 1933 and the company survived as the August Wagner Brewery until 1974. The land was bought by the Columbus Dispatch newspaper and they also preserved the statue even after the brewery was demolished.

Gambrinus lived in a park at Front and Sycamore until the Brewery District was redeveloped in the 2000s. Now he has his own spot, not far from where he originally stood. Although he looks rather out of place—a touch of gaudy in a slightly austere-looking neighbourhood—he seems quite content to be there still.

So just who was King Gambrinus? I think he’s just one of those mythical figures who never really existed. Maybe a dozen people from the eighth to the sixteenth centuries AD have been identified as Gambrinus. None of whom could have invented beer as it’s been around for thousands of years. He’s traditionally represented as a somewhat overweight, cheerful man with a big beard. Not entirely unlike a drunken Santa Claus.


Giant Statue of King Gambrinus, Legendary Inventor of Beer,
Half a block north of S Front and W Sycamore, Columbus, Ohio
Hours: Visible 24/7

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About Richard

I am a writer who travels endlessly. Fascinated by how our lives are propelled forward by what's left behind, I thirst to know everything. I read, collect, gather, organise, list. Here are some of the things I read, see and experience. Please make yourself at home: drinks and pretzels will be served shortly. If you'd like to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you!


on “King Gambrinus, Inventor of Beer. Columbus, Ohio
9 Comments on “King Gambrinus, Inventor of Beer. Columbus, Ohio
  1. I have reason to believe that my great grandfather was the sculptor of this statue. Peter Toneman was commissioned to come to Fort Wayne, IN to do some work for St. Mary’s Church there. He immigrated here from Germany, by way of Paris, France, in the 1890’s. He did much work in Chicago including statues on the Cook County Courthouse and a statue of Bishop Quigley in front of Quigley Seminary. My grandmother wrote in one her letters that he had sculpted a Falstaff type character on a brewery in Columbus, OH. This very well could be his work.

  2. My grandfather was brought over from Germany
    as brewmaster for GAM. I have a large copper
    “Stein” that he used for taste testing

  3. My Dad worked there for close to 30 years till the brewery closed.I read that the statue of King Gambrinus was posed by the owner of the brewery August Wagner.The brew master at that time was a man named Alex Hostedler .My Dad also had a 2nd job with him.His wife was kind enough to show at my dads funeral.Until it was torn down there house was on High st just across from the Clairmont restaurant.

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