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,
Address: Half a block north of S Front and W Sycamore, Columbus, Ohio
Hours: Visible 24/7