Braunschweiger Mumme was a true bestseller in medieval times. As provisions for seafarers, this malty beverage was shipped as far as the “two Indies” and made Braunschweig famous around the world. Mumme had a great advantage: due to its high levels of alcohol and sugar, it stayed fresh for weeks, even in tropical climates. Thanks to its high nutritional value, it also protected sea-goers from scurvy. Mumme was originally brewed as a beer with low to high alcohol content. Later, in the 18th century, the alcohol was dispensed with.
Today, this thick malty extract is used mainly to enhance foods and beverages. During the annual weekend event mummekaufsgenuss in the Braunschweig city centre, Mumme takes centre stage.
“A strong Saxon, all peoples will tell you,
will never be narrow of shoulder or slender of hip.
The reason for this, you ask?
He eats bacon and sausage and drinks Mumme with it!”*
During medieval times, Braunschweiger Mumme was praised the world over and copied countless times. It was the city’s number one export good and contributed significantly to the rise and prosperity of the city of Henry the Lion. Back then, Mumme was a beer with low to high alcohol content, depending on the brewing method used. Its origins date far back. The first documented mention, on a city invoice, dates from 1390. As early as in the Middle Ages, Braunschweiger Mumme was standard supply on every ship in the Hanse fleet. The thick, invigorating beer was shipped around the world thanks to its long shelf life, and its high nutritional value helped in protecting the sailors from scurvy. To make Mumme even more durable for long voyages and thus increase exports, the alcohol content was doubled in 1675, leading to the so-called “sailing ship Mumme”. Compared to regular Mumme, it was very viscous and thick.
During its prime, there were five different types of Braunschweiger Mumme:
1. Regular or simple Mumme
2. Double Mumme or sailing ship Mumme (This variety was much thicker, almost syrupy, sweet and strong. It did not quench one’s thirst and was thus drunk instead of coffee or tea. It was usually accompanied with smoked ham or sausage from Braunschweig.)
3. Cherry Mumme, made by adding crushed cherries
4. Harvest Mumme, brewed only in March and drunk in May
5. Mumme beer or Mumme small beer
While some brewers originally added all kinds of spices to their Mumme, this decreased more and more over time. Today, Mumme consists almost solely of malt and water. During medieval times, Mumme was a very popular beverage, since it consisted only of natural ingredients and provided high levels of energy and vitamins , making it beneficial to one’s health.
In the early 18th century, Mumme lost its leading position on the market. As other types of beer became increasingly sturdy thanks to new conservation methods, sales fell dramatically. By the mid 19th century, only two of Braunschweig’s ten breweries still produced Mumme: Franz Steger Brewery, which discontinued production in 1954, and Nettelbeck Brewery, the only one to brew the beverage to this day.
Today, the Blasilius Family produces and markets Mumme in their third generation under the name “Braunschweiger Segelschiff Mumme H. Nettelbeck KG”, after acquiring the recipe from the Nettelbeck siblings in 1949.
Today, Braunschweiger Mumme is a non-alcoholic extract brewed from malt and water. It is sweet and thick and therefore mainly used in foods and beverages, as well as for cooking. It can, for example, be mixed with beer, milk, tea or carbonated water. All kinds of sauces, sausages, cheeses, cakes and other pastries can be enhanced with Mumme. There are even cookery books available today that show the broad range of its possible uses.
In addition to non-alcoholic Mumme, Nettelbeck Brewery now, once again, offers Mumme beer in Braunschweig. It is based on an original recipe from the Middle Ages, crafted according to historic brewing tradition as a top-fermented beer, and combined with the “original double sailing ship Mumme”. It has original wort content of 15% and 5.2% ABV.
Just how Mumme got its name remains unknown. According to legend, a man named Christian Mumme invented the malty beer. This myth, however, has been disproved. As a bestseller, Mumme has been translated into many languages: Mumma or Mumia Brunsvicensium (Latin), Brunswick Mum (English) and Mom de Bronsvic (French), to name but a few.
Every November, Braunschweig holds a weekend event with Sunday shopping, called “mummegenussmeile”. Visitors are transported to the world of Braunschweiger Mumme: restaurateurs from Braunschweig offer delicious Mumme creations and patrons can learn more about all kinds of Mumme products at a delicatessen market.
This popular event celebrating Braunschweig’s traditional beverage is accompanied by a colourful programme of music, games and fun for everyone.
Gerd Biegel; Braunschweig Stadtmarketing, H. Nettelbeck (Ed.): Das Braunschweiger Mumme-Buch. Geschichte und Rezepte. Braunschweig, 2009.
www.wikipedia.de, Braunschweiger Mumme, 18 January 2012.
*Poem from Julius Stinde, Zwei Veteranen des Bierstaates, Über die Mumme und die Goslarer Gose, 1880.