Braunschweiger Mumme was well-known as early as the Middle Ages. The first recorded reference is an invoice from the city that dates back to 1390. This product was the single Mumme, a beer with a high malt content, which was produced by numerous breweries in Braunschweig. In 1675, the Segelschiff Mumme was created: viscous and with twice the alcohol content, it had a long shelf life – in contrast to the single Mumme – and could consequently be consumed as provisions on sea voyages.
Today, Braunschweiger Mumme is a non-alcoholic malt extract that adds a spicy note to food and drinks. Segelschiff Mumme and other products containing this traditional malt extract are available at a number of places, including the Touristinfo.
Braunschweig’s export hit
In the Middle Ages, Braunschweig was an important centre for trade and commerce and had been an integral part of the Hanseatic merchant network since the middle of the 13th century. One of the most important long-distance trade goods was Mumme, which was produced by numerous breweries in Braunschweig. Via the maritime cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck, Mumme made its way to Scandinavia, England, Holland, Flanders, Russia and the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea.
As a result of its high alcohol and sugar content, Segelschiff Mumme had a long shelf life and was therefore an important element in the rations of seafarers on their long journeys. Due to its high nutritional value, it prevented scurvy and other diet-related deficiencies. The ships transported it via Holland as far as India, the South Seas, the West Indies and Central America. Mumme was the only beer that could be transported across the equator unscathed, as recorded by contemporaries:
“[Mumme] is such a durable beverage that it can cross the equator without suffering any form of alteration or spoilage, turning neither sour nor mouldy, and can be shipped to both Indies without jeopardy.” (Source: Dr. med. Franz Ernst Brückmann: Mumia Brunsvicensium. 1736. In: Braunschweig Stadtmarketing GmbH, Gerd Biegel (ed.): Das Braunschweiger Mumme-Buch. Geschichte und Rezepte. Braunschweig 2009)
No records exist regarding the exact recipe of either type of Mumme, but the characteristic feature was the high malt content, which produced the dark brown colour and thick consistency of the Segelschiff Mumme.
The Wolfenbüttel physician and naturalist Dr. Franz Ernst Brückmann, who, in 1736, published a treatise on the art of brewing beer, noted that Mumme would easily go to one’s head and make it heavy. Nevertheless, on account of its nutritious effect and healthy ingredients, many physicians prescribed it for the treatment of illnesses and for fortification.
The single Mumme was brewed for quick consumption. In order to increase its shelf life, brewers doubled the alcohol content in 1675. The resulting Segelschiff Mumme was viscous and sweet and not suitable for quenching thirst. It was served, for example, instead of coffee or tea with a breakfast of smoked ham and Schlackwurst (a type of sausage). The people of Braunschweig themselves primarily drank the pale Broyhan beer or the dark red Rotbier; Segelschiff Mumme was mainly intended for export.
History and legends
Mumme was first documented in 1390, when the City of Braunschweig listed a number of barrels in an invoice for a festival. It was, however, not only popular with the common people, but also with the governing lords. In 1425, the city presented two barrels as a gift to the Landgrave of Hesse during a visit.
Numerous stories and legends have entwined themselves around Mumme. The long-held theory that the brewer Christian Mumme invented or improved the recipe for Mumme and thereby gave the drink its name has been disproved today. The origin of the name remains a mystery. The most adventurous supposition is that it is reminiscent of mummies, as the long shelf life is comparable to that of an Egyptian mummy.
From beer to malt beverage
With the decline of the Hanseatic League, Braunschweig – and therefore also the Mumme trade – became commercially less important and, in the second half of the 17th century, complaints regarding the Braunschweig beer increased. The brewers adulterated the taste by adding different ingredients. Furthermore, waggoners, customs officers and boatmen tapped the barrels during transport and then filled them up with water in order to conceal the theft. Even Braunschweig’s innkeepers were increasingly serving beers from other cities. In addition, pale beer became more and more popular, and new preservation methods meant that it could now be stored for longer.
From the end of the 18th century onwards, people in Braunschweig were served a non-alcoholic malt beverage known as “Braunschweiger Mumme”, which was said to be a tonic and fortifier, particularly in the case of colic, stomach ache, gout and toothache.
Renaissance of the Braunschweig speciality
In 1880, only ten breweries remained in Braunschweig. Only two of these continued to brew the traditional drink. Franz Steger was finally forced to stop production during the Second World War as he was unable to obtain sufficient ingredients due to the shortage of raw materials. In 1954, he closed down the company for good.
Nettelbeck also had to close the brewery temporarily in 1944, but resumed production again in 1949. Leo Basilius, the owner of a lottery business, had bought the recipe from the heirs of the Nettelbeck family and was therefore able to continue the brewing tradition. When major investments and a refurbishment of the production facilities became necessary in 1990, Mumme production also came to a temporary halt at Nettelbeck. In 1996, however, the traditional company put the brewing kettles back into operation.
Still on everyone’s lips
Today, Braunschweiger Mumme is a non-alcoholic extract brewed from malt and water. It is sweet and viscous and refines food and beverages with its spicy taste. It adds a very special note to beer, sausage, cheese or pastries. For a number of years now, Neubauers Braunschweiger Mummeleberwurst has even been entitled to bear the label “Kulinarischer Botschafter Niedersachsen 2019” (Culinary Ambassador of Lower Saxony 2019). Cookery books are now also available which help Braunschweiger Mumme to find its way into domestic kitchens.
The doppelte Segelschiff Mumme and further products containing the tradition-steeped malt extract are available at, for example, the Touristinfo.
In addition to the non-alcoholic Mumme, the Nettelbeck brewery (opens in a new tab)now once again offers a Mumme beer in Braunschweig: Brewed in accordance with old brewing traditions as a top-fermented beer combined with the “Original doppelte Segelschiff Mumme”, it has an original wort of 15 % and an alcohol content of 5.2 % vol.
Mumme products in the Löwenstadt blog (German)
Mumme recipes from Braunschweig
Traditional mummegenussmeile event in the Braunschweig city centre
Every year in November, the mummegenussmeile takes place in Braunschweig’s city centre with Sunday shopping. It invites visitors into the world of Braunschweiger Mumme: Braunschweig restaurateurs offer delicious creations which utilise the malt extract, and at a speciality market, visitors can sample Mumme products on the spot or take them home.
Christian Basilius: Die Mumme-Fibel der Mumme H. Nettelbeck K.G. Geschichte(n) seit 1390. Braunschweig 1999.
Braunschweig Stadtmarketing GmbH, Gerd Biegel (ed.): Das Braunschweiger Mumme-Buch. Geschichte und Rezepte. Braunschweig 2009.
Christine von Blanckenburg: Die Hanse und ihr Bier. Brauwesen und Bierhandel im hansischen Verkehrsgebiet. Köln/Weimar/Wien 2001 (= Quellen und Darstellungen zur hansischen Geschichte, Band LI).
Ernst A. Roloff: Heimatchronik der Stadt Braunschweig. Archiv für Deutsche Heimatpflege, Bonn 1955, P. 175.
Gerd Spies: Das Mummetor Miszellen. Bd. 25. Städtisches Museum Braunschweig, Braunschweig 1976, P. 4.
Das in Natur- und Kunst-Sachen Neueröffnete Kauffmanns-Magazin, Hamburg 1708, P. 160; Oeconomischen Encyclopädie, dated 1773.