What Did A Cellarman Do In 1700s Germany?

As I was working on some of my family genealogy, I discovered that I had a great-great-grandfather who lived in Germany in the 1700s, and his occupation was a cellarman. II wanted to understand a bit more what a cellarman might have done in Germany in the 1700s

A cellarman in Germany in the 1700s would have worked with the beer or wine industry. A cellarman could have helped keep the vats of beer or wine in good repair; the cellarman would know when and how to transfer the beer or wine out of the vats or barrels. A cellarman could have also looked after the stock of wine in a cellar.

My great grandfather Wolfgang Gaistdorffer was born about 1730 in Grossapach, Germany, which is in the state of Wurttemberg. Germany. Parts of this area of Germany are still producing wine today.

What Is a Cellarman?

A Cellarman is still a job title used in breweries. Today, a cellarman would be responsible for cleaning and sanitizing the large vats, looking over the fermentation and conditioning of the beer. A cellarman would also be responsible for transferring beer from tank to tank.

But there is another definition of a cellarman that is still also used. A cellarman is a person who handles the supply in a pub or restaurant of all the alcoholic beverages. In other words, someone who works in the wine cellar and takes care of all the wine and beverages in the cellar.

Brief History of Beer and Wine in Germany

In the 1700s Germany, beer was a huge business throughout the German states. Farmers planted huge fields of barley and hops so that the beer could be produced and sold throughout the German regions.

Many people, especially some rich gentlemen, would build private brewhouses to brew their own beers. A cellarman would have been needed to work in those brew houses to either help ensure the quality of the production of the beer or to watch and guard the beer and move it when needed.

Germany also produced a lot of wine. The area where my relatives lived is near many of the wine-growing areas of Germany.

Germany started to produce wine about 70 to 270 AD, so Germany has a very long history of wine production. In fact, it was the Romans who brought wine production to Germany.

During the Roman conquest of Germany over 2,000 years ago, the Romans introduced to Germany winemaking. Monasteries became the center of the wine culture, and wine was the drink of almost all people throughout the middle ages.

It was the production of beer in Germany that ultimately helped the decline of wine in Germany. In the 1500s, due to climate change and improved brewing methods, vineyards in Germany decreased as beer production increased.

Heidelberg Castle Tun or Vat ©strelkov73/123RF.COM

Wine in Germany In The 1700s

Even with the increase in beer production, Germany continued to produce a lot of wine. We can learn about the wine in Germany in the 1700s from the Heidelberg Tun or Grosse Fass. The Heidelberg Tun is a huge vat that is located in the cellars of the Heidelberg Castle.

There are 4 such large vats or barells in the history of the Heidelberg; one of the large vats at the Heidelberg castle was built in 1751. The vat has a capacity to hold 221,726 liters or 58,574 gallons of wine. Over time the wood has dried, so the capacity for the vat has gone down slightly.

The German builders used 130 oak trees for the construction of this huge vat. And because it is such a large vat, it has rarely been used but has largely remained empty.

The American author Mark Twain said this of the Heidelberg tun:

“Everybody has heard of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it, no doubt. It is a wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some traditions say it holds eighteen thousand bottles, and other traditions say it holds eighteen hundred million barrels. I think it likely that one of these statements is a mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere matter of capacity is a thing of no sort of consequence, since the cask is empty, and indeed has always been empty, history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could excite but little emotion in me.”

 Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880

A Cellarman in Germany – 1700s

It is more likely that my great grandfather worked with wine than beer because of where he was located in Germany. He could have worked at a vineyard and looked over the vat as the Heidelberg Tun or worked for a brewery and looked over their beer production; we do not know exactly where he worked but just that he worked as a cellarman.

But here is what we can suppose that a cellarman would need to be successful in their job, even in Germany in the 1700s:

  • Trustworthiness- Watching over and working with large stocks of wine and beer would have been a job that required someone with trustworthiness and a repuation of honesty. This is a job that woulld require a person had an impecable character and excellent references.
  • Basic Education Skills – Working as a cellarman even today requries some basic skills A cellarmn in the 1700s would have to have some level of education. At the very least be able to read the labels and understand a bit of math.
  • Knowledge – To work as a cellarman you would have to have knowledge. Whether it was for the beer or the wines you would need to have alot of knowlege to be able to do this job correctly.

When you think of the role of a cellarman in 18th century Germany, you may think it is a low-level job or occupation, but the truth is that this job would have been an excellent career. A person would have needed some knowledge, education, training, and trustworthiness to do this job.

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Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I live in Hanoi, Vietnam. I love to share with you about my family history and the many parts of the world our ancestors have lived.

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A Cellarman in 1700s Germany