When a City and a Bishop Went to War Over Beer
The 1380 Wrocław Beer War was a medieval Bohemian battle royale.

BY VITTORIA TRAVERSO

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IF YOU’VE BEEN TO A sporting event—almost any sporting event—then you know that beer and fighting often travel hand in hand. But beer and war? That’s what happened in medieval Wrocław, in western Poland, in 1380.

Wrocław was then the capital of Silesia, a region that corresponds to portions of today’s Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland. Silesia’s allegiance shifted throughout the Middle Ages, and in 1327 it severed ties to the Polish crown and joined the Kingdom of Bohemia. Wrocław wouldn’t be considered Polish territory again until 1945.

It was during this period that tensions over beer began. “Beer was a central component of public life,” says Richard W. Unger, historian at the University of British Columbia and author of Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. “It was the drink of parties, like dinners to celebrate guilds, and of public occasions. Besides, people were certainly getting nutrition from it.”

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