Leonhard Salleck inherited Kuchlbauer, his family’s wheat beer operation in Abensberg, Germany, but he was no ordinary brewer. He had the temperament of an artist, and it was his lifelong dream to add an artistic observation tower to the grounds of his brewery.
Setting out to make this dream a reality, the brewer approached Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an artist and architect who famously disliked straight lines and was known for his bizarre, free-flowing organic structures. In the late 1990s he began building a tower the likes of which Lower Bavaria had never seen.
The whimsical structure looks like a tall robot with a golden head and many colorful appendages sprouting from its body. It stands at 115 feet tall (half of what Hundertwasser and Salleck originally wanted it to be, but the local authorities forbid any tower to be taller than the town church). The tower opened to the public in 2010, after 10 years of planning and construction.
The “onion dome,” a golden ball at the top of the tower, is one of Hundertwasser’s trademarks. The interior of this bright ball is blue and decorated with colorful mosaics, which can also be found in the tower’s cellar. Each of the oddly shaped rooms within the tower is dedicated to a key ingredient of beer and the brewing process. The different chambers are filled with stained glasswork and bright art displays that tie in with the ingredient being highlighted.
According to local myth, the wheat beer Kuchlbauer is known for is brewed by Weissbier dwarves, and the tower includes a home for these mythical dwarves, a grotto with an installation of animated dwarf statues demonstrating what they do best. The artistic beer tower is also home the largest collection of wheat beer glasses in the world, with around 4,200 on display.