In the German town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber stands an old building known as the Ratstrinkstube, or Councilor’s Tavern. The building’s clock tower chimes every hour on the hour between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., and two doors open on either side of the clock face to reenact the legendary story of the brave mayor who drank nearly a gallon of wine in order to save his city.
The famous “Legend of the Master Draught” is said to have occurred in 1631, during the Thirty Years’ War. The protestant town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber was seized by the imperial army led by a man named Count Tilly, a Catholic. Count Tilly was going to destroy the town, plunder the citizens, and execute many of the residents. The town tried to placate Count Tilly. They begged him for mercy. They tried to bribe him. All pleas fell on deaf ears. Finally, at the Ratstrinkstube, the town offered him a huge tankard of the best local wine. This succeeded in changing his mood.
As Count Tilly drank from the tankard, which held 3.25 liters of wine (.85 gallons), he thought it would be funny to toy with people and challenged the townsfolk that if they could drink the entire tankard all in one drink without stopping, he would spare the town—but he would execute anyone who failed.
The mayor of the town, a man named Bürgermeister Nusch, bravely agreed to the challenge and successfully drank the entire tankard in one draught. Count Tilly was sufficiently impressed, and good to his word he left the town unharmed. The town was saved! The townsfolk were clearly so proud of the drinking capabilities of their mayor they continued to tell the legend. In 1881, a play was written based on the story, and every year since the town has held a reenactment of the proud event during the local festival, in which hundreds of citizens dress up and celebrate the Master Draught.
Another mini reenactment takes place each hour on the Ratstrinkstube clock tower, which itself dates back to the 17th century. On the strike of the hour, two doors open next to the clock. Out of one door comes a man in cavalier dress representing Count Tilly, and out of the other door a sober man dressed in black representing the austere Mayor Nusch with a cast iron liver. The mayor lifts a giant tankard up to his lips, where it stays while the clock chimes.
Know Before You Go
The clock tower is in the main square of the town near the fountain with a statue of St George.