Thursday, April 28, 2016

Appreciating a master of malt: Wolfgang Kunze (1926-2016).

Want to be a brewster? Know this man.

Wolfgang Kunze:  “Technology Brewing and Malting”

On January 17, 2016, Wolfgang Kunze died, at 89.

For decades, Mr. Kunze taught brewing, in Communist East Germany. His book, Technology Brewing and Malting, written in his native German — as well as translated into English, Spanish, Polish, Serbian, Hungarian, Chinese, and Russian— has long been a 'textbook' textbook for brewers throughout the world.

Wolfgang Kunze, born on 7 August 1926 in Dresden, made an apprenticeship as “Brewer and Maltster" at the Waldschlößchen Brewery in Dresden (Saxony) from 1947 to 1949. Following he moved to Berlin where he began to study brewing technology at the VLB Berlin and Humboldt University. Against all the odds of the divided postwar Berlin, he graduated as a Diploma Brewing Engineer in 1952. The newly married young father decided - for family reasons - to move back to his home city Dresden which was located in the GDR. There he took a job as a teacher at the Vocational School for brewers and maltsters. What was originally conceived as an interim solution became his professional passion that occupied him for 38 years. So in the course of nearly four decades countless brewers and maltsters from across the GDR went through his classes.

In 1959, he met a request to develop an official textbook for the training of brewers in the GDR. This project was realized in 1961 when the first edition of the book “Technology Brewing and Malting" was published. During the decades the textbook was published in the GDR in six editions, but also became very popular with the brewing trainees in West Germany. Wolfgang Kunzes credo “express complicated matters as simple as possible and in the language of the people” describes one of his key success factors both as a teacher and as an author.

Technology Brewing & Malting

Continuing his career as Director of the Vocational School Dresden, Wolfgang Kunze additionally took over the lessons for brewing technology at the Engineering School for the food industry in Dippoldiswalde (Saxony). However, he refused an offer of the Technical University of Dresden for an unscheduled promotion due to a lack of time. In 1990, Wolfgang Kunze had been replaced by its successor Herwig Bittner, who has been the head of the Vocational School Centre for Agriculture and Food in Dresden until today.

With his retirement in 1991, a new and very active period of his life began. He brought his extensive contacts and experience into the newly founded “VLB Office Dresden”. In this position, he was a respected unifying figure who has rendered great services in the convergence of East and West German brewing industry after the German reunification. In addition, the VLB took over the publishing rights of “Technology Brewing and Malting”, so that the future of this book was secured. In 1994, the 7th revised edition was published by the VLB, later followed by international editions in English, Polish, Chinese, Russian and Spanish as well as three additional German updates. Overall, his work with more than 60,000 printed copies in 7 languages has become one of the most successful textbooks for brewers worldwide.

Wolfgang Kunze was also the initiator of the “Dresdner Brewers’ Day” in 1992. As a joint project of VLB with the Brewers Association of Saxony this meeting devoted mainly to the technical and technological development of the breweries in the new federal states. In its 22nd edition the Dresdner Brewers’ Day takes place on 8 April this year - the first time that Wolfgang Kunze will not be there.

With great dedication, honesty and his Saxon humor, Wolfgang Kunze had accompanied the brewing industry up until old age. He was a regular and welcome guest at numerous trade events and on trade fairs at the stand of the VLB he was always available for an interview, a photo or even for an autograph.

His merits for the brewing industry are documented in numerous awards: He was an honorary member of the VLB Berlin (2001), an honorary member of the German Association of Brewmasters and Maltmasters (DBMB, 2001), an honorary member of the Brewers Association of Saxony (2006), holder of the Bavarian Beer Medal (2008) and awarded with the Golden Badge of Honor of the VLB Berlin (2015).

His withdrawal from public life began two years ago when a serious illness weakened him. Although he temporarily recovered somewhat again, he died on January 17, 2016. Wolfgang Kunze is survived by his wife Christa, with whom he was married since 1948, three children, eight grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and a dog.
VLB Berlin
17 January 2016.

  • Kunze's obituary was published by the Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei (VLB), the organization he captained in Berlin, Germany. I defer to its translation.
    The VLB is a members association and was founded in Berlin in 1883 by German brewers and maltsters. For more than 125 years VLB has been working in the field of research, development and training for the brewing industry. Today, round about 120 people work at the VLB in the fields of research, teaching, information, consulting and service. As a "Registered Association" VLB is an independent institute, which co-operates with Berlin University of Technology in the field of brewing science and has a very close network into the brewing and related industry. Since 2002 VLB is the sole holder of Institut für Gärungsgewerbe und Biotechnologie zu Berlin (IfGB).

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