The portable backrest for beer benches designed by Andreas Hemmeter enhances the delights of sitting in a Biergarten or beer tent. More and more fans swear by it: they wouldn’t go anywhere without their Mei Leni
Inventor Andreas Hemmeter
A group of young men and women in traditional costume strolls along the street in the direction of the Weißenburg Parish Fair. In one hand they hold a bottle of beer, in the other a wooden backrest. They all have their “Leni” with them: a portable backrest for beer benches. The inventor is Andreas Hemmeter. “Mei Leni” is short for “Meine Lehne” – “my (back)rest”.
The expression “Heut' nehm' i Mei Leni mit” (“I’m taking ‘Mei Leni’ with me today”) has become established in the inventor's circle of acquaintances. On the one hand his backrest contributes to the preservation of the Bavarian festival culture. “On the other hand”, he says with pride, “I am trying to develop traditions and bring in a modern twist through a creative idea.”
From prototype to business model
The idea arose following a visit to a Biergarten. Andreas Hemmeter’s father-in-law complained about how uncomfortable the beer benches were. A backrest would solve the problem. But beer benches don’t often have backrests as they take up more space. The trained toolmaker went on to develop an attachable backrest for his father-in-law.
“He tested my prototype and was enthusiastic.” At ensuing parish fairs and Biergarten visits, the first Mei Leni attracted plenty of attention. “So I fine-tuned my prototype, cut out a heart-shaped carrying handle and added the lettering”, states Andreas Hemmeter. This resulted in his business model.
With a love of detail
"Even if the backrest falls, it won’t break"
It smells of spruce and sawdust. Electric machinery screeches and hums. The inventor produces the Mei Lenis in his own workshop. His colleagues use the offcuts of wood that are left over from the manufacture of beer benches. They are made into the portable backrests. The back is therefore 100 percent recycled material. Every detail of the Mei Leni has a function and is beautifully crafted. The cut-out heart shape, for example, acts as a carrying handle.
The clamp system is not just extremely robust but also a world first. “Even if the backrest falls, it won’t break”, explains Andreas Hemmeter. At the same time, it only weighs 1.5 kilograms and can be taken anywhere with ease. Hemmeter now sells his product across Germany and Switzerland. Customers from the area like to come to his workshop and pick up their Leni in person. “Sometimes I sell Mei Lenis at trade fairs or at parish fairs in the surrounding area”, says the inventor.
Mei Leni at the Weißenburg Parish Fair
He likes taking his Mei Leni with him to the Weißenburg Parish Fair. The locals celebrate the patronage of their church for a whole week. It is a traditional people’s fair with live music, Bavarian food and good beer. There is an exuberant atmosphere in the festival tent. In the evenings, when the lights of the rides are on, the atmosphere is particularly cosy. “I love meeting friends and acquaintances there”, enthuses Hemmeter. Some of them have their Leni with them so they can enjoy the sociable atmosphere until late in the evening – without any backache.
More about Andreas' "Mei Leni" at meileni.de (only in German)
... from Andreas
Franconian Lake District
The Franconian Lake District is really beautiful. I particularly like the Kleine and Große Brombachsee. There are great bike paths and boat trips. At Kleiner Brombachsee, there is even a wakeboard facility and a high rope course. A popular mountain bike panorama route leads through the Altmühltal.
fraenkisches-seenland.de (only in German)
In Weißenburg my favourite restaurant is the Bräustüberl “Zur Kanne”. They serve Franconian-Bavarian food – but with a certain flair. I also recommend the schnitzels at the “Zum Schiffla” inn. They also serve excellent food at the “Zum Goldenen Hirsch” and “Zum Goldenen Lamm” inns in Wettelsheim. In general, Weißenburg has many pubs and beer gardens that are worth a visit.
Old town festival Weißenburg
The Weißenburg old town festival is very beautiful. The bars and restaurants put out beer benches and various bands play on small stages. The town centre turns into a big street festival.
weissenburg.de (only in German)