Now, from their castle deep in the Black Forest of Germany, from a higher branch of the Furstenberg family, which brought the world a royal line of designer dresses, luggage, perfume and ties, come the Prince and Princess zu Furstenberg and prestige beer.
To set the record straight, Prince Heinrich zu Furstenberg is only distantly related to Prince Egon and Princess Diane von Frusenberg. "Egon's father is a second cousin of my grandfather," says Prince Heinrich. And though these two other, now separated, Furstenbergs (who choose to use the "von" instead of the tradtional family "zu" before their name) are the creators of many designer items, they had nothing to do with designing this beer.
The zu Furstenbergs have been in the beer business since 1283, when the right to brew beer was granted to the family by Emperor Rudolf von Hapsburg. rPrince Heinrich, 30, and his wife Princess Maximiliana, 28, who is Italian, are second cousins who "knew each other as babies" and married in 1976. They have a son, Prince Christian, age 3, who does unprincely things like eating Special K spilled from a box onto the rug of a Hay -- Adams Hotel room. They are all staying in the Princess suite at the hotel this week for the whirlwind of beer introduction events.
Their beer is "going to be a status thing," says Prince Heinrich. Its slogan is "Not just another import. Obviously."
Prince Heinrich is the only one of the six children in his family to go into the family business, which consists mainly of forestry holdings and the beer company. The prince says he sipped Furstenberg at a tender young age, but did not become a regular beer drinker until age 14 or 15. "I had a very strict nurse who didn't approve of it even then," he says.
Prince Heinrich says that princely life these days isn't much different from anyone else's. "Europeans are more used to families like ours," he says. "In America these titles are non-existent. A prince does the same thing everyone else does."
He says his normal day consists of breakfast at his home (which is behind the castle), office meetings and possibly quick hops in his helicopter to tour the various family enterprises, then often entertaining guests in the evening. He frequently ends the day, he says, with a glass of beer before bed.
Don't expect to see Furstenberg beer hats or T-shirts. "It is 'nice' snob appeal," says Arnold Winograd, senior vice president of Pabst Brewing Co., which is importing the beer. They're thinking more along the lines of possibly a tasteful can opener with the family seal on it.
Although Prince Heinrich will not appear in ads for the beer. ("He wanted too much money to appear in them," jokes Winogard) Pabst made a film of the prince in Germany at the castle, at his country house, in the brewery, etc., to use in promoting the beer. When the film was brought back and shown to a public relations executive in New York, he said, "Who did your casting job? He's perfect. He looks like a prince."
Not just another import. Obviously.