Slavic peoples began brewing long before Christ and appearance of ancient Rus. Apparently, its history is not fundamentally different from brewing in Western Europe to a certain stage. Early Middle Ages in Rus also were the beginning of transition from spontaneous peasant brewing to the blossoming of abbey brewing.But further formation of the beer market went the other way as the serf system was more polarized than the feudal. On the one hand, the mass of dependent peasants and craftsmen could not afford buying beer. On the other hand, in the Middle Ages various prohibitions on brewing among lower estates were in force. That is why the beer market was small, monasteries made beer mainly for their own needs, as well as for the merchants and the nobility and beer production and trade were more and more initiated and regulated by the state with its rigid vertical. Peter the Great, who tried out and took a liking to German beer, especially succeeded in the development of industrial brewing, as he ordered to open the first taverns.
In view of increased competition with private beer factories, the share of beer production by monasteries started reducing, and then monasteries stopped brewing beer at all. And if by the XX century abbey breweries worked at some places, Bolsheviks stopped their work.
As far as we know, today beer isn’t made anywhere in the world on the territory of Orthodox organizations. This occurs despite the fact that there are more than 30 Orthodox churches – some connected by a uniform center, as well as autonomous or self-governed, and heads of these churches can look differently at brewing at monasteries. After all we found mentioning of “Orthodox” beer, but in this case connection with the monastery also doesn’t look very obvious.
Private Finnish company Saimaan Juomatehdas bottles Luostari Dubbel beer. According to the company, “This beer, crafted in collaboration with the Valamo Monastery, is the only Orthodox monastery beer in the world”. As seen from its name, this beer for its characteristics belongs to Belgian abbey sorts. Besides Luostari Dubbel this Finnish producer bottles some other drinks without the monastery attributes, for example, organic and craft beer as well as ciders.
Of course, this case is an exception and an original marketing mix for the local market. Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia and Russia – countries with a large Orthodox population (there are about 300 million Orthodox Christians all over the world) could become serious regions of sale for abbey and “Orthodox” beer. But for this purpose there are no real prerequisites as the largest Orthodox churches of the world usually stop attempts of the third-party organizations to use their name, attributes and images for commercial activity.
Also, despite historical background, organization of their own beer production seems unrealistic as representatives of Orthodox churches speak about the harm of alcohol and the need to reduce its consumption more often and sharper than, for example, Catholics. For these reasons breweries very seldom mention monastic and Orthodox subjects in beer production.
As far as we know, in Russia only two brands of “abbey” beer are issued today. One of them is produced in the village of Kalinkino, Kemerovo region and nothing except the name causes additional associations of this beer with the monastery.
A characteristic story is connected with another sort. Vyatich Monastryskoye beer, according to the company’s data, “is brewed for Orthodox holidays on water from the consecrated source…” In 2010 as advertising of this beer posters with an image of a bottle in front of the Dormition Cathedral of Trifonov Monastery and a title “Divine beer” were used. But, according to the management of the company, the Vyatka (Kirov) diocese “didn’t understand this creative idea and appealed to take the posters away”. Besides, the Vyatka diocese recommended the creative brewers in the future “Not to say the name of the Lord, your God, in vain”. Because of this discussion, probably, this new sort of beer was remembered by the residents of Kirov, but actions for further advance of the brand are complicated.
In Ukraine a significant share in the market of cheap beer is taken by a subbrand “Monastyrskoe” of the brand “Rogan” which belongs to AB InBev portfolio of local brands. However marketing specialists of the company for ethical or other reasons didn’t make any attempts to develop the subject of abbey beer in advertising of this sort, and placed it in such price segment where it can do without advertising at all. Perhaps for the same reasons a corresponding image disappeared from a label of half-forgotten sort “Veselyi monakh”/ “The cheerful monk”.