A number of monasteries of the Benedictines and Cistercians with operating breweries are situated outside Germany – we know breweries in Belgium, England, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, the USA.
The history of Belgian monastery Notre Dame du Val-Dieu began when in 1216 a small group of Cistercian monks from the Hocht Abbey occupied an uninhabited valley. They called their settlement “the Valley of God” (Val-Dieu), but the destiny of the monastery was anything but simple.
At first the church was destroyed in 1287 during the war for the Limburg inheritance, then restored, but again ruined in 1574 during the Netherlands revolution and in 1683 by Louis XIV’s troops. In the XVIII century there was a period of wellbeing, but the French revolution led to new destructions. In the subsequent time a small number of monks lived in Notre Dame du Val-Dieu, sometimes the monastery was even empty.
Today the monastery is occupied by a Cistercian community for the economic support of which in 1997 the brewery was founded. On the modern equipment four sorts of Val-Dieu beer are brewed in abbatial style.
The Czech monastery Zelivsky klaster known for its difficult destiny was founded by prince Sobeslav I in 1139, as a branch of the Benedictine monastery Sazava. During the Hussite wars the Zhelivsky monastery was burned down several times, but then it was restored. Finally, in 1467 Moravian regent Jiri of Podebrady confiscated the property of monks, and local feudal lords occupied the rooms of the monastery, having turned them into a castle. It was them, apparently, who founded the brewery, expanding their household.
The monastic settlement was restored in 1590, and in 1622 the buildings were redeemed and again returned into the property of church. Having endured a number of destructions and large-scale reconstructions, in 1713-1720 the monastery was rebuilt in style of Gothic baroque. The brewery which had worked for about 300 years burned down during a heavy fire of 1907. When the abbey was built up again, it didn’t resume beer production.
In 1950 communists closed the monastery and used it as a camp for interned priests and monks. Since 1954 the monastery was turned into a psychiatric clinic which took toll its condition. In anticipation of independence of the Czech Republic (at that time, Czechoslovakia) the monastery started being reconstructed and restored. Then the Zhelivsky monastery started regularly conducting services once again, it gained great cultural and spiritual value for the region. To attract tourists to the monastery, in 2003 the company Zelivsky klasterni pivovar resumed production of beer in a mini-brewery. In 2010, after a modernization, production power grew considerably.
Brevnovsky Klaster was the first Catholic monastery in the territory of the Czech Republic, in 993 it was founded by Prague bishop. As well as other monasteries, it suffered severely during the Hussite wars and was repeatedly reconstructed. Foundation of brewery in 1720 coincided with the period of large-scale reconstruction and blossoming of economic activity of the monastery. Famous builders, sculptors and artists of that time created a majestic complex in Baroque style and laid out a garden. Being a place of interest of Prague, the monastery in days of the communist rule, nevertheless, fell into decay. But thanks to Benedictine community and foreign help in 1993 the temple complex was restored and adequately celebrated its millennium.
New beer production started quite recently – in 2012. The brewery received the name Brevnovsky klasterni pivovar sv. Vojtecha. Some sorts of Brevnovsky Benedict beer can be tasted at a local restaurant, but beer is also packed in keg and PET. The capacity of production corresponds to the format of restaurant brewery – about 30 thousand dal per year.
Despite the fact that all Catholics of Austria pay 1% of the income tax in favor of church, Benedictines here also strive for independence and are engaged in economic activity. In particular, in Salzburg the Augustiner Brau Kloster Mulln brewery belongs to Benedictines and not Augustinian monks as it would be expected from its name.
In 1607-1614 in Mulln region of Salzburg German Augustinians founded a settlement and built a monastery. Possibly, their resettlement was connected with the crisis condition of the order in the period of Reformation. To support the monastery in 1621 the monks created a brewery and started selling beer. But in 1818 the Augustinian monastery in Salzburg became empty. For some time its premises were used as barracks until in 1835 Austrian emperor Ferdinand I the Kind-hearted gave it to Benedictines from the abbey of Michaelbeuern located in the vicinity of Salzburg.
In 1939 Benedictines needed to sell the brewery which passed into private property, but in 1944, probably in connection with Germany’s military defeats and worsening economic situation, the brewery stopped working. After the war the transaction for the sale of the brewery was cancelled but as due to post-war problems it needed investments, private owners again took part in funding it. Thus, today 50% of the company belongs to the abbey of Michaelbeuern, and 25% belongs to two families of private shareholders. The company produces three sorts of Augustiner Bier beer, and awaits visitors for excursions and at the largest beer restaurant of Austria. Declared volumes of output are very small – 95 000 dal per year, in connection with long traditional production technology.
In 2012, in Italy a brewery opened at the monastery Monastero di San Benedetto. The monastery is located in the town Norcia 70 miles to the northeast of Rome in Umbria and it has huge value for monks of the Benedictine Rule as it is the homeland of Saint Benedict himself. At the opening of this brewery three purposes set by monks were specified: independent provision of the monastery, strengthening of ties with the city and search of a way to those people who “aren’t interested in religion”.
Monks from Norcia very thoroughly approached the new activity – they studied the Belgian experience of brewing from Trappists and the organization of their work for several years. The importance and symbolical character of their undertaking is pointed out by the visit of the Pope Benedict XVI, who at the opening ceremony of the brewery received a bottle of fresh beer as a gift. By the way, the beer brewed in Norcia was served also at the conclave when Pope Francis was being chosen.
An event, symbolical for history was the opening in 2012 of a small monastic brewery at the abbey of Ampleforth – the first in Great Britain since the Reformation. It is significant because 500 years ago Britain was one of the centers of monastic brewing until during a short period of time hundreds of monks were left without housing and work because of change of a church paradigm by Henry VIII.
It is not so simple to restore the continuity of Benedictine brewery. The history of the monastery is connected to the destiny of the Westminster Abbey which was disbanded in 1530. Monks tried to restore anew one of communities during the rule of Queen Maria Tudor, but it was also disbanded by her sister – Queen Elizabeth in 20 years.
The only surviving monk from the abbey –Father Sigebert Buckley headed a group of brothers from England who, escaping persecution, moved to France to the monastery of Dieulouard. Full of determination not to live off the French brothers and to provide for themselves independently, the British started brewing beer, probably, for patriotism called La Biere Anglaise.
However, the monks were also banished from France in 1792 during the revolution. They had to return to their historical homeland where the relation to the Roman church became warmer. One of those who came back was Father Anselm Bolton, who was engaged in teaching activity in Catholic families and received the lodge called Ampleforth Lodge as a gift. This lodge was transferred by Father Bolton to the brothers and was a base for creating a new monastery. In 1900 about 100 monks already lived in the monastery and it became an independent abbey.
Brewers of the Dutch company Wim van der Spek investigated detailed recipes of La Biere Anglaise beer, history of English Benedictines and reproduced the original style of beer of double fermentation which is in many respects based on the Trappist traditions. It is also bottled today in the brewery of the Ampleforth Abbey.
The monastery Christ in the Desert is actually located in the desert district near the town of Abiquiu, in the State of New Mexico, USA. For many miles it is surrounded by the untouched wild land of the protected nature reserve. But this small monastery is known far outside the region and even the USA, thanks to some interesting facts.
First, its project was developed by the famous Japanese architect and the master of woodwork George Nakashima, and the monastery chapel, according to the authoritative spiritual figure Thomas Merton, is the most perfect of all he has seen in the world. Secondly, being so far from civilization, the monastery has a powerful modern life support system, in particular it possesses the largest private solar power station in the USA which is the only source of electric power there.
It isn’t surprising that Benedictines from Christ in the Desert became pioneers also in other undertaking – they were the first in the USA who founded monastic brewery. It is called Abbey Brewing Company and allows to produce up to 2900 barrels of beer a year (0.34 million dal). However, its capacities aren’t enough for the monastery therefore a part of the beer sold is made under the contract by the Sierra Blanca Brewing Company located in the same state. Main sorts, as far as we know, are Monks’ Ale, Monks’ Wit, Monks’ Dubbel Reserve and Monks’ Tripel Reserve. Despite commercial success, monks don’t force the development of the brewery and develop the new direction with care; they even stopped excursions and closed a tasting room in the territory of the monastery so that nobody disturbs their privacy.
Another American brewery was founded later though the monastery has existed for more than 150 years. Thus, in 1882 Benedictine monks from the Swiss monastery Engelberg founded the settlement in Oregon, USA. The place for the monastery – mountains covered in fir forest – was not chosen incidentally. According to one of the Swiss, Father Adelhelm, traveling for many years across America, they missed mountains very much, but hadn’t met even “a decent hill” on their way. But Oregon seemed to them “something like paradise if it is possible to speak about such place on Earth”. Sermons of Father Adelhelm and his big black beard made a great impression on locals, and the nearby German Catholic community supported the immigrants financially when they decided to lodge at the bottom of the mountains. Thus, in 1882 the abbey of Mount Angel was founded.
Today 53 monks, constantly live at the abbey. They are generally engaged in educational activity at the seminary, iconography and monastic economy. In 2014 a small brewery with a simple name Benedictine Brewery was added to it. The logo of the brewery has the image of Saint Benedict and the inscription “try and believe”. So far a limited release of one beer sort is known – Black Habit, but the brewery is still at the very beginning of its development.
It is known that sisters from the monastery Conception Abbey, in Missouri, USA plan to found their own brewery.