Unique insights into a monastery church and school

Alpirsbach Monastery

Hops. Image: Pixabay, in the public domain
BREWING BEER WITH THE MONKS

MONASTIC BARLEY JUICE

Monasteries were important breweries during the Middle Ages. Monks were considered more than just highly skilled beer brewers, they also enjoyed their barley juice. This may be why several of today's familiar beer brands are named after religious orders, for example "Alpirsbacher."

Modern beer kettles. Image: Pixabay, in the public domain

The corresponding equipment also needed to be on site.

BEER BREWING MASTERS

Monks - and nuns - originally only brewed beer in the monasteries and convents for their own consumption. But they frequently received visitors, and shared their self-brewed beer with them. The quality of the monastery beer was far better than what was on offer elsewhere. Because a monastery's abbot could read and write, it was possible to read past written records and test old recipes. And thus, monks became brewing specialists.

Beer barrel. Image: Pixabay, in the public domain

Large quantities of beer were consumed daily.

BEER AS LENTEN FOOD

"Liquida non frangunt ieunum – Liquids do not break the fast." The monks were happy to follow this axiom. After all, it permitted them to brew and drink beer during Lent. Because they were not permitted to eat much during Lent, the monks filled up on strong, full-flavored, high-calorie beer. Beer of that period contained less alcohol than modern-day beer. There is no other way to explain the large quantities allotted each monk on a daily basis. According to records, each monk was allowed five liters of beer a day.

A mug of beer. Image: Pixabay, in the public domain

Beer was also economically important to monasteries.

UP TO 300,000 LITERS PER DAY

During the High Middle Ages, almost 500 monastery breweries were in operation, all of which were flourishing enterprises. One Nuremberg monastery even produced 300,000 liters of beer in a year. Today, only nine monastery breweries remain; most went bust after secularization. The two most famous are Andechs Monastery near Munich and Ettal Monastery near Oberammergau. Most of today's "monastery beers" (Klosterbier) have nothing to do with a monastery.

Alpirsbacher brewery museum. Image: Alpirsbacher Brauwelt Marketing GmbH & Co. KG

Learn more about brewing beer at Alpirsbach.

"LÖWENBRÄU" BECOMES "ALPIRSBACHER"

For a start, the "Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu" beer has nothing to the do with Alpirsbach Monastery. The brewery is a private enterprise, founded in 1877 by the Glauner family, and in the 19th century, was still called "Löwenbräu." Not until 1906 was the brewery renamed "Alpirsbacher." However, their brewery museum displays many historical objects that were once used in the brewing process. The brewery and the monastery are only 160 meters from each other.