October 25, 2014

Monks and Great Beer

Great beer was developed by pious monks. Franziskaner Weissbier is just one example of many from Germany.

Part II A Utahn’s Guide to Beer Appreciation:

Beer Appreciation From Travels in Europe

The first time I traveled to France in my early twenties I was amazed when I saw many responsible looking people drinking wine and beer in the middle of the day! As a Utahn, I was accustomed to watching those who drink subjugated to drinking out of paper bags or in seedy bars or at frat houses to get obliterated.

My perceptions made me believe that most people only used alcohol as a means to get buzzed or drunk, and only a few old people really drank in moderation. I’ve come to realize our  Utah mentality regarding  alcohol consumption runs contrary to the spirit in which the  the age-old great beers were developed  in the old world.

Monks: The Patron Saints of Beer

Many of the varieties of beer we enjoy today were developed by monks of the Benedictine and Augustine and Trappist Orders in from the 12th to the 18th centuries. Monks maintain a very healthy attitude towards beer:

He who drinks beer sleeps well. he who sleeps well cannot sin. He who does not sin goes to heaven. Amen.

said by an unknown Monk

For centuries prior to our modern era of refrigeration, beer was an essential source of  vitamins, nutrients and calories. In the twelfth century it was monks who were the first to begin using hops to preserve beer on a massive scale. Hops allowed beer to remain safe to consume at near room temperature for up to 3 months, this preservative allowed for beer to be safely transported much greater distances than ever before.

Monasteries were the first to produce beer in large batches for mass consumption. For centuries beer has been an excellent source of  liquid nourishment. But the ability to preserve and transport beer was an especially significant discovery because many towns in medieval Europe often didn’t have access to reliable sources of drinking water. Beer is boiled and thus sanitized in the brewing process,  killing microbes and bacteria. Monks brewed their share, but gave away the excess to their communities. Contrary to popular misconceptions, Monks in Medieval Europe did not live in isolation from their communities. Many, especially of the Benedictine Order, dedicated their lives to improving the human condition for their communities through their labors. Giving away free beer to their neighbors must have had a tremendous impact on the spread of Christianity.

Soon after monks discovered how to make good beer available to everyone on a massive scale, the Renaissance began and Europe was lifted out of the Dark Ages. Just a coincidence? I don’t think so.

Monks are now recognized as the Patron Saints of beer and the modern brewing process. Today there are still seven Trappist monasteries producing beer.  Chimay beer, is brewed by Trappist monks in France and Belgium.

<–part 1: Utah Guide to Alcohol, Parenting and Legislation
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