Sunday, 12 October 2014

Heavenly Brew - Part Two

The first part of this article described the two best known Kloster Brauereien in Germany;  places of worship, and retreat from the world which have continued the centuries old tradition of monastic brewing. Now, in the concluding part, we look at some of their lesser known brethren.

Kloster Ettal
This summer’s trip to Munich afforded the opportunity of a brief visit to Kloster Ettal. I have already described our visit which we undertook during our trip south to Mittenwald, and apart from picking up a few bottles and having a beer in the imposing Klosterhotel “Ludwig der Bayer”, opposite, there’s not a lot to report.

The Good Beer Guide to Germany claims the monastery brewery has an annual production of 12,000 hl, and the beers are available in around 55 local pubs, so the brewery is perhaps larger than I first thought. Having now had the chance to sample the bottled beers I returned home with, I can report they are very good.  I am therefore glad we made the detour to Ettal, as the bus ride through the pine forests up into the hills, and the setting of the monastery against the backdrop of the mountains, was worth the trip alone.

Kloster Reutberg Beers
Kloster Reutberg, which lies to the south of Munich, close to the town of Holzkirchen, at the end of S-Bahn Line 3, is a monastery brewery we’ve yet to visit, although two years ago we did find a pub selling Kloster Reutberg beers in Holzkirchen itself. One reason to visit Reutberg is said to be its south-facing beer-garden which, on a clear day, affords spectacular views towards the Alps. There is an excellent photo on the Kloster Reutberg website, which shows the beer-garden and brewery complex in the shadow of the imposing monastery church. Today, the brewery is owned and run by a co-operative with some 4,000 members. It is definitely a place to visit on our next trip to Munich!

Kloster Scheyern
On our recent trip, I picked up a couple of bottles of Kloster Scheyern beer; a Helles and a Dunkles. These beers are brewed at a complex consisting of a hotel, Bräustüberl, and Klosterstub'n, plus of course some imposing monastery buildings. Brewing at Scheyern dates back to 1119, but ceased on site, sometime during the last century. Kloster Scheyern beers continued to be brewed by Hasen-Bräu in nearby Augsburg until May 2006, when a newly-installed brewing plant commenced production, bringing brewing back to the monastery, which is situated to the north-east of Munich.

There are three other breweries with monastic connections in Bavaria; two of which are situated at opposite ends of the state. In the far north of Bavaria, close to the border with the neighbouring state of Hessen, is Klosterbrauerei Kreuzberg. This is a genuine monastery brewery, which is owned by the Franciscan Order, with the beer still brewed by the monks. Brewing here dates back to 1731, although the monastery buildings are slightly older

The isolated Kloster Kreuzberg
Kloster Kreuzberg is situated in the mountainous Rhön region, at a height of 928 metres above sea-level. It is one of the most isolated, and the most difficult of the monastery breweries to access; certainly by public transport, although here is a hotel and restaurant attached for those arriving by car and wishing to stay the night.. Well worth a trip, and an over-night stay, as the hotel rooms are very reasonably priced. However, overnight visitors beware; the Klosterschänke closes at 8pm each evening. The monks rise at 4am for morning prayers, so they need their beauty sleep!

Irsee Klosterbräu lies in the south-eastern corner of Bavaria; with a brewery, a pub and a hotel situated in the former monastery buildings. Like its counterpart in the north, Kloster Irsee is difficult to access by public transport, although again the presence of the hotel makes arriving by car and an overnight stop a worthwhile option and here they keep serving until 11pm!

The final Klosterbrauerei on my wish-list isn’t run by monks; instead it’s a convent brewery operated by nuns. It’s called Klosterbrauerei Mallersdorf, and is based in the 900-year-old Mallersdorf Abbey, which overlooks the town of Mallersdorf-Pfaffenberg, situated to the south of Regensburg.

Sister Doris - enjoying the fruits of her labours.
For nearly 45 years, Sister Doris has been the legendary Brewster at this imposing abbey, rising before most of the other sisters on brewing days, in time to start work in the abbey brew-house by 3:30 am.  She’s even allowed to skip the obligatory morning prayers in order to perform her tasks in the brewery! Depending on the time of year, Sister Doris turns out a copper-toned Vollbier, Helles Bock, Zoigl Beer, Doppelbock or Maibock.

Mallersdorf-Pfaffenberg has a station, so a day trip there to sample Sister Doris’s wares would not be a problem; (the beers aren’t available anywhere else!). Like at the previous two concerns, the abbey has its own hotel, so again an overnight stay is an option. I’ve read good reports about the beers at Mallersdorf, and the pictures on the website, of the abbey complex and the small beer garden also look attractive.

To sum up, the ancient links between church and beer are alive and kicking in Catholic Bavaria, with a number of attractive and welcoming Klosterbrauereien to visit. As you can see from this brief guide there is plenty to interest for the beer lover, and I am looking forward to delving a bit deeper into the fascinating and centuries old tradition of monastic brewing.

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