On Monks and Beer – a Long History

It Appears that People are Taking the Motto “Taste and Believe” Seriously

Followers of this blog know that I was involved in the latter stages of planning for the Benedictine Brewery and St. Michael Taproom on the beautiful grounds of the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary near Salem, Oregon. 

It opened in the fall of 2018 and Fr. Martin Grassel – a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, as the Head Brewer, has built a strong reputation for his beers, which expanded from the original flagship, Black Habit, and now number nine on tap and have a loyal following.

Notwithstanding the lockdowns when the Taproom was closed for months in 2020, the Brewery has done extremely well and has become a popular regional destination brewery 

Fr. Martin recently brewed his first IPA – “Hairshirt.”  I had the pleasure of sharing a pint of this with him and Fr. Timothy Kalange at the Taproom.  Fr. Timothy is enjoying a pint of Hairshirt IPA below. (7.1 ABV – 56 IBU).  It has now become my favorite Benedictine beer – beautiful appearance, inviting aroma and a nice slightly bitter, fruity taste.

The Taproom is impressive and inviting and on some occasions, a chance to interact with seminarians and monks over a mug.   The Brewery recently expanded its covered patio in the beautiful setting overlooking the Abbey’s hop fields.  Plan a visit.  This is the only location at which you can purchase Benedictine Beer, besides the Abbey Book Store

Of course, the entire Abbey Hilltop is worth spending an afternoon visiting.  Its Library – not only known for its distinctive design by noted Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, but as the repository for many original manuscripts from the Abbey’s collection of rare books and art, is fascinating.

The Romanesque-style Abbey Church is a thing of beauty and the renovated Guesthouse and Retreat Center welcomes people of all faiths to come and spend time in prayer and quiet reflection.  For a better idea of what can be seen, check out this Hilltop Walking Tour link.

Speaking of Taste and Believe…..

I’ve recently read some of the works of St. Augustine and was fascinated by the story of this remarkable Catholic theologian who lived from 354 to 430 AD.   He was brilliant even in his youth, although a wayward boy and young adult. 

During this period he was enamored by the carnal and intoxicating pleasures in life including alcohol and mistresses.   His conversion story is fascinating and  he went on to become one of history’s great theologians.

“For thirty four years, he lived in this monastic community (one that he founded in Africa).  He wrote a vast number of books and became known for his eloquence, logic and spirit.  These three combined to make Augustine one of the most significant thinkers in the history of the Christian Church.  (Page 52 –Devotional Classics

Intrigued by the account of his doctrinal contributions and the manner in which his life changed, I did some supplemental research and found that he was also known as a Patron Saint of Brewers.

I mentioned this in an e-mail to Fr. Martin and that based on this information, wondered if would consider naming one of his new beers “St. Augustine.”   (Since I’m Protestant, I didn’t think he would seriously consider my other suggestion of “Reformation Red Ale.”)

Fr. Martin, is an incredibly wise and learned man on everything from theology to brewing, to financial analysis (he is the Procurator (CFO) for the monastery and seminary, to engineering (a 1985 graduate in Computer Science from the University of North Dakota). He replied:

Fr. Martin lecturing on the Rule of St. Benedict

“Don, yes St. Augustine is a patron of brewers.  There are lots of saints with that patronage.  St. Luke, the evangelist is another one, rather surprisingly.  Augustine is a patron because of his lifestyle in his youth….Others like the two St. Arnolds, actually had something to do with brewing.”

And Fr. Martin is correct based on the following article “Meet the Many Catholic Patron Saints of Beer.”  But the saint he referenced who intrigued me the most and also demonstrated why Fr. Martin is loved for his great sense of humor, was his last tongue-in-cheek sentence:

“St.  Brigid is said to have turned bathwater to beer for clergy.  I guess that will get anyone canonized, whether they acted like a saint or not….!” 

The article referenced above states the following about St. Brigid:

“There was a 5th Century Saint Brigid of Ireland (apparently a good friend of Saint Patrick, about whom we still cherish many misconceptions every March 17th.)  Brigid is a patron saint of several things, including dairymaids, cattle, midwives, and newborns. But there’s also evidence of an equal passion for beer.

Brigid worked for a time in a leper colony, and when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty.’

And there are also attributed to her these lines, which later inspired both poem and song: ‘I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I should like the angels of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.’

In heaven, bear in mind, there are no hangovers.”

St. Brigid of Ireland – A Passion for Beer *4

This brought back memories of an article I saw last year about a public entity with an innovative approach to making beer in the Willamette Week 2/12/20 article entitled, “Washington County is Recycling Wastewater and Using It to Make Beer”:

Waste water eventually converted to beer! *5

“The county’s Clean Water Services utility treats nearly 60 million gallons of wastewater at its facility in Tigard each day. But engaging the public on sustainable water practices can only go so far if you mostly use it to irrigate golf courses.

‘If you want people to talk about water,’ Art Larrance, owner of Cascade Brewing, told the committee in 2015, ‘you’ve got to make beer’……

Now the program is expanding – at this year’s Oregon Brewers Festival, it will provide the highly purified water to eight participating breweries.  But while the process results in ‘the world’s most sustainable beer,’ the result flavor-wise is negligible to the untrained palate.”

Perhaps St. Brigid was just many years ahead of her time and didn’t have the benefit of modern brewing technology.

In conclusion, that’s something to make one flush with excitement…..!

Cheers

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Photo Attribution

*1 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo#/media/File:Sandro_Botticelli_-_St_Augustin_dans_son_cabinet_de_travail.jpg by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510).

*2. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo#/media/File:Triunfo_.jpgThe triumph of Saint Augustine” by Claudio Coello (1642-1693).

*3.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Olaf_Simony-Jensen_-_K%C3%A6lderinteri%C3%B8r_med_munke_i_festligt_lag_-_1904.png

*4.  Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic. Author: Wolfgang Sauber – 21 July 2011.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigid_of_Kildare#/media/File:Saint_Non’s_Chapel_-_Fenster_3_St.Bride.jpg

*5.  Washinton County Clean Water Services https://cleanwaterservices.org/about-us/one-water/resource-recovery/water-reuse/  

The Beerchaser Goes International…

Our final night in Paris

Our final night in Paris

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.”

Although Thebeerchaser and his wife, Janet, did not have these words by St. Augustine in mind when signing up for a Rick Steves’ “21-Day Best of Europe Tour, they had new meaning when we returned – for we had never been to Europe previously. And after the journey, we felt like we had read a Classic.  It was an intense and absolutely wonderful way to hit the highlights of that continent.

Most of the recommendations in this blog are for taverns, but there’s an exception for Rick Steves – whether it’s a guided tour, his travel consulting or Steves’ publications, check them out with the link above.  You can see from the map, we hit six countries in 21-days and our wonderful tour director, Lisa Friend, was a mentor, history teacher and yes – a  “Friend”….

Rick Steves

Route of the 21-day Best of Europe Tour (Parens indicate number of nights in each stop)

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The best bus driver in Europe - Richard - with Lisa Friend

The best bus driver in Europe – Richard – with Lisa Friend

We traveled by bus – 28 of us, on a classy sixty-seat bus.

Charles Kuralt once observed, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”

However, the bus was a superb way to travel through Europe, and the scenery – whether viewing castles through the Rhine Valley in Germany, the Mediterranean in Italy’s Cinque Terra or the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland – was breathtaking.

Since I was away from Portland, I tried to hit one bar or public house – even if just for a photo – in most of the stops along our journey.

The tour of bars, pubs and taverns continued on the trip

The tour of bars, pubs and taverns continued on the trip

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And there are some differences, which brought home, so to speak, why I love Portland bars.  Those in Europe tend to be part of a hotel or restaurant – “Cafes” – if you will, rather than just a neighborhood watering hole for beer drinkers like the approximately 550 to 750 bars in Portland – depending on your source and the definition used.

When we return to Europe, I will do some research before the trip using a good website – to better explore Europe’s best bars:

The Classic (and my favorite) Dive - The Ship Tavern in Multnomah Village

The Classic (and my favorite) Dive Bar – The Ship Tavern in Multnomah Village

http://besteuropebars.com/category/bars/

While not having a lot of time to search for them, I didn’t see a great dive bar in Europe – one that validates this apt description of these joints, to wit:  “Like saints, dive bars should always be guilty until proven innocent — they always stagger  on the precipice of becoming popular and thus ruined.”  (Willamette Week 2010 – “One Hundred Favorite Bars”)

In the next several posts, I’ll include some pictures and brief comments from the establishments below visited on our trip.  Besides the cafes and pubs, other highlights are pictures from some of the wonderful churches and cathedrals at which I marveled – most of which were not on our tour, but I sought out in the free time.  A perfect example is St. James (Jakobs) Lutheran Church in the historic German city of Rothenburg.

St. Jakobs (James) in Rothenberg

St. James (Jakobs) in Rothenburg

Oh, the history!  The church was built between 1325 to 1485 and in 1525 the peasant leader, Florian Geyer, read aloud the articles of the revolting peasants from its west chancel.

St. James Cathedral, built between 1311-1484. The church was consecrated in 1485 by the Bishop of Würzburg.

St. James Church, built between 1311-1484 – consecrated in 1485 by the Bishop of Würzburg.

   

in Rautenberg, Germany
The Holy Blood altarpiece of the Wurzburg wood-carver, Tillman Riemenschneider, carved 1500 to 1505 and located in St. James Church.

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The cafes or bars I “visited” included the following:

Amsterdam, Netherlands – Cafe Karpershoek and the Heineken Museum “Experience”      

Arnhem, Netherlands – The Bier Brewery at the Arnhem Open Air Museum

Rothenburg, Germany – Zur Holl (Hell’s) Tavern

Venice, Italy – The Devil’s Forest Pub

Vernazza, Italy (The Cinque’ Terra) – The Blue Marlin Café

Rome, Italy – Miscellanea Café

Laterbrunnen, Switzerland – Horner Pub and the bar at the summit of Schilthorn in the Bernese Alps

Beaune, France – Publican Bar

Paris, FranceThe Beer Station and La Vin Coeur Café

Our flight to Europe took us to Amsterdam and we flew home on a flight – originating in Paris with a brief Amsterdam layover.  Both of the long flights (ten and eleven hours) to and from Amsterdam were Delta non-stop and excellent flights.  We were fortunate that the young children on the jet behaved wonderfully and a long flight with kids brings to mind the story of the businessman who learned never to try to be nice by playing peek-a-boo with a child sitting in the row in front of him.

There’s no end to the game and he finally yelled at the young boy, “Look kid, it’s always going to be me – okay……..?”

The museum has on display 8,000 objects of art and history, from their total collection of 1 million The Ri  Museum in Amsterdam with objects from the years 1200–2000, among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam which has on display 8,000 objects of art and history, from their total collection of 1 million.  Included are objects from the years 1200–2000, among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer

Amsterdam is an amazing city – from the hordes of cyclists – none of whom wear helmets and definitely command the right of way over pedestrians, to the Red Light District we passed through on our walking tour – to the coffee houses where cannabis is a mainstay on the menu.  The city actually has more kilometers of canals than Venice.

In Haarlem, where we stayed two nights – a 35-minute train ride from Amsterdam – we ate in a café in a strucutre with a foundation laid about 1500.  During the Spanish siege in 1572, there were about 50 brewing companies in the city, while 45 years later  the city numbered about one hundred breweries.

Amsterdam Pubs, Etc. – There are a number of bars which claim to be the oldest in Amsterdam, among them Café Karpershoek, only a few blocks from the massive and historic Central Station (rail terminal) and the Red Light District.  We stopped in for a quick Heineken and enjoyed the ambiance of our first European bar.

Café Karpershoek in Amsterdam

Café Karpershoek in Amsterdam

Karpershoek,

The slogan on the beam says, "          "

The Dutch slogan on the beam says, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

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We concurred with the February review on Trip Advisor stating, “I visited the Café Karpershoek, which claims to be the oldest pub in Amsterdam, (starting in 1606). The staff was friendly and the beer, while more expensive than many places, was quite good.”          

The Heiniken "Experience"

The Heineken “Experience”

Speaking of Heineken, it’s the world’s third largest brewer, with 125 breweries in more than 70 countries and employs approximately 66,000.  The sign on the building stating “Heineken Brewery” is not accurate – this site, as a brewery, closed in 1988.

The Heineken Experience, however, is a large museum and tasting room that we walked by on our way back from the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House.  Time precluded a visit, but the reviews on various web sites are favorable although the 16 Euro price seemed pretty steep:

This is not just a museum it really is an experience.  Set on four levels this former brewery has everything you need to know about the Heineken Brand. History, information, tasting areas, videos, games and even a roller coaster type video ride that’s very funny and informative.  At the end of the tour you get two drinks of your choice..”

One other thought on airport security while it is freshThose who complain about TSA procedures in America, should be thankful – after going through security in Paris, we had two more encounters before boarding our flight in Amsterdam even though we had not left the secure area.  The first guard who complimented me on my belt did not mitigate the statement of the next official who said, “You look a lot older than your passport photo.” – taken this January.  And I will avoid conveying the awkwardness of trying to extricate a credit card from my money-belt, after it set off the alarm.

Wendie, Roxie and Janet with Hans, the bartender from the Devils Pub
Roxie, Wendy and Janet with Hans, the bartender, at the Devils Forest Pub in Venice

I’ll be back on the next post to talk about pubs in Arnhem, Rothenburg and Venice including the Devil’s Forest Pub in Italy’s Floating City shown here with two of our great new friends from the tour.

 

Our tour group in front of the Grote Kirk (Large Church) in Haarlem’s Central Market Square – right next to our hotel