In the 12th century, Hildegard von Bingen, a German Benedictine abbess, wrote that the bitterness of hops “inhibits some spoilage in beverages to which it is added, making them last longer.”

Fast forward to today, Sister Doris Engelhard of the Mallersdorf Abbey in Germany brews 80,000 gallons a year of hyper local craft beer, brewed to her expert taste. Sister Doris took charge of the brewery in 1975, shortly after becoming a brewmaster and taking her religious vows (the Mallersdorf Abbey has been brewing since 1881). In interviews, she expresses her support of drinking fresh beer and reveals that she herself enjoys about a pint a day.

The tradition of brewmaster nuns may be dying out in Europe (Sister Doris believes that she may be the last), but at least one order of American sisters are looking to get into the business. The Illinois-based Fraternite Notre Dame are seeking to build a brewery, and depending on the results of a lawsuit filed in 2015, they may be able to do so.

Further reading:

Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica: The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing (Google Books) 

The Meditations of Europe’s Last Brewmaster Nun (The Atlantic)

Nuns sue over thwarted plans for brewery, nursing home, in McHenry County (Chicago Tribune)


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