When you contemplate breweries and their function in society, you don’t necessarily connect them to religion, or for that matter, pious monks. Interestingly enough, the brewers back in the early Middle Ages were none other than scripture reading clergymen! Yes, monks would produce beer while in the comfort of their monasteries. Today, the world’s oldest brewery, the Bavarian State Brewery at Weihenstephan, continues to thrive in its original location in Friesing, Germany. The brewery has been producing top-quality beers for over a thousand of years, but that is not to say that they did not have obstacles to overcome along the way. Now, let me take you back over a thousand years ago!
Saint Corbinian and twelve of his fellow Benedictine monks created Weihenstephan in the year 725. The monks faced attacks led by many different invaders such as the Huns, the Swedes, and the French, but fortunately they persevered and completely rebuilt the monastery four times without losing faith.
On March 24, 1803 the monastery was dissolved in the course of secularization. This meant that all of the “possessions and rights of the monastery were transferred to the Bavarian State.” So unfortunately for the faithful monks, this meant the brewery became secular too. They were able to continue brewing beer, but the state kept a close eye on Weihenstephan to make sure the former monastery wasn’t getting itself into any religious shenanigans.
Weihenstephan doesn’t earn its reputation solely from being the oldest brewery in the world. It’s also located near the Technical University of Munich’s Scientific Center, where brewing students from all over the globe travel to learn new innovative techniques and become brew masters. What a great coincidence! If they run out of ideas for beer they can just mosey on over to their scientist neighbors and experiment to their hearts’ content. One of the ways they utilize the technology is by experimenting with different strains of yeast, which are kept in the yeast bank at the Scientific Center.
If you ever find yourself in Germany, definitely plan a trip to Weihenstephan- you will not regret it!