This contemplation can even include God. The monks have integrated their brewing practices into Benedictine spirituality, whose famous motto is “Ora et Labora” – “Pray and work.”
“In general, St. Benedict asked the monks to do everything that they do for God,” Fr. Benedict said. “Whether that's cleaning the house, replacing the roof or producing beer. He says everything should be treated like the sacred vessels of the altar.”
“When we make something we try to make it of the highest quality possible,” he said. “Something that is not only high quality and pleasurable to the taste, but also made well. Prayed over. For us, all of our work is part of our prayer.”
St. Benedict asked his monks to live by their own labor, to work and to sell the things they make.
“This is a chance to really live up to his call,” Fr. Benedict said.
The monastery's brewery has a capacity of 10 barrels. Each batch can produce 3,000 0.75 liter bottles. The beer is available in single 0.75 liter bottles, six-packs of the bottles and in cases of 12.
On. Jan. 21, for the first time, the monks began accepting Birra Nursia pre-orders from the U.S. for delivery in March.
“The beers needless to say are excellent,” Fr. Benedict said. He recommended the blond beer, which contains about six percent alcohol, for warm summer afternoons. The dark beer, which is about ten percent alcohol, is “perfect for winters like we are having right now.”
All the monks contribute to the brewery's work. Some gather raw materials, assist in the brewery, or bottle the beer. Others help evaluate the beer's taste or work in sales.
“We started the brewery thinking that no one would be interested,” Fr. Benedict said. “Italy's a wine culture. We didn't expect anybody to like our beer, let alone buy us out.”
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Their beer sales began three years ago. “We've sold out our inventory pretty much since day one. We had to expand our plant after a year.”
Fr. Benedict said that beer is “an age-old monastic product.” The tradition began several centuries ago. The monasteries tried to develop a drink that would supplement the monks' Lenten fasts, when they eat only one meal a day.
“Beer was already in the culture and they perfected it, so that it would be strong enough in nutrients to keep the monks well-fed, but not too strong in alcohol that they would be drunk all the time,” Fr. Benedict said.
The monks have a full schedule. They rise at about 3:30 in the morning. Their first prayers are fifteen minutes later and continue throughout the day. Brewing is only one part of their manual labor.
Other work includes music. In June 2015 the monastery released a music album “Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia,” through the label De Montfort Music.