Above the entrance to the monks' brewery is a fresco of the Virgin Mary upon grains of barley.
Fr. Benedict reflected on how Jesus Christ's first miracle was at the wedding at Cana – at the urging of his mother Mary, he turned water into wine.
“Doing something so unnecessary, changing water into wine. And not just any wine, but the best wine,” he said. “That’s what the steward said: the best for last.”
For these Benedictines, brewing beer is like making wine.
“It is a drink which isn't really necessary, but it brings a bit of joy to the hearts of those who drink it,” the monk said. “We take as our motto a line from Psalm 106: 'ut laetificat cor,' that the heart might be gladdened.”
“When we take something that has those qualities of good ingredients, made in a prayerful way, and drink with friends and family, it's a chance to step back from the ordinary cares of the day, all the anxieties, and spend a little time thinking about less urgent things, and more leisurely, things.”
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.
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“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.