Brewing beer is part of Norbertine community’s rich history

DE PERE — One of the oldest religious orders in the world is bound to have a rich backstory. For the Norbertines, founded in 1121, that history includes the art of brewing beer and original musical compositions from the Classical era of Mozart. Background information on both was offered on Jan. 30 at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality at St. Norbert Abbey.

Norbertine Fr. Andrew Ciferni, director of the Center for Norbertine Studies at St. Norbert College, and Norbertine Fr. Michael Frisch, who holds a doctorate in music, served as the presenters at “All Things Norbertine! History, Music, Abbey Ale.” The program was divided into three sections: learning about and tasting beer, music in the Abbey and a closing session of tasting and information that included a video on life at the Notre Dame de-Leffe Abbey in Belgium.

Fr. Ciferni explained the importance of monastic beer in general before providing details about the abbey ales. He credited Norbertine Fr. James Neilson for his research on the subject for a previous presentation. Monastic beer was a necessity for good health, said Fr. Ciferni.

“In the Middle Ages, one of the last things you wanted to do was drink the water,” he said. “The well was near the pit where the garbage was dropped. The process of getting water from a spring and boiling it for beer made it safe to drink for all ages. Every monastery had a brewery and sometimes it was the brewery for the village.”
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