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Piwo pijacy mnisi (Beer Drinking Monks), Olaf Simony Jensen

Ancient Monastery Recreates Beer Based on Historic Recipe by British Soldiers

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The Strahov Monastery in Prague, Czech Republic, has created a popular new beer based on a historic recipe. The Times of India report that they call it the Sv Norbert India Pale Ale and it is based on a recipe that British soldiers brewed for their travels to India when it was under British rule.

Brewing beer is not a new area for the ancient Strahov Monastery. The monastery was founded in 1142 by King Vladislav II. It started production in its brewery in the 1400s. The current location of the Strahov Monastic Brewery is the site chosen by Abbot Kaspar Questenberg in 1628. In the beginning, the Strahov brewery only produced the necessary amount for the monks and the deputies of the monastery, now it is one of the most popular breweries for tourists and locals in Prague.

The Strahov monastery, Prague, Czech Republic

The Strahov monastery, Prague, Czech Republic (Wikimedia Commons)

Monastic breweries were a common practice during the middle ages (5 th – 15 th Century). Monks and nuns were expected to live by their own labor and not accept charity (The Rule of Saint Benedict, and monasteries were known to be safe places for travelers in search of food and shelter. Thus, brewing beer and wine also served as a source of finances for monasteries such as Strahov.

A Monk Cellarer tasting wine from a barrel, Li Livres dou Santé, (13th Century manuscript), France

A Monk Cellarer tasting wine from a barrel, Li Livres dou Santé, (13th Century manuscript), France (Wikimedia Commons)

The Sv Norbert India Pale Ale is a beer that the Strahov Monastic Brewery created based off of a recipe thought to have been lost. In 2009 they began production of the India Pale Ale, however it was not well-received in the early years. The manager of the Strahov Monastic Brewery, Marek Kocvera, explained the history of the India Pale Ale to The Times of India: "We revived the recipe in this monastery and started first serving it in 2009. However because of its strong flavour it did take a few years for people to grow a taste for it." 

The India Pale Ale is a strong-tasting beer with a 6-7% alcohol content due to the large quantity of hops it contains. "This beer was originally prepared for long distance transport, so it should stay in good conditions during the journey from England to India... Hops contain natural antibacterial matters and they help to preserve beer," Kocvera told The Times of India.

The hops also makes the Sv Norbert India Pale Ale bitter and aromatic. The aroma of the beer has been described as  very fruity and despite its strength it is believed to be a refreshing beer. The distinctive taste has made it a popular seller today, Kocvera has reported:

"Since last year, we are experiencing a big boom in its sale. We produce about 60,000 litres of India Pale Ale per year - so around 160 litres per day on average. In most days, the daily quantity finishes by late noon itself."

In the end, the historic British soldier's recipe has received an enthusiastic response from the public and continues the historic success of monastic breweries.

Featured Image: Piwo pijacy mnisi (Beer Drinking Monks), Olaf Simony Jensen (Wikimedia Commons)

By Alicia McDermott

Alicia McDermott's picture


Alicia McDermott holds degrees in Anthropology, Psychology, and International Development Studies and has worked in various fields such as education, anthropology, and tourism. Traveling throughout Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, Alicia has focused much of her research on Andean cultures... Read More

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