Lonely Planet Writer

The world's oldest beer-brewing abbey is taking up production again

Beer lovers around the world rejoice because a new “abbey beer” is coming to town straight from Italy and the oldest beer-producing monastery in the world.

The Montecassino Abbey is found in the region of Lazio, In Italy. Photo by Bluered/REDA&CO/UIG via Getty Images

The Montecassino Abbey was founded in 529 AD by Saint Benedict of Nursia and it’s the birthplace of the Benedictine order, but it’s also the oldest monastery in the world known for its beer producing activity – its beer was already famous throughout Europe in the 15th century.

Montecassino’s beer was already known around Europe in the 15th century. Photo by Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The abbey was the theatre of the Battle of Montecassino in 1944, during WWII. The bombings completely destroyed the abbey (halting its production of beer as well), which has since then been rebuilt to look exactly the same, on the same rock in the province of Frosinone some 100km south of Rome.

The abbey was completely rebuilt after WWII bombings destroyed it. Photo by Loop Images/UIG via Getty Images

Today, thanks to a partnership between the abbey and Peroni, one of the most famous brands of Italian beer, Montecassino’s historic activity is going to start again very soon – so soon, in fact, that the first cases might be ready around October.

The brewery at Montecassino will look very much like this one found in Rochefort Abbey in Belgium. Photo by Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images

The process started with a complete restoration of the abbey’s 700 acres of land, which had lain idle for more than thirty years – after that, the production team sowed barley in December and reaped it for the first time on 11 July, the day dedicated to Saint Benedict. This first harvest is going to be refined both in a Peroni establishment and in the abbey following the traditional recipe, producing an “abbey beer” that will have a 6.5% alcohol content. Abbey beers are a “subspecies” of Trappist beers, produced by only eleven monasteries in the world – six of which are in Belgium. They all have some features in common, though, mainly a traditional recipe and a production made using only local resources.

A monk oversees production in Rochefort Abbey. Photo by Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images

Montecassino is also brushing up on its beekeeping history by starting a production of honey. The abbey hopes to create a complete experience for both beer and honey, from production to degustation, that the abbey’s pilgrims will be able to enjoy during their stay.

If you’d like to know more about the abbey and its history of beer brewing, you can look at its website here.