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It's abbey birthday to Yorkshire monks' ale

Added: Wednesday, July 3rd 2013

 

One year ago the Benedictine monks of Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire launched Ampleforth Abbey Beer. Its first birthday is being celebrated not only by the monks themselves  but by growing numbers of drinkers who have tasted and enjoyed this unique beer. 

Based on a centuries-old recipe, Ampleforth Beer has reached the glasses of thousands of new aficionados in its first 12 months, and has already been acclaimed as “Yorkshire’s Best Drink”. That’s quite a success story for the monastery situated in the North Yorkshire Moors and one that is the cause of evident rejoicing, although in a suitably restrained and monk like manner. 

Father Terence, the Prior of Ampleforth Abbey, said: “It has been very pleasing to see Ampleforth beer establish itself so well. Sharing our brewing heritage has obviously gone down well and the income from this venture helps not only maintain the Abbey itself but also supports our work in communities across a wide area.” 

He added: “St Benedict expected that monks pay their own way and work for their money.  Brewing is a traditional way of doing this in monastic communities and we’re happy to have had the success we’ve had.” The beer is mainly sold and marketed in its Yorkshire heartland. although several thousand bottles have been exported to France, Finland, Denmark and Ireland. "It's not been a concerted effort to attract overseas sales, rather a case of buyers having heard about us and wanting to stock it as a high-quality, specialist British beer," Father Thomas said.  

Based on a centuries old Benedictine recipe, Ampleforth Beer is the only abbey beer produced in Britain and appropriately enough it is brewed in God’s Own County of Yorkshire. Similar in style to many Belgian beers with monastic heritage it was named “Yorkshire’s Best Drink” by the regional food organisation Deliciouslyorkshire.

Driven from England to France at the time of the Reformation and determined to survive, the Benedictine monks needed income. The income came from brewing the first beer of its kind – la bière anglaise – to be brewed in France. Made with hops and barley, then "double-fermented" it was strong and "sparkled like champagne".

Such was its appeal that the Duke of Loraine gave the monks money and materials to channel a spring right to the brewery in the monastery and to create the first ever water reservoir in France. Their brew became famous far and wide, being enjoyed by the seigneurs of the realm.  It received patronage from Louis XIV, the Sun King and his successor Louis XV. That is, until the Revolution of 1789 when, like the French King himself, the beer lost its head. The monks managed to escape back to England, and what is more they took with them the recipe for the beer, the secret of which had never been revealed.  Once back in England they founded, in 1802, Ampleforth Abbey in the magnificent Yorkshire valley where it stands today.

While not brewed at the Abbey itself but at Little Valley Brewery in West Yorkshire, monks involve themselves heavily in the beer operations and as Father Terence said, “If we get to a level where the sales are very, very good we may look at bringing brewing to the monastery and making the beer onsite, as the Trappists do.”

Ampleforth Abbey Beer is a dark coloured, full bodied beer, with a fruit and malty flavor and an ABV of 7.0%.

It’s not just beer that Ampleforth’s monks have made a specialism: cider, gins, brandies, and a liqueur are all part of their monastic creativity.

“Our orchards are long established and the 40 plus types of apple we grow make cider that compares with the best,” said Father Terence. “Indeed it has won awards for the last two years at the International Cider Challenge.

“We grow the apples, pick and press them, and the resulting cider is enjoyed far and wide,” Father Terence added..

 

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