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Weltenberg Kloster – is this the most beautiful location for a brewery in the world?

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Many come to enjoy the Kloster's garden

I first visited this brewery when researching for The Beer Book, published by Dorling Kindersley.

For people from the UK, Weltenberg is not immediately on the beer tourist trail. However for people in Bavaria it is a popular and much loved destination.

Can there be a more dramatic or magnificent location for a brewery in the world? Located on a bend in the Danube, the beautifully decorated baroque Benedictine abbey is literally hewn from the 150 million year old Jurassic limestone rock, which forms high towering cliffs on either side of the river, running from its source in Germany’s Black Forest on its way to the Black Sea.

In a courtyard, where giant chestnut trees grow, the church of the Weltenburger Monastery and Kloster brewery stand side by side.

The brewery stands close to the monastery

Weltenberg was founded in the 7th century by two monks, Eustasic and Agilus followers of St Columban – one of the patron saints of brewing. Manuscripts in the monastery’s library show that beer has been brewed here for over 1,000 years, with production only being halted from 1803-1846.

But though the site is old and redolent with tradition, there is nothing old about the brewery, which is a modern, automated, hi-tech brewery able to brew both bottom and top fermenting beers using water drawn from the brewery’s own well.

The Kloster’s brewmaster is Anton Miller, at 25 years of age he is looking forward to a long career at the brewery. His predecessor worked at the brewery for 49 years.

Inside the brewery everything is scrubbed, polished and scrupulously clean and even the stainless steel mash and lauter tuns which were installed in 1982 look as shiny as the day they were commissioned.

“We might be the oldest brewery in the world, but we use the newest techniques,” said Anton. “Quality beer needs the equipment and ingredients,” he said.

The commitment to quality certainly seems to be paying off as the Weltenburger Kloster has added to its growing list of awards after Barock Dunkel took the Gold Medal in the dark lagers category at the World Beer Cup 2008 in San Diego, USA.

Anton says that the Dunkel, which has been brewed for more than 150 years, is the beer the monks usually choose to drink. However, while fasting for 40 days and 40 nights during Lent they prefer the stronger Asam Bock. “It is their liquid bread,” he said.

Anton prides himself on the brewery’s close links with local Bavarian farmers – every June he visits the barley fields to choose the grain which will be malted in Bamberg. The sweet and spicy Perle Hallertau hops, which are used in pellet form, come from three farms near Munich.

The brewery produces seven beers – Weissbier Hell, Urtyp Hell, Barock Hell, and Pils, are top fermented at 8C for seven days; and Weissbier Dunkel, Barock Dunkel, and Asam Bock, are bottom fermented at 22C for four days.

Deep beneath the ground, under 40m of limestone rock, can be found the brewery’s lager store.  Here the Dunkel is stored at zero centigrade and sometimes lower for at least three months. A process that slowly releases the Barock Dunkel’s aromatic, malty flavours and well-balanced richness.

Visitors to the brewery can enjoy this beer, which is pumped directly into its own bar.

The brewery’s beer garden is open throughout the year and is renowned not just for its beer, but also its extensive menu of Bavarian dishes including Klosterwurst, a spicy home made sausage, suckling pig and boiled beef.

The brewery is open to visitors at weekends. Nearby, there are many fine walks and cycle tracks and the best way to arrive at the brewery is said to be by river from nearby Kelheim.

Is this the most beautiful location for a brewery in the world?

Weltenburger Kloster

Asamstrase 32, 93309 Kelheim, Germany


Written by timhampson

September 1, 2010 at 10:15 am