|Monks and beer (2/3)|
- Revolutions, evolutions... -
By the fifteenth century, many abbeys were in competition with artisanal breweries, and gave up brewing. In the sixteenth century, there remained hardly any monastic breweries in France; one was the brewery of the abbey of Saint Laurent in Dieulouard, in the county of Moselle (France). It disappeared with the French revolution. Very few other abbeys still had a small brewery.
Several events ended up gradually closing the breweries of the abbeys. There was the French revolution, during which hundreds of abbeys were destroyed, in France as well as in the territory of the present Belgium. Later, the industrial revolution made it possible to the laic brewers to carry out significant improvements in quality, innovation, and cost reduction; this continued right through the first half of the twentieth century.
Meanwhile, consumption of beer had exploded. The monastic breweries could no longer compete with the laic breweries under those conditions. With some exceptions, they henceforth produced beer only for their own needs, as profitability was elusive. In addition, competition became increasingly hard with the commercial breweries which did not hesitate to use terms with religious connotation to name their beers: the abbey beers and monastic beers took their rise in Belgium, about 1930, and still are a growing success nowadays.
The First World War, and then the Second, with the bombardments which accompanied them, made the few remaining authentic abbey breweries stop their production, particularly in France.
Germany, of course, was rather saved of these events. A long tradition of small traditional breweries remained. The vicissitudes of war were different there and their impacts on the breweries were less severe. Several abbeys continued to brew beer there.
Across Europe, however, some abbeys, Trappist abbeys in particular, continued the activities of brewing with a growing success, helped by the formidable economic jump following the war.