4.6.12

Weltenburg - Oldest Monk Brewery?

A view of Weltenburg Abbey from above. I didn't take this picture unfortunately. via

Situated on a quiet peninsula in the Danube, Weltenburg Abbey seems almost out of place sitting amongst the jagged cliffs and dense underbrush of the river gorge. The picturesque Benedictine monastery, in the heart of Germany's Bavaria region, claims to be the oldest monk brewery in the world. That coveted title is also claimed by another Bavarian monastery named Weihenstephan Abbey. Weltenburg Abbey (the one we checked out) was founded around 617 A.D. and started brewing beer in 1050 A.D.; Weihenstephan Abbey (the other one) was founded in 720 A.D. and claims to have started brewing in 1040 A.D. Lets just let the monks duke it out to see who rightfully deserves the title of "oldest monk brewery."
Our fabulous host in Germany, Reece, heard that over the past few years, Weltenburg Abbey had received a couple gold metals in the World Beer Cup, so title or not, we decided to head there on a little day trip. 


Danube River walk to Weltenburg Abbey in Germany. 
There are several ways to get to Weltenburg Abbey and their website outlines directions for biking, hiking, driving or arriving by boat. This site is a popular excursion for Danube cruise passengers, so don't be fooled by the serene surroundings, in high season, this is a busy place! From my understanding, you can take a Danube boat trip from either the city of Regensburg or Kelheim, but since we had a car, we decided to drive. By car, you park (2 Euros) about 1 km away from the Abbey entrance, and from the parking lot, it is a smooth and enjoyable walk along the Danube River. 

Memorial to fallen US soldiers near Weltenburg Abbey in Germany. 
As we walked toward the Abbey, we passed this memorial. The first side we saw was written in German, so we almost ignored it completely. One of us looked back as we proceeded towards the Abbey and realized that the back side was translated into English. I took this picture so that I could figure out what happened to three fallen US soldiers out of war time. The date is random, so we figured it was some sort of accident. In researching, all I can find is that these soldiers drowned in the Danube River at the exact point where the memorial now stands. I'm not sure what they were doing or how they drowned, but they were serving the USA, and for that reason, I am glad that this memorial stands to remind us of the price they paid. 

Walking into Weltenburg Abbey - the Abbey church can be seen on the far right. 
This is the view as you enter through the Abbey gate. We arrived around lunch time, so all of the guests were sitting down for some German fare and monk-brewed-beer at the Abbey restaurant. The outside terrace is huge, but there were still people standing around waiting for a table. If you see open seats at a table, it's perfectly acceptable to squeeze in with another group of tourists. Of course you should ask if the seats are available before plopping down and ordering a beer. 

Entrance into Weltenburg Abbey is free, but if you want to check out the museum, there is a small fee. Apparently there is a great brewery tour, but unfortunately they were booked up by they time we arrived. I suppose we are starting to get into high-tourist-season in Europe! The employee I spoke with suggest emailing ahead in order to secure a tour spot or to book an English speaking tour guide. The tours are given in German unless you call ahead and allow them time to secure an English speaking guide. 

Inside the Weltenburg Abbey Church. 
One of the highlights of Weltenburg is the Abbey Church. From the outside, the church looks plain and unassuming, but upon entering, we were shocked by the detail and intricacy of the baroque style building. We stood in awe and reverence as the 14 Benedictine monks, who call the Abbey home, conducted Sunday mass. 

A View of Weltenburg Abbey church during a Sunday mass. 
Empty frames in the Weltenburg Abbey art store. 
Some of the Weltenburg Abbey Brewery awards - proudly displayed. 
Weltenburg Abbey Beer Awards:

Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel - (World Beer Cup) "Best dark beer in the world" 2004 

Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel - (World Beer Cup) "Best dark beer in the world" 2008

Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050 - (European Beer Star) "Best German Style Marzen" 2011

The Weltenburger Dunkel (dark beer) and  the Anno 1050. 
Reece and Chris enjoyed the award winning dark Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel.
I tried the light Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050. 
The path above the Abbey is lined with stone markers that depict Christ's journey to the cross. 
An young monk in training perhaps?

As we left Weltenburg Abbey, Chris and Reece each bought a case of the award winning dark, Dunkel beer. It is actually quite cheap to purchase beer "to go;" I think it worked out to about one Euro per half liter bottle of beer. We walked up the hill behind the Abbey and followed a more scenic route back to the car. It was stunning! I highly suggest walking or biking this route to or from the Abbey. All in all, it was a wonderful day, and maybe next time we're in Germany, we will check out Weihenstephan Abbey and see which one WE think deserves the title of "worlds oldest monk brewery." 

As if we could make such a decision!

A view back on the Danube River as we were leaving Weltenburg Abbey. 
Goodbye Weltenburg Abbey!