The monks of Grimbergen Abbey in Belgium are getting back in the beer business with recipes that go back to the 12th century. The monks there spent four years poring over hard-to-decipher monastery books written in old Dutch and Latin and have produced a new brew based on the old methods, reports the Guardian. "We had the books with the old recipes, but nobody could read them," says Father Karel Stautemas of the abbey. With some outside help, the monks finally recreated an ingredients list, including the particular hops used, as well as the types of barrels and fermentation methods used, per NPR. The resulting beer is relatively potent—10.8% alcohol by volume—and will be more readily available next year when the abbey opens, yes, a microbrewery able to accommodate patrons.
The Grimbergen monks have a long tradition with beer, and, in fact, turned to hops from fermented herbs faster than most of their Medieval contemporaries, per the Guardian. They produced their own until 1798, when French troops burned down the abbey. Fortunately, some quick-thinking monks managed to save the recipe books from the fire, and those are the guides for the new brew. The monks already lend their name to two commercial producers, Carlsberg and Heineken, but they will now be directly involved in the beer-making for the first time in 220 years. And as Reuters notes, the monks will abide by the rules of the nation's Trappist brewers (even though they are not Trappist themselves) by using any profits to maintain the abbey or support charities. (Read more monks stories.)