Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 25 January |
The Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul
home iconInspiring Stories
line break icon

Sister Doris Engelhard: The master brewer of Mallersdorf Abbey

Daniel Esparza - published on 08/12/16

The Abbey has produced its own beer since the 12th century; Sister Doris continues the ancient craft

Since the early days of monasticism, both monasteries and abbeys have always made their own beer. The reason is not hard to understand: considering the risks of drinking dirty, swampy, marshy water (let us remember most streams were used as sewers, wherever an aqueduct was not at hand) beer was always a much healthier alternative. In fact, in the sixth century, a beer could easily be the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast for kids, a nursing mothers, the sick and the elderly. Basically, starting the day with a thick oatmeal stout was affordable, healthy and reasonable.


But when these beers went from being a commonly homemade drink (moms would most often be the brewers of the household) into being produced in larger quantities, monks and nuns became master brewers. Their production wouldn’t then be restricted to the monastic community, but offered also to pilgrims, guests and residents of the nearby villages.

Doris Engelhard is a nun, heir to this tradition. She might be the last of her kind. Back in 1961, still a child, she moved to Mallersdorf, being a young student in a school run by the abbey. Engelhard’s mother was ill, and the nuns raised and educated her. Around 1969 she had also learned how to brew beer, under the tutelage of another sister, who had been the master brewer of the abbey since 1931. That same year (1969) Doris took her vows and the habit and joined the monastic community, where she has lived ever since, responsible for producing, annually, 80,000 gallons of beer.

Beer, actually, is the purest of all alcoholic beverages, and it is really very healthy, as long as you do not pour it down senselessly.
Beer, actually, is the purest of all alcoholic beverages, and it is really very healthy, as long as you do not pour it down senselessly.

In a relatively recent interview with The Atlantic, Sister Doris explained her everyday life as a master brewer in the abbey: “There are 490 sisters in the abbey. Some are teachers in schools, some work in orphanages, some in nursing homes. There are also cooks, pig breeders, farmers, bakers. We do everything ourselves,” strictly following the rule of St. Benedict, which states that monasteries should always be self-sustainable. “I really love my job, and I love the smell when I’m making beer. I love working with living things: yeast, barley, and the people who enjoy beer (…) Beer, actually, is the purest of all alcoholic beverages, and it is really very healthy, as long as you do not pour it down senselessly.”

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
Philip Kosloski
When did Christians start praying the Hail Mary?
Philip Kosloski
What are the corporal works of mercy?
Cerith Gardiner
Quarterback Philip Rivers' retirement announcement reflects his s...
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
Philip Kosloski
What are the spiritual works of mercy?
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
The 4 Ways to read Scripture every Catholic should know
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.