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Old traditions resurrected



Abbot John Herbert and Nicky White enjoy an Abbey Ale at the New Norcia pub
Abbot John Herbert and Nicky White enjoy an Abbey Ale at the New Norcia pub

When Australian Master Brewer Chuck Hahn offered New Norcia an opportunity to create an Abbey Ale it was an excellent way to resurrect an old tradition.
Abbot John Herbert reflects, “Our monastery began with a mission era, then an education era and we have now moved into the era of extended hospitality, to which the hotel is integral. It is not just a pub, it’s a pub in the midst of a monastic tradition which is about welcoming travellers.”
This is by no means new. In centuries past, the tradition of Benedictine hospitality to welcome travellers, no matter who they were, is a feature of the Benedictine Rule.
Today many travellers to New Norcia are welcomed at the bar or the new outdoor deck, where the Abbey Ale is sold on tap. According to Hotel Manager Nicky White the ale must be poured and swirled correctly to achieve just the right head or froth and offered in a special tasting glass.
The Ale has been a huge success and is now the hotel’s signature offering, with travellers consuming one to two barrels a week in the high season. Bottles of the ale are also sold through selected outlets across Australia.
Abbot John shares, “It is not a beer you neck, but a beer you savour and taste. A beer that allows you quiet reflection and hopefully comes close to the monk’s practice of eating and drinking in silence, the concept that you feed the body and soul as you focus on the beer as a gift.”
Chuck and the monks have worked together to create an ale which acknowledges the original recipe but suits the modern palate, also reducing the alcohol content from the traditional 12% down to what is still a very high 7% for beer. The business partnership ensures that the Monastery benefits in the sale of all Abbey Ale which is in keeping with the Benedictine ethos of financial self sufficiency.
Abbot John reflects, “all these projects are a way of giving new life to old monastic medieval things. Things have to die in order to have new life. Rather than abandon these ancient monastic crafts, we find ways we can give them new life. These are not just commercial enterprises but modern approaches of ensuring the old monastic traditions can continue.”
In 2014 New Norcia celebrates the Bicentennial year of Dom Salvado’s birth. A line up of events will be held to commemorate Dom Salvado,  a Spanish Benedictine monk, who came to Australia in January 1846 and founded the monastery at New Norcia.