Germany’s highlight: Ettal Monastery Brewery

The courtyard of Ettal Abbey | Photo by briste via 123RF
The courtyard of Ettal Abbey | Photo by briste via 123RF

Germany’s highlight: Ettal Monastery Brewery

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Germany’s glorious southernmost state of Bavaria is synonymous with Alpine peaks, Baroque architecture and centuries of beer brewing tradition. A visit to this idyllic corner of the Alps poses a delectable dilemma to those who love natural beauty, dazzling historical sites and frothy beverages in equal measure. Where to head for the next round? A monastery brewery, of course! While Weltenburg Abbey and Andechs Monastery are better-known names, there’s no need to leave the smaller but no less spectacular Ettal Monastery Brewery out of the equation.

Four centuries of brewing tradition

In 1609, the Benedictine monks of Ettal first began churning out their tasty brews, way back then and even now, in accordance with the Bavarian Purity Law. Although ownership of the brewery was transferred to the state during the secularization of church assets in 1803, it never seized operations, and in 1900, the brewery was returned to the monastery.

Spiritual splendor

Baroque influences can be seen from the monastery’s gleaming white Mariä Himmelfahrt Church, a minor basilica, which impresses with its massive scale, saintly statuary and huge green cupola framed by twin towers. From within, the opulence of the stucco, paintings and golden trim is overwhelming. The marble statuette of the Madonna, brought from Italy to commemorate the founding of the church in 1330, has long been an object of veneration for pilgrims.

Tour the premises

Now it’s time to check out the brewery itself. In non-pandemic times, the tour, conducted in German only, is offered on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. The cost of the one-hour guided walk-through is 12 euros; those under the age of 12 enter free. The tour concludes with a tasting for the grown-ups. The museum displaying ancient brewing equipment is worth a look too.

The monastery is also known for its production of liqueurs in accordance with recipes unchanged throughout the centuries. The 45-minute distillery tour is offered on Mondays and Thursdays at 4 p.m. and costs 9 euros per head. Tours conclude with sampling the mysterious green and yellow herbal potions.

Drink and dine

Good things come to those who wait. Here in the Ammergau Alps, this takes the form of tasty meals featuring regional fare. Dishes from trout to deer ragout are sourced from local lakes and forests and are prepared in the kitchen of the Ludwig der Bayer Bräustüberl restaurant. Wash it all down with the monks’ beer, available in dark, light or seasonal varieties. On warm and sunny days, dining on the terrace or in the beer garden adds stunning scenery to the mix.

Exit through the gift shop

Before departing the grounds of the monastery, a peek into the Schaukäserei, or show dairy, is in order. Here, visitors can witness the cheese-making process through a glass gallery and sample the savory result. Other dairy products from yogurt to cottage cheese can be taken home as flavorful reminders of a memorable day out.

Those making Garmisch-Partenkirchen their base can complete the 10-mile drive to Ettal in under half an hour; alternately, take bus 9606 heading in the direction of Rottenbuch; the ride takes just 25 minutes.

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