Or if not addicted, at least eager buyers of the brew that keeps this abbey running:
At the Esplanade Bier Markt in downtown Toronto Wednesday, the head of a small Norbertine abbey in Belgium was busy touting the virtues of the strong, dark brew which carries his abbey’s name.
Yet while abbot Erik de Sutter and Father Karel Stautemas of the Grimbergen Abbey were waxing poetic about their beer, they were also enhancing the bottom line of a secular enterprise thousands of kilometres away, in Denmark. You may have heard of Carlsberg.
Carlsberg has held the rights to brew Grimbergen beer since 2008, paying the abbey a licensing fee for use of its name. Carlsberg brews the beer at a brewery an hour away from Grimbergen.
Without the income from Carlsberg — he wouldn’t reveal how much the abbey gets — de Sutter says Grimbergen could literally start crumbling away.
Since secular companies are the ones with the money these days, it makes financial sense for struggling religious orders to try and tap those kegs and nourish their monetary needs.
Partnering with a secular brewery will become more and more common for abbeys, says de Sutter, as the numbers of monks shrink and their ages grow. Even the renowned Trappist breweries such as Chimay or Westmalle may have to rethink how they operate.
“I think they will have to have a conversation over the next few years about what to do,” says de Sutter.
Beyond the stupid ads on television I don’t know much about beer marketing but according to York University marketing professor Alan Middleton, who is quoted in the piece, this type of marketing scheme is unusual in Canada.
“You can really see things like ‘God blesses this product’ in places like Arkansas,” said Middleton. That type of attitude likely wouldn’t fly here because Canadians, by and large, are less in-your-face about their religion, Middleton says.
Which I see as a good thing. I’d be reluctant to be stuck buying something with that kind of tag on it. Like a god would give a damn about my choice of deodorant or what have you. Celebrity endorsements are bad enough as it is.
I’m not a huge beer drinker but I wonder: do people pick abbey beers because of a religious leaning or because they like the flavour or rarity value? Going by what I’ve seen of those who do appreciate beer more than me, I think it’d be the latter more than the former. Mass produced beers are everywhere. Abbey beers likely aren’t. Secular partnership will give them more exposure at least, and secular cash will let them continue to brew more of what people want. It’s a win-win so far as that goes. That the influx of cash will keep a religious order’s doors open.. well, it’s the only way the beer will get out, isn’t it? The prices we pay…