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Author Topic: Do Eastern Orthodox monks drink alcohol?  (Read 3437 times) Average Rating: 0
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amartin
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« on: April 23, 2012, 08:02:29 PM »

Historically, Western monks in some monastic orders drank a large glass of beer every day. To me, that is disgusting. But wine is good in moderation. Do Eastern Orthodox monks have a tradition of wine drinking outside the liturgy?
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« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2012, 08:06:19 PM »

Indeed they do, in moderation, as long as it is not a strict fast day where wine is not permitted.
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2012, 08:32:02 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

To the OP, you do realize that historically fresh drinking water has largely been unavailable in Europe and the Middle East which aside from in Muslim areas, explained the common consumption of beer and wine which were fermented.  Further, the beers these monks drank was typically weak in alcohol content compared to popular Belgian Abbey ales of today (which are upwards of 10-15%) and were probably intentionally under 2% alcohol precisely because the monks drank the beer both as water and also liquid bread, and did not themselves want to entirely intoxicated.  When alcoholic beverages shifted from survival oriented to recreational, people of course began to develop again a taste for stronger alcohol contents in beers and wines.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2012, 08:05:37 AM »

That was very informative.

How often do they drink wine?

Thanks...
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« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2012, 08:08:34 AM »

There was a photo, somewhere, of a Russian monk blessing some dinner, and he had a drink in hand. It made me smile.  Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2012, 08:31:56 AM »

There was a photo, somewhere, of a Russian monk blessing some dinner, and he had a drink in hand. It made me smile.  Smiley

A very dear friend who's a monk once told me: There are three things associated with monastic life which are almost canonical requirements: A cat (or more than one), coffee, and a nice wine.

Who am I to disagree?  laugh
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« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2012, 08:40:57 AM »

I have it on good authority that Athonite monks love their Ouzo. It's everywhere. It is frequently given to pilgrims upon arrival as a sign of hospitality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouzo
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« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2012, 09:17:24 AM »

beer To me is disgusting But wine is good

I feel the same way about Coke and Pepsi.
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« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2012, 11:26:13 AM »

That was very informative.

How often do they drink wine?

Thanks...

Depends on the monk. Part of what people are getting at is that there is no defined rule, that they have to drink wine, can't drink wine or how often they should drink. The only two rules  are
1) on strict fast days, they (and every other Orthodox Christian) should not drink wine
2) they should not get drunk (again, as with every other Orthodox Christian because drunkenness is a sin).
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« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2012, 11:33:34 AM »

That was very informative.

How often do they drink wine?

Thanks...

I am Bulgarian and in my culture wine and beer were considered food--no recreational drinking, these libations were consumed during a meal. However, stronger spirits (like ouzo, raki, vodka, slivovitza) were consumed apart from meals on festal occasions--but only in strict moderation and only by adults. I would think that monks' usage of alcoholic beverages would reflect the norms of the culture whence they come.
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« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2012, 11:39:22 AM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

To the OP, you do realize that historically fresh drinking water has largely been unavailable in Europe and the Middle East which aside from in Muslim areas, explained the common consumption of beer and wine which were fermented.  Further, the beers these monks drank was typically weak in alcohol content compared to popular Belgian Abbey ales of today (which are upwards of 10-15%) and were probably intentionally under 2% alcohol precisely because the monks drank the beer both as water and also liquid bread, and did not themselves want to entirely intoxicated.  When alcoholic beverages shifted from survival oriented to recreational, people of course began to develop again a taste for stronger alcohol contents in beers and wines.

stay blessed,
habte selassie

Did Muslims alone have access to clean drinking water? If not, the idea that everyone drank wine or beer only because there was no clean water doesn't really "hold water" for me. There's obviously more going on. What did Orthodox Christians drink when wine was forbidden? Did they just drink dirty water and prayed that they wouldn't fall sick? Possibly they boiled it; I found a monastic typicon where a kind of hot spiced, non-alcoholic drink was prescribed for Lent.

How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…

In the life of, I think, St Anthony, I recall reading that monks in Egypt generally abstained from both meat and wine. Somehow later it became acceptable for monks to drink wine, but not eat meat. Anyone know a good history of this?
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« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2012, 12:55:45 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2012, 04:07:37 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Interestingly enough there were many European monastics who utterly rejected the additions of hops in the Middle Ages, believing they to be witchcraft and devilish, just as Pythagoras refused to allow his students to play woodwind instruments because he couldn't mathematically explain their sounds as he had strings and so concluded they were of the devil Wink

In regards to the potable water issues with Orthodox fasting and with Muslims, that is a ridiculously good question worth researching when somebody here nerdier then myself reads it or when I simply get some free time for extra-curricular reading.  I would suppose that the issue was not a crutch dependence on alcohol so much as the convenience of not having to boil the water so often, after all, fire wood is still one often as scarce a resource as the potable water! As Schultz just smartly pointed out, the alcoholic drinks because of the yeast continued to remain safer for long periods of time, the water is only good as long as its been just boiled, so of course the beer has a consistently better shelf life.  If anything, perhaps the beers were not limited by fasting, just the stronger wines? After all, again, the beer of these times were low alcohol and as with the Bulgarian culture that Second Chance mentioned so quaintly, beer isn't really considered to be all that intoxicating as stronger drinks.  And then again, it seems to me that in Russia even strong vodka isn't considered to be alcohol at all to some folks!  I would say then that it seems the uniquely American experience of two centuries of temperance movements is affected our cultural perception of what beer is and isn't. 



stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2012, 04:09:52 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Huh. So the yeast eat all the nutrients that feed other microbes, or do they actually eat the microbes?
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2012, 04:11:06 PM »

Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol
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« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2012, 04:18:47 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Interestingly enough there were many European monastics who utterly rejected the additions of hops in the Middle Ages, believing they to be witchcraft and devilish, just as Pythagoras refused to allow his students to play woodwind instruments because he couldn't mathematically explain their sounds as he had strings and so concluded they were of the devil Wink

In regards to the potable water issues with Orthodox fasting and with Muslims, that is a ridiculously good question worth researching when somebody here nerdier then myself reads it or when I simply get some free time for extra-curricular reading.  I would suppose that the issue was not a crutch dependence on alcohol so much as the convenience of not having to boil the water so often, after all, fire wood is still one often as scarce a resource as the potable water! As Schultz just smartly pointed out, the alcoholic drinks because of the yeast continued to remain safer for long periods of time, the water is only good as long as its been just boiled, so of course the beer has a consistently better shelf life.  If anything, perhaps the beers were not limited by fasting, just the stronger wines? After all, again, the beer of these times were low alcohol and as with the Bulgarian culture that Second Chance mentioned so quaintly, beer isn't really considered to be all that intoxicating as stronger drinks.  And then again, it seems to me that in Russia even strong vodka isn't considered to be alcohol at all to some folks!  I would say then that it seems the uniquely American experience of two centuries of temperance movements is affected our cultural perception of what beer is and isn't. 



stay blessed,
habte selassie

Yeah if by "beer" we mean something like kvas, it makes a lot of sense that Russians were able to drink it on strict fast days. Maybe as stronger beer came along it was associated with the weaker kind, and that's why it's not treated as alcoholic. But I'm pretty sure even Russians consider vodka to be alcohol and banned alongside wine and other spirits.

I seem to recall reading that temperance advocates didn't start to target beer until the early 19th century, during the Second Great Awakening. The First Great Awakening generally advocated abstention from spirits and consumption of beer instead, but I guess they realized you could get drunk on beer, too. It amuses me when people talk about "Puritanism" in the context of teetotalism, since the original Puritans were hearty beer drinkers from what I've read.
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« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2012, 04:25:56 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Thank you. I didn't want to have to correct this nonsense myself.

The level of alcohol to be an effective anti-microbial agent is high, very much so (> 60% to start).

Really most of the anti-microbial crap on the market is a scam.
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« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2012, 04:27:28 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Huh. So the yeast eat all the nutrients that feed other microbes, or do they actually eat the microbes?

Mostly the former, but a small amount of the latter.  Yeast propagate quickly and aggressively and basically crowd everything out.  In a good fermentation, the worst that will happen is off-flavors due to very specific reasons (temperature of the fermentation, the lag time from the pitching of the yeast to full blown fermentation, etc.) but those aren't harmful.  Same goes for wine making, too.

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« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2012, 04:46:40 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Huh. So the yeast eat all the nutrients that feed other microbes, or do they actually eat the microbes?

Mostly the former, but a small amount of the latter.  Yeast propagate quickly and aggressively and basically crowd everything out.  In a good fermentation, the worst that will happen is off-flavors due to very specific reasons (temperature of the fermentation, the lag time from the pitching of the yeast to full blown fermentation, etc.) but those aren't harmful.  Same goes for wine making, too.



Darn, don't have to finish the long winded rant on microbial reduction within consumer products.
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« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2012, 04:47:01 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Huh. So the yeast eat all the nutrients that feed other microbes, or do they actually eat the microbes?

Mostly the former, but a small amount of the latter.  Yeast propagate quickly and aggressively and basically crowd everything out.  In a good fermentation, the worst that will happen is off-flavors due to very specific reasons (temperature of the fermentation, the lag time from the pitching of the yeast to full blown fermentation, etc.) but those aren't harmful.  Same goes for wine making, too.



Remind me never to get into a fight with some yeast.
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« Reply #20 on: April 24, 2012, 05:00:03 PM »

Even if I were to not include the URL that whole reverse image search would ruin the fun:

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« Reply #21 on: April 24, 2012, 06:31:22 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Huh. So the yeast eat all the nutrients that feed other microbes, or do they actually eat the microbes?

Mostly the former, but a small amount of the latter.  Yeast propagate quickly and aggressively and basically crowd everything out.  In a good fermentation, the worst that will happen is off-flavors due to very specific reasons (temperature of the fermentation, the lag time from the pitching of the yeast to full blown fermentation, etc.) but those aren't harmful.  Same goes for wine making, too.



Darn, don't have to finish the long winded rant on microbial reduction within consumer products.

I've been homebrewing for almost twenty years.  I've picked a few things up on the way. Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: April 25, 2012, 01:31:09 PM »

That was very informative.

How often do they drink wine?

Thanks...

Depends on the monk. Part of what people are getting at is that there is no defined rule, that they have to drink wine, can't drink wine or how often they should drink. The only two rules  are
1) on strict fast days, they (and every other Orthodox Christian) should not drink wine
2) they should not get drunk (again, as with every other Orthodox Christian because drunkenness is a sin).

I think it would be more accurate to say that the quantity of wine consumption “depends on the abbot” or “on the rule of the monastery”, since monks cannot simply eat and drink as they wish. 

In general, I think it is accurate to say on this subject that:

1)   Wine is not consumed outside of the Divine Liturgy in every monastery
2)   In small sketes and more ascetical monasteries, wine is generally not consumed outside of the Divine Liturgy
3)   In larger, coenobitic monasteries, wine consumption outside of the Divine Liturgy is more common
4)   In monasteries where wine is consumed outside of the Divine Liturgy, such consumption is usually limited to one glass per day consumed during a common meal, the glass being poured for the monk according to the quantity allowed by the abbot, and with strict prohibition against any consumption of wine on “no wine” fast days and against the storage and consumption of wine in a monk’s cell.

Anyone can feel free to correct me if they do not think my generalizations are accurate. 

Context is important because it shows that alcohol is permitted in monasteries, but with great moderation and restriction around its consumption.  As St. John Chrysostom and many Fathers have said, it is not wine but drunkenness that we must avoid, and it is not wine that leads to drunkenness but lack of self-control.  See, for instance:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf109.xix.iii.html

To my knowledge, there is no tradition of brewing beer in Orthodox monasteries as was the case in the post-Schism Roman Catholic West, but I would be interested in a historical work on the subject of beer and its place in Orthodox societies and monasteries in general.  While I have heard that Greeks learned to brew beer initially from the Egyptians, beer does not seem to have had much of a place in Greek history and tradition as is the case with wine. 

I’m not familiar with the history of beer consumption in other Orthodox countries either, aside from the very popular (in the contemporary West) “Russian Imperial Stout” that was brewed in England for the court of Catherine the Great (who is not greatly esteemed for her faithfulness to Orthodox tradition).  Russian Imperial Stouts are pretty high in alcohol for a beer, at between 8% and 12% ABV, but I have no idea whether these beers were consumed by the Orthodox faithful and monastics, or if they remained mostly in the hands of royalty.     
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« Reply #23 on: April 25, 2012, 04:27:30 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

The Orthodox relationship with beer is also a ridiculously good question!  Beer flourished in northern and eastern Europe precisely because grapes do not, and in the Middle East and the Mediterranean grapes are relatively plentiful.  Apple wines were also common in the Caucasus.  Beer culture in the Latin jurisdictions originated hundreds of years before the Schism, so we shouldn't be anachronistic in applying post-Schism analysis to the unified One Church of the pre-Schism period.  Before 1054, the Latin jurisdictions WERE Orthodox in fully unity, so if Latin monasteries developed a beer culture, this was inherently Orthodox one and the same.  So the question historically to ask is did this beer culture from the Latins bleed into the Mediterranean as well or were the grapes and better access to potable water sufficient? So was the rise of beer culture in northern and eastern Europe geographically unique to circumstance or something more sociocultural which can spread easily? I would love to know if folks could help us out? I can vouch historically and say that indeed beer was also part of the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition even before Christianity and has been continuously a part of Ethiopian culture both clergy and laities, and only during Lent is wine and beer strictly forbidden, but then again Africans like Bavarians have a taste for quality beers Wink

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #24 on: April 25, 2012, 06:01:32 PM »

That was very informative.

How often do they drink wine?

Thanks...

Depends on the monk. Part of what people are getting at is that there is no defined rule, that they have to drink wine, can't drink wine or how often they should drink. The only two rules  are
1) on strict fast days, they (and every other Orthodox Christian) should not drink wine
2) they should not get drunk (again, as with every other Orthodox Christian because drunkenness is a sin).

I think it would be more accurate to say that the quantity of wine consumption “depends on the abbot” or “on the rule of the monastery”, since monks cannot simply eat and drink as they wish. 

In general, I think it is accurate to say on this subject that:

1)   Wine is not consumed outside of the Divine Liturgy in every monastery
2)   In small sketes and more ascetical monasteries, wine is generally not consumed outside of the Divine Liturgy
3)   In larger, coenobitic monasteries, wine consumption outside of the Divine Liturgy is more common
4)   In monasteries where wine is consumed outside of the Divine Liturgy, such consumption is usually limited to one glass per day consumed during a common meal, the glass being poured for the monk according to the quantity allowed by the abbot, and with strict prohibition against any consumption of wine on “no wine” fast days and against the storage and consumption of wine in a monk’s cell.

Anyone can feel free to correct me if they do not think my generalizations are accurate. 

Context is important because it shows that alcohol is permitted in monasteries, but with great moderation and restriction around its consumption.  As St. John Chrysostom and many Fathers have said, it is not wine but drunkenness that we must avoid, and it is not wine that leads to drunkenness but lack of self-control.  See, for instance:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf109.xix.iii.html

To my knowledge, there is no tradition of brewing beer in Orthodox monasteries as was the case in the post-Schism Roman Catholic West, but I would be interested in a historical work on the subject of beer and its place in Orthodox societies and monasteries in general.  While I have heard that Greeks learned to brew beer initially from the Egyptians, beer does not seem to have had much of a place in Greek history and tradition as is the case with wine. 

I’m not familiar with the history of beer consumption in other Orthodox countries either, aside from the very popular (in the contemporary West) “Russian Imperial Stout” that was brewed in England for the court of Catherine the Great (who is not greatly esteemed for her faithfulness to Orthodox tradition).  Russian Imperial Stouts are pretty high in alcohol for a beer, at between 8% and 12% ABV, but I have no idea whether these beers were consumed by the Orthodox faithful and monastics, or if they remained mostly in the hands of royalty.     


I don't know about beer, but Russian monasteries were certainly known for their mead.
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« Reply #25 on: April 25, 2012, 06:25:49 PM »

There was a photo, somewhere, of a Russian monk blessing some dinner, and he had a drink in hand. It made me smile.  Smiley

A very dear friend who's a monk once told me: There are three things associated with monastic life which are almost canonical requirements: A cat (or more than one), coffee, and a nice wine.

Who am I to disagree?  laugh
I can definitely see the need for a cat (or two or three), especially if they're good mousers. Keeps the rodents away, which means no food for other less than desirable critters (think rattlesnakes and the like).
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« Reply #26 on: April 26, 2012, 08:40:12 AM »

Beer flourished in northern and eastern Europe precisely because grapes do not, and in the Middle East and the Mediterranean grapes are relatively plentiful. 

This is a good point.

Beer culture in the Latin jurisdictions originated hundreds of years before the Schism, so we shouldn't be anachronistic in applying post-Schism analysis to the unified One Church of the pre-Schism period.  Before 1054, the Latin jurisdictions WERE Orthodox in fully unity, so if Latin monasteries developed a beer culture, this was inherently Orthodox one and the same. 

It is not the consumption of beer that I associated with the post-Schism West, but the brewing of beer in monasteries.  I thought it was only after the Schism that beer brewing by Roman Catholic monasteries really took off, but please correct me if I am wrong on this.  I’m sure Orthodox monasteries have been involved in making wine, but since wine is essential for the Eucharist, the making of wine in monasteries is a pretty different subject than that of brewing beer in monasteries.   

  So the question historically to ask is did this beer culture from the Latins bleed into the Mediterranean as well or were the grapes and better access to potable water sufficient? So was the rise of beer culture in northern and eastern Europe geographically unique to circumstance or something more sociocultural which can spread easily?

All interesting questions.

I can vouch historically and say that indeed beer was also part of the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition even before Christianity and has been continuously a part of Ethiopian culture both clergy and laities, and only during Lent is wine and beer strictly forbidden, but then again Africans like Bavarians have a taste for quality beers Wink

Have monasteries in Ethiopia ever been involved in brewing beer?  How would you describe the beer commonly found in Ethiopia? 

As you probably know, beer is generally permitted during strict fast days (Wed, Friday, Lent, etc.) in the Russian tradition while wine and liquor are prohibited, whereas in the Greek tradition all alcohol is generally prohibited during fasting periods (including beer).  My interest in the history of beer and wine in Orthodox lands is connected mostly to this question of the different fasting traditions that have developed in Greek vs. Russian practice and the reasons behind these differences.  The role of beer and wine making and consumption in monasteries is of interest regarding the compatibility of moderate alcohol consumption with the ascetical life. 
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« Reply #27 on: April 26, 2012, 08:42:20 AM »

I don't know about beer, but Russian monasteries were certainly known for their mead.

Can you say any more about this, or provide any references on the subject?
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« Reply #28 on: April 26, 2012, 09:54:45 AM »

I don't know about beer, but Russian monasteries were certainly known for their mead.

Can you say any more about this, or provide any references on the subject?

In The Brothers Karamazov, Alyosha's monastery is known for its mead. Elena Molokhovets' pre-revolutionary cookbook contains a recipe for "Monastery Mead". It seems to have been a well-established cultural norm that monasteries' earned at least some of their living from the sale of mead, which makes sense. A monastery would cultivate bees for wax for candles, but the bees also produce honey, which can be used and sold, and which in turn can be made into mead which can be used and sold.
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« Reply #29 on: April 26, 2012, 10:27:56 AM »

That makes me think, I've never had mead, although I've wanted to. Better check at the store.  Smiley
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« Reply #30 on: April 26, 2012, 11:45:06 AM »

Thanks Jonathan.

 I found the below references of interest also regarding the history of mead and beer in Russia, St. Vladimir, the importance of mead to the Russian economy, the role of monasteries in making mead, the connection between vodka and Peter the Great and the Council of Florence, beer brewing by monasteries in Ethiopia, etc. 

I also have come across some comments to the effect that beer was looked down upon by the Greeks as a barbarian drink and was avoided, until the Bavarian King Otto revived brewing in Greece in 1850, increasing its popularity. 


The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting, by Eva Crane

http://books.google.com/books?id=ANTSvKj1AZEC&pg=PA515&dq=russian+monastery+mead&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kEWZT9fqLaqZ6AGmzPnHBg&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=russian%20monastery%20mead&f=false

p.129
Russia

Galton (1971) described early tree beekeeping in Russia.  By AD 1000 or earlier, princes and lesser aristocracy (boyars) and monasteries owned many ‘bee woods’, which were often of great size.  A special class of peasants (bortnik) looked after bees’ nests in the trees, and harvested the honey and wax.  A bortnik could also own bee trees himself, paying his landlord by services or quit-rent.  The Moscow princes originally had bee woods near Moscow and round Kolomna and Mozhaysk, and they acquired many others.  Numerous reports about Russia in the 1400s commented on the importance of honey, mead and wax in the economy.  These were mostly the products of tree beekeeping…

p.232
From the late 1600s both tree beekeeping and hive beekeeping declined, for several reasons.  Peasants were taken to the towns to work in new industries.  Peter the Great (1682-1725) imposed a tax to be paid in cash on beekeeping income; he also founded the sugar industry, which reduced the demand for honey, and vodka and wine were produced instead of mead.

p. 515

In the 1100s Russian monasteries bought much honey for making mead; it was their second most important purchase after wheat.

There is no record of the addition of an adjuvant to increase fermentation until the 1300s, when yeasts from rye or barley were added and, later, those from potato juice.  Hops were used in making beer during the 1300s or early 1400s, and in 1436 Vasily II in Russia gave his treasury the exclusive right to use hops when brewing with honey to produce ‘honey beer’, called pure.

Figure 48.3a shows a merry scene of mead drinking in the 1500s, a period when foreign visitors to Russia praised the mead as the best in the world.  In 1557 Anthony Jenkins reported that various berries were used in the production of ‘meades’ at the Russian court, and in 1582 boyarsky was made for the Tsar from fine, light and clarified honey.  By the late 1500s very large amounts of mead were produced and drunk, and Ivan IV and Boris Godunov tried unsuccessfully to restrict them.  Up to the 1600s both rich and poor drank mead, and a decree in 1654 allowed ordinary people to make it for festivals on payment of a tax.  Then beer, wine and vodka became more common, and by the 1800s only the poor drank mead; from 1840 they were not taxed for making it.


Kievan Russia
By George Vernadsky

http://books.google.com/books?id=1HEdAP9N6ikC&pg=PA308&dq=russian+monastery+mead&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kEWZT9fqLaqZ6AGmzPnHBg&ved=0CFsQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=russian%20monastery%20mead&f=false


p.307-308

Let us now turn to the matter of beverages.  In those times, as in ours, the Russians did not shun drink.  According to the Book of Annals, Vladimir’s main reason for rejecting Islam was the teetotalism prescribed by that religion.  “Drinking,” said he, “is the joy of the Rus’.  We cannot exist without that pleasure.”17 Russian drinking, for the modern reader, is invariably associated with vodka but in the Kievan period no distilled liquor was prepared.  Three kinds of drinks were consumed.  Kvas, a nonalcoholic or only mildly alcoholic brew was made chiefly from rye bread – a kind of near beer.  It must have been a traditional beverage of the slavs since it is already mentioned in the record of the journey of the Byzantine envoy to the Hunnic khan Attila in the early fifth century, together with mead.18 The latter (med) was extremely popular in Kievan Russia, being brewed and consumed by both laymen and monks.  According to the chronicles, Prince Vladimir the Saint, on the occasion of opening of a church at Vasilev, ordered 300 kettles of mead prepared.19  In 1146 Prince Iziaslav II found in the cellars of his rival Sviatoslav 500 casks of mead, as well as eighty casks of wine.20 Several kinds of mead were known, such as sweet, dry, peppered, and so on.  Beer (pivo) was likewise generally consumed.  Wines were imported from Greece and, besides the princes, the churches and monasteries imported wine regularly for liturgical use.

17. Cross, p. 184.
18.  See Ancient Russia, p. 143.
19.  Cross, p. 209.
20.  PSRL, II (1843), 27.
21.  Cross, p. 210.


Russia and the Russians:  A History
 By Geoffrey A. Hosking

http://books.google.com/books?id=oh-5AAmboMUC&pg=PA11&dq=russian+monastery+mead&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7UWZT8eODYKx6QG4jqnaBg&ved=0CF4Q6AEwCDgK#v=onepage&q=russian%20monastery%20mead&f=false

pp.11-12

The classic Russian drink, vodka, seems to have made its appearance in the mid-fifteenth century, perhaps as a result of the visit of an official Muscovite church delegation to the Council of Florence-Ferrara, where they saw how aquavit was made.  The technique could easily have been taken over by Russian monks, applied to grain, and systematized in the monasteries.  During the fifteenth century the three-field crop rotation system was being widely adopted in Muscovy, and it generated a considerable growth in grain production, leaving a surplus to be converted into spirits.17 Apart from vodka, the commonest drinks were ale; mead, prepared from honey which was cultivated in forest beehives; and kvas, which was made from lightly fermented grain.


Fermenting Revolution:  How to Drink Beer and Save the World
By Christopher Mark O'Brien

http://books.google.com/books?id=ChycPVbm31wC&pg=PA50&dq=monastery+orthodox+beer&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xmCZT7DSAsHN6QHeqMX9Bg&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=monastery%20orthodox%20beer&f=false

p.50

The Ethiopian Orthodox Monasteries of Lake Tana

Back in the fourth century, Ethiopia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as the state religion.  And, just like so many European states would later do, Ethiopia established a monastic tradition that included beer brewing as a means of self-sufficiency and hospitality.  The tradition continues to this day in the island monasteries of Lake Tana, in Ethiopia’s mountainous northern region that serves as a watershed for some ninety percent of the water that eventually flows into the Nile River.  Beer brewing in the lakeside town of Bahar Dar is highly developed.  Each home-based Brewster specializes in a particular style, and each styles has its own appropriate drinking vessel.  Some of the monks on the lake islands are happy to share a taste of their house brews.
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« Reply #31 on: April 26, 2012, 12:11:42 PM »

Vodka is a LATINIZATION OMG!!!
St> Mark of Ephesus pray for us!!!
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« Reply #32 on: April 26, 2012, 12:22:33 PM »

Vodka is a LATINIZATION OMG!!!
St> Mark of Ephesus pray for us!!!

FTW
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« Reply #33 on: April 27, 2012, 12:23:37 PM »

I have read the same information in other sources:

"Beer is one of the world's oldest prepared beverages, possibly dating back to the early Neolithic or 9500 BC, when cereal was first farmed, and is recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Archaeologists speculate that beer was instrumental in the formation of civilizations."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer#History
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« Reply #34 on: April 27, 2012, 09:04:45 PM »

The Egyptians also invented the indoor flush toilet.

Coincidence? You be the judge.
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« Reply #35 on: April 27, 2012, 09:10:19 PM »

There was a photo, somewhere, of a Russian monk blessing some dinner, and he had a drink in hand. It made me smile.  Smiley

A very dear friend who's a monk once told me: There are three things associated with monastic life which are almost canonical requirements: A cat (or more than one), coffee, and a nice wine.

Who am I to disagree?  laugh


Of course, no cat on fasting days. But on non-fast days, I recommend red wine with feline.  Wink


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« Reply #36 on: April 28, 2012, 12:15:35 AM »

There was a photo, somewhere, of a Russian monk blessing some dinner, and he had a drink in hand. It made me smile.  Smiley

A very dear friend who's a monk once told me: There are three things associated with monastic life which are almost canonical requirements: A cat (or more than one), coffee, and a nice wine.

Who am I to disagree?  laugh


Of course, no cat on fasting days. But on non-fast days, I recommend red wine with feline.  Wink
Cat... The other white meat! Grin
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« Reply #37 on: May 08, 2013, 05:48:58 PM »

This topic is making me thirsty.  In America, my grandfather made rakia in the basement still all through prohibition.  Grozhda rakia from grapes.  In Troyan BG, my friends make it from yellow plums, junki.  Mostly it used on special occasions, though, my grandmother used take a swallow of rakia every morning just "to sterilize her gums."  She lived into her nineties.  Generally speaking in Bulgaria, you don't see the type of binge drinking that you see in America, but this I think may be changing.

Many Turks also love an alcohlic drink they call raki, but their raki tastes like the Greek Ouzo.  My granfather made a spirit called mastika which tasted like ouzo.  He learned all these things from his father and grandfather.  In our village almost every family makes wine and spirits.
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« Reply #38 on: May 08, 2013, 05:59:02 PM »

Muslims did not have access to clean drinking water. They made tea, the cooking process also killing the germs.
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« Reply #39 on: May 08, 2013, 06:01:27 PM »

Muslims did not have access to clean drinking water. They made tea, the cooking process also killing the germs.

To whom you are referring to? Somalis? Arabs? Persians?
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« Reply #40 on: May 11, 2013, 10:59:26 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Huh. So the yeast eat all the nutrients that feed other microbes, or do they actually eat the microbes?

Mostly the former, but a small amount of the latter.  Yeast propagate quickly and aggressively and basically crowd everything out.  In a good fermentation, the worst that will happen is off-flavors due to very specific reasons (temperature of the fermentation, the lag time from the pitching of the yeast to full blown fermentation, etc.) but those aren't harmful.  Same goes for wine making, too.



Remind me never to get into a fight with some yeast.

Especially the type called candida.
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« Reply #41 on: May 11, 2013, 11:04:30 PM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Huh. So the yeast eat all the nutrients that feed other microbes, or do they actually eat the microbes?

Mostly the former, but a small amount of the latter.  Yeast propagate quickly and aggressively and basically crowd everything out.  In a good fermentation, the worst that will happen is off-flavors due to very specific reasons (temperature of the fermentation, the lag time from the pitching of the yeast to full blown fermentation, etc.) but those aren't harmful.  Same goes for wine making, too.



Darn, don't have to finish the long winded rant on microbial reduction within consumer products.

I've been homebrewing for almost twenty years.  I've picked a few things up on the way. Smiley

Impressive. Many years ago, I took the mother yeast on top of some apple cider and added it to some peach juice while we were processing some fresh peaches. Let it set, and wow. That stuff smelled good. My professor said that it was probably turning into peach brandy, but also cautioned me not to bring it to class.

Back on topic: Isn't it true that monks and hieromonks could have problems with alcoholism?

I knew a nun who used to work in the sacristy. She would take a big glass of altar wine every day, and died of complications from alcoholism. Both her liver and brain were affected.
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« Reply #42 on: May 14, 2013, 10:25:18 AM »

Muslims did not have access to clean drinking water. They made tea, the cooking process also killing the germs.

To whom you are referring to? Somalis? Arabs? Persians?

Just most people in the middle ages. Clean drinking water is quite a new notion, I'd say late 19th century...


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« Reply #43 on: May 14, 2013, 10:28:38 AM »

Historically, Western monks in some monastic orders drink a large glass of beer every day. To me, that is disgusting. But wine is good in moderation. Do Eastern Orthodox monks have a tradition of wine drinking outside the liturgy?

Is beer disgusting in the sense that it doesn't taste good or is beer evil?
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« Reply #44 on: May 14, 2013, 10:29:01 AM »


How alcoholic does a drink have to be to kill any harmful microbes? Would under 2% cut it? So many questions…


It's not the alcohol itself that kills harmful microbes, but the fermentation process itself.  The yeast literally eats all other microbes out of existence even in low gravity beers that produce < 3%abv.  If you've ever seen the yeast cake that settles on the bottom of a fermenation vessel, you can see just how numerous those little buggers are.  And since pre-moderns drank their beer very fresh, and unfiltered, the yeast continued to keep the ale/beer free of harmful microbes.  The addition of hops, a natural anti-septic plant, to the brewing process in the 11th century also helped in preserving the beer from harmful microbes, although the gruit that was used before hops caught on had similar anti-septic properties.

Huh. So the yeast eat all the nutrients that feed other microbes, or do they actually eat the microbes?

Mostly the former, but a small amount of the latter.  Yeast propagate quickly and aggressively and basically crowd everything out.  In a good fermentation, the worst that will happen is off-flavors due to very specific reasons (temperature of the fermentation, the lag time from the pitching of the yeast to full blown fermentation, etc.) but those aren't harmful.  Same goes for wine making, too.



Remind me never to get into a fight with some yeast.

Especially the type called candida.
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