Religion & Liberty Online

O.S.B. – Oh Sacred Business

O.S.B, the abbreviation for the Order of St. Benedict, has taken on nuanced meaning: Oh Sacred Business.  This is definitely true of a profitable Benedictine company located in Norcia, the medieval birthplace of St. Benedict in central Italy. In just four years, a talented and enterprising team has found the right mix of tradition, vocation and good business sense to take their Birra Nursia brewery to scale.

From what was once a micro-production focusing on gift shop and local sales, the production line at this centuries-old monastery is now able to meet quotas of around 120,000 bottles per annum.

Under the leadership “brewmonk” Br. Francis Davoren and manager Fr. Martin Bernhard, 17 Benedictines have expanded their brewing business with the help of sophisticated equipment while maintaining the fine craft brew taste and strict standards of ancient monastic recipes in their blonde (6%) and strong dark (10%) ales.

Watch Business Insider video about Birra Nursia.
Watch Business Insider video about Birra Nursia.

Via a January 22 press release, the Norcia Benedictines announced they would began expanding their export markets to service orders from America. Sales and delivery are processed via a U.S. On-line store and distributor.

The ambitious project includes customer incentives for monthly purchases by joining a premium “brewmonks club” membership. The beer club awards faithful customers with “signature glass beer goblets and bottle openers”, shipping priority, a newsletter with business updates and spiritual insights related to brewing, and without doubt daily prayers from the monks themselves.

According to a recent Business Insider video produced about Birra Nursia, the Benedictines have no ambitions of overthrowing Anheuser-Busch. They prefer to keep the business small to mid-sized, so that their rigorous prayer and spiritual lives are not compromised, while still doing all the work themselves to keep overhead low and margins as high as possible. This makes good sense and respects the balance of efficient hard work and disciplined prayer life (“ora et labora”) set out in the Rule of  St. Benedict .

Business Insider reports that proceeds from the Birra Nursia sales go to make improvements to the historic Monastery of St. Benedict and contribute to sustaining the monks’ livelihood.  Accrording to a Birra Nursia representative, the profits also help them finance their charitable works when serving the “many poor people who come to the monastery looking for a meal or a place to stay.”


Michael Severance

Michael Severance earned his B.A. in philosophy and humane letters from the University of San Francisco, where he also studied at the university's St. Ignatius Institute, a great books program. He then pursued his linguistic studies in Salamanca, Spain where he obtained his Advanced Diploma in Spanish from Spain's Ministry of Education before obtaining his M.A. in Philosophy and Modern Languages from the University of Oxford. While living in Italy, Michael has worked in various professional capacities in religious journalism, public relations, marketing, fundraising, as well as property redevelopment and management. As Istituto Acton's Operations Manager, Michael is responsible for helping to organize international conferences, increase private funding, as well as expand networking opportunities and relations among European businesses, media and religious communities, while managing the day-to-day operations of the Rome office.