Beer Sales Help Monastery: Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Ale Raised $7 Million To Rebuild Old Monastery

December 27, 2012 10:52 AM EST | By Staff Reporter
Ovila Ale
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. raised $7 million to help the Ovila Abbey rebuild the Santa Maria de Ovila monastery over a 12 year period. Learn more about the Ovila Abbey Ale. (Photo: Sierra Nevada)

In the small town of Vina in Northern California, a centuries-old Spanish monastery will finally receive the financial backing it deserves for restoration after decades of neglect.

Back in the 1930s, ambitious newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst purchased a former Trappist monastery, the Santa Maria de Ovila, and imported it to California from Spain. Hearst wanted to use parts of the church to build an indoor swimming pool changing room.

Unfortunately, the project was scrapped and Hearst donated the monastery pieces to the city of San Francisco. His dream resulted to a dismantled building left in Golden Gate Park for more than 60 years.

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Santa Maria de Ovila ruins, Spain
Santa Maria de Ovila ruins, Spain

Thankfully, Father Thomas X. Davis stepped up to become the founder of the Ovila Abbey and to restore the Santa Maria de Ovila. When Davis first arrived in San Francisco in 1955, he saw the stones at Golden Gate Park and started his mission to bring the monastery to Vina. Challenged with similar financial obstacles that caused the structure to sit forgotten for decades, the Abbey received help from a gracious and unlikely source - the Chapter House was rebuilt thanks to millions of dollars raised by beer sales from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico, California.

Working with the Ovila Abbey, Sierra Nevada brewers crafted a series of Ovila ales that drew inspiration from Belgian Trappist monks, an order that was once famous for crafting the finest beers in the world.

According to Sierra Nevada, "Ovila Abbey Ales are a series of Belgian-inspired beers brewed in collaboration with the monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, CA. An homage to the time-honored monastic brewing tradition, Ovila Abbey Ales combine the quality and craft of those dedicated artisans with a dose of American brewing innovation. Featuring ingredients grown by the monks on the grounds of the abbey, Ovila Abbey Ales are a fresh twist on the ancient brewing tradition.

As the description suggests, a long tradition exists between brewers and monasteries. In fact, Monasteries in Europe continue the tradition of brewing as a means to remain financially sufficient. In that regard, Sierra Nevada's association with the Santa Maria de Ovila is only keeping with traditions that started as early as the Middle Ages.

In total, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has raised $7 million over 12 years to help Father Thomas X. Davis to finish restoring the Ovila structure. However, the Santa Maria de Ovila isn't completely finished just yet. According to Father Paul Mark Schwan, the building will require another $2 million in order to install proper windows, floors, and electricity.

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. better sell more beers!

Curious and thirsty to learn more about Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s Oliva Ales? Be sure to visit the Oliva Abbey Ales main site!

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