The manufacture and consumption of beer is known from the first monasteries. The Benedictine influence is significant there.
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance saw the abbeys develop and sometimes greatly prosper. There are thus hundreds, perhaps thousands, of breweries that have existed through the ages within European convents.
The oldest monastic brewery still in existence is that of the Freising Convent in Weihenstephan, near Münich, founded around 1040. Contesting the title of earliest is the abbey of Weltenburg (1050), known for always accommodating monks.
As early as 770, mention is made of a brewery at the Gorze abbey, near Metz. Around 817, Louis I founded the abbey of Corbie in Westphalia and placed brewing monks there from the abbey of the same name located in Picardy. The Picardy abbey included a brewery and a malt house.
The monks of Saint-Denis de Paris were lovers of Cervoise and in 862, Charles the Bald gave them 90 bushels of spelt per year for their brewery. This abbey cultivated its own hops.
In 967 the Abbey of Saint Bavo in Ghent had two breweries in Esquermes, near Lille. In Normandy, in his "History of the Abbey of Saint Michel du Tréport" (1888), the prior Dom Coquelin cites the presence of a brewery within the monastery and mentions the cultivation of barley. The abbey of Bourgueil was renowned for its beer, and the abbeys of Montreuil in the Marne, Foigny in the Aisne, and Clervaux near Bar-sur-Aube had breweries. The same is true for Cluny, Saint-Waast in Arras, Saint-Trond in Belgium, all famous for their breweries since the 11th century.
All towns of a certain importance were home to religious communities which often made their beer, even if in a limited way.