Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Massachusetts monks release first American Trappist beer

Father Damian Carr, head of St. Joseph’s Abbey, left, and Father Isaac Keeley, brewery director, in their state-of-the-art facility in Spencer, Mass.

AP

Father Damian Carr, head of St. Joseph’s Abbey, left, and Father Isaac Keeley, brewery director, in their state-of-the-art facility in Spencer, Mass.

For more than a century, Catholic Cistercian monks known as Trappists have been brewing and selling what many beer lovers consider some of the best in the world. Eight monasteries — six in Belgium and one each in Holland and Austria — produce the only beer recognized by the International Trappist Association as authentic Trappist beer.

Last month, the 63 brothers of St. Joseph's Abbey — about an hour's drive west of Boston — joined them, selling the first Trappist beer brewed outside Europe.

The journey from jams — for nearly 60 years the monks in Spencer, Mass., had been selling jams and jellies to help support their community — to beer started almost five years ago when St. Joseph's sent two monks on a fact-finding mission to the Belgian Beer Fest in Boston. Within hours, their European brothers were alarmed to learn of the inquiries. "The original skepticism was because we were outside of Europe … and Americans," said Father Isaac Keeley, the bald, jovial former potter who has been at St. Joseph's for 35 years and now directs the brewing. "And the fear we would go too big too fast."

Keeley and another monk packed up and moved to Belgium in December 2010 to see how their European brothers brew — and to convince them they could properly produce an American Trappist beer.

The European monks weren't the only ones who needed convincing. Back at St. Joseph's, a robust debate among the brothers was under way. Some were concerned about starting what would be the most expensive enterprise ever undertaken by the abbey. But everyone agreed the aging monastery buildings were getting increasingly expensive to maintain. In the end, more than 85 percent of the American brothers voted for the project.

The European monasteries made three strong recommendations: To brew beer of Trappist quality they must build a state-of-the-art brewery, hire a skilled brewing engineer, and brew just one kind of beer for the first five years. The St. Joseph's monks set to work and built a multimillion-dollar brewery.

The European brewers, wanting a beer that wouldn't damage the Trappist brand, agreed to help the Americans develop a good recipe. After more than 20 trial batches, the monks in Massachusetts settled on the recipe for what would become Spencer Trappist Ale, a "refectory ale" of 6.5 percent alcohol. The cloudy, golden beer is all-American yet rooted in European tradition with sweet, yeasty notes familiar to fans of other Trappist ales.

Keeley flew to Belgium in December, seeking his brother monks' blessing. He delivered a PowerPoint presentation on the new brewery, then poured glasses of Spencer Trappist Ale. "They approved it unanimously," he said, "and after the vote there was applause."

Massachusetts monks release first American Trappist beer 02/24/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 9:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Kremlin dismisses U.S. warning of chemical attack in Syria (w/video)

    World

    .1103< AP-EU-Russia-Syria,252

    Eds: Rewrites top.

    MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin on Tuesday dismissed the White House's warning that the Syrian government is preparing a new chemical attack and that President Bashar Assad and his military "will pay a heavy price" if it goes ahead.

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, third right, prays on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at the Nouri Mosque in Hama, Syria, Sunday, June 25, 2017. [SANA via AP]
  2. EU announces record $2.7 billion antitrust fine on Google over search results

    Business

    BRUSSELS — The European Union's antitrust chief announced a record $2.7 billion fine against Google on Tuesday, saying that the powerful company illegally steered users toward its comparison shopping website.

    The European Union's competition watchdog has slapped a record 2.42 billion euro ($2.72 billion) fine on internet giant Google for breaching antitrust rules with its online shopping service. [Associated Press file photo]
  3. Forecast: Muggy, warm conditions across Tampa Bay as afternoon storms stay mostly east of I-75

    Weather

    A muggy and slightly wet day is in on tap for Tampa Bay as most of the rain sticks east of Interstate 75 in the afternoon.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. Trigaux: No more VinikVille as Water Street Tampa finally arrives

    Business

    Adios, VinikVille! Hello Water Street Tampa.

    An aerial rendering of the $3 billion redevelopment project that Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners plan on 50-plus acres around Amalie Arena.&#13;[Rendering courtesy of Strategic Property Partners]&#13;
  5. Finally, Jeff Vinik's vision has a name: Water Street Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — For years, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and the real estate executives he employs have been dreaming how to transform 53 acres of downtown Tampa into a major hub of living, working and entertaining in the city's core.

    Strategic Property Partners announced the name of its new development: Water Street Tampa. This rendering shows the Tampa skyline with SPP's future buildings in place. [Photos courtesy of SPP]