January 24, 2014

A Lake of Beer for God

Beers brewed by Trappist monks are regularly on lists of the world's, yet, there are only 10 official Trappist breweries in the world.  The only one outside Europe is, thank God, at St Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass, which will begin to sell its beer this week, but only in Massachusetts.

According to the official website of the brewery, “Our recipe was inspired by the traditional refectory ales known as patersbier (“fathers’ beer” in Flemish). These seasonable beers are brewed by the monks for their dinner table and are typically only available at the monastery. Spencer is a full-bodied, golden-hued ale with fruity accents, a dry finish and light hop bitterness. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized, preserving live yeast that naturally carbonates the beer in the bottle and keg, and contributes to the beer flavor and aroma.” The beer will sit at 6.5% Alc.10

 Spencer Trappist-Ale-Label

NPR in American Beer Fans, Praise the Heavens tells the backstory.

For more than 60 years, the monks at St. Joseph's have supported themselves by making religious garments and preserves, including jams and jellies.  Still, that wasn't enough, so several years ago, they started looking into brewing.

But there was a problem: The monks knew nothing about brewing — or even drinking — beer. So, one of the monks called up Martha Paquette, the co-founder of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project in Sommerville, Mass., for help.

"They'd maybe drunk some Budweiser," Paquette says. "So, we had a lot of fun with the monks introducing them to hops, dark beers, richer, stronger beers."

Learning to drink beer was the easy part. To learn to brew it, the abbey sent two of its monks to train at Belgian monasteries and hired a professional Belgian brewer.  The monastery also received some major financing — the monks wouldn't say how much — for a sleek, state-of-the-art brew house. Now, the 36,000-square-foot, stainless steel building sits behind the stone abbey and is mostly automated…..

The brew has already passed one major taste test: To get the official "Authentic product label," Spencer Trappist Ale's first had to win approval from the International Trappist Association.

"We tasted the beer the day we gave the approval," says ITA spokesman Francois de Harenne, and it was considered a good product — deserving to bear the logo."

 Brother Isaac Keeley Brother Isaac Keeley is director of the Trappists’ brewery in Spencer.  At the Spencer Brewery website, you can learn about the beer, the monks and even watch a beautiful video of a day in the life of a Trappist monk in Spencer.

I have been on retreat several times to the Abbey and can attest to the beauty and the peace that can be found there.  Now with beer, it will be heavenly. 

In the tenth century, Saint Brigid wrote a prayer that begins

I'd like to give a lake of beer to God. I'd love the heavenly Host to be tippling there For all eternity.

And ends

I'd sit with the men, the women and God There by the lake of beer. We'd be drinking good health forever And every drop would be a prayer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at January 24, 2014 12:04 PM | Permalink