You may have heard of Spencer Trappist Brewery; it’s the first and only Trappist brewery outside of Europe and the first and only Trappist brewery in the United States. Fortunately for me, it’s also the first and only Trappist brewery in my home state of Massachusetts.
This past Saturday (8/6/16), the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA opened their brewery to the public for the first time. A perfect excuse for a drive out to Western Mass for a beer-related excursion.
The event was a subdued affair as brewery openings go, though I suppose that’s not all surprising given the humble hosts. The monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey were gracious and attentive, working almost every aspect of the event without much outside help. Monks checked our ID, applied the 21+ bracelets, answered questions, poured and distributed samples, and handled sales. The only missing task was brewing.
The brewery is a massive, state-of-the-art facility capable of producing 40,000 barrels per year. Absolutely huge for a brewery that’s only been open for 2+ years. The monks don’t produce nearly that much (5,000 over the first two years before expanding their lineup), but that doesn’t make the 36,000 square foot facility any less impressive. It was – by far and away – the most immaculately clean brewery I’ve ever seen.
If cleanliness is next to godliness, then my homebrewery is probably an affront to God.
The public event also served as Spencer’s launch for their feierabendbier (which I’m told is pronounced fire-ah-bend-beer), a Pilsner-style “after work” beer, and the first Pilsner ever brewed by Trappist monks.
The monks were selling this new brew alongside their relatively new IPA. Inside the brewery there were also kegs and pallets of their Holiday ale and Imperial stout. I didn’t notice any of their Trappist Ale, but that might be because I was partially blinded by brewery-envy.
Truth be told, I wasn’t crazy about the feierabendbier. I’m not usually much of a Pilsner drinker to begin with, but this one lacked the crisp, dry finish and noble hop kick that I expect from the style. There’s a Belgian-ish character that doesn’t do it for me.
The Trappist IPA is a more reserved take on the style (again, not really surprising), that is certainly drinkable but probably not in line with what most American craft beer drinkers would expect for an IPA. There’s a strong caramel flavor that overpowers the hops.
Their other beers (Holiday, Spencer Trappist Ale, Imperial Stout) are all quite good, with the Spencer Trappist Ale remaining my favorite. As the production has increased, Spencer has been able to cut the rather hefty price down on that beer. Great news for my wallet and for people who haven’t had a chance to try it, or were steered away by the high price.
All in all, a great experience. Hopefully the monks will do it again some time in the near future.