Thanks to the monks at St Josephs Abby in tiny Spencer, MA, the US has the first Trappist Brewery operating outside Europe.
There are only 10 Trappist Breweries in the world. In the simplest terms, a Trappist Brewery is a brewery where the beer is brewed and sold under strict supervision of Trappist Monks. All proceeds from the sale of the beer go to supporting the Abby and their missions work.
Aside from the definition above, there are no actual style guidelines for the actual beer itself. The monks can brew whatever they please. However, given their vows and circumstances, the ingredients are typically local, often sourced from the monastery grounds itself, or not far from. Some of the worlds most celebrated beers are Trappist, although acquiring some of them require a trip to a Belgium and an appointment with the monastery to acquire. The beers from the 10 Trappist Breweries themselves vary greatly, ranging from golden and crisp, to strong and dark, to almost funky/sour in style.
The monk at St Josephs released their Spencer Ale this past week, and by lucky coincidence I happened to be at Julio's Liquors when they rolled out the first 4 packs for sale and offered a tasting. I tasted, I liked, I purchased a 4 pack...
Spencer Trappist Ale
Spencer Brewery, Spencer, MA
Spencer Ale pours a hazy golden amber, with a big, loose and wispy white head. Head retention was fairly brief, but a nice lacing remains on the surface once it collapses.
The smell is noticeable right away- strong, spicy and fruity. I get strong banana and cloves, very reminiscent of a great hefeweizen, with a bit of peppery spice. It's very aromatic and enticing without being overwhelming.
Mouthfeel is surprisingly light and very active. There's a lot of fizz here. But I'm not complaining, just making note of it
At first sip I get a mild and hot peppery spice, like pink peppercorns. This is followed by notes of fruit and tangy yeasty esters. It's very flavorful yet balanced. Mild banana and cloves notes follow and lead to a somewhat dry, light, crisp finish.
Overall, I thought this was a very, very good beer. It's extremely drinkable, with lots of complex but not overwhelming flavors. It reminded me of a good Belgian Ale. I understand that this was brewed by the monks to enjoy with their lunch, and I would call it great success. This would make a great lunch time brew.
Spencer Ale is brewed with Willamette and Nugget Hops from Washington State, a propriety malt bill consisting of 2 and 6 row malted barely, along with a caramel Munich specialty malt from Wisconsin. The yeast is propagated on the grounds of the monastery. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized.