The First Certified American Trappist Brewery – Spencer

Tampa, February 12th – Written by Craig Eberly, Craft Market Manager at Pepin Distributing – The big news of the week is that Pepin Distributing signed a contract yesterday to be the distributor for Spencer Brewery. Never heard of Spencer? They don’t do much advertising, and they don’t talk much about it. That is because the beer is brewed by the monks of St. Joseph’s Abby in Spencer Massachusetts, and they have taken a vow of silence. What makes this Abby so special is that it is the first ever Certified American Trappist Brewery. It is one of only ten certified Trappist Breweries in the world! It joins the world class beers of Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Mont des Cats, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle, Stift Engelszell, and Zundert. Six of those are in Belgium, one in Austria, one in the Netherlands, and one in France.

Westvleteren XII beer is often referred to as the best beer in the world. It can only be bought at the Abby after making a reservation. I have been lucky enough to have this beer twice. The first time was in 2013, when the Abby of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren decided to export a small amount for the first and only time ever in order to fund a new roof for the monastery. At $95.00 a six pack, Total Wine in Tampa sold out of their 30 case allotment in under an hour. I was able to get one of those six packs. The second time was a bottle I received as a gift from my MBA classmate Chad Peterson. It was part of the stash he brought home after being stationed in Belgium for several years. All I can say is, FANTASTIC!

The Monks of St. Joseph have been supporting the Abby for the past 60 years by making and selling jam. Looking for an opportunity to diversify, the monks were interested in the century old tradition of brewing beer to fund the monastery and its charitable pursuits. They traveled throughout Europe and trained at each of the nine Trappist breweries and came back to America with a wealth of knowledge. On December 10, 2013, after years of planning and building, Spencer Brewery was certified by the International Trappist Association as the first Trappist brewery in the US.

In order to be certified, a brewery must meet and adhere to three criteria:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  • The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life
  • The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

Trappist beers are sometimes confused with Abby beers. Abby beers, such as Leffe, Affligem, or Maredsous, use monastic recipes, however they do not adhere to the strict criteria to be certified as Trappist. Mainly they are not being brewed by the monks, or the profits are going to a corporation.

Spencer is traditional Belgian golden ale brewed in the tradition of “Patersbier” (Father’s beer in Flemish). The Belgian yeast gives it a slight fruitiness, which is balanced with a light hoppiness, and a clean, dry finish. As with all great beer, it is unfiltered and unpasteurized. Yeast is added again during the bottling phase, which continues to ferment the beer as it ages. One style, one flavor, one world class beer; Coming to Florida beginning of March.