In the first 3 parts of the The Brewing Monks, we looked specifically at the history of the Trappist order and the current Trappist Breweries. In the first part, The Brewing Monks: A Brief History of the Trappist Order and Monastic Brewing, I looked at the history of the Trappist order and how abbeys become involved in brewing. In the Second Part, The Brewing Monks: The Eight Trappist Breweries (Part 1), I delved into the history of Rochefort, Stift Engelszell, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. In the third part, The Brewing Monks: The Eight Trappist Breweries (Part 2), I covered the history of Chimay, Orval, La Trappe, and Achel. The next part will cover the Trappist Monasteries that are in the process of adding a brewery in or have beer ventures that would allow them to add one in the future.
Edited & Updated 10/21/2013
Abdij Maria Toevlucht (Zundert) - Klein Zundert, Netherlands (Est. 1899, Brewery Est. 2013)
The monastery at Zundert was founded by monks from Konigshoeven in 1899. Since its founding, the monks have continued to grow their monastery and develop its unique culture. In the 1970′s, the abbot instituted a program of Zen meditation after becoming interested in yoga and Zen practices while studying in Rome. The monks still practice and host Zen Meditation/Prayer sessions to this day.
In the last decade, the abbey has reduced the intensity of its farming practices to convert to more ecological cattle farming methods until 2011 when it was fully discontinued. To help fund their monastery, the monks decided to install a brewery beginning in October of 2012. The first beers should roll off the lines in the fall of 2013. When they do, they will carry the official ”Authentic Trappist Product” label. The first beer that will be brewed is described as a “copper blond beer of 8% alcohol.”
St. Joseph’s Abbey - Spencer, Massachusetts (Est. 1950, Brewery Est. ?)
St. Joseph’s Abbey can trace its lineage to the monks who came to America to escape the French Revolution. These monks were further bolstered when monks from St. Sixtus (Westvleteren) came to Nova Scotia at the Abbot’s invitation in 1857. Several large fires ravaged the monks’ lands in the 1890′s and forced the monks to reconsider their situation. They decided to move to Rhode Island.
There they flourished until another massive fire devastated their buildings in 1950. Fortunately, they’d recently acquired lands outside of Spencer, Massachusetts. The fire, coupled with the encroachment of post-war economic development, pushed the monks to move their home once again. Since then, they have prospered in Spencer. Currently, the monks produce and sell jellies and jams to sustain themselves.
In 2011, however, they began filing applications with the local government to expand and install a brewery. Here’s a link to a PDF of the town zoning board proceedings describing the expansion (scroll to page 6). Their eventual goal is to get to 10,000 bbl of production. The monks have been brewing for a while on a very low scale for their own needs so they aren’t completely inexperienced. Additionally, there is rumor that one of the Belgian Trappists will be sending a monk to advice them. Unless something else crops up first, St. Joseph’s will be the first American Trappist Brewery.
UPDATE: Spencer Abbey has released details regarding their upcoming Trappist beer, Spencer Trappist Ale. They’ve also released their label (front label above, back label to the right.) It appears that Chimay is helping the Spencer monks get their beer and brewery ready. There’s still no firm date on when the beer will actually be available.
The first beer looks to be in the vein of a traditional “Pater” or table beer. At 6.5%, this is slightly above what most of the Belgian versions are, but still within reason. The back label describes the beer as light in color, dry, with a nice but light hop crispness. The most important piece of information on the back label, though, is the “Authentic Trappist Product” logo. This indicates the full status of this beer as a 100% Trappist beer. As of yet, there is no word on when or if there will be other beers.
Not Quite Trappist
Abbaye du Sainte Marie Mont des Cats - Godewaesvelde, France (Est. 1650, Original Brewery Est. 1848)
The original abbey at Mont des Cats was established by the “Hermits of St. Anthony” in 1650 and remained with that order until 1792 when the French Revolution forced the abandonment of their home. The site lay dormant until the Cisterician Order sent monks to reestablish the site at Mont des Cats in 1826. The monks built their first brewery in 1847 and continued to expand it until restrictive laws by the French Parliament forced the monastery to shut down the brewery. The final blow to the brewery came during WWI when the Germans shelled the abbey doing considerable damage to the brewery. As the monks rebuilt, they decided not to reopen the brewery.
The monastery survived on its farm lands and by selling cheese. However, their financial needs become too much for cheese alone to maintain. The monks decided to return to their roots and sell a beer. Their initial decision was to have the beer brewed by the monks of Chimay who created a unique recipe for the abbey of Mont des Cats which falls into the Tripel style range. Mont des Cats is allowed to use the word Trappist on the label because the beer is brewed at a Trappist Brewery for a Trappist monastery. They aren’t allowed to use the ATP logo because it’s not brewed within their own walls. There are no short-term plans to build a brewery on site, but the monks haven’t ruled it out and will probably build one at some point (here is the press release announcing the release of their beer). The beer is currently only available in Western Europe.
Abbey of New Clairvaux - Vina, California (Est. 1955, No Brewery)
New Clairvaux was founded in 1955 when Trappist monks from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky found a new place to expand. The site of the monastery was on land that has hosted a vineyard since the mid 19th century. Although the monks survived on the orchards and on the dairy products they produced. It wasn’t until 2000 that they sought to revive the vineyards and begin producing wine.
In 2010, Sierra Nevada Brewing announced a joint venture with New Clairvaux to begin producing beer. The venture would be called Ovila, after a Cistercian chapter house that was originally built in Spain during the 12th century. The chapter house had been acquired by the Hearst family in the 1930′s. They’d intended to use its stones to create a mansion. Their plans never came to fruition. The monks of New Clairvaux got the stones in the mid-90′s and began reassembling the chapter house. Some of the proceeds of the collaboration are going to help the New Clairvaux monks rebuild their chapter house on-site in California.
They have produced 6 beers in the 2 years they’ve been collaborating. The first 4 beers were a dubbel, a saison, a quad, and a golden. At the end of 2012, they retooled the beers to include ingredients produced on the monks’ land. The first was a Belgian Quad brewed with plums. The second was a Saison brewed with mandarin oranges and peppercorns. While this collaboration isn’t a “Trappist” labeled product, New Clairvaux would only need to add a brewery to the property to begin the process of joining the ATP breweries.
More About Monastic Brewing
The Brewing Monks: The Benedictine Breweries - A look at some of the Benedictine Monasteries producing beer commercially.
Great Beers of Belgium by Michael Jackson, (Brewers Publications, 2008)
brew like a monk by Stan Hieronymus, (Brewers Publications, 2005)
The Oxford Companion to Beer edited by Garret Oliver, (Oxford University Press, 2012)