Spencer Trappist Ale is the first Trappist Brewery to join the Authentic Trappist Product group outside of Europe. For years, the abbey, also known as St. Joseph’s Abbey, has made jellies and jams that carry the ATP logo. While the Trappist ale is new, the monks had been brewing on a “home brewing” level for a while to meet their own needs. When the decision was made to commercially produce beer, they reached out to fellow Trappist brewery Chimay for advice and help.
The results were launched in January of 2014. While Spencer has a goal of reaching 10,000 bbl of production, they initially launched their beer in their local area of Massachusetts. They haven’t decided, or at least haven’t announced, their eventual plans for distribution in the larger United States. At the moment, they’ve been quickly selling out of in their Massachusetts retailers. Partially this is the novelty of the first American Trappist fueled by people from around the country looking for beer trades, and also from the fact that beer is really quite good.
When I first learned of this project and that Chimay would be consulting with the monks of Spencer, I was sure the beer would be of excellent quality. Chimay’s standards are exceptionally high for their own products. But what would the beer actually taste like? Would they go for something more traditionally Belgian? Or would they go with something more American in profile? Would it taste like a new beer by Chimay?
When they finally announced what their first beer was going to be, beer fans learned that it would decidedly fall into the more Belgian of categories. Spencer Trappist Ale is a single or “Pater’s” beer: a lower alcohol beer designed for the every day drinking of the monks. Light but flavorful, usually this style is only available at the Abbey. You can read more about Spencery Trappist Ale here or the history of the Trappist Order and Monastic Brewing here.
Appearance: Hazy gold, off-white head, great retention.
Aroma: Banana, candied sugar, coriander, clove, spice, bready notes.
Taste: Banana, clove, spicy, light citrus hop notes, white pepper in the finish.
Overall Impression: The mouthfeel is very creamy and spritzy from its excellent carbonation. That’s the advantage of using the 11.2 European bottles. The thicker glass allows for more intense carbonation which really allows for that true Belgian feel. This beer is decidedly not another Chimay beer. The yeast character is completely different while the nice little hit of citrus hop notes lets you know this beer is also a little bit American in nature as well. This is a really a great first effort from the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey. They haven’t announced if they’ll be adding any more beers to the mix, but this first one is a good indication of future quality. If you have a chance to try some of the Spencer Trappist Ale, go for it. It’s really good.
Availability: Massachusetts only at the moment.