From jam to beer

The first Trappist brewery outside of Europe has started production of beer, which hit retail stores the last week of January. The monks at Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer are rolling out bottles of Spencer Trappist Ale, brewed in a 36,000-square-foot facility on the monastery grounds. The brewery will be the ninth Trappist brewery in the world, joining Chimay, Orval and other well-known brands. Brother Isaac Keeley, who oversees brewery operations, calls Spencer’s beer a “refectory ale,” in reference to the dining hall in which the monks take their meals. The monks had help in developing their recipe. One of the monks brewed with Dann Paquette and Martha Holley-Paquette, of Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, for two years; two monks traveled to Belgium; and Harpoon’s Dan Kenary had early input into the project. The final recipe is a beer with 6.5% ABV. Most of the ingredients in the beer ~ and there are only four of them ~ come from the United States: water from a well on the property, malted barley from New York and Willamette and Nugget hops from the West Coast. The key ingredient, Belgian yeast, comes from a family of yeasts cultured for other Trappist breweries in the middle of the 20th century.