It goes without saying that drinking beer can be an enjoyable experience, especially when surrounded by good friends and good food. But can drinking beer also promote social justice?
With Trappist ales, the answer is yes.
Brewing beer has been a Trappist tradition for centuries, a tradition built out of necessity. Since Trappist abbeys have to be self-sufficient, they sell various goods to their local communities, such as candles, fruit preserves, and especially beer. The kind of beer Trappists brewed for the longest time is the kind the monks would have with their simple dinner: a crisp, fruity, amber-brown ale made from only four ingredients: water, hops, barley, and yeast. A simple brew for sure, but centuries of tinkering with source materials and brewing techniques have made Trappist ales some of the most sought after beers in the world for their amazing taste and exclusivity to the towns the abbeys are located.
Renewed interest in Trappist ales came around 2012, when St. Sixtus Abbey in Belgium announced that, in order to make major renovations to their roof, they would sell batches of their world-famous Westvleteren 12 internationally for the first time. A beer that is considered by many to be the best beer in the world, it flew off the shelves, with some 4 packs appearing on eBay for up to $1,000. This was a limited release unfortunately, and now a plane ticket to Belgium is required to try this amazing beer again (and a prayer that you catch the abbey on the few days that they are actually brewing it).
But what does all this have to do with social justice? Well, aside from the fact that beer lovers are helping to support an ancient monastic order, the money not used in upkeep goes to support charities the abbey works with, such as fighting homelessness, hunger, and providing education for the poor. None of the beer the abbeys sell directly to distributors is taken in profit, and since monks live a secluded lifestyle, they don’t collect individual paychecks. All the money goes to making sure there is an abbey to worship and essential services for those in need.
In exchange, these priests will continue to brew some of the best ales in the world: Beer that’s good for the palate, and good for the soul.
If you want to try a Trappist ale, here is the full list of officially recognized Trappist ales. They can run between $4-10 per bottle, since a lot are imported from Europe (and some may require special ordering due to limited supply in the United States), but it’s going to good men doing God’s work.
And Spencer Trappist Ale, brewed right here in Massachusetts! Expect a review very soon.