Long-time readers of my blog know that I am a bit of a nut for Belgian beers. Top among the list of my favorite Belgian beers are those that come from Belgian monasteries like Chimay, Rochefort, and Westvleteren. These are known as Trappist ales, they are certified and approved by the Catholic Church and are the only beers allowed to carry the Authentic Trappist Product logo. This logo provides certain assurances to consumers that the brew is made to strict standards.
Up until recently, all Trappist beers were brewed in Europe, primarily Belgium where there are six breweries. But, The Netherlands and Austria also host a Trappist brewery each with a second brewery under development in The Netherlands as well. Never has certified Trappist ale been produced outside of Europe until now. But, on December 11, 2013, the International Trappist Association in Brussels, Belgium announced that Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass. Will become the first American brewery to be designated Authentic Trappist.
“At a meeting yesterday of the International Trappist Association in Brussels, the Spencer Trappist Ale was awarded the ‘Authentic Trappist Product’ designation,” François de Harenne, Commercial Director of the Orval Trappist brewery, said, “The decision was made after several controls made on the premises during the last weeks. We also were lucky enough to taste the beer.”
According to the association’s official website (www.trappist.be);
A “Trappist” has to satisfy a number of strict criteria proper to this logo before it may bear this name:
- 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.
While the brewery is still under construction, some information has made it out including the style of beer and its flavor profile. According to the label that will appear on the bottles, Spencer Trappist Ale has an alcohol content of 6.5 percent and is “inspired by traditional refectory ales brewed by monks for the monks’ table. Spencer is a full-bodied, golden-hued Trappist ale with fruity accents, a dry finish and light hop bitterness.”
Output for the brewery will be limited. According to zoning commission minutes from Spencer, the brewery intends to produce one batch of beer per day, four days per week. The eventual output is expected to reach 10,000 barrels per year.