Why is the Spencer Abbey so special?
First off, as always, a little history lesson. The term Abbey is derived from the word Abbot which is the title given to the head of a Monastery. The term Abbey Ale simply refers to a beer made in a Monastic tradition. Some of these monasteries were of the Trappist order from La Trappe, France. Trappist monasteries have their foundation in the Benedictine tradition of manual labor and self-sufficiency, which still holds true to this day. Many of these Trappist monasteries had or built breweries to feed themselves and their local communities. After all beer is liquid bread.
Flash forward to today. There are only ten active Trappist breweries in the world. One of which is St. Josephs Abbey is Spencer Massachusetts. To qualify as a Trappist beer it must meet several criteria. The beer must be brewed within the walls of the monastery. Benedictine lifestyle tradition must take precedence over brewing. The brewery must not be a profit making venture. Profits from the brewing may only be used to maintain the Benedictine Trappist lifestyle and the brewery. All other profits must be given to charity. The beer must be brewed by or overseen by monks. The beer must also be brewed to the highest Trappist standards. All these criteria are overseen by the International Trappist Association or ITA.
So what does this all mean? The St. Josephs abbey was founded in 1950 and despite it’s relative youth the “Spencer Abbey” beer is steeped in 400 years of artisan brewing tradition. One thing to remember when you are sipping the last drops of golden, fruity, yeasty deliciousness from the bottom of you glass, you can rest assured that the locals communities in and around Spencer Massachusetts will be benefiting from your pleasure and not some faceless mega beer company that only care about their share holders.
That, in my opinion, is why the Spencer Abbey beer is so special.