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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.


-Jeff Smith

Hops:In a nutshell, why it’s in beer.

The first documented use of Hops(Humulus Lupulus) as a flavoring agent was in the 11th century in Europe.  However, Hop cultivation can be traced back to the 8th century in China.  Like gunpowder and pasta, Hop cultivation migrated west via missionaries and trade.  Hops were not the primary bittering agent used to flavor beer in those early days.  Gruit, which is a bitter mixture of herbs and spices, was most often used to bitter and flavor beer in lieu of Hops.  During the 13th century taxes were levied against Gruit so brewers began using Hops as a way to get around paying the taxes.  Thus the “modern” beer was born(hops, water, malt, and yeast).

Hops are a robust, almost invasive, climbing plant.  Seedless female Hops are the desirable type used in brewing today.  Hops prefer moist temperate climates like Germany, England, and the Pacific Northwest.  This also explains the importance of those places in beer culture.

Hops do several things for beer: they add flavor, yum, and act as a antibacterial stabilizing agent that aids in fermentation.  Hops have two primary acids in them: Alpha and Beta.  Alpha acids mitigate and inhibit the fermenting beer from bacterial infection while enhancing the bitterness of the beer.  Beta Acids do not effect the flavor as much as they enhance the aroma/nose of the beer.  That’s why Hop forward beers, if not a majority of beer styles, often have several varieties of Hops in them.  Some varieties of hops are high alpha and low beta or low alpha and high beta and everywhere in between.  Varying the quantities and varieties of Hops used in brewing ultimately effects the IBU’s(International Bitterness Units or bitterness), pallet, and aroma.  Brewing is just like cooking or baking.  Finding the harmony between ingredients is the true mastery of the trade craft.

In a nutshell, this is why Hops are in Beer.


-Jeff Smith

Long Trail 12 pack special

We have a late addition to this month’s sale! All LONG TRAIL 12 pack bottles are on sale for $12.99 +deposit!