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Trappist Beer Now Brewed by Monks in Massachusetts

Image: Trappist Beer Now Brewed by Monks in Massachusetts

By David Ogul   |   Thursday, 16 Jan 2014 04:55 PM

Hallelujah! That’s the reaction from craft brew aficionados upon learning that monks in Massachusetts are now selling the first American-made Trappist beer, a beer said by many to be among the finest in the world.

The beer gets its name from the Trappist order, which originated in the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe in France, and the Catholic Cistercian monks known as Trappists have been brewing the beverage for more than a century. But just eight monasteries — six in Belgium and one each in Austria and Holland — are the only places where the beer had been produced.

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That changed on Thursday, when the 63 brothers of St. Joseph’s Abbey near Boston began selling the first Trappist beer brewed outside of Europe.

A beer can only be designated Trappist if it passes certain criteria. Among them, the brewery must be on monastery property, operated by Trappist monks, and proceeds can only go toward supporting the monastery.

Those with a taste for craft beer were crowing on Twitter.

The monks of Massachusetts had been selling jams and jellies to support their community, and turned to the brewing business to help with finances, The Associated Press said. Five years ago, a pair of monks attended the Belgian Beer Fest for a taste of what might be in store, a move that alarmed their brethren in Europe.

“The original skepticism was because we were outside of Europe … and Americans," Father Isaac Keeley told the AP. “And the fear we would go too big too fast.”

Some of the monks at St. Joseph’s also were concerned, but they came around after realizing the costs of maintaining the abbey were growing too fast to fund through jam and jelly sales.

Their European counterparts eventually warmed up to the idea and counseled their brethren on what to do: Build a state-of-the art brewery, hire a top-notch engineer, and brew just one kind of beer for the first five years. A bank loan secured the money needed for the multimillion dollar brewery, and the folks at St. Joseph’s are now brewing Trappist Preserves.

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