America's Newest Monastic Brewery Opens in Oregon

Discussion in 'Article Comments' started by BeerAdvocate, Sep 10, 2018.

  1. BeerAdvocate

    BeerAdvocate Founders (17,665) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts

    #1 BeerAdvocate, Sep 10, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 12, 2018
  2. Giantspace

    Giantspace Defender (641) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Does being a monk have anything to do with brewing beer?

    I get that the “original” breweries run by monks have tradition and make great beer.

    Today I feel these new breweries are just using the “monk” as a selling gimmick.

    If I am wrong in this please let me know why and what being a monk brings to the brew table.

    Enjoy
     
  3. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    Good article about a good idea that hits all the right notes for me.
     
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  4. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    No more than tats and beards I suppose, but monks brewing in contemporary America is a cool idea.
     
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  5. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,618) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Certain orders (e.g., the monks of the Trappist Abbeys) have a principle to be self sufficient. One way to do this is to sell products. Beer is an example of a product, cheese is an example of a product, and so on.

    Cheers!
     
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  6. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,540) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Every one of those “original” breweries once had no tradition or reputation for making quality beer. Being a monk brings to the table what it always has, an opportunity for the monks to support their Abbey, their community and their life style through their labor.
     
  7. Alefflicted

    Alefflicted Initiate (62) Dec 2, 2017 Minnesota

    Well they tend to make some damn good beer, so there must be something to it.
     
  8. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (778) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Absolutely nothing.

    Exactly.
     
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  9. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (5,317) Sep 24, 2007 Washington
    Trader

    Well, with just a 5bbl system, they aren't marketing to many folks. They need cash flow to run the monastery, and support their seminary. I doubt they'll be having Hazebros lining up for 4-packs at 7am on a Saturday.
     
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  10. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Something that hasn’t been mentioned is access to recipes and techniques.
    Trappists are cloistered and tend to protect their trade secrets. Even brewing books written about these beers tend to contain a lot of shrugs and dead ends. Training as an apprentice under someone who know firsthand how to make these beers is a rare luxury.

    There seems to be an idea that you can’t embrace capitalism and your abbey’s ethos. I say, why not both?!
    Are they aware that people associate monks with good beer? Absolutely! Does that make the beer worse or their goals more illegitimate? I’d say no.
     
  11. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,313) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

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  12. SLeffler27

    SLeffler27 Poo-Bah (1,853) Feb 24, 2008 New York
    Premium Trader

    Is Mount Angel a Trappist brewery? I haven’t read the article yet.

    The Trappist labeled breweries are required to meet several requirements. As I recall quality is one of the requirements. Self regulation of quality just might be one factor “why being a monk” may make a difference.
     
  13. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,540) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    No.
     
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  14. rodbeermunch

    rodbeermunch Poo-Bah (4,128) Nov 26, 2015 Nevada

    Those are all marketing aspects (small batches especially).

    Not everything is mutually exclusive.
     
  15. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (2,383) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Premium Trader

    Im pretty sure the Monks would be disappointed to know Jesus feels this way about their efforts.
    I believe that when Spencer got their brewery off the ground, they had a brewer from one of the European Trappist breweries train the monks at Spencer. And I know that the Trappist breweries in Europe were involved in every step along the way with Spencer.

    Not sure how much oversight is there with the Benedictine monastery, but with the Trappists there was significant oversight.
     
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  16. Keene

    Keene Editorial Director (815) Sep 11, 2009 Washington
    Staff

    I figured you'd be the one to remember St. Vincent's, @jesskidden, and was wondering when you were going to bring it up! :wink: Incidentally, Father Martin did mention it in our interview.
     
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  17. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    I saw a special years ago on monastic brewing on some travel show.

    One of the monks they interviewed said something along the lines of “A brewer at a large brewery has a professional responsibility to brew good beer, a brewer at a farmhouse brewery has a personal one. But a monk has a spiritual responsibility.” It’s part of their life’s mission to produce excellent beer.

    Basically, if a monastic brewer knowingly cuts a corner, rushes product, or releases something below their quality standard, they’ve sinned against their vows.

    You don’t have to believe what they do to appreciate the seriousness in which they take their work. Whether beer and cheese made by Trappist monks or Mala beads made by Tibetan nuns, when people put their souls into their work, it ups the ante! :grin:

    Also...
    These guys aren’t brewing in catacombs. These breweries are state of the fucking art. Their labs are exceptional, their cellars are pristine, and their tolerances are minuscule. Comparing to the average US brewery is like comparing a brain surgery OR to a garage.
     
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  18. Alefflicted

    Alefflicted Initiate (62) Dec 2, 2017 Minnesota

    I absolutely love this perspective.
     
  19. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (778) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    It is, however, important to know that not all brewers at monastic breweries, including those of the Trappist designation, are monks.
     
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  20. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (817) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    I doubt that anybody would join a Monastery and live like a Benedictine Monk just to sell beer!
     
  21. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,540) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Why?
     
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  22. Lingenbrau

    Lingenbrau Poo-Bah (2,704) Apr 9, 2011 Oregon

    Great article once again @Keene . After cancelling plans, guess I'm gonna have to re-plan on going to Mount Angel Oktoberfest this weekend.

    I hope.
     
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  23. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,540) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    And hopefully report back here and in NBS?
     
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  24. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (2,383) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Premium Trader

    A couple thoughts. First off, Most of the Trappist breweries didn't open until the 19th century with 5 opening in the last 20 years (only one in the US). There are other breweries (brands) that were tied with various monasteries, (that are not Trappist) that have been around a long time, but that are no longer actually tied with the monastery. So some of the original ones aren't even tied to a monastery anymore. The ones that are tied to a monastery are really the most "traditional" regardless of when they opened.

    As for the gimmick comment. The breweries that are actually part of the monastery and used to raise funds to self sustain the monastery are far from a gimmick. Sure they're brewing beer and beer is popular, but they're doing it not as a gimmick to make money but as a way to sustain their monastery - no different than selling cheese, preserves, coffins, religious art, etc.
     
  25. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    I was going to post along these lines but you said it so well I won't. I agree and would only add the profits from beer sales go to the Monastery and not into the Monk's pockets. That's not something other craft brewers can say.
     
  26. Lingenbrau

    Lingenbrau Poo-Bah (2,704) Apr 9, 2011 Oregon

    If it's not too late to convince the better half (again), absofrigginlutely!
     
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  27. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,540) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Well, you can always explain that they have facilities where folks can go to spend a quiet few days away from the demands and cares of the world and it might be worth checking those out (and visit the gift shop).

    Edit: You might need to double check, but I think meals are included in the price of the room. (If she's like my wife that will be attractive. :wink: )
     
    #27 drtth, Sep 11, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
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  28. Lingenbrau

    Lingenbrau Poo-Bah (2,704) Apr 9, 2011 Oregon

    I think that's a good plan. Monks are good day care providers too, right?
     
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  29. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,540) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Don't know about day care, but check out my edit above.... Not having to cook allows much more time to spend with children, etc. :wink:
     
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  30. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (790) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    O
    This is an important point that I forgot to bring up. There are a decent amount of non-monks brewing these beers

    But, the lay brewers who help in production, aren’t exactly your everyday brewery joe shmo hipster brewers. The doc showed them eating meals and attending mass with the monks. They are dudes who clearly have ideologies that line up with the monks, even if they don’t take the vows.

    If anyone has any interest in these beers/breweries, I would strongly recommend the book ‘Brew Like a Monk’. I know @EvenMoreJesus is familiar with it. Great book, even if you aren’t a brewer. Stan can really paint a picture...
     
  31. Giantspace

    Giantspace Defender (641) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Good info

    Thanks for spelling it out like that.

    Still having a time wrapping my head around the Trappist piece. You brew beer. If it’s good it will sell. Never had Spencer and at the price it sells for I probably won’t. Would people pay the premium price for Spencer if it was just a beer made by Sierra Nevada or sone local and not touted as Trappist?

    Either way I’m ok. The beer sounds good and having more good beer is never a bad thing.

    Enjoy
     
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  32. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (2,383) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Premium Trader

    Yea, I've had Spencer, but its not a beer I buy very often. That being said, I love some of the imported Trappists and I buy those for special treats.
     
  33. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (778) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Because.
     
  34. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,540) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Thanks!

    No need to add anything more, someone else already provided a useful answer.
     
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  35. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (778) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Ask a stupid question . . .
     
  36. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,313) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Well, except for the ones with corporate or private-equity ownership, where the profits go "up" and by-pass the actual brewers' and other brewery workers' pockets...
     
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  37. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (1,943) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    The monks still don't get paid which was my point. Their work is it's own reward and their commitment to it genuine.
     
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  38. Alefflicted

    Alefflicted Initiate (62) Dec 2, 2017 Minnesota

    That's an excellent point, one with which I can not argue.

    I guess my point would be that some of the monastic breweries do take the spirituality aspect of creating an excellent product very seriously. And many take the tradition of brewing very seriously. Even if one or many of their brewers are not actual monks, the monastery itself still plays a vital role in every aspect of the operation. Does that play a factor in the quality of the beer? Honestly it may or may not, but considering some of the great monastic brews out there, I'd like to believe that it does.
     
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  39. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,540) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Well, as a friend of my used to say, "If you ask a stupid question you look stupid for 5 minutes. If you don't ask, you stay stupid for the rest of your life."
     
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  40. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Crusader (778) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    No argument here at all. Just pointing out that a layperson's "spiritual responsibility" might be slightly different than that of a monk's.
     
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