St. Joseph's Abbey to close Spencer Brewery

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Bierman9, May 14, 2022.

  1. Bierman9

    Bierman9 Poo-Bah (5,429) Dec 20, 2001 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

    Per the Spencer Facebook page....
  2. JrGtr

    JrGtr Devotee (470) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    I saw that this afternoon. |Sad to see, though obviously they did the math and have looked into it.
    |I hope the recipes will live on.
    I also wonder what will happen with the facilities - it's a really advanced setup they have. I understand they do some brewing under contract, so |I presume they'll work through those, but will they then sell off the equipment? |Lease it out? |It would have to be production only, since \visitors aren't allowed that far up except for special occasions.
  3. TheMattJones88

    TheMattJones88 Aspirant (202) Sep 12, 2009 Massachusetts

    That's a shame, but I'm honestly not shocked. I think once they started making an IPA the shark had been jumped and the writing was on the wall.
    KevSal, Sheppard, AlcahueteJ and 12 others like this.
  4. Trull

    Trull Disciple (380) Dec 24, 2016 Massachusetts

    That’s unfortunate, I’ve enjoyed the Spencer beers I’ve had, and was thinking about visiting the brewery during its annual open house this Summer.
    Herbabee, AlcahueteJ, Amendm and 5 others like this.
  5. Bierman9

    Bierman9 Poo-Bah (5,429) Dec 20, 2001 New Hampshire
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    They had actually already canceled the open house a couple of months ago.. really enjoyed the last one in 2019.... bummer....
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  6. JSullivan

    JSullivan Initiate (99) Aug 18, 2010 Massachusetts

    Sad to hear this...
  7. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,755) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    That is disappointing, perhaps someone else can pick up the reins.
    Shanex and puck1225 like this.
  8. Resistance88

    Resistance88 Disciple (385) Apr 9, 2015 California

    Fuck 2022

    I enjoyed their Imperial Stout!
  9. TomFoley

    TomFoley Aspirant (256) Mar 19, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Enjoyed those beers when they showed up down here in Pennsylvania
    Shanex likes this.
  10. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,097) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Prob needed to make Milkshake BSDA's to cater to today's crowd.
  11. PA-Michigander

    PA-Michigander Poo-Bah (1,780) Nov 10, 2013 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    I’ve got to imagine if there was a serious, or much, demand for an American Trappist brewery they’d have been much more successful. It is sad to see a brewery close but they’re not the first and won’t be the last.
  12. BruChef

    BruChef Initiate (182) Nov 8, 2009 New York

    At the time, I think there was-although it might’ve been closer to the tail end of America’s interest in Belgian beer. Then Tree House and Trillium showed up.

    Side note, I really enjoyed their pilsener recently.
  13. LarryV

    LarryV Poo-Bah (3,007) Jun 13, 2001 Massachusetts

    Sad to hear - I've enjoyed their beers and I live in the area, but I don't think they've ever been a big seller around here unfortunately. I have some Spencer Vienna in the fridge, I'll have to have one later as a toast to their legacy. I've enjoyed all of beers and will miss them.
  14. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (2,050) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Society Trader

    Sad to see. I'm not surprised. Why?
    1. Americans don't like Belgian beer
    2. Americans don't like Catholics
    Damian, Herbabee, AlcahueteJ and 6 others like this.
  15. champ103

    champ103 Poo-Bah (5,353) Sep 3, 2007 Texas

    Damn, their Trappist Ale and Monk's Reserve have been staples in my fridge since they showed up around here...:slight_frown:
    Herbabee and sjjn like this.
  16. REVZEB

    REVZEB Poo-Bah (11,290) Mar 28, 2013 Illinois

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  17. Resistance88

    Resistance88 Disciple (385) Apr 9, 2015 California


    This shit made me laugh
    Damian and Shanex like this.
  18. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (2,050) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Society Trader

    I'm dead serious though. Watch the news. Everything conservative is the Catholic Church's fault. Want to drink something other than a hazy beer or a pastry stout? Too fucking bad. This is America, gimme my latest trendy thing and don't tell me what to do!
  19. retention_

    retention_ Initiate (11) Jan 8, 2022 North Carolina

    I did notice that the stock of their beers was getting low at my local bottle shop but I figured they were just pulling out of the area. Sad to see them go. I am not the biggest fan of Trappist beers but their pilsner is really good. I'll have to grab any bottles left that I can find.
    Amendm and ChicagoJ like this.
  20. richOutsidePhilly

    richOutsidePhilly Initiate (30) Jan 27, 2021 Pennsylvania

    Shocked but not surprised, but still bummed out. Their Quad, which they confusingly called Monk's Ale, was on my rotation...when I could find it. And you didn't came across much else of theirs, even less so in the last few years. QED.
    Amendm and ChicagoJ like this.
  21. flat_lander

    flat_lander Savant (957) May 11, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    American who renounced their Catholicism a long time ago, and I like Belgian beer. Coincidence? Me thinks not.
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  22. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,755) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    Lots of imported Belgian beers are consumed in this Country every day. I would've been a regular Spencer customer if I could've gotten it.
  23. ScaryEd

    ScaryEd Poo-Bah (3,127) Feb 19, 2012 New Hampshire

    *Looks nervously at Allagash*

    Please no.
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  24. BruChef

    BruChef Initiate (182) Nov 8, 2009 New York

    Already happening with Ommegang and their huge promo push for their OMG “Neon” series of hazy ipas and now their granola stout. They flat out, publicly stated that there would be less emphasis on the Belgian brewing side of things because it’s just not lucrative anymore. I get it. Would rather them stay in business having to brew what the kids want in order to keep the lights on and still make some of the classic styles.
  25. Shanex

    Shanex Poo-Bah (1,779) Dec 10, 2015 France
    Society Trader

    Sorry to hear, I’ve had a few of their beers back in the day, not on the shelves but off some online shops and figured if they shipped to Europe they somehow had a demand and customers.

    The rest of you must be right, traditional Belgian style beers and when they’re produced by Americans can’t last. Sad.

    My prayers goes to them, Canadian Unibroue and Allagash.
    Herbabee, SABERG, AlcahueteJ and 6 others like this.
  26. SILVER

    SILVER Initiate (194) Jan 3, 2007 Florida

    Completely agree with this statement. Can't even find Hennepin around here where I live. Rosetta is available, but that's it for the old and not so old standards.
    Herbabee, ChicagoJ and Bitterbill like this.
  27. kp7

    kp7 Initiate (100) Feb 8, 2021 Massachusetts

    This really sucks. Another in a series of frustrations for me around what has become the U.S. beer market. I don't have a problem with people enjoying the various hazy, pastry, fruity, slushy drinks, I just don't want them to impact the availability of real beer. But as we've seen again and again, these drinks are pushing traditional styles to the sidelines and traditional brewers out of business. I experienced this personally a few years ago when a new brewery opened near me. Unfortunately, they were (and still are) a trend factory: making only hazy IPAs, pastry stouts, slush bombs, and fruited sours--and people went (and still go) absolutely nuts for it. I don't need my stout conditioned on the candy aisle, thanks very much. I didn't realize at the time the significance of these trends; Spencer closing drives home that this isn't just about the relative availability of certain styles, but about the very viability of craft brewing traditional styles in this country.

    Father Isaac said it well in this 2017 interview: "'We don't produce hop juice, we produce beer,' he said with a smile." Unfortunately, it seems that fewer people want beer these days. I'm a bit concerned for other mainly traditional style brewers that rely on regional or semi-national distribution. In New England, I'm thinking particularly of Allagash and Jack's Abby (though JA has Springdale as an outlet for trendy styles). Will we see them need to diversify (i.e., get away from their core, traditional styles) just to stay in business? Can they gracefully retain their size (or downsize) if the regional/national markets aren't there while they wait for the trends to cycle back to traditional styles? I think that local breweries with primarily tap room or pick up business models will be fine (e.g., in New England: Notch, Fox Farm, etc.) as long as they continue to focus on a local market.

    I hope there are still some 4 packs of quad and stout left at my local to have a few final toasts to Spencer. A truly sad day for American beer drinkers.
  28. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,467) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I have on many occasions in past threads expressed similar sentiments. When I 'complain' that there are just too many (insert trendy beer style names here) on my local beer retailers shelves the common response from other BAs is "well, don't drink/buy those beers if you don't want them". And I have to reply to those replies that the problem is that non-IPAs, non-Pastry Stouts, non-slushies, etc. beers are displaced to put so many brands of the same style on those limited space shelves.
    I agree that for breweries who serve a local niche (e.g., mostly taproom sales) will be OK in still producing 'traditional' beers.
    Yes, the distributed breweries are being impacted. To see this all you have to look at is Sierra Nevada which not that long ago had a diversity of products (e.g., Stout, Porter, Pilsner, etc.) but have decided to discontinue those 'traditional' brands and instead double-down (maybe triple-down is more appropriate) on producing hoppy beers (IPAs of various sorts). I used to be a regular customer of Sierra Nevada beers but they now no longer serve my consumer preferences so I now buy beer from other breweries.

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  29. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (2,050) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Society Trader

    Did these Belgian style breweries not see what happened at New Belgium? NB has been struggling for YEARS to move their Belgian inspired product and eventually jumped over to all hazy everything. Ommegang seems to be about 5 years late which tells me they have their heads somewhere else besides watching market trends in the industry. Allagsh and Unibroue should probably be retooling things as well. There's no brand loyalty anymore, people are constantly looking for new, bigger, better.
  30. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (6,164) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    Allagash has always had other stuff though - the wild ales (which I have seen far more of on shelves recently than I ever remember seeing), and they have more recently had some more "up to date" like Truepenny their pilsner they released in 16 oz cans.
  31. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,467) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    My understanding is that Allagash White represents the vast majority of beer sales for Allagash. Below is from a 2017 article (with emphasis in bold by me):

    “The current craft brewing craze is fueled by IPAs and flash-in-the-pan trends. But for 22 years, Allagash White, a Belgian White beer, has been defining a segment of the industry and proving that there’s more to American beer than hops and high alcohol. The first beer produced at Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine in 1995, Allagash White remains the brewery’s top seller, accounting for around 80 percent of the beer the brewery makes.”

    Anecdotally I can report that Allagash White is still a popular selling beer in my area.

    Has the amount (e.g., barrels per year) of Allagash White diminished in recent years?

  32. Giantspace

    Giantspace Savant (954) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I love Belgian beers. I went to Belgium on my honeymoon for the beers. I was pulled into “better” beer by Chimay, Corsendonk and a bunch of other dusty bottles at the old Circle Liquor, the gems that were sitting there. New Year’s Eve was always toasted with a Chimay white(my favorite Chimay). As time moved on the USA was making much better beer than it had. I met Carol Stoudt and my beer path drastically changed. I still loved Belgian styles, but those hops! My Belgian beer drinking continually went down and besides an Orval and Westmalle Tripel once or twice a year that’s now about it. The cost makes it so hard to put most Belgian beers in my basket.
    Never had a Spencer as the cost just seemed to high for a beer I never had before.

    Given the money I would drink many more Belgian styles. I guess for me at this stage BEER is something I really enjoy, I do enjoy a High Life just as much as other beers so right now price is really driving me in this economy and future uncertainties. I do feel bad when I toss a case of High Life on my cart at $18 while walking by the $18-24 four pack of Chimay or Duvel or buying a case of 60 minute on same for $32 but not grabbing a few $14 bottles of Westmalle.

    I do wonder outside of this site how many people are just drinking what they hear about and know about and many younger drinkers just might not know Belgians or want to pay the entry fee to try them and thus they just fade away.

    Not sure I made much sense but I know what I was trying to say.

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  33. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,467) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I was going 'back & forth' about posting on the topic of price but your post settled my internal argument.

    I purchased a Spencer Trappist Ale once (a four-pack I believe) and while I thought those beers were good I never bought them again because of the high price.

    I am an atypical beer consumer when it comes to Trappist/Abbey beers since I homebrew my own (e.g., a Dubbel a month+ ago, my version of Orval two days ago) so it is an easy decision for me not to buy these beers. Paying "$18-24 four pack" is just not something I am willing to do (well, partly because I don't have to). I did purchase a single bottle of Orval (about 6 bucks I think) recently for the purpose of conducting a side-by-side tasting with my homebrewed version (which I made last year). It will be interesting to see how that goes.

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  34. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,755) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    Thanks for mentioning Unibroue, that was my introduction to Belgian style beers about 20 years ago and I haven't looked back.
  35. Amendm

    Amendm Meyvn (1,067) Jun 7, 2018 Florida

    Very disappointed about the closing of the only Trappist brewery in the USA.

    I am also disappointed that I never toured the place as I lived less than an hour away for most of my life.

    I wish I had gone to Spencer instead of Tree House, nothing against Tree House, both breweries were equally close.
  36. AlfromPA

    AlfromPA Initiate (47) Dec 9, 2021 Pennsylvania

    I agree--the price of the Spencer beer was absurd, given that it was brewed in the US. They were pricing it as if it were Belgian. I finally bought the light ale--it was excellent. I chalked up the price premium to my contribution to a religious organization... But obviously not a regular choice. I didn't care for their "Quad."

    btw I've never understood why Belgian beer is so expensive in this country. The markup is way more than it is for quality German beers (eg, Weihenstephaner). In France you can get a bottle of Trappist ale for 2 or 3 Euros at the supermarket. I can't see why it's way more than twice that here. Pricewise, when you get into nice quality wine territory, most consumers will go for the wine.
  37. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,755) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    I understand what you're saying and I agree.

    True story, some years ago my niece spent a few weeks with us during the holiday season and she and I made a beer run to our well stocked local grocery store. She asked me, "Do they have Shiner Christmas Cheer?' I said yes and she replied, "Great, Shiner Christmas Cheer is my favorite IPA".
  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,467) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Not to sound cynical here but the reason for the high pricing of Belgian Trappist/Abbey style beers is fairly simple: they do it because they can. I suspect that the US importers are the main beneficiaries of the 'extra' profit here.

    Same reason that craft breweries are charging $18+ for a four-pack of hoppy beer.

    I personally refuse to pay the above high prices but based upon what I am seeing at my local beer retailers I am a minority craft beer consumer here.

  39. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,779) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    Been said a million times, but most Belgian beers aren't selling well right now. Rare lambics (and similar "rustic" beers) are the exceptions of course. I think there's still room for a few places to specialize in those styles, but you have to be cheaper than the imports.

    With Spencer, I feel that their traditionally inspired beers were quite good. I don't think they were at the level of the big names like Chimay, Westmalle, etc. BUT their abbey-style beers were on par with the everyday examples from Grimbergen, Corsendonk, and such. Their other beers...not so much. Some were pretty bad and even the best ones were only average.

    I'm still hopeful we'll see a revival of Belgian abbey-style ales at some point. When I first joined BA, pilsner was like a bad word and "I don't like fruit beer" was a VERY common opinion. With some time, maybe things will come full circle? That won't help Spencer, but hopefully it'll keep some other breweries afloat.
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