Thursday, December 12, 2013

America's First Trappist Brewery Is Coming!

I know when you think Trappist beer you probably think about Belgium, but in reality Trappist beers can be brewed anywhere.  There are already Trappist breweries in the Netherlands and a relatively new one in Austria.  Before long, we'll be able to add the United States to the list! Now they won't be required to brew in the Belgian style, but it does seem like the upcoming Spencer Brewery at Saint Joseph's Abbey in Massachusetts is going to start out with a Belgian Golden ale.  I'll report back if I hear anything about specific dates and distribution, but my guess is that it's going to take some traveling or trading to get some in Louisiana.

Here's the link to the article on

We've fought for our right to remain silent, bear arms, and party, but the right to brew one of the super-elite, monastery-based Trappist ales has eluded Americans for centuries. All that's about to change, though, because of the heroic monks at Saint Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, who are gearing up to open the first Trappist brewery in the country.

In fact, the move will make America the fourth nation ever to have one of this specially recognized breweries. Currently, only eight exist -- six in Belgium, one in The Netherlands, and another in Austria -- due to the strict guidelines. A Trappist beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, so the brothers have to be members of The Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, and production has to be under the control of the monks. BUT the brewery has to be of secondary importance, and once they've covered their basic living and monastery maintenance fees, the monks have to give any extra profits to charity. And make delicious beer.

Saint Joseph's is all set to met those qualifications with their "Spencer Brewery", which has been in the works for a few years now. The monks secured zoning rights back in '11 and have been hard at work building an adjacent brewery and preparing their inaugural suds. According to Beer Street Journal, their first offering will be "a full-bodied, golden-hued Trappist ale with fruity accents, a dry finish, and light hop bitterness". It'll come in 11.2oz bottles, but the official release date is TBD for now. Which gives you plenty of time to assemble your mash-up of chanting Trappist monks with "America F**k Yeah!" for the occasion.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nine Beers Americans No Longer Drink

This morning I came across this article from "24/7 Wall St" about nine beers that Americans are no longer drinking, and it actually made me smile a little.  One of the first points in the article is that beer sales have fallen overall 2.3% from 2007 through the end of 2012.  This is no secret to anyone following the market trends (although beer sales were up in 2012 compared to 2011), but what they don't mention is that craft breweries have been on the rise through that same period.  

Craft breweries' production actually gained 15% by volume in 2012, so I think it's fair to say that craft beer in the USA is starting to at least make a dent in the big guys, as evidenced by the 9 beers on this list.  Source: Brewers Association.

To save you all some trouble, here they are:

9. Labatt Blue
8. Budweiser
7. Heineken Premium Light
6. Milwaukee's Best Light
5. Old Milwaukee
4. Miller Genuine Draft
3. Milwaukee's Best Premium
2. Budweiser Select
1. Michelob Light

Monday, December 2, 2013

Review: Parish 2013 Grand Reserve

Every now and then writing about beer has its perks... one of them came up recently when I was given a bottle of Parish Brewing's 2013 Grand Reserve in advance of the December 14th release date.  You can read all about the release party details in an earlier post... this one is about what you can expect when you get your hands on a bottle.  And you should definitely try to get your hands on a few.

It comes in a 750 ml bottle, with the same label as last year.  On the right side there's a little area where vintage and bottle number is handwritten, so you'll never forget the vintage of the bottles you might decide to cellar.  Just like last year they are topped off with some red wax, because have you ever had a bad beer that was dipped in wax?  Don't answer that... I'm sure you have, I'm sure I have... I just can't think of any right now.

The beer pours exactly how a big barleywine should... rich deep amber color with a large bubbly head.  It settles down pretty quickly to finish out the pour, then it's time to get the nose in there.  This beer is hoppy, hoppier than the 2012 release, but still has a massive rich malt backbone.  There are definitely caramel malt notes and I expect them to come through even more on the tongue.

Sure enough, the rich maltiness is even more present on the tongue but the hops are still powerful as well.  It's a far hoppier barleywine than the 2012 release on the tongue as well.  The alcohol content is present in the flavor but never overpowers the malt and hops. Each sip is packed with flavor and the flavors change as the beer warms up also, with the alcohol coming through a little stronger and the hops hitting a tad stronger than before.  

And the finish is ideal... a clean lingering blend of caramel and hop resin.  

I can't wait to grab a few more of these, I expect that they will only get better as they age!