"For then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands."

Brewery and Country of Origin: Spencer Brewery of 167 North Spencer Road, Spencer, MA 01562, USA

Date Reviewed: 4-09-14

By some estimates, over 20,000 breweries existed in The World at the end of 2013, yet only ten of them were officially recognized as Trappist breweries. As you should probably know, Trappist breweries are actually monasteries which brew their own beer in an effort to raise money to fund local charities and keep the monastery financially sound. Trappist breweries must follow an array of strict guidelines and regulations that are overseen by the International Trappist Association (ITA), much like the Reinheitsgebot purity laws in Germany. The ITA is a private trade association that closely monitors the following criteria necessary for a product to meet in order to be considered produced by a Trappist monastery:
  • The brewery can not make money on the proceeds from the sale of its beer. Instead, all profits must be donated to local charities.
  • The beer must be brewed by monks (or under monk supervision within the walls of an active monastery.
  • Brewing the beer is second to maintaining the monastic way of life.
  • The association was established in 1997 by eight original Trappist Abbeys, and restricts the use of the ITA Trappist logo to goods which are made under these criteria. Six of the original Abbeys were from Belgium, one from The Netherlands, and the other from Germany, though the German Abbey has since stopped producing ales. But in the last two years, three more Trappist Breweries have been established with one in Austria, another in The Netherlands, and most recently, one in America. That monastery, the St. Joseph's Abbey, is located in Spencer, Massachusetts outside of Worcester, and was founded in 1950. On December 10th of last year, the brewery received certification to use the ITA logo on its first mass produced beer, becoming the first Trappist Brewery in The US. And that first beer is this: The Spencer Trappist Ale. This is a blonde ale that is the direct result of an intense three year research period which included attending Belgian beer themed Boston area beer festivals, getting consulted by established brewers in Europe, and brewing and testing more than 20 different recipes. The Abbey was told by the European brewers to build a state of the art facility, hire an experienced brewing engineer, and brew only one offering for the first five years of production. And though the beer has only been out for a few months, it has already garnered a significant deal of praise from enthusiasts and critics alike.
    Date Sampled: 2-07-14 At: 7 Prescott Place, Allston, Boston, MA 02134, USA
    Beer Style: American Trappist Ale
    Alcohol by Volume: 6.50%
    Serving Type: 330 ml Bottle, 16 oz Stange Glass
    Rating: 4.04


    America's first Trappist ale pours fairly smoothly with a below average level of carbonation, producing a thin foam head with a medium density, a low retention, and a mostly white color. This beer has a light amber color with a bright glow in light and a moderately low amount of visible effervescent effect. This beer's hazy appearance is owed to the inclusion of a good amount of fine sediment with no settling. This beer displays a small amount of thin lacing.


    This beer's lower strength aroma features a good amount of pale, somewhat grainy malt with an array of yeast like flavors typical of Belgian styles. These include the trademark fruity banana and clove smells that are accompanied by some subtle yet zesty citrus like hops. The aroma is fairly sweet overall with no real alcohol tinge or metallic smell, and there are no nutty aromas either. Overall, the aroma serves as a good accompaniment to the beer's flavor.


    This is a medium light bodied brew with a crisp wispy feel and a good amount of refreshment offered. This beer has an average amount of carbonation, a lower than average density, and a matching viscosity, making it easy to drink in both cold and hot weather year round. This is a smooth beer overall with no texture from any fine sediment. Overall, this is a light, easy going beer with a dry finish which lingers for a short amount of time. This beer also cools slightly after the finish.


    A sweet beer overall, this ale offers a nice array of complex fruity and delicate floral notes you'd expect out of a traditional lighter Belgian ale. Yeasty banana and coriander notes with a bit of apricot are immediately present followed by a fair amount of grainy pale malt, and finishing with a light, fairly citrusy bitter hoppy note. This beer's flavor is much stronger than its aroma, but still not overpowering on any aspect. There is some lingering bitterness with the dry finish, and no alcohol or nutty notes.

    Our Take

    Although this is the first brewery in America to be a certified Trappist brewery, they did not rush to get their first beer out on the market. And the results show. This is an extremely well balanced, refreshing beer which offers a very complex flavor profile spanning pale malty notes as well as fruity secondaries and yeast influenced undertones, along with a subtle, yet satisfying aromatic experience. This is also a versatile beer which pairs well with an array of meats and cheeses, as well as going perfectly by itself. Unfortunately, this beer's relatively weak aroma was one of its major soft spots, as was its underwhelming finish. But overall, this is a full flavored beer which shouldn't disappoint anyone looking for a traditional Belgian style blonde ale with refreshing, crisp character. Overall, this beer is fairly easy going, and there is a lot to experience. Unfortunately, this also happens to be quite an expensive beer, with 4 11.2 fl oz bottle packages checking out around $16-17 each, making this more of a novelty, rather than a mainstay. Still, if you can swallow its relatively high price tag, we suggest you donate to the worthy cause.