If you love a well-crafted beer, you need to thank a monk. There is a long, historical connection between monasteries and finely crafted beer. Starting all the way back in the sixth century, Benedict of Nursa created a formula for monastic life that we know today as The Rule of Saint Benedict. In the rule, Benedict required monks to earn their own living through craftsmanship. While some monasteries took up gardening, bee keeping and cheese making, some monks made their living brewing beer.
Today, monasteries are credited with the creation of some of the most loved beers on today’s market. The most famous of these monasteries are the Trappist breweries. St. Sixtus Abbey in Belgium is said to make the best beer in the entire world. But alas, most of these famous brews can only be found in Europe. If you call the United States home, getting your hands on one of these coveted brews can be quite an ordeal.
Whether you have a brand new craving for monastic brews or have been a patron of the holy hops for years, finding a good beer brewed by monks can be a tough task. That’s where this list comes in. This non-comprehensive list is a good place to start. Hopefully it will spark your interest (and thirst!) in all of the varieties of beers available. Here are four beers every Catholic should try at least once in their lifetime:
Monks’ Ale: Abiquiu, New Mexico, 5.2% ABV
Abbey Brewing Company can be found on the grounds of the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert. The monks that live in the Abiquiu, New Mexico, carry on a 1300 year tradition of creating craft beer. Their brews are created with “care and prayer”.
Patersbier, “Father’s beer”, used to be a beer brewed at the monastery exclusively for the monks and their guests. But today, patersbier is the result of the monastery’s basic recipe for beer. At the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert, their patersbier is the Monk’s Ale. It’s described as “a session-ale characterized by its malt-hop balance, smooth drinkability and crisp finish.”
Spencer Trappist Ale: Spencer, Massachusetts, 6.2% ABV
American Trappist beer fans rejoiced when the St. Joseph’s Abbey became one of the only ten official Trappist breweries here in the entire world back in 2013. The monastery is the first and only brewery to be named official outside of Europe.
Another patersbier selection, the Spencer Trappist Ale is a “full-bodied, golden-hued ale with fruity accents, a dry finish and light hop bitterness.” The ale is unfiltered and unpasteurized, which means that live yeast preserves and carbonates the beer continuously. You’ll only find four ingredients in the ale – water (from the glacial wells on the abbey’s property), hops (grown in Yakima Valley), barley (from the monks’ own fields), and yeast.
St. Anthony Quad: Cincinnati, Ohio, 10.1% ABV
The St. Anthony Quad beer is a Belgian style quad made with yeast collected on the grounds of the National Shrine of St. Anthony. It’s brewed at Urban Artifact, a craft brewery that is built in historic Saint Patrick’s Church in Northside Cincinnati, Ohio. The brewery is found in the old church gymnasium building behind the church.
Brother Carl, the guardian of the Saint Anthony shrine, wrote a prayer of blessing specifically for those that drink the St. Anthony Quad beer. It reads:
“Blessed are you, Lord God, who have showered all creatures with your blessings. Hear the prayers of these your servants: that whenever they drink this beer in the celebration of your goodness and care for us, your people, that striving always for what is holy and healthful, they may continually grow in charity and love. Amen.”
Original Whoopie Pie Chocolate Porter: Bucksport, Maine, 7% ABV
Dark, full and dense, this chocolate porter has hints of mocha, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and butter.
The Franciscan Brothers of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary can be found in Bucksport, Maine. In 2013, after converting a small hermitage into a brewery, they released their first batch of beer to the public. In addition to their rich chocolate porter, they also brew a brown ale called “Saint Francis Brown,” and a Belgian-style amber Traditional Monastery Ale. If you find yourself in the Bangor, Maine area, you may spot their “Good, Honest, Homebrew” creations at their bakery and other local shops.