St. Joseph’s Abbey, located in Spencer, Massachusetts, was founded in 1950. The monks that founded the abbey were forced to move from their previous home in Rhode Island after a fire.
In the tradition of Trappist monks, they started a business to support themselves. Within a few years of their arrival in Spencer, Trappist Preserves was born. The first batch of jelly was made in 1954 by one of the brothers on a stove, with herbs taken from their own garden. Today, the monks produce 30 flavors of jams and jellies.
In Europe, Trappists have maintained a long and respected tradition of brewing. In 2010, the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey began looking into founding their own brewery to continue this tradition. They embarked on a two-year fact-finding mission, visiting every other Trappist brewery in the world, meeting the brewers and sampling their beers. They came back with a plan: Build a modern, state-of-the-art facility, hire a skilled brewer, and make only one beer for the first five years. Following monastic traditions, the monks held a vote and overwhelming decided to build the first Trappist brewery in the United States. After many test batches, they had their first finished beer: a blonde ale called Spencer Trappist Ale, which they still brew.
In 2013, Spencer Brewery was recognized as the first (and so far only) Trappist brewery outside of Europe. While the brewery is normally not open to the public, it does open its doors once a year at an open house in June.
Know Before You Go
You don't have to wait until June to sip these brews. Use the brewery's store locator to see if there's a supplier near you.