By William T. Clew
SPENCER – The world’s first Trappist Pilsner beer, Feierabendbier, is being brewed by the Trappist monks in the brewery at St. Joseph’s Abbey.
Father Isaac Keeley, director of the state-of-the-art brewery on the Abbey grounds, said the new Pilsner won the approval of the International Trappist Association. The association meets four times a year to evaluate new types of beer and ale for taste and quality to decide whether they can win the Trappist label.
The Pilsner beer went on sale Monday in Massachusetts, according to a press release from the Abbey. It is “straw colored with a dense creamy white head,” the release said. It is brewed “from pure Pilsen malt, German noble hops and fermented with classic lager yeast. It is a remarkably clean, crisp refreshing liquid.”
Feierabendbier literally translates as the “celebration-after beer” but more commonly means the “after-work beer” or more poetically the “well-deserved beer,” according to the press release.
Father Keeley said that the hops are imported from Germany and the malt is grown in Wisconsin.
The new Pilsner Feierabendbier, pronounced “Fire-ah-bend-beer,” according to the release, is available in 12-ounce bottles and on draft at restaurants and pubs. The suggested price of a six-pack is $11.99.
The new Pilsner is one of four beers and ales that the Trappists here brew. The original, Spencer Trappist Ale, named after the Abbey, won the approval of the International Trappist Association in Belgium. It had to meet three rules for certification as a Trappist ale.
According to the Abbey’s website, in order to be certified as a Trappist product, the beer or ale must be produced in or near the monastery. The Trappist community must determine the policy and provide the means of production in accordance with business practices proper to a monastic way of life. Profits are primarily intended to provide for the needs of the monastic community and for outreach to disadvantaged communities, groups and individuals.
There are eight Trappist breweries in Europe certified to produce ale and beer that can carry the Trappist label. The Spencer brewery is the first and only such establishment in the United States.
When Spencer Trappist Ale first went on the market in 2014 it was sold in 11-ounce bottles in four-packs for $16.99 to $18.99. Initially it was well-received, earned good reviews and sold well.
But after a while, people felt the price was too high, Father Keeley said. Sales and marketing were handled by an outside company which lost interest in handling it, he said.
The Trappists bought back control of sales and marketing a year ago, he said, and have lowered the price to $12.99 to $13.99.
In addition to the new Pilsner, the Spencer Abbey also produces an India Pale Ale, or IPA, the sales of which “are going pretty well,” Father Keeley said. “It’s off to a good start in Massachusetts.”
And for the winter months of January and February, the Abbey brews a Trappist Imperial Stout, a stronger beer that is good to drink “on a cold winter night,” he said. That style of stout is called “Noel” in Belgium. But the Spencer brewery calls it a holiday beer.
“We’re looking for a bigger market,” Father Keeley said with a laugh.
After the original Spencer Trappist Ale was approved, it was made available to the monks at the Abbey for a Sunday supper drink with meals. Now, at various times, the other three beers are available.
And the monks are not shy about giving their opinions about the beers. One monk, a connoisseur of wines, tasted the new Pilsner and decided that it was “almost too good,” Father Keeley said.
With brewing capacity beyond what it now needs for its own products, the Spencer brewery also is brewing a product for the Wormtown Brewery in Worcester, Father Keeley said. He said it helps Wormtown meet its demand and gives the Trappist brewers experience in producing different kinds of beer.
“And it helps with the cash flow,” he said.