When Spencer Brewing officially became the first American Trappist brewery last year they had an interesting business plan. The initial plan included an aggressive scale of production and distribution for a single beer, their Spencer Trappist Ale. The reasoning for sticking to a single style was mostly tradition, many of the European Trappist breweries make a limited number of recipes that have been refined over decades. The problem with implementing this strategy as a new American brewery is that the current beer market thrives on novelty. Breweries need to keep producing new and interesting beers to stay relevant in the saturated and competitive marketplace. Spencer realized this when their sales for year two were weaker than anticipated, and they immediately worked on producing some new beers. The second beer produced by America’s first Trappist Brewery is Trappist Holiday Ale, a strong and dark Belgian Abbey ale brewed with added spices. I am not a huge fan of many winter warmer/Christmas ale styles, too many are so heavily spiced that the underlying beer gets lost. I was intrigued to try this hybrid that mixes some of the holiday spices with an expressive Belgian style ale yeast. Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale is available on draft and in 750 mL bottles this winter. I think it was only distributed in Massachusetts this year, correct me if anyone has seen it in another state.
Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale pours a deep brown with a massive off-white head. The scent is fruity and spicy, a combination of Belgian style ale yeast, malts and the adjunct spices. The yeast leads the flavor, notes of clove, apricot and peppercorn. The additional spices add complexity without overwhelming the beer, touches of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. The taste is rounded out by a rich malt backbone, hints of raisin, currant, date and toffee. The hops are minimal, just enough to dry out the finish and add some balance. Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale is a medium bodied sipper at 9.0% ABV, but drinks smooth with no alcohol in the flavor. The finish is dry with some lingering fruity esters and malt. I am not usually a huge fan of most winter warmer type spiced beers, but the subtle adjunct additions in this beer nicely complement the rich malt and expressive yeast. I am glad Spencer decided to produce more products and I look forward to seeing what they make next! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
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