I was really glad when I heard that Spencer Brewing, the only Trappist brewery in the US, ditched their plan to brew only one beer style and started branching out. I really enjoyed their Holiday Ale and looked forward to trying some of their new releases. I was a hoping that they would focus on traditional abbey styles, there aren’t enough quality dubbels, tripels and quads brewed locally and I would like to see our local trappist brewery’s take on these beers. Unfortunately they went in a different direction, you can now find Spencer Imperial Stout, IPA and new this fall Festive Lager, their take on an Oktoberfest. I understand that any brewery has to make beers that will sell and that these styles are all popular, but I also believe that good beer will make it’s own market and well done versions of abbey ales would have a solid niche. Still, I feel the need to give these new beers a shot, and I’ve been on a marzen kick, so I grabbed some of the Festive Lager. Spencer Festive Lager is available on draft and in 12 oz bottles this fall.
Spencer Festive Lager pours a deep amber with a minimal white head. The scent is mild, mostly caramel malts. The flavor is malt forward, notes of toffee, roasted nuts and bread dough. This is balanced by noticeable hops, hints of herbs, grass and spice along with a little bitter bite. Festive Lager has a medium body and drinks smooth, but packs some punch at 7.5% ABV. It has the clean finish you expect from a lager with a touch of lingering malt sweetness. While I still wish that the brewery had taken a slightly different direction, this is a solid beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Spencer Reviews:
Spencer Holiday Ale, Spencer Trappist Ale
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.
Previous Spencer Reviews:
Spencer Trappist Ale
Some of the most interesting and popular styles of beer in the world were originally developed by monks living in monasteries in Western Europe. The most famous brewers amongst these monks were the Trappist order, and making beer soon became a major source of income for the abbeys. Brewers the world over now make Dubbels, Tripels and other abbey style ales, but only a select few gain the Trappist label. Anything labeled as a certified Trappist beer must be brewed/supervised by monks, brewing must be of secondary importance within the monastery, and the beers must not be brewed for profit, any income generated beyond the needs of the monastery must be donated to charity. There are currently ten Trappist breweries in the world, and now one is in the US. Spencer brewery was started at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA in 2013. They currently produce a single beer, Spencer Trappist Ale, a Belgian style blonde ale. Spencer Trappist Ale is sold on draft and in 11.2 oz. bottles.
Spencer Trappist Ale pours a deep orange, slightly hazy with a moderate off-white head. The smell is all Belgian yeast, significant fruit with a little spice. The taste also starts with the yeast, notes of pepper, green apple, and coriander along with a little pear, pineapple and bubblegum. There is a solid malt backbone to complement the expressive yeast character, touches of toasted bread and crackers. While the yeast and malts are the predominant flavors you also get just a hint of hops that contribute to a crisp finish on the tongue. Spencer Trappist Ale is easy to drink, with a little bit of a spicy finish that keeps you coming back. At 6.5% ABV this is a full strength beer without going overboard. I am ready to call the first American Trappist beer a success, I am hoping they eventually branch out to other Abbey inspired styles. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.