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Why Massachusetts Monks Started Brewing Beer

It's pricey to run a monastery.

Spencer Brewery/Facebook

The monks at St. Joseph's Abbey, located in Massachusetts, started brewing beer to help make ends meet. According to Fusion, the Abbey, which is located in Spencer, is the first Trappist monk brewery outside of Europe. The monks decided to get into the beer business a couple of years ago when selling "jams, jellies, liturgical vestments, and tourist swag" wasn't enough to cover the costs of maintaining the monastery. So, they opened Spencer Brewery.

While the day-to-day costs for a monk are quite low — their food and clothing needs are basic — it is the cost of shelter and the healthcare as they all age, that require plenty of cash flow. Father Isaac Keeley, who is a spokesperson for the brewery, explains: "Imagine what health insurance costs for a family of four and multiply that out to 55 monks and add a really large monastery building to maintain and you get a sense of some of the expenses."

Fusion writes that Spencer Brewery produces around 36,600 bottles of beer right now and has an estimated revenue of $128,100. The brewery likely won't turn a profit for another decade, but Father Keeley says that they are trying to set the monastery up financially for the future.

Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

The Boston Globe notes that the brewery recently expanded its line of products. When it first launched, the monks only brewed one Belgian ale — something the monks themselves drink with Sunday dinner. After talking to retailers, Spencer Brewery is releasing its new Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale in November. And early next year, its Trappist Russian Imperial Stout will hit shelves.

While the monks at St. Joseph's Abbey make beer, religious figures have also inspired beers. When the Pope visited Philadelphia last month, nine local breweries created papal-themed beers with names like "You Only Pope Once" and "Pap-Ale."

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