Spencer Brewery - Spencer Festive Lager
- ABV: 7.5%
- Int’l Bittering Units (IBUs): 36
- Serving Temperature: 45-50° F
- Suggested Glassware: Flute, Pilsner, Stange
- Malts: Perle, Willamette
- Hops: 2-Row Pilsner, Smoked, Vienna, Carapils
Pouring a deep amber, approaching brown, and topped with plenty of foam, Festive Lager offers up a complex and inviting aroma profile. Look for mild to moderate caramel undertones, with fruity notes reminiscent of apples and stone fruits. Hops offer a lightly floral note with a touch of almost woody earthiness. Flavorwise, there's a core of rich caramelization and those aforementioned fruity notes. Interestingly, smoked malt is used during production, and the result is a subtle but intriguing thread of char. We got a bit of a caramel apple impression, but overall the brew is not sweet; moderate hop bitterness keeps it dry, and the alcohol, while not particularly noticeable per se, manages to augment the dryness as well as the fruit and hoppy spice notes. Well-balanced, smooth, and on the full side of medium-bodied, this brew is stylistically rather unique. There are elements reminiscent of märzen (Oktoberfest-style beer) and Vienna lager, but it's richer and higher in ABV, leading to more of a bock or even mild doppelbock character. Regardless, we found it a delicious lager, and one that would pair well with grilled German or smoked sausages or pork dishes – possibly accompanied by an apple-based sauce to play off the beer's fruity notes. Prost!
For many of us lovers of craft beer, our first foray into the world of Belgium's amazing ales came after stumbling across one of the famous Belgian Trappist monastery beers produced by Chimay, Westmalle, Orval, Rochefort, Achel, or, less likely due to its virtual absence on these shores, Westvleteren. However, not all of the Trappist breweries are located in Belgium, and several new Trappist breweries have opened around the world in recent years. There are now twelve certified Trappist breweries, all of which are located in Europe with the exception of this month's featured brewery, Spencer, which opened in 2013.
So what is a "Trappist" anyway? "Trappist" is the common term for the monasteries of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, of which there are a total of twenty in the world. The monks live according to the Rule of St. Benedict, which dates to the 6th century and emphasizes both prayer and work. As such, for over six decades the Trappist brothers of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, MA have produced jams & jellies for sale to the public to support the monastery as well as their charitable assistance to the disadvantaged. Several years ago, one of the monks took an interest in brewing and trained at a local brewery. Inspired by him, more monks began to share his interest in brewing – a tradition among monastic communities dating back to the Middle Ages. For two years they gathered info and took multiple trips to visit existing Trappist breweries; starting with Westmalle and finishing at Sint Sixtus (Westvleteren), the brothers toured around Belgium learning all they could from their fellow monks, the producers of some of the greatest beers in the world.
Upon completion of their travels and learning, the monks of St. Joseph's voted overwhelmingly to launch their own Trappist brewery – America's first! Following Trappist tradition, they named their brewery after the abbey's home of Spencer, MA. In addition to traditional abbey-style beers, the monks also produce styles not typically associated with Trappist breweries, including IPA, Imperial Stout, Pilsner, and the darker "Festive Lager". For more info, visit them at spencerbrewery.com and www.spencerabbey.org.
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