Friday, April 02, 2010

Punk'd: An unholy CORRECTION

Yesterday, I published a story about the first and only Trappist brewery in the United States, in Stuttgart, Arkansas. That would be a wonderful thing ... except that the story was NOT TRUE. Yesterday was April Fools Day.

For verisimilitude, and with permission, I pretended to have 'broken' this news. Now, a day later, the truth should be told.

The Catholic monks of the Trappist/Cistercian order DO INDEED operate breweries on the grounds of six of their abbeys in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. But they do NOT operate a brewing abbey here in the United States.

I was not the original perpetrator of this April Fools' prank. Here is the real story of this nearly 20 year old hoax, from the real author.

Jim Dorsch originally broke the "news" of a new Trappist brewpub in Southwest Brewing News in the early 1990s. That story caused a Canadian tourist to spend a good part of a day fruitlessly searching Stuttgart, Ark.

The story was revived a few years later in American Brewer, by which time the brewpub had 'relocated' to Kokomo, Ind. The article elicited a letter from a lawyer working for the Trappists, resulting in the magazine's running a retraction and clarifying that there was in fact no such brewpub.

At this point the story took on a life of its own, as it became the pretext of a practical joke (which the author had nothing to do with) played on the Beer Hunter himself. As the author understands it, Michael Jackson [the late great British beer writer] had called the brewpub's toll-free number (don't even ask) and arranged to meet with the brother in charge of the brewpub. He found himself in a less than ideal situation when a taxi discharged him outside a Chicago bar that was definitely not the type of establishment that a good Trappist brother would frequent.

Jim Dorsch is a beer writer, a past editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, and the current editor of American Brewer Magazine. He graciously gave me permission to re-print the piece (and, as part of the prank, to wait a day to reveal his identity). I updated it only slightly (Texas Stadium to Cowboys Stadium), changed Brother Bernard to Brother James (in Jim's honor), and added the bit on Extreme Unction.

I began yesterday's blog with mention of the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia. That part of the story is, in fact, true. The monastery offers solitude, and the monks make bread, jams, and other comestibles. But the good brothers there do NOT brew beer. As the proverb goes: in Heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here.

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