Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Firkin Trio

Alternate caption: Beer Beard Trio

Firkin trio

The first ever Tap Into Virginia Cask Fest, featuring 13 firkins from 11 different Virginia breweries —a fundraiser for the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild— was held at the Capital Ale House, in Richmond, Virginia, on 21 April 2012.

In the photograph, left to right: ********************

Friday, April 27, 2012

3rd annual Spring Real Ale Fest: Baltimore, Md.

Chesapeake Spring Real Ale Fest

This Saturday's Spring Real Ale Festival —at the Pratt Street Ale House in downtown Baltimore, Maryland— is the baby brother of the long-running Chesapeake Real Ale Festival held in the fall. Even so, $40 entitles a festival-goer to a plethora of cask ales. The count stands now at twenty-two, although organizer Steve Jones —brewer for host Oliver Ales— predicts more.

Some new and special additions to the roster include:
  • Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin
  • Heavy Seas Plank II, with added Yellow Poplar & Eucalyptus and dry hopped with Liberty.
  • Weyerbacher Blanche
  • Williams Brothers Brewery Scottish Heavy
  • From host Oliver Ales, on hand-pulled beer engine:
    • Ape Must Never Kill Ape: Belgian inspired dark ale, 3.3%, with vanilla beans
    • Jacob's Winter Celebration, aged 4 months in oak barrel over juniper berries
    • James Brown Ale, aged over red oak.
  • Full list of all casks: here.
Strongman 'real ale' Pale Ale (01)

So, for admittance from 1-6pm, one receives: "all the great cask ale" one can drink, a souvenir mug to bring home, live music from Table Top Poets, grilled and raw oysters, pit beef sandwiches on the patio. At festival's end, growlers can be filled for $5.

For an additional $20, one becomes a 'VIP,' gains early admittance —an hour earlier, at 12 noon— and samples from three additional casks:
The Firkin Waits 02

UPDATE: Photos from the fest: here.

The 3rd annual Spring Real Ale Festival
Saturday, 28 April 1-6pm.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: An osprey and its lunch, at Dyke Marsh

An osprey snags its lunch, at Dyke Marsh, along the George Washington Parkway, in Alexandria, Virginia.

Osprey at Dyke Marsh (01)

Photo taken by Albert C. Cizauskas, Jr., on 2 April 2012, using a Canon EOS 40D.

Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Top 50 brewery analysis

The beer blogs Beervana and Brookston Beer Bulletin have analyzed the rankings of the top 50 US breweries, as just compiled by the Brewers Association.

Jeff Alworth notes:

The difference separating the first and second breweries is larger than the difference separating #2 and #50 (on both craft and non-craft lists). <...> Put another way, the difference between 41 and 42 is on the order of a few thousand barrels; the difference between 1 and 2 is hundreds of thousands.

Jay Brooks looks at the overall top 50 and notes movement up or down. For example, both Sierra Nevada and New Belgium dropped a spot to #6 and #7, respectively. They were bumped by the rise of North American Breweries to #5. Aren't familiar with them? They're comprised of Dundee, Genesee, Labatt Lime, Magic Hat, and Pyramid. Goose Island fell to 48th from 18th, after selling its production brewery to Anheuser-Busch InBev.

#1 is Anheuser-Busch InBev, followed by Miller/Coors, Pabst (which actually does not own or operate a single brewing facility), Yuengling, and Boston Beer.

Local to me, Flying Dog, of Frederick, Maryland, rose two positions to #48. (Among 'craft' breweries, it sits at 26th.) No Virginia or Washington, D.C. breweries made the list.

  • A US barrel is 31 gallons, the equivalent of 13.7 cases of 24 12-ounce beers.
  • YFGF's look at Top 50 US 'craft' breweries: here.
  • The Brewers Association releases the actual sales volume numbers in May during its Craft Brewers Conference. Go to the BA website for more information.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Top 50 U.S. 'Craft' Breweries

The Brewers Association (BA) —the not-for-profit trade group that tabulates production statistics for U.S. breweries— has released its annual list of the top 50 'craft breweries' and the top 50 overall brewing companies. The rankings are based on 2011 beer sales volume.

Of the top 50 overall brewing companies, thirty-six are 'craft breweries,' which the BA defines as:

Small, independent, and traditional.

Small: Annual production of beer less than 6 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition.

Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.

Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewer's brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

This is a fungible, and somewhat capricious definition, which the BA has changed a couple of times just in the past dozen years.

One local brewery (local to this blogger is Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) continues its presence in the Top 50: Flying Dog, of Frederick, Maryland, at the 26th spot, and 38th largest brewery overall. In 2010, the brewery produced 60,827 barrels.

The second largest production brewery in Maryland, Heavy Seas, of Baltimore, increased its 2011 volume 50% above that of 2010 to approximately 30,000 barrels. Even so, it failed to crack the Top 50 of craft breweries. There are no Virginia or Washington, D.C. breweries in the top 50.

The BA releases the actual sales volume numbers in May during its Craft Brewers Conference. This year the conference is in San Diego. Next year, it's here in Washington, D.C.

Rankings first; analysis later!

1. Boston Beer Company
Boston, Massachusetts.

2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
Chico California.

3. New Belgium Brewing Company
Fort Collins, Colorado.

4. The Gambrinus Company
San Antonio, Texas.

5. Deschutes Brewery
Bend, Oregon.

6. Matt Brewing Company
Utica, New York.

7. Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Galesburg, Michigan.

8. Harpoon Brewery
Boston, Massachusetts.

9. Lagunitas Brewing Company
Petaluma, California.

10. Boulevard Brewing Company
Kansas City, Missouri.

11. Stone Brewing Company
Escondido, California.

12. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Milton, Delaware.

13. Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn, New York.

14. Alaskan Brewing & Bottling Company
Juneau, Alaska.

15. Long Trail Brewing Company
Burlington, Vermont.

16. Shipyard Brewing Company
Portland, Maine.

17. Abita Brewing Company
Abita Springs, Louisiana.

18. Great Lakes Brewing Company
Cleveland, Ohio.

19. New Glarus Brewing Company
New Glarus, Wisconsin.

20. Full Sail Brewing Company
Hood River, Oregon.

21. Summit Brewing Company
St. Paul, Minnesota.

22. Anchor Brewing Company
San Francisco, California.

23. Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Paso Robles, California.

24. Sweetwater Brewing Company
Atlanta, Georgia.

25. Rogue Ales Brewery
Newport, Oregon.

26. Flying Dog Brewery
Frederick, Maryland.

27. Victory Brewing Company
Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

28. CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants
Chattanooga, Tennessee.

29. Oskar Blues Brewery
Longmont, Colorado.

30. Odell Brewing Company
Fort Collins, Colorado.

31. Stevens Point Brewery Company
Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

32. Ninkasi Brewing Company
Eugene, Oregon.

33. BJ's Chicago Pizza & Brewery, Inc.
Huntington Beach, California.

34. Blue Point Brewing Company
Patchogue, New York.

35. Bear Republic Brewing Company
Cloverdale, California.

36. Lost Coast Brewery Cafe
Eureka, California.

37. Big Sky Brewing Company
Missoula, Montana.

38. North Coast Brewing Company Inc.
Fort Bragg, California.

39. Saint Louis Brewery, Inc./Schlafly Bottleworks
St. Louis, Missouri.

40. Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
San Jose, California.

41. Breckenridge Brewery
Denver, Colorado.

42. Founders Brewing Company
Grand Rapids, Michigan.

43. Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Houston, Texas.

44. Karl Strauss Brewing Company
San Diego, California.

45. Real Ale Brewing Company
Blanco, Texas.

46. Mac and Jack's Brewery Inc.
Redmond, Washington.

47. Smuttynose Brewing Company
Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

48. Utah Brewers Cooperative
Salt Lake City, Utah.

49. Left Hand Brewing Company
Longmont, Colorado.

50. (tie) Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Boonville, California.

50. (tie) Four Peaks Brewing Company
Tempe, Arizona.

The BA simultaneously announces the list of the Top 50 overall brewing companies in the U.S. craft or otherwise, again, by sales volume (and without the actual numbers). In that ranking, Yuengling and Boston Beer (maker of Sam Adams) come in 4th and 5th. (The BA does not acknowledge Yuengling —the oldest continuously operated, American-owned brewery in the U.S., and still family-owned— as a craft brewery.) Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are 6th and 7th. Overall No.1 is Belgian-owned Anheuser-Busch InBev.


  • A US barrel is 31 gallons, the equivalent of 13.7 cases of 24 12-ounce beers.
  • Go to the Brewers Association website for more information.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Opening Day - but where's the beer?

Section 400

This was the view from the 'nosebleed' seats, in section 400, above and to the right of home plate, on 12 April 2012, during the home opener for the Washington Nationals, the Major League baseball team in Washington, D.C.

It was a partly sunny, partly cloudy, spring day, chilled by a brisk wind. Things warmed up in extra innings, when, in the 10th, the team won in dramatic fashion on a steal home after a wild pitch for a 3-2 walk-off victory over the Cincinnati Reds. With that, the Nationals achieved their best opening week record since moving to D.C.: 5 wins to 2 losses.

Formed in 1969 as the Montreal Expos, the team moved to Washington, D.C. for the 2005 season and changed its name —ending a 33 year drought for baseball in the Nation's Capital. Nationals Park was opened three years later, in Southeast Washington, along the Anacostia River.

Where was the good beer?

From this good-beer fan's point of view, however, Opening Day was less than a victory. I could find NO good beer —no American-owned beer or local beer— on draft ANYWHERE in the ballpark except at the Red Porch lounge in centerfield. Even there, only one local brewery —Heavy Seas— was represented, with its Märzen on draft. [I missed this concession area* during my informal reconnoiter around the stadium. And, see the posted comments, below.]

The Red Porch was pouring Delaware-based Dogfish Head's Indian Brown on draft. The brewery's 60 Minute IPA had been on draft during early innings, but had sold out by the 6th. IPA, or India Pale Ale (a strong, hoppy ale, both aromatic and quenchingly dry) is arguably the most popular 'craft' beer style in the U.S. Yet, I could not find any other IPA on any concourse in the ballpark.

Where was the local pride?

Other than the Heavy Seas on draft at the Red Porch, I saw only a few stands with any local beer, and those were bottles from Flying Dog, another Maryland brewery. That was it for local breweries. To name but a few omissions, I saw no DC Brau or Chocolate City, production breweries in Washington, D.C., nor any Port City Brewing, a production brewery located a short boat ride across the Potomac River, from Alexandria, Virginia.

The fans who attend the games come from all three area jurisdictions (and a plurality are Virginians.) So, why not ONE concession stand —come on, now, just ONE stand— with an emphasis on local breweries (and other 'craft' breweries, and American-owned breweries)? Why shouldn't the team's owners, the Lerners, show local breweries their support? That's showing pride in local businesses. Or is it the local beer wholesaler who is limiting choice?

Yes, these local breweries are indeed small —Flying Dog and Heavy Seas, not so, at least by 'craft' beer standards —but allowances could be made for their limited production, such as a rotating combination of bottles, cans and draft from a collection of DC, Maryland, and Virginia breweries. It's not difficult; it's not asking much. It would require a bit of creative small-business reach-out. As for the bottom-line: such a concession stand would NOT be a money-losing proposition, but WOULD be a fan-enhancing experience.

The baseball season —161 games long— is still young, and many of the amenities at the park are excellent. So, it would only be fair to withhold judgment on Nationals Park's good-beer fitness, and hope for better local business sense from the Lerners and their concessionaire partners.

  • Other photos(many) from Opening Day, by blogger JDLand.
  • The Washington Post's Going Out Gurus published their choices for best food and drink in Nationals Park.
  • How to get to Nationals Park, by the Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock.
  • * I didn't see this concession area. From We Love DC: "Last season’s beer garden is getting an expansion, with two full sections of a brewhouse from Sam Adams, down the 3rd base line. Look behind sections 111 and 112 for a new set of tables, some drink rails and high def TVs."
  • UPDATE. Camden Yards —home to the Baltimore Orioles, 45 miles to the north— not only offered more local beer choices, they offered cask ale during Friday home games. More: here.
  • The slideshow was created using a freeware app: flickr slideshow.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

VeggieDagThursday: Roasted vegetables; quick links

Easter lunch

For Easter lunch: Roasted vegetables, over quinoa and wilted spinach, with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Sometimes, a simple meal can be the most satisfying.

A few quick links for VeggieDag Thursday:
  • Select & prepare mangoes via Washingtonian. And, a YouTube video.

  • How to make a veggie burger that doesn't fall apart. Via Joe Yonan of the Washington Post.

  • A George Mason University professor conducted a study (!) on how to find the best restaurants, as defined by food and value. Avoid 'happy' and 'hip' restaurants, and those downtown.

  • A recipe for vegan tzatziki sauce. Via Vegan Dad.

  • A vegetable butcher(!) discusses spring greens: how to clean, prep, cook, and store. Via Eating Well.

  • Shiitake mushrooms have magical powers —and not the kind you're thinking of. With recipes, via Washingtonian.

  • How to pair red wine and vegetarian entrees and tannic red wines. Look for vegetables with umami, low acidity, and fat. Via Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly.

  • Why do restaurants insist on including Parmesan cheese (made with animal rennet) in vegetarian recipes? Via The Guardian.

  • The difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet. Via Happy Herbivore.

VeggieDag Thursday
  • VeggieDag is an occasional Thursday post on vegetarian issues. Why the name? Here.
  • Prior VeggieDag Thursday posts: here. Follow on Twitter: #VeggieDag.
  • Suggestions and submissions from chefs and homecooks: welcomed!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


There are some times that 'real life' becomes just too hectic and blogging becomes a luxury. Gasp! For those times, the 140-character limit of Twitter can be liberating: Follow Yours For Good Fermentables on Twitter @Cizauskas.

Tapping a firkin (4)

Likewise (Sorry. I couldn't resist the pun),'like' Yours For Good Fermentables on Facebook and view accompanying photos on Flickr.

  • Need a speaker on beer, beer history, beer & food pairing (with an emphasis on cheese)?
  • Need staff training on beer?
  • Need guidance creating a wine & beer list for your restaurant?
  • Need consultation on cask service and installation?
  • Need consultation for your brewery start-up?
Contact me: here.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Cristo Redentor

From trumpeter Donald Byrd:
a glorious sound on this day of hope.

Linksmų Velykų!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Hefe Beer Truck

Hefe Beer Truck

I don't often drink hefe-weizen, but when I do, I prefer Schneider Weisse. Stay thirsty, my friends (but hold that damnable lemon).

Photo: A beer truck making deliveries in Arlington, Virginia.
30 March 2012


Friday, April 06, 2012

In Falls Church, a Kölsch convergence

With the anticipated opening of spacebar —a 24-tap good beer bar and cafe— the self-called 'Little City' of Falls Church, Virginia —a mere 2.2 square miles in area— seems unexpectedly poised to become a good beer mecca in northern Virginia, and by extension, the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

On the southeast edge of town — in Seven Corners— there is the Dogfish Head Alehouse; catty-corner across Route 7 is Public House No. 7, with a solid draft selection, English food, and occasional cask tappings.

In the heart of town, at the intersection of Broad Street (Rt. 7) and Washington Street (Lee Highway), there is Red, White, & Bleu, a small but very well-stocked beer shop (and wine and cheese); Argia's —its sister establishment on Washington Street— has a small but solid draft selection and an award-winning Italian-American menu.

Two blocks further northwest along Broad Street is Dogwood Tavern, with American-fare, a Virginia theme, and an American-micro draft menu. Just up the road, at 444 W. Broad, is Mad Fox Brewing Company, a nearly 10,000 square-foot restaurant and brewery. Owner/brewer Bill Madden is the doyen of area brewers; he began his Washington, D.C. career in 1996 at Capitol City Brewing. spacebar will open two blocks further northwest along Broad Street, just above the popular CD Cellar music shop.

spacebar ... under wraps

While we wait for that, Falls Church is playing informal host to a spring beer thing. Right now, during the month of April, it's a Kölsch convergence.

Four thousand miles distant, the nation of Germany is well-known for lagers. Kölsch, however, is one of the ale exceptions. (Another being hefe-weizen, wheat beer.) Kölsch is a warm-fermented ale that is cold-aged like a lager. Its grist is all-barley malt (with no corn or rice, such as in American mainstream lagers) but it may contain a small percentage of wheat malt. European hops —often called noble hops for their elegant character— provide a drying finish of about 30 International Bittering Units, or IBUs. (Budweiser, in comparison, finishes with fewer than 10 IBUs.) Kölsch is golden in hue, with about 4.5% alcohol-by-volume (abv). Flavor-wise, it has hints of floral hops, sprouted grain, and the fruitiness of ale yeast.

Seen through a Kölsch, brightly

True Kölsch beer is only found in Cologne (Köln) in the Nord-Rhein-Westphalian state of Germany, where it is one of the few protected beer appellations (similar to how sparkling wine should only be labeled Champagne if it is made according to specified procedures and made only in Champagne, France).

Many breweries outside of Cologne pay homage (or flatter with imitation) by making similar Kölsch-style ales. During April, here in Falls Church, Virginia, four thousand miles from Cologne, a dedicated Kölsch-hound could find three pubs, within four blocks of each other, all pouring draft Kölsch.

Course #1: Kolsch

Mad Fox Brewing won a gold medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival for its unfiltered Kölsch, called Kellerbier. It's a staple at the brewpub, which serves it year-round alongside the filtered version.

Karnival Kosch at Argia's (03)

On draft at Argia's, it's Karnival Kölsch, a seasonal beer from Stoudt's Brewing of Adamstown, Pennsylvania. And, at Dogwood Tavern, it's Gaffel Kölsch, imported from the source, from Cologne, Germany.

The flavors of Kölsch are subtle: a drinker needs to take the time to contemplate them. Hopheads and big alcohol seekers may be too impatient for the style. And, that leaves more for us who are not. Kölsch is a delightful outdoor sipper. All three pubs have outdoor patios. A Falls Church Kölsch pub crawl anyone?

  • In German, one would pronounce Kölsch as curl-sh (withouth the 'r'). In the U.S., saying coal-sh would be okay. I culled details on the Kölsch style from the book Kölsch, written by Eric Warner (former brewer/prsident of Maryland brewery Flying Dog).
  • Lary Hoffman —proprietor of spacebar (and Galaxy Hut in Clarendon, Virginia)— has not announced an opening date, but says to expect it soon.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Stoudt's and Gaffel.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 12/13, 2012

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 12/13
18 March- 31 March 2012

  • 2012.03.31
    Ten Virginia breweries to participate in 1st ever Tap into Virginia Cask Fest, 21 April, in Richmond, Virginia. Organized by Virginia craft Brewers Guild.

  • 2012.03.30
    Potentially, a big problem. MasterCard and Visa look into possible data breach. Via New York Times.

  • 2012.03.30
    One of the winning tickets for the Mega Millions lottery was sold in Baltimore County, Maryland. The $640 million jackpot was the largest ever in the U.S. Via ABC.

    The Chesapeake SPRING Real Ale Festival 2012
  • 2012.03.30
    Tickets for the Chesapeake Spring Real Ale Fest, at the Pratt Street Alehouse in Baltimore, Maryland, 28 April, are now on sale. Follow on Twitter: @prattstalefest.

  • 2012.03.30
    Earth Hour: Saturday, 31 March, at 8:30PM EDT. Observed by many, worldwide, by turning off lights for one hour.

  • 2012.03.30
    Charlie Papazian, National Beer Examiner, announces BeerCity USA 2012 balloting to begin soon.

  • 2012.03.29
    The great Earl Scruggs —bluegrass banjo innovator— has died at age 88. Via Yahoo.

  • 2012.03.27
    Birthday in Beer. Michael Jackson, prolific English beer writer —who first proposed the existence of beer styles— would have been 70 years old today. Via YFGF.

    Bruichladdich 1989 (02)
  • 2012.03.27
    The 27th of April is World Whisky Day.

  • 2012.03.25
    After 50 years, a brewery again to package its beer in a flat-top steel can. Churchkey Pilsner, via BeerPulse.

  • 2012.03.25
    Ask your local brewery, brewpub, and bar to support Session Beer Day, on April 7th. Via Lew Bryson.

  • 2012.03.25
    How the word 'jazz" may have had its first use in baseball, 100 years ago this year. Via Boston Globe.

  • 2012.03.21
    Virginia legislature declares August to be Virginia Craft Beer Month. Virginia Craft Brewers Guild announces the 1st Virginia Craft Beer Fest for 18 August. Via Active Woman Traveler.

  • 2012.03.21
    1982 may have been the greatest Bordeaux vintage of the 20th century, AND a dividing line between old and modern methods. Via Eric Asimov of the New York Times.

  • 2012.03.21
    Major League pitcher Chris Ray, of the Cleveland Indians, to open a brewery in Ashland, Virginia. Via Hanover Herald Progress.

  • 2012.03.20
    Company in Scotland develops method to converts waste from whisky distillation into biobutanol fuel. Via Mother Jones.

  • 2012.03.19
    After 244 years, Encyclopaedia Britannica ceases bound publication; becomes solely digital. Via Notions Capital.

  • 2012.03.18
    President Obama celebrated St. Patrick's Day, in Washington, D.C., drinking a pint of Guinness with a distant Irish relative. Via WAMU.

  • Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories  not posted at Yours For Good Most deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from
  • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Brewing Monks of New Mexico

It's April 1st: have you been punk'd?

In 2010, while under the spell of a pranky spirit, I re-printed a hoax about a faux Trappist brewery monastery operating in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Jim Dorsch, a Northern Virginia beer writer, was the original creator of this tomfoolery, perpetrating it in the mid 1990s.

Then, it fooled many. My re-do fooled some.

But —and this is not an April Fools' prank— now, in 2012, there is indeed a brewing monastery in the United States.

Here's the true story of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, a Roman Catholic Benedictine order in New Mexico, and the only brewery monastery in the U.S.

And, that's NOT bearing false witness.

The Monastery of Christ in the Desert
America's Monastery Brewery

© Steve Frank & Arnold Meltzer

There is only one brewing monastery in the United States, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, which sits in an extremely remote canyon in northern New Mexico. The Monastery, a Benedictine order with about 40 brothers, lies 13 miles up a dirt Forest Service road, on an almost 300 acre monastic setting in the Chama Federal Wilderness Area that is perfect for solitude and quiet. Far removed from civilization and power lines, electric power for the adobe and straw buildings is obtained from the largest privately owned photovoltaic array in New Mexico.

The monks, aged from their 20s to their 90s, come from five continents. Gregorian chants sung by the monks resonate through the monastery and across the canyon. The chants have been captured by Sony, with a CD scheduled for release on February 28, 2012 April 24th. Unlike many similar communities, there is a waiting list to join this vibrant community. The number of rooms in the monastery is the limiting factor on the number of monks that can stay there.

The motto of the Benedictine order is "ora et labora", a Latin phrase that translates to "prayer and work". In the Sixth Century, St. Benedict decreed that every monastery be self sufficient. Brother Leisy, the Monastery’s cellarer and business manager, says "We don’t receive a paycheck from the Vatican. We’re completely on our own, sink or swim." Following the Rule of Saint Benedict, the focus of the work is "to bring everything to perfection for the glory of God". Keeping prayer and work in balance, the brothers make beer, candles, soap, lotions, religious wood carvings, weavings, and pottery. All are used to support the monastery and its charitable works. Several Benedictine monasteries in Germany also brew beer, including Andechs, Weltenberg, and Ettal.

The Monastery, founded in 1964, started brewing in 2005 in partnership with the Benedictine Abbey, Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Pecos, NM, but have since acquired Our Lady of Guadalupe’s share. Brad Kraus, a professional brewer for Sierra Blanca Brewing in Moriarty, helps the Monastery develop the recipes and remains the head brewer. Most beer is brewed and packaged at Sierra Blanca under a special agreement with the Monastery. Several brewers-in-training brothers venture to the Sierra Blanca Brewery, two or three times each month, to help with the brewing and bottling, using ingredients supplied by the Monastery and equipment owned by the Monastery.

Abbey Beverage Company, a for-profit business, of which the Monastery owns 84 percent, was created to preserve both the Monastery’s not-for-profit status and to insure that all taxes are paid by the brewery. It is under the Abbey Beverage name that the Monastery’s beers are brewed. Abbey Beverage is operated by General Manager Berkeley Merchant, an oblate (lay member) of the monastic community. Brother Christian Leisy has the final word about the beers and the marketing of the beers.

A dedicated brewery building on the Monastery grounds, with a half-barrel brewing system, was completed in March 2011, and is designed for expansion to a 5 to 7 barrel system. It is used to develop new styles of beer and produce specialty and seasonal beers. New beers will be developed "with care and prayer", the slogan noted on the bottle labels. The capacity will be expanded as more monks are trained and more hops from the Monastery’s hop yard become available. A tasting room is planned for Spring, 2012.

The Monastery’s beers are distributed in seven states including eastern Pennsylvania. Agreement was recently reach to distribute the beers in western Pennsylvania through Vicenie Distributing and negotiations are underway to bring the beers to Maryland and Washington, DC. Internet sales are available to customers in other states, where legal, by contacting .

Monk’s Ale, a Belgian-style single ale, also called an enkel, is the first beer the brewery made. The single style is the table beer normally consumed by the Trappist monastery brothers in Belgium and the Netherlands. The brewery’s yeast originated at the Orval Monastery in Belgium. This 5.2 percent ABV, copper-colored ale uses three varieties of European hops Hallertau, Saaz and Fuggles and malt from Belgium and North America.

In October 2010 the monastery started brewing a Belgian Wit beer appropriately called Monk’s Wit. This cloudy, pale white, 5.1 percent ABV beer is made with Saaz and Fuggle hops, Indian coriander, Spanish sweet orange peel and Belgian malt, as well as unmalted wheats and oats. The first batch of a Tripel was brewed in late December 2011 and with limited availability in early 2012. It uses five hybrids of native New Mexican hops. The monastery plans to introduce a new variety every 2 to 3 years.

The Tripel uses organic, native hops grown on the Monastery grounds. The first hop plants were experimentally planted by the black robed monks in 2010, using five varieties of hops on a one-quarter acre plot. Working with a local plant geneticist to determine which varieties will grow at the monastery’s 6500 foot level, an additional six varieties were planted in 2011. The hop yard can be expanded to five acres. Because of the limited amount of the NM hops currently available, the monastery will only produce 40 barrels of the Tripel which will be marketed only in the Philadelphia area.

The Monastery’s brewing is slowly growing which is how the brothers like it. In the first year of operation they brewed 127 barrels of beer. In 2010 production reached 460 barrels, and for 2011 they expect to make about 1,000 barrels of bottled and draft beer. Following monastic tradition, including those of the brewing monasteries of Belgium, the brothers only wish to grow the brewing sufficiently to help maintain the monastery and support its charitable works. Merchant relates that "We will only grow the brewery to a certain size, and once we achieve that goal we will not grow any further."

Steve Frank (standing, right, in the photo below) and Arnold Meltzer (seated, left) write under the joint pseudonym The Brews Brothers. I've reprinted this article with their express permission.

Brews Brothers +1

An update from the brewery website:
A new brewery building (the Monastery Brewery) was completed at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in March of 2011. The new brewery building, which currently houses a half-barrel micro-brewing system, was specifically designed for expansion to a 3 or 5 barrel brewing system. Brewing in this new, separate facility began in March 2012. The new facility started as a pilot brewery, and will slowly expand in capacity and operation to develop new styles of beers and produce specialty and seasonal beers. For example, the new Monks' Dubbel Reserve and Monks' Tripel Reserve were developed at the new brewery by our brew master, Brad Kraus, and the monks. Currently the Monastery brewery is in operation on an irregular basis based on the need for brewing, availability of hops grown the Monastery, and other factors. Current plans are to expand the brewing capacity as more hops from the Monastery's hop yard become available.

Future Brand Development and Philosophy
New brands will be developed "with care and prayer®" in the coming years. The new styles will derive from the 1400 year old monastic tradition of brewing in Europe and the newer American Craft Tradition.

Our focus in all our work is "to bring everything to perfection for the glory of God" as the Rule of Saint Benedict instructs us.

Out of respect for the privacy and lifestyle of the Monastery, tours are no longer given at the brewery on the grounds of the Monastery. Likewise the tasting room located at the brewery has been closed for the same reason. We trust you will understand the need for privacy and respect the monks' lifestyle. A full service tasting room for Monks' Ales has been opened at Bode's Store on Highway 84 in Abiquiu.