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Monday, June 23, 2014

A First Taste of Benedictine Brewery's Black Habit

A few dozen Oregonians are going to get to try the first version of Benedictine Brewery's first beer, called Black Habit.  If you want to be one of the lucky few, you have to zip down to Mount Angel Abbey between 1 and 5 pm next Saturday (June 28) for the Festival of Arts and Wine.  Just 130 cases were brewed, and they'll only be sold by the case. 

Benedictine Brewery, for those of you who may have missed the news, is a very slowly developing project of Mount Angel Abbey.  Monks at Mount Angel have been working to find a place at the monastery to house the brewery while working simultaneously on recipe development.  Over the course of several months, the monks, in collaboration with folks from OSU and professional brewers, have worked up this initial beer.  The brewery's not in place, so they collaborated with Coalition to produce this first batch--which is still an iteration or two from final.  The monastery's Chris Jones calls it a "prototype," because they're still fine tuning the elements. 

The abbey brewed an initial test batch and then went into yeast trials, brewing versions that used different yeasts in fermentation and bottle-conditioning. The Abbey plans to follow a commercial model typical to monastery breweries and have a stable line of beers, so they have to get the specs exactly right.  What they're shooting for is a beer that is complex but approachable.  When you think of dark abbey ales, you think of sweetish strong beers.  Mount Angel is shooting for something a little different.  They want the malts to show more malt and spice (rye was a part of at least one batch), and the yeasts to give a bit of rusticity.  It's strongish (7.8%) but not crazy strong.  It borrows elements from dubbel, saison, and Oregon hoppiness. 

I feel like we ended up exactly what we were shooting for by bringing out some subtle flavors and esters from the yeast, blending that with a dynamic grain bill and finishing it with a healthy dose of Oregon hops.
A 12-bottle case of 22 bottles (eventually they'll be 500 ml) will go for $84, which works out to $7/bottle. 

The monastery's own brewery is getting closer.  They've decided to locate it at an old barn on the property--different from a place called "The Fort" they had chosen earlier.  The Fort would have required a lot of seismic work, so the barn it is.  Jones says brewing could be underway in eight months time, but I wouldn't bet on it.  The work of monks seems to unfold more slowly than even they anticipate.  But things are moving along. 

In the meantime, Jones says, "we’ll do this one-time special event [this weekend's Festival] and Father Martin and I are cranking out prototypes and beer experiments on the new 10 gallon stainless pilot system."  I may have to see if I can sit in on one of those brewing sessions.  Witnessing a monk crank out experimental beer is something I'd very much enjoy.


  1. Surely he meant a dyno-mite grain bill!


  2. Anyone want to go in on a case? Especially if you will be there?

  3. Dann, seems like there's some Facebook discussion on that point.