In many parts of the world, the return of autumn coincides with dirndls, lederhosen, pretzel eating, and stein-hoisting to commemorate a 19th century royal wedding. This year, one community in Oregon’s Willamette Valley will have something extra to celebrate. Timing its opening to coincide with the town of Mount Angel’s annual Oktoberfest, Benedictine Brewery will become the newest monastic brewery in the United States when it welcomes the first visitors to its newly built taproom on September 13. Then, following a four day preview, Mount Saint Angel Abbey will hold the grand opening for its 5-barrel brewery on September 22 and 23.
When New Mexico’s Monastery of Christ in the Desert opened Abbey Brewing Company and released Monks’ Ale in 2005, it became the first American monastery to brew and sell beer on a commercial scale. Nine years later, Spencer Brewery at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Massachusetts became the second, and set itself apart by joining the International Trappist Association. According to Father Martin Grassel, general manager and head brewer at Benedictine Brewery, Mount Angel Abbey, which was founded by Swiss Benedictine monks in 1882, considered a number of different ways to raise money to support its seminary. But the gift of homebrew equipment and a passing mention of a brewery that Father Martin discovered in an 1885 diary entry by the first prior of Mount Angel tipped the scales, convincing him and the other monks in the community that beer would be a promising vocation.