Trappist Monks Beat Economy by Adding Brewery

Barbara Boland
By Barbara Boland | July 10, 2014 | 12:47 PM EDT

Even monks have to follow advice to diversify their revenue. The Trappist monks at St. Joseph's Abbey in Massachusetts have traditionally relied on jams and preserves as their main source of income for over 60 years, but in need of a product to sustain their monastery into the future, they decided to add a brewery and beer to their monastery's product line.

A few years ago, we realized the "expense line was rising at a faster rate than our income," said Friar Issac to CNN Money.

"When we look to the future, as our community grows and ages, we see our need for an additional enterprise that supports our community and charities in the years to come," their site says.

Brewing beer is a traditional enterprise for monks, who have been doing so in Europe for centuries. The monks of St. Joseph travelled to Europe and studied their techniques for two years before opening Spencer Brewery, the first Trappist brewery outside of Europe.

The Trappist monks are an order of Catholic monks that follow the rule of St. Benedict, who said, "When they live by the work of their hands, as our fathers and the apostles did, then they are truly monks." The rule of St. Benedict asks that monks be self-supportive, which is why monasteries typically have several products that they make. Monks then give profits made through selling goods to the poor.

The monks are careful not to waste anything - spent grain from the hops is given to local farmers for animal feed or compost, and they have instituted several green measures, including plans to install solar panels. The monks emphasize sustainability and want this to be a project that can sustain itself over 100 years.

"We really brew on the practical level to sustain a way of life," said Friar Issac.