Monasteries in Europe have a 1300-year tradition of brewing craft beers, so it should come as no surprise that a Benedictine monastery in the American Southwest produces a range of European monastic styles of beer that delight the palates of experienced and novice consumers alike.
The Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert was the first monastery on American soil to return to the European monastic brewing tradition. Abbey Brewing began as a small brewing operation by the monks under the guidance of Brew Master Brad Kraus to generate some revenue so that the Monastery could remain self-sufficient (as dictated in the Rule of Benedict).
From the start, Abbey Brewing was a package brewery—going from brew to bottle and kegs distributed in New Mexico. For a short while, the Monastery experimented with brewery tours and on-site tastings and sales, but that quickly became too disruptive to the monastic lifestyle, so the brewery and tasting room at the Monastery are no longer open to the public. However, since the beginning, Monks’ Ales have been available in New Mexico at both on-premise and off-premise retail locations in partnership with our distributor in New Mexico, Admiral Beverage Corporation. It is this availability that has driven Abbey Brewing’s expansion.
To keep up with demand, Abbey Brewing needed to increase production. However, space was limited on the grounds of the Monastery. Operations had to be co-located elsewhere, but not just anywhere would do. Rather than expand operations through a contract brewing agreement that would forfeit control over recipes, ingredient sourcing, brew processes, etc., Abbey Brewing sought a partner through an Alternating Proprietorship, which allowed the Monastery to retain total control over all aspects of the brewing, packaging and distribution of Monks’ Ales.
Abbey Brewing found its partner in a Moriarty-based brewer. Operations in Moriarty increased ale production capacity to over 2,000 barrels per year. Brew Master Kraus and Brewer Berkeley Merchant continues to oversee all operations and use the same recipes and brewing processes refined at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
In the spring of 2010, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert planted a quarter acre experimental hop yard that included several varieties of hops native to northern New Mexico (subspecies neomexicanus) on the grounds of the Monastery. in 2011 and again in 2013, the hop yard was expanded and several new varieties of native New Mexico hops were added. Harvests occur in late August through early September. Monks, resident guests, day visitors, and neighbors participate in the harvest. Hops from the Monastery are used in the brewing of the Monks' Reserve Ales in several styles.
ADHERENCE TO TRADITION
As directed by St. Benedict in The Rule, Abbey Brewing values quality, and we ensure the quality of our ales by sticking to tradition and high quality standards like monks have for centuries. We use the finest ingredients from North America and Europe including the malted barlies, other grains, yeasts, spices, botanicals, and other ingredients.
No matter where Monks’ Ales are brewed—at the Monastery or at the Moriarty brewery—the same care and prayer goes into every batch.
Yet, like any institution that wants to thrive, Abbey Brewing is innovative. We are continually developing new recipes to expand our seasonal brews. We invest in new technology and stay current on the latest brewing methods to make sure that Monks’ Ales deliver the taste and experience you expect while maintaining sustainable operations.