Sierra Nevada brews for a higher calling with Trappist monks

on 05/12/11 at 4:53 pm


A 1,500-year-old tradition of monastic brewing is putting down rootlets in 21st-century America.

You can taste its fruits in Ovila Quad, the third in a line of ales that Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico, Calif., has released in partnership with the Trappist monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, Calif. A “quadrupel” is a vague style of recent origin; the term was first slapped on a beer by the La Trappe monastery in the Netherlands. Generally, it denotes a strong, dark ale that measures 10 percent alcohol by volume or higher. Bill Manley, Sierra Nevada’s director of communications, describes Ovila Quad as “kind of figgy, with a rum-raisin aroma, but finishing quite dry.”

The Quad follows the rich and plummy Ovila Dubbel and the lemony, spritzy Ovila Saison. Both earlier efforts linger on area shelves in 750-milliliter cork-and-cage bottles.

Unlike such popular Belgian brands as Chimay and Orval, the Ovila releases can’t be labeled Trappist beers: They’re not made by monks. Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s president, doesn’t wear a robe and cowl, nor does he rise at 3 a.m. for morning lauds. (Actually, he’s Jewish.)

However, the monks of New Clairvaux have participated in the beers’ formulation and promotion. If you attended last June’s Savor festival in the District, you might have been handed a glass by Father Thomas Davis, the monastery’s abbot emeritus, or by Father Paul Mark Schwan, its current abbot. What’s more, some of the proceeds from the sale of the Ovila beers are helping to finance a treasured goal of the monks: the reconstruction of a 12th-century chapter house on the monastery grounds.

FULL STORY via Washington Post

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