MT. ANGEL, Ore. — The Benedictine monks, known for the Mt. Angel Abbey and Seminary, are expanding into the beer business.
They’ve launched Benedictine Brewery, and just below the top of their hill in Mt. Angel, are about to open the St. Michael Taproom. St. Michael is the archangel who Catholics and others believe leads the army of angels against Satan.
If you happen to be inside the taproom at opening time, you will be greeted daily with a prayer for all who gather.
“May all who come for our beer and for fellowship find welcome, experience your presence and leave to share your blessing with all they know and meet. Through Christ, our Lord,” read Fr. Martin Grassel. He’s the brewmaster and essentially the Chief Financial Officer of the Abbey.
Unlike other monks in the area who make chocolate or fruit cakes, the Benedictines didn’t make anything. Until recently.
Fr. Grassel, who was already experimenting with home brew, proposed to his fellow monks that they get into the beer business.
“It’s going to taste a little bit roasty but that Belgium yeast is going to take those dark malts, make a lot of fruit flavors out of them and it's going to have some caramel in the finish. That’s what I really like in this beer,” said Fr. Grassel, as he held up a dark glass filled with a brew called Black Habit Dark Ale.
It’s an inside joke referring to the flowing black robes the monks wear. They have a sense of humor here, and a taste for beer.
“Brewing beer is a monastic tradition. And we are very much in touch with that tradition,” said Fr. Grassel.
The idea that became the brewery grew from a challenge with finances.
“I was looking at the financial report and doing some projections, how are expenses shaping up, how are revenues shaping up. It wouldn’t hurt to create a new revenue stream to support the monastery,” Fr. Grassel said.
So Black Habit launched, then last November, friends gathered to raise the walls of the taproom.
The building is made with timbers from trees cut on land owned by the monks.
The beer is made with hops from fields they own.
“That’s the authenticity of the operation, is that we are monks, in Oregon, brewing beer. In the monastic tradition,” said Fr. Grassel with a smile.
And he said there are a dozen more flavors of beers in the works.
The St. Michael Taproom is located at 400 Humpert Lane NE, Mt. Angel, OR.