Send Steve Where?: Northern New Mexico monks enter beer-making business
October 12, 2017 10:28 PM
ABIQUIU, N.M. -- Tucked away in the Chama River Valley, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert is a place of peace and reflection.
"It's hard to look at this lovely Chama Valley and these mountains and mesas, this desert landscape and not see the creative hand of God," Brother Benedict said.
Brother Benedict is prior at the monastery, which was established in 1964 for monks coming from the Monastery of Mount Savior in upstate New York. He said they came to New Mexico searching for isolation in order to live a life of prayer.
Fifty-five monks now live there, each one committed to a lifestyle that renounces worldly pursuits with a devotion to spirituality.
"The monastic life is really governed by a rhythm of prayer," Brother Benedict said. "We rise between 3 and 3:30 in the morning and gather for the first hour of prayer from 4 to 5 a.m. or a little longer, have a little break and then we pray lauds awaiting the dawn. It's followed by mass every day."
While prayer is a cornerstone of the monastic life, there's another aspect important to these New Mexican monks.
"In the monastic world, beer was always seen as a healthful thing, a food, a nutritious thing," Brother Benedict said. "Often where the water was bad, the beer was great."
That's why in 2005, these monks got into the beer-making business. Brother Benedict isn't ashamed to admit it's pretty good.
Berkeley Merchant is the general manager of Abbey Brewing Company, each beer made with ingredients like hops and barley grown nearby.
"All of our beers on the label, they're very unique," Merchant said. "They all start with the word "monks," so Monks' Ale, Monks' Double, Monks' Triple, Monks' Whit, Monks' Golden."
Each of the beers has a picture of one of the actual monks from the monastery. Merchant said the monks are involved in the beer-making process, including Brother Benedict, who dropped off a load of hops.
"Once when I had a trunk load full of hops, I gassed up at the Bode's Gas Station and a cop looked in and said, 'Tell me that's not what I think it is.'"
The reason for creating Abbey Brewing Company can be found in the rule of Saint Benedict.
"Enshrined in the rule is this concept that the monastery has to make its own way financially. It cannot beg," Merchant said. "It has to be financially self-sufficient, so every Benedictine monastery has to find enterprises they can engage in that fit the monastic style and that essentially allows them to earn their living."
The money made from making beer allows these doors to remain open. For the 55 monks who live at the monastery and for anyone who wants to visit this peaceful place.
"We're governed by a lovely line in the rule of St. Benedict. It says, 'Hospites tamquam Christus suscipiantur' -- let guests be received as Christ --- and I don't think that means crucify them," Brother Benedict said. "We love guests. Whether they pop their head into the church or come to see the beauty, guests are always welcome."
Updated: October 12, 2017 10:28 PM
Created: October 12, 2017 09:27 PM
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