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Monks in Spencer launch brewery

Brother Isaac Keeley is director of the Trappists’ brewery in Spencer.
Brother Isaac Keeley is director of the Trappists’ brewery in Spencer.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

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The monks live in a fieldstone abbey nestled in rolling farmland, supporting their religious community and modest lifestyle by selling religious vestments and jam preserves.

But in recent years, the simple monks of Saint Joseph’s Abbey have quietly set about building something extraordinary: one of the biggest breweries in the state and the first Trappist Brewery on American soil. Their sleek 36,000-square-foot brewery—modeled after multimillion dollar facilities in Europe—has already made its first commercial batches of Belgian-style ale, which will go on sale next week.

It’s a big change for the monks, but it was a matter of necessity, said Brother Isaac Keeley, director of the brewery.

“In our little monastic economy, expenses were rising more rapidly than our income,” he said.

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