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Arkansas’s craft beer scene is younger than your average 5th grader, but growing at a rate that would put that kid in graduate school in only a couple of years. There are around 40 breweries located around the state, with the greatest numbers clustered in the Central and Northwest parts of the state. A unique addition to the club is Country Monks Brewing, a craft brewery on the grounds of Subiaco Abbey.
The Abbey is a religious community of Benedictine monks located just south of Clarksville on AR-197. More than 40 monks live at the Abbey and operate a secondary school for boys in grades 7-12. Subiaco Academy serves approximately 160 students, and the Abbey provides a tourism draw for the small town of Subiaco as well.
While the brewery is a new business venture for the Abbey (the monks are also known for their hot sauce), the tradition of monks brewing beer is not new. In fact, it has been around since the Middle Ages, a time when potable water sources were not easy to find. The process of brewing beer cleaned the water and provided a drinkable option that was not only safer to ingest, but also tastier. At Subiaco, they have records that indicate that monks have been brewing their own beer since the early 1900s.
Today, monastic brewing traditions not only support the ideals of community and self-reliance that have been at the heart of their work since the 1600s, but also serve to fund their charitable efforts in the communities where they’re located. There are only a few other monastic operations in the United States like the one at Subiaco Abbey, in Oregon, Indiana and Massachusetts.
At Subiaco, the monks were in the process of getting out of the cattle business when Brother Basil Taylor, OSB, presented the idea for the brewery as a revenue-generating alternative. He was a brewing aficionado before he came to Subiaco, and took over the in-house brewing operation soon after his arrival. The success that followed as they served their own brews at benefactor events led to setting up at craft beer festivals.
Now, visitors can stop by their taproom on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a tasting and buy a growler or some cans to take home. The monks view the taproom as a way for them to welcome guests as their monastic tradition requires, “as Christ Himself would be welcomed.”
Currently, Country Monks Brewery offers three unique Benedictine style brews: Pale Ale, Abbey Amber, and Stout, but they have approximately 12 seasonal brews in their repertoire as well. Profits from the sale of beer are used to support the Abbey and the elderly monks being cared for there.
Stop in on your next weekend road trip. The monks at Subiaco will welcome you with a cold glass of amber beverage that connects them with hundreds of years of tradition.
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