The first Trappist collaboration: a synergy between Tre Fontane and Spencer

Recently, one of the most important news to come out in the Italian beer market is the announce of the Trappist collaboration between Tre Fontane Brewery and the American Trappist Spencer Brewery. The beer Synergy ‘ 19 was announced last week and will be a limited-edition IPA made at the roman monastery. This will add another “one shot” to the regularly available Tripel with eucalyptus, its debuted beer at their opening in 2015, and the Scala Coeli, released in 2018 which is regularly available. Synergy ‘ 19 will be available on the market in the coming days, but a few days ago I had the chance to taste it at the Abbey thanks to Sergio Daniele, manager of the brewery and the distillery. With a line of first-rate beers, it’s no wonder that Synergy ‘ 19 arrives with great expectations by its community of enthusiasts.

Obviously the most interesting aspect lies in the genesis of this beer, because it’s the first collaboration between two Trappist breweries. And here we need to make a clarification, because collaborations have become a trend for a few decades, sometimes seen (and used) as mere commercial gimmicks. In this case we can clear any doubts that this is a commercial gimmick for at least two reasons. First, by definition, a Trappist brewery cannot make a for-profit beer as part of the qualifications of the hexagonal sticker that marks it as an Authentic Trappist Product. Trappists are obligated to allocate all proceeds of their sales to the livelihood of the monastic community or to works of charity. In fact, the revenue from Synergy ‘ 19 will be expressly donated to charity.

The second reason lies in the long-term goal of Synergy ‘ 19. During my visit to the Abbey, Sergio emphatically repeated to me that this product is not a beer, but a real and definitive project. The ultimate goal is to increase the collaboration between the various Trappist monasteries around the world, making this not just a cooperative experience; rather, a launching pad for a concrete platform. Trappist breweries (and the Friars) often assist each other with regular and mutual support in terms of know-how and technical help. In turn, other communities have been born from these mutual assistances: for example, the monks of Chimay “descended” from those of Westvleteren. This continuous interaction is one of the great idiosyncrasies of Trappist beer. The Synergy ‘ 19 project aims to enhance this key aspect of the monastery world that is absolutely fundamental to Trappists and little known to the outside world.

The decision to collaborate with Spencer Brewery – the only non-European Trappist brewery – came naturally. Larry Littlehale, the layman brewmaster of the American monastery, was trained in Germany where he worked for twenty years. In the past weeks he was a guest at the Abbey Tre Fontane and participated in the brewing of Synergy ‘ 19, whose recipe was created days before by the two breweries. It’s comprehensible then why they oriented to the style of an American IPA, which allows the Synergy ‘ 19 to mark another record: it is the first India Pale Ale Trappist produced in Europe.

The Synergy ‘ 19 reflects exactly the idea of an IPA created inside a monastery. As a continuous observer of market trends, I would call it “old fashioned” (with a positive meaning) because it recalls the India Pale Ale of a few years ago. We are far from the current trends, sometimes questionable: it is not cloudy like a New England style IPA, nor unbalanced on tropical notes and exotic fruit. It embodies the previous concept of (American) IPA, amber in color with a rather bitter finish. But it does so with great skill: for example, the malty component is perceptible, but it is expressed with slight notes of caramel and biscuit without rendering it heavy – an error often found in these interpretations of IPA. The stage set, however, is all in favor of hops (American varieties, including Citra and Simcoe also used in dry hopping), which play both at the aromatic level with citrus and resinous tones, and in the closure clearly bitter and well accompanied by a slight sugar residue.

It is a very drinkable beer that impeccably conceals the alcoholic content certainly not to be dismissed (7.3%). Synergy ‘ 19 borders on perfection. Its only flaws are the small margins of improvements needed in carbonation and the olfactory intensity – but, it must be said, I tasted the test batch and that the subsequent batches will most likely correct these flaws. In my opinion it will wonderfully meet the taste of the fans of the Tre Fontane brewery and those who expect to drink an IPA produced by Trappist monks.

But you will have to be patient, at least for a few more days. At the moment the Synergy ‘ 19 is not yet available, so avoid going to the shop at the abbey. As explained, it is a limited-edition product in limited quantities and for now limited to the reservations for distributors, at least until Wednesday, June 5. Synergy ‘ 19 will be available to the market and at the abbey shop for the general public in 33 CL bottles and kegs. Taste it and let me know what you think!

L'autore: Andrea Turco

Fondatore e curatore di Cronache di Birra, è giudice in concorsi nazionali e internazionali, docente e consulente di settore. È organizzatore della Italy Beer Week, fondatore della piattaforma Formazione Birra e tra i creatori del festival Fermentazioni. Nel tempo libero beve.

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