All of us at St Joseph’s Abbey have vowed to remain in our monastery, in this location, for the remainder of our lives. For this reason, we bring a long-term perspective to everything we do. We approach this brewery project as a 100-year endeavor and we want the monastery to be as valuable to future monks and visitors as it is for us today.
Open Space Commitment
The Audubon Society estimates that 44 acres of “open space” land is lost to development every day in the state of Massachusetts. In central MA, overdevelopment caused by urban sprawl is a growing problem. As long as the abbey is here, the town of Spencer can be confident that the abbey’s lands (nearly one-tenth of the town’s total area) will remain open and undeveloped, as defined by Massachusetts state’s Open Space and Recreation Plan.
Seven Mile River Watershed
The source of any river is a critical element of a healthy watershed. There needs be a generous stretch of the stream which allows it to purify itself before entering the stressful run to the ocean. The Seven Mile River actually begins at the abbey where the overflow from Browning Pond is mingled with several smaller rivulets as they flow towards the Lac Marie dam. This portion of the river is entirely within the monastery grounds, ensuring its protection.
The Green Belt
We actively support the town of Spencer’s green belt initiative, which establishes a continuous corridor of preserved forests and streams to relieve stress on local wildlife. The abbey is centrally located, linking the Oakham State Forest, the Ware River Watershed, Buck Hill Pond and Conservation Center, Ware State Forest, Spencer State Forest and John Tierney Memorial Forest.
Since 1949, when the first monks arrived at Spencer, we have worked closely with the Mass. Dept. of Forestry and Environmental Management to care for the forest that comprises three quarters of the abbey grounds (1,200 acres in total). Healthy forests need to be tended, and the proper techniques can enhance the watershed, control insect pests, protect against fires and erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife. Today we sustainably harvest timber on a 12-year cycle, resulting in a fivefold increase in healthy trees.
In consultation with Masoud Hashemi, Ph. D. of UMass Amherst, we have planted a 10 acre field of winter barley to study best practices for barley production in Central Massachusetts.
From the monastery’s earliest days, we have worked with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to establish responsible farming of a portion of the abbey’s land (pre-existing fields that were unforested). That tradition continues today through our leasing of 360 acres to local farmers for the cultivation of hay.
In the 1950s the abbey was home to the renowned Broad Rock herd of Holstein cows. Besides providing milk for the local region, blood lines from this herd were instrumental in establishing the Holstein breed as the premier milking cow of the North East. Over the years, we have also pioneered developments in the raising of American Yorkshire pigs and Corriedale sheep, winning prizes at many shows including The Big E competition.
Spent Grain Reuse
Spent grain is our main solid waste product. Local farmers use the grain residue from the brewing process as nutrient-rich animal feed and compost.
Mass Save New Construction Program
In participation with this program, we use a high efficiency energy management system (Unitary HVAC) for the electricity needs of the brewery as well as high efficiency process and condensing boilers.
We are working on plans to lease several acres of fields and forest to a solar energy company who will construct and maintain an 18 megawatt farm. The brewery roof has been constructed to support solar panels, which we hope to install in the near future.
Abbey Energy Center
In 1984 we replaced our many oil-fired furnaces, which heated the monastery’s various buildings, with a single wood-burning energy center. The center converts hardwood chips into clean burning gases which in turn heat the entire monastic complex with “green energy steam.” The combustion is so efficient that a truck full of wood chips, leaves behind only shovels of ash and a steady output of steam—with little smoke or soot.
Storm Water Reclamation
We designed a pond into the landscaping to allow for immediate infiltration of run-off from the building and the impermeable surfaces; a swale system is also in place on the west side of the site. (Both features complement the abbey’s participation in WHIP - Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program of the USDA).
Brew House and Packaging Line
We use high efficiency motors and pumps throughout and water re-cycling features in the CIP closed circuit process.
White Thermoplastic Roofing
In order to limit the CO2 footprint of the building, our roof is made of white thermoplastic which reflects light rather than absorbing radiant energy.
Brewery Site Selection
The brewery was built on a lightly forested area adjacent to the main monastery building so as not to take fields out of agriculture use.