Subiaco Abbey monks brew beer as community outreach

·3 min read
Brother Sebastian Richey points to the base grain and oatmeal for his stout.
Brother Sebastian Richey points to the base grain and oatmeal for his stout.

Monks have been brewing beer since the 1400s. Subiaco's monks carry on the tradition today as a way to interact with their tiny community, which resides just outside of Paris.

Subiaco Abbey's Benedictine monks have been brewing beer off and on since the 1920s, Brother Sebastian Richey said. Richey is in charge of the abbey's taproom and Country Monks Brewing.

Brother Basil Taylor officially opened the brewery in 2018. Now, about 300 people visit the taproom each month.

“It serves kind of as an outreach almost for people to come in and learn about us," Richey said.

Although people from all over the nation visit the abbey, many people, even those who have lived in the River Valley all their lives, do not know about Subiaco Abbey.

Monks built the monastery in 1901.
Monks built the monastery in 1901.

“Most people don’t even know that we exist," Richey said. "I mean even in the area where we are. People will drive by on 22 and be like 'why is there a castle in the middle of nowhere Arkansas?' and it’s like well come on in let’s talk about it for a little while."

The monastery does resemble a castle ripped from the pages of a fairy tale. The sandstone structure rises out of the cattle fields surrounded by smaller buildings of similar material and eventually gives way to everyday life surrounding the monastery.

Richey said the brewery is a way to ease people into talking about the abbey.

“A lot of people just think monks don’t speak and monks don’t talk, and we’re just normal people like anybody else. We just dedicate our lives to prayer and the rule of St. Benedict," Brother Anthony Pierce said.

Country Monks Brewing has been in existence since 2018.
Country Monks Brewing has been in existence since 2018.

Along with brewing beer, the monks make hot sauce, candles, soap and peanut brittle. The hot sauce comes from peppers that the monks grow at the abbey. The monks also run an international boarding school, Subiaco Academy.

The monks abide by the rule of St. Benedict, which states that they should live by the work of their hands.

“There’s just a lot of different things people don’t realize we do ourselves here," Richey said.

The monks began making the different items as individual monks revealed talents in the areas. The hot sauce line started after one brother brought peppers back from a trip and began planting them on the grounds and making hot sauce.

But the abbey's main feature is the beer.

Richey always has an amber, pale ale and stout available and cycles through another six types of beer.

Brother Sebastian Richey points to the base grain and oatmeal for his stout.
Brother Sebastian Richey points to the base grain and oatmeal for his stout.

He brews beer one barrel at a time — a five-hour process. The beer ferments for two to three weeks then is canned and labeled by hand.

The grain used in the beer comes from Europe and the hops come from the northwest.

Richey is an Alabama native who originally joined the monastic community in 2009. He stayed for four and a half years, and then decided he was not ready for the lifetime commitment of being a monk. After a two-year hiatus, he returned to teach and coach at the academy before re-joining the monastery in 2020.

The monks have always been a part of the Subiaco community. The original building was built in 1878 followed by the abbey in 1901. Additions have continued since with a new academy dorm being added in 2015 and more renovations in 2021.

Richey called the abbey, “the best-kept secrets of Arkansas."

If you go

Country Monks Brewing

405 N Subiaco Ave, Subiaco, AR 72865

Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; by appointment during the week

Alex Gladden is a University of Arkansas graduate. She previously reported for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and The Jonesboro Sun before joining the Times Record. She can be contacted at agladden@swtimes.com.

This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Subiaco Abbey Country Monks Brewing

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