- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - The Rev. Ryan Higdon stood above a repurposed dairy tank as steam rose from the hot mixture churning beneath him.

It was humid outside, but even more humid where he and another brewer stood monitoring temperatures and pH levels as they extracted sweet liquid from grains that yeast will eventually turn into beer - the “Ale Mary” beer, to be precise.

Higdon and New Republic Brewery in College Station agreed to partner for this special brew as a way for St. Mary’s Catholic Center to thank its donors and raise a little bit of money. Once the Ale Mary is finished, New Republic will sell it in its taproom and share 50 percent of gross revenue with St. Mary’s, where Higdon is associate pastor.

While at first a church and a brewery may appear an unlikely partnership, monks have been brewing and drinking beers for centuries. Sticking with tradition, Higdon and the owners at New Republic thought it’d be a fun idea to recognize this traditional partnership with a traditional beer.

“We’re just having fun,” Higdon told The Eagle of Bryan-College Station (https://bit.ly/2dQOAvS). “The whole point is it’s just a fun way to engage people and enjoy life.”

Ale Mary is based on the traditional “patersbier” that was a favorite among Trappist monks in Belgium for its drinkability. The name comes from the Latin word for “father” and the Dutch word for - of course - “beer.” Some people also call it a table beer, as these particular beers - being low in alcohol content - were traditionally enjoyed during meals at all times of day.

This beer style is not popular in the United States. John Januskey, a co-owner of New Republic, said the only brewery he knows of making and selling it commercially is the Spencer Trappist Brewery in Massachusetts, where it’s made by the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey.

Regarding the taste, Januskey said the Ale Mary is a light and drinkable beer, not particularly bitter, with a crisp tartness from the wheat. He said it has some characteristics of a Hefeweizen without being quite as fruity.

After the fermentation process and bottling, the beer will be given to St. Mary’s donors at a special appreciation party at New Republic on Nov. 11. It’ll also be served at their donor tailgate before the Ole Miss game, he said. Starting Nov. 12, New Republic will sell the beer in its taproom to the general public.

If it’s well received by customers, Januskey said he’d consider making more batches.

Higdon started making his own beers more than a decade ago. He was a senior in college when he got lost in a late-night internet search and stumbled across a homebrewing website. It piqued his interest, and he asked his parents for a beer kit as a gift.

“From there, the rest is history,” he said. “I got addicted to it.”

He collaborated with New Republic brewers for the Ale Mary recipe. Luckily, perhaps by divine intervention, they nailed the recipe on the first batch.

“It was an accidental success. It tuned out right the first time,” Januskey said. “Maybe there was some blessing involved with that.”


Information from: The Eagle, https://www.theeagle.com

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