Monastery possible home to new brewery

By JONATHAN STREETMAN
Herald Staff Writer

FERDINAND — The Sisters of St. Benedict at the Monastery Immaculate Conception may be getting new neighbors on their campus — a brewery like none other.

Photo courtesy Monastery Immaculate Conception

The brewery, to be called Saint Benedict’s Brew Works in the spirit of its proposed location in the monastery’s former art studio, was discussed Wednesday evening at a meeting of the Ferdinand Plan Commission. Vince Luecke of New Boston and Andy Hedinger of St. Meinrad, two local brewers, discussed the possibility of getting a section of the campus rezoned with a special exception to allow for the brewery.

Luecke, editor of the Perry County News and Spencer County Journal-Democrat, said this morning that the meeting was mostly a question-and-answer session.

“We handed them a fact sheet and discussed what we want to do and what we have to do to get approved,” Luecke said.

Under the agreement, Luecke said, the microbrewery would lease the studio space on the east side of the monastery.

Greg Eckerle, communications director for the Sisters of St. Benedict, said they were approached by Luecke and Hedinger several months ago. The proposal was then brought before the entire community and the sisters gave the idea their approval.

The monastery has tried for years to find uses for several vacant buildings on campus, but had not yet found a viable idea.

"The brewery is a way to use a vacant building, build some revenue, support the community and help the local economy," Eckerle said. "Most importantly, that added revenue will help our ministry."

Eckerle said the sisters gave their approval two months ago, and the monastery awaits the decision to rezone to move forward with the lease agreement.

“The sisters won’t actually be mashing grains with us,” Luecke said. “Even so, as far as we know, no other group of sisters has an active brewery on their grounds in the U.S. or even the world.”

While the relationship with the nuns may be the first of its kind, beer has a long history of being brewed inside the walls of monestaries. The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, when monks would brew beer for the entire community.

Trappist beers, which are beers brewed by monks in a select number of monasteries around the globe, are considered some of the best in the world today.

Floor plans and schematics for the brewery in Ferdinand are still being designed, as Luecke and Hedinger are only about three months into discussions with the monastery. Even so, Luecke said the sisters have been receptive to the idea from the beginning.

“Ferdinand’s rich history and heritage, along with the beautiful backdrop of the community and the Sisters of St. Benedict, all make for a great location to produce great beer,” their statement to the commissions stated.

“We believe a brewery can tap into the history of the community and the monastery and be something all residents of the town can be proud of. This venture will be the first of its kind in the United States.”

The brewery would be be operated with proper federal and state permits and plans to operate a tasting room similar to wineries. Guests would be able to sample beer and tour the brewery and would be able to purchase beer in bottles. Larger bottles, known as growlers, would also be filled.

Luecke and Hedinger hope to sell their brews at local restaurants and establishments, as well.

“Being operational by Ferdinand’s 175th celebration is definitely our goal. Maybe we’ll brew up something special just for that,” Luecke said. The town will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2015.

The pair each have a one-barrel custom-built pilot system and a half-barrel pilot system they’ve used at Saint Meinrad Archabbey for the past year to fine-tune their skills. Luecke won Best in Show at this year’s Jasper Strassenfest homebrew competition, topping 76 other entries.

Their plan is to grow into a 10-barrel system over the next three years.

Luecke and Hedinger had plans to open a brewery in Tell City, but those plans are now on hold as they shift their efforts to Ferdinand.

The pair will appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 24, at Town Hall, 2065 Main St., in hopes of obtaining the special exception for the brewery.

Contact Jonathan Streetman at jstreetman@dcherald.com.




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