What: Monkless Belgian Ales

Pictured: Robin Clement and Todd Clement

Employees: Two part-time and two full-time

Address: 20750 NE High Desert Lane

Phone: 541-610-5098

Website: monkless.com

At a time when craft brewers are grabbing all the attention, a small brewery is using centuries-old recipes to brew up traditional Trappist ales in a small warehouse in northeast Bend.

Monkless Belgian Ales is also making some waves. Founded just three years ago, the 10-barrel brew house landed a stamp of recognition when it was included on the Bend Ale Trail. In March, the brewery earned medals at the Oregon Beer Awards in Portland. Friar’s Festivus, a quadruple Trappist-style winter ale spiced with cardamom and mace, earned gold, and Dubbel or Nothing earned a silver award in the Belgian beer category.

As one of the few brewers in the Pacific Northwest making only Belgian ales, Monkless got its start as a nano operation in a home garage, said Todd Clement, who co-owns the brewery with his wife, Robin.

The brewery is in the former 10 Barrel Brewing Co. home in northeast Bend.

“When Todd was developing Friar’s Festivus, he brewed six to eight kinds of teas with the spices first to see if the flavor profile appealed to us,” said Robin Clement, 46. “He spent weeks of R&D playing with different ratio and spice blends.”

That testing method is ingrained in the 48-year-old Clement, a former organic chemist who worked for a pharmaceutical company. Frequent trips abroad gave him the taste for Belgian ales, he said.

“I’d come back home and be disappointed that I couldn’t get Belgium ales in a keg,” Clement said. “I fell in love with the beers.”

Todd and Robin Clement talked to The Bulletin about brewing Belgian beers. Their responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: How do you come up with the idea of a business making only Trappist and abbey ales?

A: Todd Clement: I learned on my own and started to formulate my own recipes. Organic chemistry is creative as well as making beer. I like figuring out why things are the way they are. Developing a new recipe takes me longer than some brewers because I want it to be perfect from the get go. For me, I spend a lot of time on developing a new recipe getting to the point of wanting to brew it.

Q: How many barrels do you brew?

A: Todd Clement: Last year we brewed about 500 barrels and sold about 430 barrels. This year’s target is get to the 600-to-700 range in terms of sales. So far we’re off to a really good start. Hopefully we’ll hit that number.

Q: Where do you distribute your beer?

A: Robin Clement: Mostly we distribute in Oregon, but we just sent off our first shipment a week ago to a Washington distributor, Tavour, a niche beer club, which sends to 16 different states. In Oregon, we use Big Foot Beverages, which delivers in 11 counties, and we self-distribute to Portland, Salem and Southern Oregon.

Q: How did you come up with the name?

A: Todd Clement: It was basically a collaborative effort. If you know anything about the Belgian brewing tradition, a lot of it is rooted in the monastic tradition. There are several Trappist breweries that are monasteries. They all brew beer and the monks are involved in the brewing process. We brew those beers, but we don’t have any monks.

Q: What are your goals for Monkless Belgian Ales?

A: Todd Clement: What’s important to us is to grow as sustainably as possible. We want to continue to provide those products with a regional presence. Our goal is to grow around the West Coast. As we continue to grow, we’ll outgrow this tap room. Within the next couple of years, the plan would be to have a small restaurant with European-style food that goes very well with what we do. That’s one of our near-term goals. It’s about the experience when you think about breweries and how they grow. A small restaurant will be the next big step for us. We hope to establish a regional presence with our beer. We don’t brew an IPA and probably never will. It’s really cool because the Belgian beers pair very well with food.

Q: How has being on the Bend Ale Trail map helped business? (Ale Trail users go to breweries in town and ask for a stamp on a passport. A completed passport can be redeemed for a prize at Visit Bend’s visitor center downtown.)

A: Robin Clement: Once the tap room was open for at least a year in October, Visit Bend approached us and asked if we would like to be on the map of 16 breweries. Rarely does a day go by that we don’t have at least one person come in that wants their passport stamped. I would never have thought of this. It’s been a nice surprise. A lot of locals will have their passport with them and get their passport stamped. Its been really cool, and it’s not even peak season.

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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