Monks who Brew Trappist Beers
When we discuss beer and its evolution UK and Germany are the first nations we think of. We frequently miss Belgium and its Abbey and Trappist beer tradition. The claim to fame for these beers is that they are brewed by monks and priests. We’ll take a look at Trappist beers here.
Who are these monks?
Trappist beers are brewed by monks under the Order of the Cistercian of the Strict Obeservance (OCSO). The ales were originally brewed in accordance to the tenets of the order which specified that each monastery needs to be self sustaining and to feed the people in the area. Some of these monastery breweries have been in action since the 1600s. Many of the original breweries were destroyed during the French Revolution and World Wars.
With the growing popularity of Trappist beers in the 20th century many brewers with no connection OCSO started brewing Trappist style beers. It was only in 1962 that the order was able to put a stop it by suing a brewery in Belgium. This also led to the formation of International Trappist Association which safeguards the interests of monks and Trappist products. There guided strict rules to be able to use the branding of ‘Authentic Trappist Product’. These include:
* The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
* The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.
* The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
Trappist Beers Today
Today there are 10 Trappist breweries that produced true Trappist beers. Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren and Westmalle in Belgium; La Trappe in The Netherlands; Engelszell in Austria, Mont des Cats in France and Spencer in US. There are other food products which also carry the Authentic Trappist Product logo.
Trappist brews are top-fermenting beers (find out how they differ here) and bottle conditioned. But there are only 2-3 clear sub styles of these beers and there are many Trappist beers don’t fit in any of them. These primary distinctions are Singel (single), Dubbel (double), Tripel (triple). Of these Singel is a table beer (similar to table wines) which is rarely found for commercially as they were mostly meant for the monks themselves.
Dubbel and Tripel are the more commonly found styles of Trappist beers. Dubbel is more popular than Tripel, which uses powerful malt but is lightly hopped; it has a complex flavor profile with notes of dark fruits. Tripels are stronger that Dubbel made using pale malts and are generously hopped.
Enjoying Trappist Beers
These beers aren’t the easy swigging variety. They are rich and complex and have the ability to make you sit up and take notice. The best way to enjoy these beers would be to pour them in a chalice style glass and then drink. The glass will remind you of a broad mouthed wine glass. Similar to a wine glass the chalice allows for aeration of the beer for the aromas to become more prominent.
Featured Image: Brewery at Abbaye d’Orval, Belgium