Trappist Beer is an area of the drinks word that many see as a bit mystical or magical. To be classed as an ‘Authentic Trappist Product’ – or Trappist Brewery requires you to meet some certain conditions. The main criteria is that the beer is produced under the supervision of the Monks or Nuns, that it is produced within the Abbey grounds and finally, the proceeds from the sales should support the work of the monastery and the causes it supports.
In some cases these are some of the most revered beers in the world, in part due to the quiet and reverend nature of the breweries themselves.
In some cases, the beers have historically only been sold at the monastery gates and only at certain times in limited quantities. This, combined with hundreds of years of tradition and history gives us some of the world’s most special beers.
Trappist monasteries are quite amazing places – whether you’re religious or not (my religion is beer of course!) The monks can be quite secretive about their processes and at all times want to preserve their way of life.
On a visit to the Westmalle Abbey it wasn’t just beer that they brewed on site – they have a dairy herd (and dairy) a bakery, a haberdasher and a small holding – effectively making themselves self-sufficient, able to support themselves and those in need around them.
Westmalle, located a short drive from Antwerp, produce three commercially available beers – ‘Extra’, a light, pale Belgian ale full of citrus and subtle spice and only recently available to the public having traditionally been the reserved solely for the Monks! The ‘Dubbel’ is a darker, stronger beer at 7% with lots of dark fruit notes of plum & fig. And finally, their Triple which weighs in at 9.5% have a lovely fresh aroma and notes of fruity apricot.
‘Trappist Beer is an area of the drinks word that many see as a bit mystical or magical.’
Here in the UK we have recently gained a new Trappist brewery. The Monks at Mount Sint Bernard, near Leicester, started brewing again in 2018, having previously sustained their activities with a dairy farm.
However, with the viability of this diminishing they looked to brewing, something that was in the Abbey’s history. ‘Tynt Meadow’ is brewed and packaged entirely by the Monks – and the beer is in the Dubbel style, dark and fruity with flavours of chocolate, subtle liquorice, spice and some fig. We’re privileged enough here at Fuggles to not only sell many beers from the world’s Trappist breweries but we’re also an ambassador for one, the wonderful ORVAL. Brewed at the Abbaye de Orval this Belgian Pale Ale is different to a lot of Trappist beers. Dry hopped and then refermented in the bottle with Brettanomyces yeast (a wonderful yeast which allows a beer to evolve and develop new flavours over time). It’s fantastically fruity, with loads of orange and citrus notes initially, which over time (months and years) evolve into a tarter citrus, like mandarin with lots of complexity and some funk.
We sell ‘fresh Orval’ at our shop and in our pubs we’re able to offer not only ‘fresh’, which is under six months old, but also aged versions from our cellar which really allow to see how a beer can evolve thanks to the use of Brettanomyces and some time. It’s something every beer lover should experience and try.
There’s plenty more in our fridges too from Trappist breweries Chimay, La Trappe and Rochefort. If you’ve not discovered the wonderful world of Trappist beer you can’t go far wrong with the breweries above.