And now, our favorite beer style of all, TRAPPIST BEER. Trappist beer is brewed by Trappist breweries. 11 monasteries — six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands, one in Austria, one in America, and the newest one in Italy- currently brew beer and sell it as Authentic Trappist Product.*
The Trappist order originated in the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe, France. Various Cistercian congregations existed for many years, and by 1664 the Abbot of La Trappe felt that the Cistercians were becoming too liberal. He introduced strict new rules in the abbey and the Strict Observance was born. Since this time, many of the rules have been relaxed. However, a fundamental tenet, that monasteries should be self-supporting, is still maintained by these groups.
Monastery brewhouses, from different religious orders, have existed across Europe since the Middle Ages. From the very beginning, beer was brewed in French Cistercian monasteries following the Strict Observance. For example, the monastery of La Trappe in Soligny already had its own brewery in 1685. Breweries were later introduced in monasteries of other countries as the Trappist order spread from France into the rest of Europe. The Trappists, like many other religious people, originally brewed beer to feed the community, in a perspective of self-sufficiency. Nowadays, Trappist breweries also brew beer to fund their works and for good causes. Many of the Trappist monasteries and breweries were destroyed during the French Revolution and the World Wars. Among the monastic breweries, the Trappists were certainly the most active brewers. In the last 300 years, there were at least nine Trappist breweries in France, six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands, one in Germany, one in Austria, one in Bosnia and possibly other countries.
Today, Eleven Trappist breweries are active—6 in Belgium, 2 in the Netherlands, 1 in Austria, 1 in the United States, and the newest one in Italy.
In the twentieth century, the growing popularity of Trappist beers led some brewers with no connection to the order to label their beers “Trappist”. After unsuccessful trials, monks finally sued one such brewer in 1962 in Ghent, Belgium.
The Dutch brewery De Koningshoeven produces Dutch Trappist beers – branded La Trappe – that are able to carry the “Authentic Trappist Product” logo. Their use of the International Trappist Association logo was withdrawn in 1999, but was restored in October 2005.
INTERNATIONAL TRAPPIST ASSOCIATION RECOGNIZED BREWERIES
In 1997, eight Trappist abbeys – six from Belgium (Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Westmalle and Achel), one from the Netherlands (Koningshoeven) and one from Germany (Mariawald) – founded the International Trappist Association (ITA) to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from abusing the Trappist name. This private association created a logo that is assigned to goods (cheese, beer, wine, etc.) that respect precise production criteria. For the beers, these criteria are the following:
- 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 breweries are constantly monitored to assure the irreproachable quality of their beers.
This association has a legal standing, and its logo gives the consumer some information and guarantees about the product.
In 2012, the Trappist brewery of the abbey of Engelszell, Trappistenbrauerei Engelszell in Engelhartszell, Austria started brewing beer at the monastery (the former production had stopped in 1929) and in the same year obtained the Authentic Trappist Product logo for their beer.
In 2014, the Tre Fontane abbey in Rome, Italy became a member of the International Trappist Association (ITA). In early 2015, Tre Fontane Abbey submitted an application for the right to use the logo “Authentic Trappist Product” on beer made from a recipe which they developed. Representatives of the ITA made the required site visit, and the conclusion of the Quality Audit was favorable.
The German abbey of Mariawald is not producing beer (the ATP logo is used for other products), so there are currently eleven breweries that are allowed to have the products they sell display the Authentic Trappist Product logo:
BELGIUM- Bières de Chimay
BELGIUM- Brasserie d’Orval
BELGIUM- Brasserie de Rochefort
BELGIUM- Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle
BELGIUM- Brouwerij Westvleteren/St Sixtus
BELGIUM- Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis/Achel
THE NETHERLANDS- Brouwerij de Koningshoeven/La Trappe
THE NETHERLANDS- Trappistenbrouwerij de Kievit / Zundert
GERMANY- Stift Engelszell
ITALY- Tre Fontane
UNITED STATES- Spencer Brewery / St. Joseph’s Abbey
OTHER TRAPPIST BEER
The French abbey of Sainte Marie du Mont des Cats has been selling Trappist beer since June 16, 2011. This abbey has no brewery at this time and does not plan to build one in the near future, for reasons of cost and brewing skills. They have not excluded rebuilding one brewery in the future. The Trappist beer sold by Mont des Cats is produced by the Chimay brewery and does not wear the “authentic trappist product” logo.
TYPES OF TRAPPIST BEER
Trappist beers are all top-fermented, including La Trappe Bockbier, and mainly bottle conditioned. Trappist breweries use various systems of nomenclature for the different beers produced which relate to their relative strength.
The best known is the system where different beers are called Enkel/Single, Dubbel/Double and Tripel/Triple. (See our ABBEY beer style page to read on the characteristics on DUBBEL and TRIPEL). Considering the importance of the Holy Trinity in the church, it is unlikely that the choice of three types of beers was accidental. In the early days, there was no way of precisely measuring the alcohol content of beer, so in order to increase the alcohol strength, the monks used double the ingredients for a Dubbel and triple for a Tripel, marking the casks accordingly. Enkels are now no longer brewed as such.
Colors can be used to indicate the different types, dating back to the days when bottles were unlabeled and had to be identified by the capsule or bottle-top alone. Chimay beer labels are based on the color system (in increasing order of strength red, white and blue). Westvleteren beers are still unlabeled for the most part. We have seen some labels for their Abt 12 for the American market.
There is also a number system (6,8 and 10, as used by Rochefort), which gives an indication of strength, but is not necessarily an exact alcohol by volume (ABV). Achel combine a strength and a colour (of the beer itself—blond or brown) designation.
Most Trappist breweries also feature a “patersbier” or “fathers’ beer” that is only available within the monastery. This variety is designed to be consumed by the monks themselves, although it is sometimes offered at the monastery’s on-site café. The term “patersbier” does not designate a style as such; it is usually a weaker version of one of the regular beers, and may only be offered to the Brothers on festive occasions, both of these facts relating to the Trappist tradition of austerity. Examples include Chimay Dorée and Petite Orval.
Enkel, meaning “single”, is a term formerly used by the Trappist breweries to describe the basic recipe of their beers. There are now no Trappist (or secular) breweries using the term. Instead, “Blond(e)” (La Trappe, Westvleteren), “5” (Achel) or “6” (Rochefort) are used to describe the brewery’s lightest beer. An Enkel could fulfil the role of a patersbier, as was the case with De Koningshoeven’s when it was in production.
Quadrupel is the name Koningshoeven gave to a La Trappe ale they brew which is stronger than their Tripel.
(Much of the above article was taken from Wikipedia: “Trappist Beer” with some modifications that were needed.)
Trappist beers, being the Holiest of all, should be drunk with reverence. After all, it was a Trappist beer that led us to discover the wonderful beers of Belgium (see the ABOUT THE CEO PAGE). This was we believe, a divine encounter from Heaven above. When you purchase a genuine Trappist beer, you are supporting brothers (and sisters) who do good works in their service to Almighty GOD. (Ephesians 2:10) We hold the Trappist beers in the highest regard in the world of beer… we hope you do as well.
RELATED TRAPPIST BEER LINKS & BREWVIEWS:
May 20, 2017: LA TRAPPE ISID’OR
April 16, 2017: EASTER 2017 SPECIAL – BREWVIEW ON TRAPPIST WESTVLETEREN 12 VINTAGE 2013
March 31, 2017: BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BROUWERIJ DER SINT- BENEDICTUSABDIJ DE ACHELSE KLUIS
March 31, 2017: BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BREWVIEW 1: TRAPPIST ACHEL BLONDE 8
March 31, 2017: BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BREWVIEW 2: TRAPPIST ACHEL BRUIN 8
March 31, 2017: BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BREWVIEW 3: TRAPPIST ACHEL EXTRA
December 12, 2016: BREWERY SPOTLIGHT ON THE SPENCER BREWERY – SPENCER, MASSACHUSETTS
December 12, 2016: DECEMBER 2016 BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BREWVIEW 1: THE SPENCER BREWERY – TRAPPIST IMPERIAL STOUT
December 12, 2016: DECEMBER 2016 BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BREWVIEW 2: THE SPENCER BREWERY – TRAPPIST ALE (PATERSBIER / TRAPPIST SINGLE)
December 12, 2016: DECEMBER 2016 BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BREWVIEW 3: THE SPENCER BREWERY – TRAPPIST HOLIDAY ALE (CAPPED VERSION)
December 12, 2016: DECEMBER 2016 BREWERY SPOTLIGHT BREWVIEW 4: THE SPENCER BREWERY – TRAPPIST HOLIDAY ALE (CORKED VERSION)
October 31, 2016: QUATTRO-QUAD BLIND TASTING BREWVIEW
May 15, 2016: CHIMAY DORÉE
April 8, 2016: TRAPPIST WESTVLETEREN 8
September 8, 2014: LA TRAPPE QUADRUPEL
March 27, 2014: REVIEW ON SPENCER TRAPPIST ALE
March 24, 2014: REVIEW ON WESTMALLE TRAPPIST TRIPEL
January 22, 2014: CHIMAY TRAPPIST ALES: OUR 30-YEAR TRIBUTE
November 25, 2013: ROCHEFORT TRAPPIST 8
November 1, 2013: TODAY IS ALL SAINTS DAY!
October 10, 2013: WESTMALLE TRAPPIST DUBBEL