In the most remote corner of West Flanders, in the middle of “Le Plat Pays”, in the heart of the hop area in West Flanders (Poperinge), a beer is made that fancies most of the beer lovers. In this poetry village, called Watou, time is apparently passing by slower than in the rest of the country. Life over there is different, quieter; where people live in accordance with nature, where tradition and values are honored.
The history the St. Bernardus brewery is connected to 2 trappist monasteries, one gave it their name, the other gave it their beer.
The Cheese Factory – Trappist monks of Mont des Cats in Godewaersvelde, France. Due to the anti clerical policy in the beginning of the past century, the Catsberg Abbey Community, located in the northern part of France, decided to move to Watou, a small village only a couple of kilometres further away but located in Belgium.
They transformed a farm into the “Refuge Notre Dame de St.Bernard” and started with the production of Abbey cheese.
In the early thirties, the attitude versus the monks improved and in 1934, the Abbey community decided to dispose of the Belgian annex and to bring back all activities to France. Mr. Evarist Deconinck took over the cheese factory from the Trappist monks and expanded the cheese factory. The most important cheese was sold under the name St. Bernard Watou.
The cheese factory was sold in 1959 and the production is now in the hands of Belgomilk in Moorslede.
The Brewery – Trappist Monks of Westvleteren
Shortly after the Second World War, the Trappist Monastery St.Sixtus in Westvleteren was looking for somebody to commercialize their beer because they did not want to do that themselves anymore. They gave a license to the cheesefactory, and Brewery St.Bernard was founded. The brew master from Westvleteren, Mathieu Szafranski (from Polish origin) became a partner in the brewery and brought along the recipes, the know-how and the St.Sixtus yeast strain.
They started selling the trappist beers under the brand names Trappist Westvleteren, St.Sixtus or even later Sixtus.
During a period of 46 years they brewed and commercialized the beers, while the monks continued to brew for themselves and for sales to 3 pubs in the neighbourhood. Amongst them, the world famous cafe In De Vrede, just next to the monastery.
In 1992 the license came to an end and since then we are brewing the same beers, with the same recipes, but under a different brand name: St.Bernardus.
(Text (a bit revised) from St. Bernardus website: http://www.sintbernardus.be/geschiedenis.php?l=en)
WHERE TO ENJOY THE ST. BERNARDUS BEERS WHILE IN BELGIUM
In Belgium, there are countless pubs, cafes, hotels and restaurants to enjoy the full range of the St. Bernardus line of beers.
De Gouden Ster (The Golden Star) is the brewery’s on-premise café located right above their new offices. They offer screening of a short film on the brewing process (English spoken), a full tour of the brewery, the brewhouse and the bottling lines, and a tasting of a selection of St.Bernardus beers in the café. Each visitor will receive an attractive giftpack containing four St.Bernardus beers (Triple, Pater 6, Prior 8 and Abt 12) with one authentic glass included. There is also a gift shop where many different items can be purchased.
But no place (it is said by the locals) offers more of an authentic and wonderful eating and drinking experience than ‘t Hommelhof Gasthof-Restaurant in Watou.
Chef and owner Stefaan Couttenye has created a menu that holds on to tradition, but with new innovative creations. As he studied the market place, he wanted to branch out and be different. He did not want to prepare recipes that were “typical” of Cuisine à la bière: Moulé en Frite (Mussels and Fries), etc.
Using traditional, local organic vegetables and herbs, Chef Stefaan takes his motivation (fueled by watching his grandmother cook with beer).
In his words, “Cooking means both thinking and doing! It is a fact that tastes complete one another or contrast, but the most important thing is to find the right balance. Like many others I thought that uncommonness was the key to success at first, but I soon started to realize that simplicity is complex enough. Trends and novelties are only granted a short life. Besides, you have to depart from the thought that only the best products are good enough, and for that you often have to wake up with the lark.”
“Gradually I got to know special and devoted producers, who were sometimes living just around the corner. Working with locals offers you the priceless advantage that you can follow the growth and breed process from beginning to end and acquire an unbelievable product knowledge.” I am more than happy to continue my fascinating voyage of discovery, as I am sure that the ultimate taste sensation is waiting for me somewhere along the way. Once I have reached that point, you will be the first to share in my ecstasy!”
OUR BREWVIEW OF ST. BERNARDUS TRIPEL
APPEARANCE / THE POUR:
8.0 % ABV. Opened the bottle and served at 51°F in it’s own open-mouthed goblet. Poured an easy 2-finger head. The head is dense, almost whipped egg-white density. We allowed the beer to warm up a bit… after 5-6 minutes before even taking a sip, the head collapsed, but only down to a 1/2″ height! The Brussels lacing on the sides of the goblet was thick and even. (We ensured this was a “Beer Clean” glass). The color is medium golden colored; the meniscus is medium to slow rising.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
The bouquet has the classic phenolic / fruity aroma to it. Light straw, hay, grassy aromas from the hops. A little bit of citrus mixed with tropical fruit. the malt-hops-yeast balance is excellent. This is another one of those beers that the bouquet changes and improves as the beer warms up. More of the fruity esters express themselves nicely.
The first taste tells you that this Tripel is not overly dry nor overly “sweet” one. Very well balanced, medium dryness, excellent fruitiness. You can definitely taste the Poperinge hops. You can taste the balance of the malt and yeast. Neither one dominates the other- it’s a trinity of wonderful and equally balanced flavors. There is a slight hint of pepperiness as well.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
The mouthfeel immediately hits the top of the mouth and the tip of the tongue because of the bottle conditioning along with the hop dryness. It leaves behind an equal balance of fruitiness and hop dryness.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
Wide open. APPETIZERS: Blue veined cheeses, raw milk cheeses, (find the St. Bernardus cheese if you can!). ENTRÈES: Moulé en Frite, of course! Click HERE for the menu at ‘t Hommelhof.
Anytime we can enjoy a St. Bernardus Tripel (or any other beer from them) is always a cherished occasion. If you are a Tripel fan, you simply must have this one…it is top class. We’ve immensely enjoyed all their beers for many, many years. This is a great beer to introduce to someone who is trying Belgian beers for the first time. Seek this one out… a must have.
BROUWERIJ ST. BERNARDUS
ST. BERNARDUS BEERS AVAILABLE IN THE USA FROM D&V INTERNATIONAL