WESTMALLE TRAPPIST TRIPEL is our second BrewView of the two beers commercially available from the monastery. The third is called “EXTRA” is only brewed twice per year and is only for internal use: the monks and guests of the abbey drink this beer at lunch. Widely considered to be the originator of the Tripel style, Westmalle Tripel is a Trappist ale that should not be missed. It’s been listed on the “1001 beers you must taste before you die” selection by A. Tierney Jones. Indeed it is.
Twice in the 18th and 19th century the Cistercians (just like most other monastic orders) had been prohibited. In 1791 in the aftermath of the French Revolution, Augustinus de Lestrange Dubosc (1754–1827), the novice master of La Trappe Abbey (Soligny-la-Trappe) left France and went to Switzerland. He settled in the empty Carthusian monastery Val-Sainte (E: Sacred Valley) near Fribourg. As the senate of Fribourg put a numerus clausus of 21 monks and the refugees from France kept flowing in, Lestrange decided to send monks abroad to create new settlements, they left for Spain, Italy, and a third group to Canada. The group which was sent to Canada, would end up in Westmalle and laid the foundations of the present-day abbey. When the monks, on their way to Canada, passed through Flanders, the bishop of Antwerp, Cornelis Franciscus Nelis, invited them to Antwerp. He wanted to ask Lestrange if they would be allowed to found a Trappist monastery in his bishopric instead of going to Canada. Lestrange allowed 8 of them to stay and to settle in Westmalle in the Campine region of Flanders.
The bishop of Antwerp gave them a small farm Nooit Rust (that is, “never rest”) in which on 6 June 1794 a priory was founded. The farm dated from 1778 and was built by F.J. Charlé. He had purchased the land from the Saint-Bernard abbey of Bornem on 8 June 1773. The sale was a result of decree of Maria Theresa of Austria of 23 June 1772 to promote the cultivation of the Campine. With the support of banker Karel Jan Michiel De Wolff and other beneficiaries, such as the Saint-Bernard abbey of Bornem, bishop Neefs, Vyncke of Wuustwezel, Legrelle and count Bois d’Outrement, the farm was purchased on 3 June 1794 from the widow of Charlé, Elisabeth de Roode.
Two novices had joined the original group of eight, so they were now 10 founders: Arsenius Durand (first prior), Eugenius Bonhomme de la Prade, Joannes-M. De Bruyne, Joseph X (surname unknown), Bonavetura X (surname unknown), Sebastianus Dumont, Hippolytus Moriceau, Zozymus Florentin, Stefanus Malmy and Maria-Bernardus Benoit. However already on 17 July 1794, the monks had to leave Westmalle again, when the French troops invaded the Austrian Netherlands. They fled to Münster (Westphalia, Germany), and founded a monastery in Darfeld.
In February 1802, 12 monks returned to Westmalle, and with the support of the Antwerp banker Karel Jan Michiel De Wolff and other beneficiaries, the priory started to grow. However, on 28 July 1811 a decree by Napoleon I of France closed all Trappist monasteries in France. On 21 August 1814, after the defeat of Napoleon, the monks finally returned to Westmalle. During the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, the priory narrowly escaped closure due to the support of Leonard Pierre Joseph du Bus de Gisignies and on 25 January 1822, the priory was granted legal status by personnification civile by King William I. In 1830 a guesthouse was built, with the support of G. De Boey and other benficiaries. In 1833 Archbishop Engelbert Sterckx granted the abbey the right to print the books of the Trappist order.
FOUNDING OF THE BREWERY
In 1834, negotiations started to obtain papal approval of the regulations in order to promote the priory to an abbey. It took until 22 April 1836 before the monastery became a Trappist abbey by a decree of Pope Gregory XVI and Archbishop Engelbert Sterckx. The regulations of abbot Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé (1677) were ordained to be the rule in the Abbey of Westmalle. The regulations of de Rancé say that the monks are allowed to drink the popular local beverage with their meals (besides water), which in Flanders is beer. In order not to have to buy beer, they decided to brew it themselves. In 1836 the abbot Martinus Dom starts with the construction of a small brewery, and on 10 December 1836 they served their first brew of Trappist beer at lunch.
On December 5 1842, the abbot and the community finally became the legal owners of the abbey. During the 19th Century the Abbey of Westmalle founded several other monasteries, such as Achel Abbey on 21 March 1846 (first founded in Meersel-Dreef on 3 May 1838 in a former monastery of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin) and provided support for the Saint Sixtus abbey (Westvleteren). In 1840 a vineyard was created and a new entry gate was built. On 3 June 1884, the abbey of Tegelen was founded and on 6 April 1894, the abbey of Saint Joseph in Belgian Congo. Father Jozef Peeters, together with 4 friars left for Congo and they first settled in N’Dembe in Kasai but after a few years they relocated to Bamania near Mbandaka (then Coquilhatville). The abbey in Congo was in 1925 handed over to the Brothers of the Sacred Heart of the Sacred Heart of Issoundun (Borgerhout). In Westmalle from 1885 onwards, several new buildings were built, such as a new church and a guesthouse between 1885 and 1887. Between 1895 and 1908, the abbey was expanded and in 1895 a tramway was extended up to within the abbey for transport. In 1897, a second brewery was built and in 1898 the fourth and last wing of the abbey was completed, now consisting of a library, refectory, dormitory and the wing for the novices.*
20TH CENTURY INTO THE 21ST…
In 1914 at the onset of World War I, the church tower was demolished by the retreating Belgian army, it was rebuilt in 1924 with a campanile. During the war 10 monks, led by father Isidorus Verelst, stayed in the abbey. The other ones lived in exile in monasteries in Zundert, Echt and Tegelen in the (neutral) Netherlands. In 1930 a cowshed was built and in 1934 a new brewery was built. The abbey kept blister head cows for their milk and the production of Trappist cheese. During World War II, the abbey was spared and after the war the library was enlarged and the church modernized. Between 1946 and 1954 the monks of the abbey helped with the building of the Abbey of Our Lady of Nazareth in nearby Brecht. The rebuilding of Westmale Abbey was finished in 1964. On 26 June 1972 it was decided that the abbey of Saint Sixtus would replace Cîteaux as the mother-abbey of Westmalle and the abbot of Saint Sixtus became the supervisor of Westmalle.*
In 1934, the brewery brewed a strong pale ale of 9.5% abv giving it the name “Tripel” – the first modern use of the name. The recipe has not changed since 1956. It is made with pale candy sugar and has a very pale colour produced from a mash of light pilsener malts. Styrian Goldings hops are used along with some German varieties and the classic Saaz pilsener hop. After a long secondary fermentation, Westmalle Tripel is bottled with a dose of sugar and yeast.**
The bottling plant was modernised in 1956, and in 1968 the abbey obtained its own water treatment plant, long before there was any legal requirement for it. In 1991, they invested in a computer-controlled brewing hall. If it improves the quality, then they are happy to use new technologies.Recent examples of the drive towards better quality are the new bottling plant that came into use in 2000, and the just completed maturing cellar. In that underground store the beer ferments a second time in almost ideal conditions. With both investments, special attention was also paid to the working conditions and respect for the environment.***
Up to today, the Trappist abbey of Westmalle remains a remarkable element in the village of Westmalle (Malle) and continues its activities as a monastery and a brewery. In 2004 abbot Ivo Dujardin resigned and was succeeded by father Philip Nathanaël Koninkx.* The majority of the workers in the brewery are no longer monks, but secular staff brought in from outside.**
For almost 170 years, the brewery has only used pure ingredients: water, malt, hops, sugar and yeast. All this time they have made 100% natural beer with them. And with each investment, they aim for a better quality of the Trappist beer. That has been the motive throughout the history of the brewery.***
*(Source: Wikipedia- “Westmalle Abbey” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westmalle_Abbey)
**(Source: Wikipedia- “Westmalle Brewery” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westmalle_Brewery)
***(Source: Westmalle website- http://www.trappistwestmalle.be/en/page/historiek.aspx)
WHERE TO ENJOY WESTMALLE TRAPPIST TRIPEL
There are literally thousands of establishments around the world to enjoy Westmalle Tripel: From the local pub through Michelin starred restaurants and 4-star hotels. However, when in Belgium, the one establishment that is a must visit is Café Trappisten in Westmalle. The café is less than 1/4 mile from the abbey- (it’s just on the other side of Antwerpsesteenweg road, just across the fields in front of the abbey.)
Recently, the café was rebuilt on the same location. The new building is much more modern with elegant dining rooms, meeting rooms, and rooms to hold parties and special events. They have a well thought out menu, featuring Westmalle Dubbel on draught and both the Dubbel and Tripel in bottles.
OUR BREWVIEW OF WESTMALLE TRAPPIST TRIPEL
APPEARANCE / THE POUR:
9.5 % ABV. Poured into a open-mouthed Trappist goblet, and served at 51°F. Poured an easy 2 1/2-finger height, dense, whipped egg-white head with large and small bubbles. The color is medium golden color with a slight orange tinge and a bit of yeast haze due to the bottle conditioning. The meniscus is very slow rising. After about 7 minutes after it being poured, the head left behind excellent Brussels lacing on the sides of the glass, and the head height stayed a constant 1/4″ high throughout consumption time.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
This is the classic Westmalle aroma that many have tried to copy. Citrus, (oranges) slight tropical fruit, even fresh cut peaches if you breathe in deeply. The Westmalle Abbey yeast bouquet is fresh, characteristic and remarkable. As the beer warms up, the yeast characteristics express themselves more. At this point, the yeastiness is almost like fresh baked bread.
This is a dry triple. The yeast creates a masterful balance balance of dryness and fruitiness. The spicy phenolics are very complex. There is a dry citrus taste, almost a blood orange taste. The hop spiciness is moderate. This is a very sophisticated tasting beer.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
The dryness and the body of the beer fills the entire mouth. There is a moderate effervescence to it because of the bottle conditioning. Wonderful creaminess, with a dry finish. This is where the moderate hop spiciness comes in.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
APPETIZERS: Fresh fruit, Westmalle Trappist chesse for sure! Croquettes. ENTRÈES: Moule en Frite, pastas with white cream sauces, chicken, fish, pork tenderloin.
This is the Tripel that started it all. This was a world classic the moment it was brewed for the first time. Widely available year-round at many retail outlets due to the marketing and sales efforts of Merchant Du Vin. A must have, seek this one out for sure.
ABDIJ DER TRAPPISTEN VAN WESTMALLE:
WESTMALLE TRAPPIST ALES AVAILABLE IN THE USA FROM MERCHANT DU VIN:
Note: This video on Westmalle is a bit dated… There are now ten Trappist Breweries in the world today.