Trappist Beers: A religious experience in Craft Beer
AuthenticTrappist Ales are a truly unique way of brewing beer that combines centuries of artisanal savoir-faire and tradition with deeply held religious values of generosity, charity and love.
If there’s a heaven, then they surely serve beer there, and they probably serve Trappist Beer. In the world of artisanal beer, these exceptional ales are truly the holy of holies – in more than one sense. And it’s not just any old brewery gets to brew them. Trappist beer must be brewed by monks or under their supervision within the walls of the monastery itself. And while the production may have been modernised, the scale of the operations remains refreshingly small-scale.
Another important thing about Trappist Beer – and Abbaye beers generally - is that you can never really feel guilty about drinking them because you know the proceeds are going to good causes. Trappist monasteries are founded on the principal of charity, so any money raised from the sale of the beers goes to running repairs – repairing the roof, buying new habits or feeding the pigs – and the rest is spent on providing aid for anyone who needs it, from passing travellers to famine relief. In fact, every single cent is ploughed back into the community, so by drinking Authentic Trappist Product beers, you’re effectively the shareholder in a much broader sense and the dividends are entirely spiritual! Nevertheless, you might be asking yourself if this charitable donation is tax-deductible. It isn’t.
Westmalle Tripel, the mother superior of Abbaye Tripels
Westmalle is the very first Authentic Trappist Beer to go on sale in a big way. Widely recognised as the mother of all Tripels this Belgian Triple was lovingly brewed for the first time in 1934 using only the finest specially selected barley, classic continental hops, and the same single yeast culture that’s now over 60 years old. The result is a fine honey-blonde Belgian Abbaye Ale full of rich plum and pear notes and a delicious bread-like quality.
Tynt Meadow, the latest member of the Authentic Trappist Ale family
If you thought Trappist Beer and Monastery Ales were all about Belgian beer styles – Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel – then think again. Fresh out of the tanks is Tynt Meadow is an English Dark Ale and England’s first Trappist Certified beer.
Pouring deep mahogany with ruby highlights, underneath the foam Tynt Meadow is packed with sweet dark chocolate covered raisin and liquorice toffee tones with hints of fig, spicy pepper and dried fruit, making it a worthy addition to this exclusive family.
Orval - Craft Beer that’s the stuff of legends
First brewed in 1932, an Orval is a Belgian Trappist beer with a rich amber colouring. Brewed with pale ale and caramelized malt, liquid candi sugar and saccharomyces yeasts, there’s a gorgeous fruitiness that is accentuated by a two-week bière de garde maturing period during which a new spontaneous fermentation yeast is added to give a subtle acidity. Orval takes its name from Countess Mathilde, who, during a walk in the forest dropped her wedding ring in the water while drinking from a stream. Hearing her pleas for help, the Virgin Mary sent a trout to search for her wedding ring. From then on, the Countess had visions of a golden valley or Val d’Or which gives us the name Or Val.
Westvleteren, the rarest of Trappist Ales
To get your hands on a bottle of Westvleteren takes grit and determination. First, you have to call the abbey to preorder your crates of beer – no easy feat, as their office arrangements aren’t exactly ISO Certified. Then, you have to give your license plate and make yourself available for a fixed rendezvous, sometimes with only a day or two’s notice. Then you drive up to the abbaye door under cover of darkness and put the crates into your trunk while handing over a bunch of unmarked banknotes in a plain brown envelope (ok, so this last bit isn’t strictly true).
Nevertheless, the results are worth it for a beer this complex, full of rich caramel, dried fruit vanilla, and chocolate notes.
Rochefort 10, the strongest Trappist Ale
Proof of its long heritage, the ten in Rochefort 10 does refer to its alcohol content, but not to its % ABV. Taking its name from an old unit of measurement, Rochefort 10 actually weighs in at an almighty 11.3% ABV.
Brewed at Belgium’s Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy de Rochefort (as much of a mouthful as the beer itself) since 1950, it was originally called "Merveille" in honour of its attractive colouring, but also for its powerful candy apple, plum, caramel, chocolate and toasted malt notes that make this a perfect dessert beer with chocolate cake or vanilla ice cream.