Why is Trappist Beer so special Part 1
Although monks had been brewing since many ages before, the Trappist order was created in the 1600's.
The Trappist Monks live a strict existence. Although rules have relaxed a little, they still lead a silent and obedient life under the rules of "Strict Observance".
The rule that perhaps has had such a great effect on the beer quality though is that of self reliance by the monasteries. This means that the monks have always brewed to feed local villages and for self-sufficiency. Over the years, the monks have even harvested the produce going into these special ales.
Years of patience and knowledge of brewing have been passed down by the monks. The beer they've made has had just as much significance as sustenance as it has as a recreational drink - there are even stories of monks held up in sieges only surviving on beer. The main beer varieties we see produced by the Trappists now are the "Dubbel" (strong, rich and dark) or "Tripel" (also strong and rich, but blond in colour).
In the 1990's, the Trappist stamp was created to protect the name much like the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) protects wine varieties. The rules to qualify as a Trappist brewer are as follows:
- The economic purpose of the brewery must be directed toward assistance and not towards financial gain.
- The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey - by or under control of Trappist monks.
- The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must depend on the monastic community.
In the last few hundred years over 20 Trappist monasteries have brewed right across Europe but now only 7 still do. Westmalle, Achel, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Orval, Chimay are the Trappist beers of Belgium - La Trappe is the only one outside of Belgium - in The Netherlands.
So remember, when drinking a Trappist ale, you are not just enjoying a fine ale - you are drinking a beer created from hundreds of years of patience, hardship, culture and tradition.