T is for Trappist
One might picture a hooded figure, quietly stalking the halls of ancient and holy buildings. They read. They pray. They brew.
Well – they do a bit more than that, but you get the idea.
The Trappist order was founded in the mid-1600s by the Abbot of the Cistercian monastery in La Trappe, France. He felt things were getting a bit too wild and crazy for his liking, so he introduced a stricter set of rules for the monks to follow.
One of these “Strict Observances” was that the monastery had to be self-sufficient. In other words – no more hand outs from the church. They had to make their own money.
Beer of course! They brewed to support their monastery.
As The Trappist order spread from France to the rest of Europe, breweries in monasteries began to pop up all over the world. Though many were destroyed in the French Revolution and the World Wars, there are still 10 which remain today (listed below):
Austria: Stift Engelszell
Belgium: Brasserie de Rochefort, Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle, St Sixtus, Bières de Chimay, Brasserie d’Orval, and Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis
Netherlands: Brouwerij de Koningshoeven and Brouwerij Abdij Maria Toevlucht
United States: St. Joseph’s Abbey
With the rising popularity of Trappist beers in the 20th century, many breweries around the world began to make beers similar in style and applied the “Trappist” label.
The monks didn’t like this. In fact, they didn’t like it so much they decided to sue . . . and won. Breweries must now be granted permission to use the “Authentic Trappist Product Logo” or risk legal action. Not only can these monks brew, but they also know the legal system!
Further, in order to make sure the “Trappist” distinction of a beer was synonymous with high quality, The International Trappist Association was founded. It’s made up of eight abbeys who put their stamp of approval (via a logo) on “official” products.
Trappist beers are typically Dubbels or Tripels. They’re top fermented and mostly bottle conditioned. They’re also delicious.
What’s the best news? Many of them are available in South Africa! So pop by the bottle shop and try a few pints of this traditional brew!