Monks and Beer
March 4, 2006 9:30 PM   Subscribe

Trappist Ale. (warning, music on first link.) The six Belgian breweries Achel (little English), Chimay, Orval, Rochefort (unofficial site), Westmalle (no English), and Westvleteren, along with the Dutch brewery De Konigshoeven/La Trappe (first is English link to monastery, second is non-English brewery site.) are the only recognized producers of Trappist beers, although the latter was only recently granted the appellation after several years without it. Ranging from the relatively commercial and large-scale operations of Chimay and La Trappe to the other extreme of Westvleteren, who want to live quietly and don't want their beer distributed, these beers are considered some of the best in the world.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim (38 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Links to other monastery/brewery visits on the White Beer Travels site, which has nice articles but horrible navigation: Rochefort, Orval.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:33 PM on March 4, 2006


Oh, to be back in Belgium...
posted by pwedza at 9:42 PM on March 4, 2006


...and for a site that has all the others, including my favorite.
posted by pwedza at 9:48 PM on March 4, 2006


And something not directly related, but of potential interest, Coastr, a brand-new social beer networking site. Pretty light on features now, but I'm interested in seeing where it goes.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:57 PM on March 4, 2006


Oh, how I will drink to that.
posted by mwhybark at 10:37 PM on March 4, 2006


I don't know about best, but they certainly are amongst the strongest!
posted by asok at 10:42 PM on March 4, 2006


I thank beer tastes vile. One night, due to my usual lack of travel planning, I was stuck somewhere in Belgium. I wondered into a restaurant for dinner and for some reason ordered some trappist ale. I loved it. The stuff is delicious.
posted by rdr at 11:08 PM on March 4, 2006


Yes, they are considered some of the best. And with good reason. If you think you don't like beer, try a bottle of Chimay and call me in the morning.

I was told in a brewing supply store that some of these monasteries or whatever you want to call them have allowed others to take cultures of their yeast strains and sell them to homebrewers. Since much of the flavor of these beers comes from the yeast itself, and these strains are unique (having been cultured over centuries) this is quite a big deal for a homebrew.

Can anyone confirm or deny this?
posted by scarabic at 1:25 AM on March 5, 2006


it's pretty awesome to see chimay in a fpp.
posted by wakko at 2:41 AM on March 5, 2006


Ahh, Belgium. The best beer in the world, the toughest bike racers and frites with mayo plus mussels.
posted by fixedgear at 3:36 AM on March 5, 2006


scarabic, you can culture some right out of the bottle if you would like, although matching the flavor of the real thing is far more complicated and the abby may use multiple yeasts, including naturally occurring yeasts specific to their abby, and a separate bottling yeast. I made a batch this way once and it wasn't too bad. I think I used the yeast from a bottle of Chimay, or perhaps Duval. Some yeasts available to homebrewers claim to come from well known commercial brewers but are usually a bit cagey on the specifics.
posted by caddis at 4:31 AM on March 5, 2006


I was gonna give booze up for Lent. What was I thinking?
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:36 AM on March 5, 2006


I love Belgian beer. Especially Trappist ale, but Belgium is to beer as France is to wine. You could spend years trying them all, and happy years they would be.
posted by languagehat at 4:41 AM on March 5, 2006


Belgian beers are fantastic.
posted by sidereal at 4:41 AM on March 5, 2006


Also better than malt liquor at getting you f'ed up!

although Schlitz is more cost effective....
posted by photoslob at 6:50 AM on March 5, 2006


You fans of Belgian beer should sample some of Brewery Ommegang's offerings: Belgian-style beers brewed right here in the US of A. These aren't copies of the internationally renowned (and tasty) abbey brews mentioned above; they are beers inspired by the Belgian style.
posted by turtlegirl at 7:07 AM on March 5, 2006


Dang! Husband just pointed out that Ommegang's "where to find this beer" tool doesn't work (their subscription expired). It's brewed in New York and I've seen it in stores from Washington, DC to Vermont.
posted by turtlegirl at 7:15 AM on March 5, 2006


mmmm.... Chimay White.
posted by nitsuj at 7:25 AM on March 5, 2006


You can find Ommegang's brews at Trader Joe's.
posted by trey at 7:25 AM on March 5, 2006


If an atheist tries to drink one, it explodes.

posted by jfuller at 7:57 AM on March 5, 2006


Oops, shouldn't post before experimenting. I gave my neighbor the atheist a bottle of Witte Trappist to try, and he drank it and it didn't explode. It did, however, turn into Budweiser.

posted by jfuller at 8:08 AM on March 5, 2006


Closest thing to Belgian style beer in Canada: Unibroue.

I'm pregnant at the moment, and will be until autumn... and it's going to be a long, hot summer with me being unable to partake in a Fin du Monde. Sigh.
posted by Zinger at 8:18 AM on March 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


I can attest to the greatness of Unibroue. It's also available some places in the US. It sometimes makes it way into Trader Joe's.
posted by zsazsa at 9:27 AM on March 5, 2006


Unibroue actually brewed Trader Joe's Vintage Ale this year.
posted by trey at 9:32 AM on March 5, 2006


Unibroue: The beer, the drinkers.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:17 AM on March 5, 2006


"I was told in a brewing supply store that some of these monasteries or whatever you want to call them have allowed others to take cultures of their yeast strains and sell them to homebrewers. Since much of the flavor of these beers comes from the yeast itself, and these strains are unique (having been cultured over centuries) this is quite a big deal for a homebrew."

I don't know about people taking and selling the yeast to homebrewers, but the yeast does get out there, and not just for homebrew. I know a small commercial brewer in Brooklyn who uses Trappist yeast, I believe either Westmalle or Westvleteren.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:30 PM on March 5, 2006


Great post. I adore Belgian beer and I've tried all of these many times. I've got very drunk from drinking these too, but it's hardly the same as your regular: 'getting loaded on beer' activity.
posted by ob at 12:43 PM on March 5, 2006


Anyone know what specifically separates these beers from other quality beers?
posted by uni verse at 1:00 PM on March 5, 2006


Anyone know what specifically separates these beers from other quality beers?

Uhhhhh...they are made by monks?
posted by fixedgear at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2006


More exactly, they are made on the grounds of a monastery under the supervision of monks, with the proceeds going to support the monks and their works. The actual participation of the monks ranges from actually making all the beer to serving as something like the board of the company that makes the beer.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:02 PM on March 5, 2006


No lover of Trappist/Belgian beers should overlook Het Anker and their wonderful brews. My local Wegman's carries their Triple and Cuvee of the Emperor.
posted by pmbuko at 8:13 PM on March 5, 2006


You fans of Belgian beer should sample some of Brewery Ommegang's offerings: Belgian-style beers brewed right here in the US of A.

Isn't Ommegang now owned by Duvel? I thought so. The Rodenbach sour is very good indeed.

When NC 'popped the cap', allowing beers above 6% to be sold in the state, there were a few letters to the editor fulminating about the impending doom to be wrought by the introduction of new-fangled brews, complete with Bible quotes. I felt obliged to write a reply suggesting that this might be news to the Trappists and other monastic brewers whose beers were now available.

Anyway, my favourite monastic beer isn't actually a Trappist offering, though it does have Trappist heritage: St Bernardus Abt 12. Blows your socks off. And one of these days I may well get to try the elusive Westvleteren 12.
posted by holgate at 9:16 PM on March 5, 2006


Unibroue

hands down the best beers in the world.

maredsous comes in second.

for some reason, la trappe has been in short supply recently.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:31 PM on March 5, 2006


I'm surprised Leffe isn't in that list. It is abbey beer, and Belgian. The glass (Belgian beer must always be served in the proper glass) is Trappist. The taste is Trappist. I'm not sure if it is better than West Malle. I only especially like the trippel, or stronger (St. Bernardus is wonderful). The blond and brown (Leffe) isn't interesting to my taste.

Another beer special to Belgium is Lambic. I don't care for it much, but it is unique. Took some to a party once where a couple friends decided it was the ultimate. The authentic versions are corked.

Another Belgian beer you may find around (common even in South Africa) is Verboten Frucht. Quite nice, not as strong as the trappist trippel, but puts lager (yuck) to shame. For reasons which escape me, the British seem to favor Belgian lagers such as Hoegarten and Stella--Which I find inferior in taste to traditional British bitter ale.

Checking my collection of glasses, another, at least pseudo, trappist from Belgium is Grimbergen.

Yet another, but non-trappist, is Brugse Trippel. Makes a big head and goes down nice. I also enjoyed one of the Corsendonks, but can never remember which one. And then I also recommend Palm Special.
posted by Goofyy at 3:12 AM on March 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm just back from Belgium where I spent far too much time drinking beers, Trappist and otherwise. Much as I liked the frites, my best meal while there was a rabbit stewed in geuze, the unfruited type of lambic. It was soooo good. I'm salivating right now.
posted by OmieWise at 8:26 AM on March 6, 2006


So you can say geuze with the proper phlegmy throat clearing sound, give you the pronunciation guide.
posted by fixedgear at 8:35 AM on March 6, 2006


Hey, thanks for that link, fixedgear -- I've always wanted to know how to say those names authentically.
posted by languagehat at 10:50 AM on March 6, 2006


That pronounciation guide is a great link, I won't tell you how many different ways I've pronounced some of those words.
posted by OmieWise at 11:41 AM on March 6, 2006


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