The Seven Trappist Breweries of the World

What is a Trappist Beer?

Trappist beers are regarded as the best tasting beers of the world.  They are brewed by Monks in only seven places within Belgium and the Netherlands.  The name Trappist originates over 900 years ago from the monks of the Cistercian order of Normandy, France.  There are three conditions that must be met to use the name Trappist on a bottle of beer; first, the beer must be brewed within a Trappist Abbey, second, the beer must be brewed under the supervision and responsibility of the monks, and third, the majority of the revenue produced must be dedicated to charitable work.

Seven beers can legally use the name Trappist and apply the special logo to the bottles.  They include Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren, all located in Belgium, and located in the Netherlands is La Trappe. In the USA La Trappe uses the name Koningshoeven.

These beers range in color from gold to dark mahogany, and are high in flavor and in alcohol.  They are tough to find locally, but if you do give them a taste!  Stuff Yer Face offers three beers from Chimay and two from Westmalle.

During our Travels for Beer, Nina and I have traveled to 5 of the 7 Trappist Abbeys. In the Spring of 2009 we look forward to completing our tour.  Lucky us!

Achel

is located in the Northeast corner of Belgium. From Antwerp, we took a train, then a bus, and then we walked 3miles through the countryside to the Abbey.  It was worth the effort to be able to taste their two beers on tap.  We arrived just one hour before closing but plenty of time for some cheese and tastings.  A gold and brown version were available from the tap, both delicious and tempting for more. The beers on tap are much different from the bottle variety sold in stores because of refermentation in the bottle.  The abbey has an outdoor and indoor cafe area with simple food selections.  The highlight of the visit was Nina’s chance meeting with one of the Monks, who seemed to be celebrating a birthday with family and friends.  We were able to share a photo with him, but no chance of sharing a beer.

Westmalle

is located just a short local bus ride from Antwerp towards the Northeast.  The Westmalle beers have always been favorites of ours…the dubbel which is brown and frothy with hints of dried fruit and the triple which is gold in color with a brilliant white head, and tastes of bread and spice.  Only two beers are brewed here.  The Abbey has no attached pub, but across the street from the abbey entrance is a cafe dedicated to good food and the abbey beers.  As the photo on the left below shows, that cafe was under some renovations when we arrived!  How disappointing to us.  But we were able to walk the peaceful grounds surrounding the abbey and dream of the food and beer that the cafe must offer.  Some locals promised us the cafe would open again shortly. We walked a short distance and located another cafe to enjoy the great beers of Westmalle.

Chimay

is located in the south of Belgium, fairly remote from any major city. We rented a car in Namur, and drove about 1 1/2 hours.  The immediate area of the abbey is very pastoral.  A highlight when approaching the city of Chimay was a large brass brewing kettle sitting in the middle of a traffic circle. Chimay brews three beers for the public, the red, white, and blue labels, with alcohol percentages of 7%, 8%, & 9%.  They also brew a green label, lower in alcohol, for the Monk’s own consumption.  The red & blue have deep flavorings of dried fruit, & the white is spicy and yeasty.  There is no pub located at the abbey, but they do allow you to walk the quiet gardens. Nearby are two pubs that can satisfy your thirst.  We found the food to be excellent in both, and the beer could not get any fresher.  The low prices will surprise you and entice you, along with the friendly service.

Westvleteren

is located in the Southwest corner of Belgium near the city of Watou.  Their beers are the most difficult to locate in the USA.  The Monks will only sell from their “drive-thru bank” like setup and request that the beers not be resold.  There is a cafe across the street which is allowed to sell their beers and cheeses.  On our visit the blonde and bruin 12 versions were being poured.  The blonde was a very yellow gold color which had an almost grassy taste, and the taste of the bruin 12 lived up to its worldly reputation of best tasting.  We arrived via a local bus which you need to schedule for your pick-ups and drop-offs.  Arriving was no problem, but after tasting the beers and lunching on the Monk produced cheese, meeting our bus for departure was more difficult.  From our cafe seats we watched across the farm fields our bus arrive on time and depart without us!  No problem, let’s have another best beer of the world…we’ll worry about getting back to the hotel later.  At just about that moment, our hotel desk clerk showed up with his friends and noticed us.  He offered us a ride back to town, but only after he enjoyed some of the beer.

No problem, we’ll drink another and wait.

La Trappe

is located in the Southeast corner of the Netherlands, very close to the Belgian border.  We based ourselves in the city of Eindhoven.  Our day began early in Amsterdam, and after checking in to our hotel, we took a local train and a local bus to get to the Abbey in Koningshoven.  We unknowingly jumped off the bus a couple of stops early which left us a mile walk.  We finally reached the abbey just one hour before their cafe closed. The staff was very friendly and told us not to rush.  Good thing, because they had four beers to taste; the blonde, double, triple, and quadruple all freshly poured from the tap. Beyond the closing hour, the brewmaster showed up for a beer and we were able to speak with him over a couple of beers.  He invited us back the next day for a tour of the brewery! So, that we did.  Within the walls of the abbey we could smell the malt and hear the prayer. Great beers here.

Orval

Once a year the Abbaye opens its doors to the public for a tour of the brewing facility.  Last Spring we were fortunate enough to win the lottery and get a time slot for the tour.  The grounds of the Abbaye Orval are beautiful. The serene grounds are perfect to learn about this 900 year old Abbey, its ruins, and history; the Italian widow who gifted the land and money to the Cisterian Monks after losing her wedding ring in the well, praying to God, and then the fish came up from the pond to give it to her. Thus, the symbol! Today was our lucky day to visit the brewery.  The staff and monks welcome the public to view the brewing process and taste the beer.   After the tour the public was welcomed to taste the heavenly brew.  They offered us to sample the ale at either “normal” temperature or refrigerated temperature.  The normal temperature was about 50 degrees which enables the flavors to really come out. Our beers were accompanied with a large cup of diced cubes of Orval cheese. Can you say YUM! Nina and I met the Abbot of the Abbaye, Father Abbot, who was excited to meet the public and also sample the beer.  The monks drink a “petite orval” during the week, which is about 3.4%.  On Sundays and feast days they drink the regular ale which is 6.8%. He was very social, friendly and spent a generous amount of time with us. He is Flemish and prior to running the entire Abbaye he was in charge of the brewery. The oldest monk is now 93 and entered Orval at 18! There are 15 Monks at Orval.

Rochefort

TODAY, OUR GOAL IS REACHED! 

Nina and I have arrived at Abbaye St. Remy in Rochefort.  Located about 5 miles outside of town, it is the last of the seven Trappist Abbayes for us to visit. We found a couple of signs on the rode along the way, but no monks once we arrived at the Abbaye.  The area was calm, peaceful and at the end of a long beautiful tree-lined road. The grounds were pristine and the chapel very simple and clean. There was no beer or cheese to buy or sample.  We played tourists for the day in Rochefort and found La Gourmandaise for dinner; a restaurant known for cooking with local produce and Trappist beer.  Amazed and happy with the $3 price of THIS beer, it’s time to get to work!  Rochefort 6, 8, and 10: 6 was terrific, dark amber with 7% ABV.  8 the sweetest, dark brown with 9%ABV. 10 wins! 11% and dark brown with hints of chocolate, definitely our favorite, it is smooth and drinkable. Accompanied with filet of beef, Rochefort beer sauce and local Rochefort cheese. Good service, friendly patrons, delicious! They lived up to their reputation.

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Fri - Sat : 11AM to 1AM

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