In today’s craft beer market, trappist beer is still considered to be one of the greatest and most sought-after styles. Yes, IPA’s are flooding the market and hop growers are at an all-time high in production, but you can get an IPA pretty much anywhere nowadays. Trappist beers? Not so much, hence why they are still so sought after. But what makes them so good and how did they start?
True trappist beers are produced in monasteries by Trappist monks. Before they became Trappist monks, they were called Cistercian monks. Cistercian monks had to abide by a very strict law that basically said that the monastery had to be completely self-sufficient and that everything they did had to done by their own hands. Nothing was to be bought. Everything was to be grown and used up. Any additional materials left over were to be donated. These monks started off making various styles of cheeses, jams, and breads. They were looking for a way to increase funds to help with the growth of the monastery and decided to brew beer. Why? Because it was easy to make and they had what they needed to brew it. The rest is history.
Most trappist breweries are found in the monasteries of Belgium. There are a few other places that brew trappist beer, but the true ones come from over the pond. What make them so sought after is that many of these monasteries don’t export their beer. They actually keep it within the region they brew them in.
Some of the major names in the trappist industry are Chimay, La Trappe, St. Bernardus, Rochefort, Orval, and Westvleteren. You can find all but Westvleteren at pretty much any grocery store or bottle shop today. Westvleteren is much harder to get a hold of. Although there are a few websites that actually sell Westy, you need much deeper pockets to get yourself a few. Not only are the beers more expensive, but the shipping is usually high as well. A few years back, RateBeer.com voted Westvleteren 12 the best beer in the world. When this came out, the roads were jammed to the monastery in the hopes to get a hold of a bottle of it.
If you’re looking for a change of pace in the beer market, look nowhere else. Trappist beer has an abundance of notes, ranging from fig to raisin to banana. Some are lightly carbonated, while others come off as more of a champagne (Orval especially). They are definitely unique and worth trying. One taste and you will understand as to why they are so popular in the craft world.
Until next time….