The Trappist Brewers and their beers

 

The Trappists constitute the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. This order was founded in 1098 and the name "Trappist" got its origin from the Abbey of Notre-Dame de la Trappe in Soligny (France).

There is no beer style called Trappist. The term "Authentic Trappist Beer" is a designation of the brewery of origin. To use the name and the logo, the 3 rules of the International Trappist Association must be observed:

Actually, 10 trappist breweries are recognized, 6 from Belgium, 2 from the Netherlands, 1 from Austria and 1 from the United States of America. Between 1999 and october 7th 2005, the brewery of Koningshoeven (Abbey of Schaapskooi in Tilburg, Netherlands) was no more allowed to use the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo as the brewery has been taken over by Bavaria and was in this period no more considered to be under control of the monks.
Additionaly, the beer Mont des Cats from France is also considered as a Trappist beer, but the beer is still produced by Chimay.

Achel   Chimay   Koningshoeven    Mont des Cats   Orval    Rochefort   Spencer    Stift Engelszell    Westmalle   Westvleteren    Zundert


Sint-Benedictusabdij, 3930 Hamont-Achel, www.achelsekluis.org, production: 4'500 hl

This abbey started to brew beers back in 1850, but the brewery was destroyed during World War I. Later, they made different attempts to have their beer brewed by other brewers: De Kluis from 1976 to 1985, Sterkens from 1987-1990 (who made a Kluyserbier which is the same as their actual Poorter) and finally De Teut 't Paterke from 1991 to 1995. At last, the monks decided that the best way was to brew the beer themselves and so they got started in 1999 with three beers: 4 Blond, 5 Bruin and 6 Blond. In 2001 they started to brew the 8 Blond and discontinued the 4 Blond and the 6 Blond, replacing them with a new 5 Blond. In 2002 then came the 8 Bruin and the Extra (de Drie Wijzen).

8 Blond, 8%: blond-orange colour with a fine creamy head, nice lace, complex aroma (orange, peach, yeast and bread), smooth, full-bodied with a strong bitterness, long dry bitter, fruity and bready finish - robust and very well-made
my rating: 4.0 / RateBeer: 3.74

8 Bruin, 8%: cloudy ruby-brown colour with a fine head, aroma of malt, apple and cream, full-bodied, oily with a dry alcohol and licorice finish.
my rating: 3.8 / RateBeer: 3.75

Extra (de Drie Wijzen), 9.5%: light hazy red-brown colour, chaotic foam with big bubbles, aroma of candy sugar and malt, full-bodied, sweet, alcohol and sugary finish - powerful and well-made though maybe a bit too sweet.
my rating: 3.7 / RateBeer: 3.93

Blond Extra, 9.5%:
my rating: N/A / RateBeer: 3.56

5 Blond, 5%: is not commercialized and can only be found at the abbey.
my rating: N/A / RateBeer: 3.38

5 Bruin, 5%: is not commercialized and can only be found at the abbey.
my rating: N/A / RateBeer: 3.16


Abbaye Notre-Dame de Scourmont, 6464 Forges, www.chimay.be, production: 123'000 hl.

Chimay started to brew back in 1863. They are selling 3 beers and brewing a fourth (Dorée (Refterbier)) reserved to the monks' consumption and which can only be found at the Auberge de Poteaupré, near the abbey. The Chimay Rouge also called Première was started in 1948 as an Easter beer. The Bleue or Grande Réserve came out the same year as Spéciale Noël. The Blanche also called Cinq Cents or Triple was first brewed in 1966. In 2012, to celebrate the 150 years spent at the Abbey Of Scourmont, a beer called 150 or Speciale Cent Cinquante has been brewed specially for this occasion.
There is actually a controversy about the quality of the Chimay products which is considered by some people to have dropped down during the last time. The brewer admits to use wheat flour (wheat starch according to the labels but it appears to be a translation mistake) and hop extracts (100%) but affirms that their recipes have not changed since 1969. This is hard to believe and I personally consider that their beers have changed somewhere by the end of the nineties and that they are now far away of what they were once.

Blanche (Cinq Cents/Triple), 8%: 1999 vintage sampled 12/2007 - hazy deep and dark orange colour; big and creamy pale beige head leaving a nice lace; solidly bready nose with hints of apples and grapefruit below; very creamy mouthfeel, sweet and with a low carbonation; aftertaste of bitter almonds, honey and bread; quite dry and long lasting - subtle and charming (3.9)

cloudy dark orange colour with a giant foamy head and a beautiful lacing, esters and honey in the nose, notes of gingerbread, creamy mouthfeel, lot of carbonation, robust and quite agressive bitterness, long and dry aftertaste of bitter orange.
my rating: 3.5 / RateBeer: 3.81

Bleue (Grande Réserve), 9%: brown in colour, little foam, malt and caramel aroma with hints of plum, slightly overcarbonated, bubblegum-like mouthfeel, some sweetness followed by a tart bitterness with a synthetic malty finish - it's hard to imagine that this was once a true world classic.
my rating: 2.9 / RateBeer: 4.00

Rouge (Première), 7%: cloudy reddish-brown colour with a big creamy head, malt and hay aroma with notes of banana, creamy mouthfeel, medium-bodied, oily with a touch of acidity, slightly overcarbonated, dry and moderately malty finish - unremarkable; this is just the shadow of what it was before.
my rating: 2.7 / RateBeer: 3.78

Dorée (Refterbier), 4.8%: originally not commercialized and only to be found at the abbey, nowadays pretty widely available - cloudy dark orange colur with a big dense creamy head, the nose is citrusy and honeyish, slightly yeasty, creamy mouthfeel, lot of carbonation, medium-bodied, tart biterness, dry short finish - fresh and easy but better than the actual Bleue and Rouge - thanks to Jeppe (BierKönig) for this rare beer !
my rating: 3.2 / RateBeer: 3.33

150 (Speciale Cent Cinquante), 10%: from Amstein - pours a cloudy orange beer under a modest white foam left; estery and slightly yeasty aroma; very fruity (apples and grapefruit) with notes of candi sugar; highly carbonated; full-bodied and fairly tasty, pretty sweet and with almost no bitterness; gently acidic and with a long fruity finish with residual sweetness - too sweet and too belgian-like to be really great but definitely the first enjoyable Chimay I had since 20 years
my rating: 3.7 / RateBeer: 3.70


Abbaye du Mont des Cats, 59270 Godewaersvelde, www.abbaye-montdescats.fr.

Since June 2011 the French abbey of Sainte Marie du Mont des Cats, located in the French Flanders and founded in 1826, has been selling a Trappist beer which is produced by the Chimay brewery. This abbey does not plan to build its own brewery in a near future but has not excluded this possibility neither.


Mont des Cats, 7.6%: not rated yet ...
my rating: N/A / RateBeer: 3.4


Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval, 6823 Villers-devant-Orval, www.orval.be, production: 45'000 hl.

It seems that beer has been brewed in Orval since as early as the 13th century. The monastery was destroyed after the French revolution in 1793. The monastery was reconstructed in 1926 and the new brewery started in 1932. But the beer has only been considered as a trappist product since 1980. Two beers are brewed in Orval: one is being commercialized under the name of Orval (having a blue label) and the second one is being brewed primarily for the monks. This last beer, called petite Orval or Orval verte (because of its green label) can only be found at l'Ange Gardien besides the abbey.


Orval, 6.2%: fantastic foamy head, orange coloured, strong and complex hoppy nose showing notes of orange peels, perfume, peanuts, vinegar and cream, smooth and slightly oily with a powerful finishing bitterness, very long aftertaste of bitter orange and cream - this beer is a legend.
my rating: 4.5 / RateBeer: 3.92

petite Orval, 6.2%: Red-orange colour with a fine head and a marvellous lace, the aroma is typically Orval: citrusy, spicy, hoppy nose with notes of caramel; smooth, thin body with only a light bitterness, short watery finish - a watered-down version of the Great Orval - a big thank you to Nicolas Jeckelman for this rare stuff.
my rating: 3.3 / RateBeer: 3.27


Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy, 5580 Rochefort, www.abbaye-rochefort.be, production: 18'000 hl.

The monks of Rochefort have been brewing beers since 1899. They actually produce 3 beers. The 6 originally called Middel (which is only brewed once or twice a year), was started in 1953 and accounts for 10% of the production. The 10, originally known as Merveille was started the same year of 1953 and makes up 30% of the actual production. The 8 or Spécial was first brewed in 1955 and is today the major product with 60%.


6, 7.5%: dark brown colour, big creamy and slightly brown-tainted head, beautiful lacing, malt and chocolate aroma, notes of cocoa, sweet and smooth, moderate bitterness and a biscuity maltiness in the finish - the worthy little brother of the 10
my rating: 3.8 / RateBeer: 3.76


8, 9.3%: dark reddish-brown colour with a big dense and creamy head, aroma of prune, chocolate, nougat and burnt almond, very malty, lot of carbonation, robust bitterness with a long malty and plumy finish - powerful and balanced
my rating: 4.0 / RateBeer: 4.11


10, 11.3%: november 2009 - I got forced by Laurent Mousson to re-rate it and must admit that either my taste changed during the last 6 years (well it has changed definitely, the only question being how much) or this brew is not at its best anymore. In any cases, I have not been able to find all of its complexity in the nose anymore and had to deplore a light metallic touch in the finish. But it.s still a great beer anyway.

february 2004 - cloudy dark-brown colour, fine persistant creamy head with a nice lacing, deeply complex aroma of plums, nougat, nuts, alcohol and chocolate, full-bodied, oily with a strong bitterness, the finish is explosive showing tons of malt, warming alcohol and licorice - this brew is just marvellous and if I had to choose only one beer, it would be this one (4.9)
my rating: 4.1 / RateBeer: 4.32


St. Joseph's Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts www.spencerbrewery.com, production: ? hl.

Since December 2013 the Spencer brewery is producing beers in the St. Joseph's Abbey and became the first brewery outside Europe to be granted the Authentic Trappist logo


Spencer Trappist Ale, 6.5%: not rated yet ...
my rating: N/A / RateBeer: 3.55



Abdij Trappisten van Westmalle, 2390 Malle, www.trappistwestmalle.be, production: 120'000 hl.

This brewery started to brew in 1836. Westmalle invented the Dubbel and Tripel designations which are now commonly used by numerous breweries and not only in Belgium. Westmalle makes 2 beers, the Dubbel which makes up 40% of the production and the Tripel (60%). They are also brewing a beer reserved for the monks, the Extra, which can only be found at the Café Trappisten, near the Abbey.


Dubbel, 7%: dark brown colour, fine creamy head, complex aroma of malt, apple and caramel, full-bodied, moderately sweet with a dry and long malty and slightly fruity finish.
my rating: 4.1 / RateBeer: 3.86


Tripel, 9%: cloudy pale orange colour, giant foamy head, strong hoppiness with notes of cream, bitter orange and anis, bready, oily and very bitter, endless bitter and dry finish with reminiscence of bread and orange - the mother of all tripels remains -THE- reference.
my rating: 4.7 / RateBeer: 3.81


Extra, 5.5%: is not commercialized and can only be found at the abbey. - cloudy orange colour with a giant foamy head, yeasty nose, grapefruit, light- to medium-bodied, very creamy mouthfeel, robust bitterness, the finish is very dry with some earthy notes - thin-bodied but charming - a big thank you to BierKönig for trading me this one !
my rating: 3.4 / RateBeer: 3.57


Abdij Sint-Sixtus, 8640 Westvleteren, www.sintsixtus.be, production: 4'750 hl.

Westvleteren has the smallest output of the Trappist breweries. Despite an always increasing demand for their fantastic beers, they don't want to produce more and that is very good so, especially if you consider what happened to Chimay and Koningshoeven. Basically, you have to go to the Abbey or the Café In de Vrede to buy their beers.
The Abbey has been brewing beers since 1839. Between 1946 and 1992, the brewery Sint-Bernardus in Watou was allowed to brew their beers under licence. Their Sint-Sixtus Abt, at 12%, was my first encounter with beers from Westvleteren, back in 1987. I did not like it at all then, maybe because I was unexperienced but also certainly because I had had 8 strong belgian beers before it ...
Westvleteren is actually producing 3 marvellous beers: the Blond (green cap), since 1999, which then replaced the 6 Special (red cap, 6.2%) and the 4 Double (green cap, 3.5%); the Extra 8 (blue cap) and the Abt 12 (yellow cap). The alcohol % of this last beer was recently reduced from 10.8 to 10.2.

6 Special (red cap), 6.2%: I had it in Bruxelles, back in 1987. This was very probably the version from Sint-Bernardus (which was allowed to brew the Westvleteren beers under licence between 1946 and 1992. Unfortunately, I was then taking no notes, but just rating ...
my rating: 4.0 / RateBeer: 3.84

Blond (green cap), 5.8%: cloudy dark orange colour, big creamy head and a beautiful lacing, citrusy, estery nose with notes of cream, fresh, medium-bodied, slightly oily with a solid bitterness, the finish is dry with a moderate maltiness and a fruity hoppiness - very balanced and very well made.
my rating: 3.8 / RateBeer: 3.88


Extra 8 (blue cap), 8%: dark brown colour, nice creamy head and a wonderful lacing, gingerbread and chocolaty aroma, notes of raisins, sweet, very creamy and malty, robust bitterness, very long dry aftertaste of bread, malt, dried fruits and warming alcohol - incredibly complex and deeply balanced.
my rating: 4.7 / RateBeer: 4.24


Abt 12 (yellow cap), 10.2%: dark brown colour with a fine head, very complex aroma: bread, raisins and black chocolate, impressive malty palate, deep balance between sweetness and bitterness, slightly oily, the finish is moderately dry showing candy sugar, plums, gingerbread and a long warming alcohol touch - my deep consideration goes to the monks who are brewing this wonder and who make me think for a moment that I'm living in paradise.
my rating: 4.8 / RateBeer: 4.48


Abdij van Koningshoeven, 5056 Berkel-Enschot, www.latrappe.nl, production: 145'000 hl.

The brewery, originally called Bernardiner Bräu, opened back in 1886. The name was changed 5 years later in De Schaapskooi. In 1969 the monks, who were no more able to assume the production alone, made a 10 years contract with the belgian brewer Artois. The end of this contract and the revived interest for the traditional Trappist styles of brewing brought the monastic involvement back in 1980. It was then that the well-known beers La Trappe came out. Unfortunately, the monks, seeing their community being reduced constantly, decided to leave their brewery between the hands of Bavaria in 1999. Following that, the right to use the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo was withdrawn. On October 7th 2005 the International Trappist Association granted again to the la Trappe beers the right to use the logo.


la Trappe Blond, 6.5%: cloudy dark orange colour, nice head and beautiful lace, yeasty and spicy, smooth, lot of carbonation, tart with some bitterness, bubble-gum-like finish - artificial
my rating: 3.1 / RateBeer: 3.27

la Trappe Bockbier, 7%: fully cloudy dark copper-red colour with a little beige foam left; nice lace; aroma of apples and caramel with notes of chocolate; medium- to full-bodied, sweet and with a quite harsh palate (use of wheat starch?), a light bitterness and an earthy malty and caramelish finish - unrefined and not much quality out there, deeply forgettable
my rating: 2.6 / RateBeer: 3.50


la Trappe Dubbel (also called Dominus Dubbel), 6.5%: cloudy dark brown colour, fine head and a nice lacing, malt and yeast aroma with stong notes of raspberry bubblegum (typical of the recent La Trappe products), tart and sweet, very creamy mouthfeel, the finish is dry and malty with a quite unpleasant bubblegum feeling - this brewery does not deserve to be called trappist anymore
my rating: 2.5 / RateBeer: 3.54

la Trappe Isid'Or, 7.5%: brewed to commemorate the 125 anniversary of the brewery and named after brother Isidorus, the first brewer of brewery "de Koningshoeven".
my rating: - / RateBeer: 3.52

la Trappe Tripel (also called Dominus Tripel), 8%: slightly hazy red-amber colour, few foam, candy sugar, perfumy with notes of red fruits, a bit plastic like, full-bodied with a bitter spicy alcohol finish - artificial; by far no more what it was in the past
my rating: 2.9 / RateBeer: 3.57

la Trappe Quadrupel, 10%: reddish in colour, big head, fruity aroma (apple), full-bodied, strong alcohol presence, plum, lack of complexity
my rating: 3.5 / RateBeer: 3.79

La Trappe Witte Trappist, 5%: hazy blond colour, very foamy head, very wheaty and banana aroma, oily with a good malt body, tart acidity and a long corny and vanilla finish - very drinkable (for me a cross between a german weizen and a witbier)
my rating: 3.5 / RateBeer: 3.16


breweries pictures are from Brewpics.cambrinus.nl and Wikipedia.org
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