Belgian Trappist Beers

Orval

Orval (Photo credit: jucanils)

“This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption… Beer!”

Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Friar Tuck

I thought this quote was perfect for the Trappist beers. To qualify as a Trappist beer, it must:

  • be brewed in a monastery,
  • monks must play a role in its production,
  • profits from the sale must used to support the monastery and/or social programs.
Trappist

Trappist (Photo credit: Titimo)

There are 6 in Belgium:

The Netherland’s has the only other one in the world. While they are all yummy, they have different styles.

Achel trappist beer (Belgium).

Achel trappist beer (Belgium). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Achel was an established monastic brewery until the German army looted its copper kettels during WWI. They restarted brewing in 1998 and have continuously improved their operation. You are starting to be able to find this brand with more ease in the US.
The four varieties of Chimay, with Chimay Bleu...

The four varieties of Chimay, with Chimay Bleue in the glass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chimay, the largest and best-known Trappist brewer, now uses non-monks to do most of their brewing. This has created a bit of a backlash with two main effects arguments: (1) creation of a controversy whether they merit their Trappist designation, and (2) whisperings of a decline in quality.

They make three types: red, white and blue (by far the best). If you are looking to bring something other than wine, a large bottle of Chimay Blue is a nice and pretty easy to find.

Orval Trappist beer

Orval Trappist beer (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)

Orval is only known for one kind of beer. It is dry, light and hoppy (which makes it different from other Trappist ales).

The monastery of Orval has the beautiful ruins on their grounds that are worth touring. Their symbol is a fish with a ring.    This is because a noblewoman allegedly lost her ring in a pond.  A fish brought it to the surface.  To show her gratitude, she funded the monastery.  That’s their story and they’re sticking to it.

The beers of Rochefort

The beers of Rochefort (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rochefort (not Roquefort where they make the yummy but stinky cheese) makes rich ales. I like them all, but if you have never tried them, Rochefort 8 (a bit lighter) and 10 (stronger and darker) are good bets.  Michael Jackson (the Beer Hunter, not the singer) wrote a great article about his visit there.

Westmalle Trappists and friends

Westmalle Trappists and friends (Photo credit: valde_)

Westmalle is the originator of the widely imitated Trippel style. (You are now officially warned about the high alcohol content of all Trippels, Dubbels too. In fact, be aware of the high alcohol content of virtually all Belgian beers. Trust him on this one.) Any of their beers are a good ones and relatively easy to find.

Westvleteren XII - Best bier in the world

Westvleteren XII – Best bier in the world (Photo credit: Philippe Clabots)

Westvleteren is the best beer we have ever had. They don’t market or distribute this beer. To lay our hands on a bottle, our friend Steamer traveled to Belgium, went on a specific morning at a specific time (they don’t sell it any old time) to the abbey and bought all he could.  Don’t quote me on this, but I think there was a six bottle max. It was so good that he drank them all over the course of his vacation.

Luckily, he stopped in a shop in Amsterdam at the end of his trip. They had just sent someone to the monastery to buy a limited amount. He managed to buy one and bring one back to the US for us to taste. Steamer is such a good friend! If you tasted it, you might not share. This beer is so good that it will set the bar by which all beers you taste will be measured (and found wanting).

For more in Westvlandren, here’s a link to an article about someone’s visit.

 

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Kinds Of Belgian Beers

Belgium is known for many different kinds of beer. They include:
Abbey Beers – Abbey beers are generally brewed from traditional recipes under a license by a commercial breweries. Maredesous, Leffe and Grimbergen are good ones that are easy to find in the US. Some can be found in the Trippel and/or Dubbel styles.  Many American (and Canadian) microbrews emulate these.
Amber Ales – Belgium’s Amber Ales are similar to British Pale Ales, but are less hoppy. They are slightly spicy which is balanced by a bit of a yeasty taste.
De Koninck

De Koninck (Photo credit: Schlüsselbein2007)

Belgium’s Brown Ales are a specialty of eastern Flanders. They are complex, lack acidity, usually have a caramel-like malty sweetness and have strong flavors (often a sourness from several months of maturation). They tend to have a high alcohol content (notice the start of a pattern and consider this the first of many warnings). One that I have seen in the US is De Koninck.
Français : Delirium Tremens (bière)

Français : Delirium Tremens (bière) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Belgian Golden Ales are not the run of the mill golden ale that you get in the US. They have a higher alcohol content than many of the US ales (you were warned) but not as high as the Belgian Dubbels and Trippels.
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Tripel and Hopsinjoor

Het Anker Gouden Carolus Tripel and Hopsinjoor (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)

Belgian Golden Ales are clear with a clean taste and are maltier and hoppier instead of fruity or yeasty.  Quality ones that are easily available in the US include: Delirium Tremens, Duvel and Delerium Tremens.
English: Exterior of Délirium Café

English: Exterior of Délirium Café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blanche/Whit/White Beers – These wheat beers are light, cloudy, and with a hint of citrus. They are similar to a German HefeWiessen, but have coriander and orange peel. The White Beers that are best known in the US include: Hoegaarden St. Bernadus and Blue Moon (not Belgian, but I thought it would help explain the style).
Lambic Beers – Lambics are pretty unique so they get their own day.  For the Lambic post, click here.
English: Maes pils

English: Maes pils (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pils – Pils are generally mass produced beers that are widely found in Belgium. Common ones there include: Jupiler, Maes and Stella Artois (which is easily found in the US).

English: Brewery Gaverhopke, Belgian beers

English: Brewery Gaverhopke, Belgian beers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Red Beers – This style comes from western Flanders. Red Beers are produced from red barley, aged in oak and highly fermented. They are refreshing, fruity, sweet and sour. Make sure that you drink it cold (not as much of an issue in the US as it is in other parts of Europe).  Rodenbach and Duchess de Bourgogne are two good examples of this style.

Trappist Beers – They are so wonderful and unique that they get their own day! Click here for the post.

Saisons – Saison Beers are a specialty of Walloon (the southern French-speaking part of Belgium). They are typically brewed in smaller breweries and have an artisanal quality. They are hoppier, spicier, have stronger flavors than many other beers and can be a bit tart. Most likely, they won’t have the extremely high alcohol content of other Belgian beers. They are brewed in smaller batches and you can taste it.  Some of the better ones that you can find in the US are: Dupont and Fantome Pissenlit.
Categorie:Afbeelding bier

Categorie:Afbeelding bier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special Belgian Beers are some of the country’s best.  They are have a gravity of .060 to .095, use various herbs and spices and doesn’t clearly fall into any other category (more or less).  They offer a unique taste that is not easily replicated.  You can usually find some brands in the US: Golden Draak (similar in style to Piraat and a friend’s favorite), Kwak, Piraat (blonde, have a high alcohol content and amazing flavor), Dupont (I know that it is listed more than once here, try it and decide how you would categorize it) and La Chouffe (dark amber, rich, herbal, a great winter beer).

Sour ales from Belgium

Sour ales from Belgium (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)