Today I brewed a Belgian Trappist Ale with my brewing partner/teacher, Nosh, thanks to a Stein Fillers kit (Lakewood, CA). I’ll start with the recipe:
Belgian Trappist Beer Recipe (Inspired by Chimay Red)
MALT: 8 lbs. Pale Malt Extract
1.5 lbs. Candi Sugar
GRAIN: Wheat Malt (.5 lbs)
Belgian Aromatic (.5 lbs)
Belgian CaraMunich (.25 lbs)
Chocolate Malt (.1 lb)
HOPS: Tettnanger (2 oz, boil)
Styrian Golding (.5 oz, finish)
YEAST: White Labs Trappist Ale Yeast
|Damn, I make a good beer! |
Despite those profound religious indoctrinations, I think that after reading this you might have much more appreciation for trappist beers. They are brewed by trappist monks … and only trappist monks … well, if you want a “real” trappist that’s been labeled an Authentic Trappist Product.
Ever excitedly popped open a Chimay or La Trappe? If so, it was brewed under strict conditions, including:
1. Must have been brewed in a trappist abbey under the control of trappist monks
2. Anything commercial having to do with the beer must depend on the monastic community
3. The money earned from sales of these beers must not be for financial profit; the money must be directed toward helping a community
Here are the eight trappist breweries:
- Bières de Chimay (Belgium)
- Brasserie d'Orval (Belgium)
- Brasserie de Rochefort (Belgium)
- Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle (Belgium)
- Brouwerij Westvleteren (Belgium) (This is number-one on my 20 Beers in My Future list)
- Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis (Belgium)
- Brouwerij de Koningshoeven (Netherlands)
- Mont des Cats (France)
Don’t be fooled by those beers called “abbey ales.” True, they probably practice perfect Belgian beer-brewing practices, but they are not true trappists.
What was the first Belgian trappist beer brewed? When was it first brewed? What the hell is a trappist? Where am I? What’s my name? Hold on … take a deep breath. There is much to learn, and I can’t possibly get into every detail about this fine drink, but I can at least get the gist of it down.
Let’s start with who the trappist monks are. What it boils down to is they are people of a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns. They live what’s called a Cistercian life, which means they are self-sufficient and base their days around manual labor. They first started in France, moving on over to the Netherlands and Belgium. Well, they probably didn’t “move” per se, they just happened to be chopped up among political dividing lines way back when. Waaaaaaay back when. Like, the year 1,000.
Why did trappists brew beer? That’s much simpler than explaining what a trappist monk is — to feed their community. Not only feed their community, but feed it with a drink that wouldn’t kill them. Water was obviously disgusting back then, and they knew that boiling the water was possibly a lifesaver. On a side note, some say monks actually discovered using hops in beer, too … in the 15th century.
Now that I know there are certain trappist beers you can only get at certain monasteries, I have a mission! Brouwerij Westvleteren sells very limited amounts only at the monastery, and only after having made a reservation ahead of time. Now that’s an exclusive beer! I’m surprised you don’t have to also fly a monastery-built jet and land in a monastery-run airport to get it! You also have to agree to not sell it to anyone; you can only drink it yourself. I might share with you, but not if it’s against the rules.
The first trappist beer? Who really knows? It’s said the monasteries were brewing before the Middle Ages, but the first known proof of an official trappist brewery is said to be 1685, La Trappe.
Do yourself a favor and either follow the Belgian trappist recipe above and delight your senses in six weeks or find yourself a true trappist beer with the logo that states it is an Authentic Trappist Product and welcome yourself to the world of some of the finest beers ever created. Some have said that Red Chimay leaves a “silky sensation” in your mouth. Sounds sexy, doesn’t it? Well, as sexy as a monk-made beer can be.