Trappist Ale

Trappist ales are a style of beer brewed by Trappist monks, mainly in Belgium. They tend to be very flavorful, complex and delicious. The name “Trappist” comes from the Trappist order of monks – the fellas who originally crafted these heavenly brews inside monastery walls.

There are only a dozen or so Trappist breweries in the world, so Trappist ales are fairly exclusive. The monks take great pride in making them with care and patience. These aren’t your typical mass-produced beers – they’re special breeds with deep, rich tastes.

Now for the good stuff – the flavors! Trappist ales often have fruity, spicy tastes like raisins, plums, cherries, peaches, oranges and black pepper. They range from light and crisp to thick and molasses-like.

The alcohol content can also vary, from normal strength to très strong (I’m looking at you, Achel Extra Brune!)

Some famous Trappist brands are Chimay, Westmalle, Rochefort and Orval. Each has their own trademark taste. Chimay makes a killer Cinq Cents – mellow and malty but with a triple-whammy of flavors. Westmalle’s Dubbel mixes dark fruit with a subtle hoppiness. And Rochefort’s 10 is a serious sipper at 11.3% ABV!

So in summary, Trappist ales are a classic beer style revered for their depth of flavor. They’re made by Belgian monks with artistry and devotion. I’d describe them as complex, soul-warming and delicious.

Here are 10 popular commercial examples of Trappist ales with brief descriptions:

  1. Chimay Cinq Cents – This Belgian Trappist ale from Chimay has a beautiful copper color. It’s medium-bodied with flavors of caramel malt, apricot, and brown sugar.
  2. Orval – This ale from Belgium has a light color but lots of hop bitterness. There are flavors of lemon, ginger, and other spices.
  3. Rochefort 10 – At 11.3% ABV, this is a very strong dark ale from Rochefort. Deep flavors of raisins, dark fruits, and chocolate.
  4. Westmalle Dubbel – Rich amber color and medium body with notes of brown sugar and dark fruits. Made by Trappist monks at Westmalle.
  5. Achel 8° Bruin – Chestnut brown color with flavors of caramel, toffee, and dried fruit. Brewed by monks at Achel in Belgium.
  6. Westvleteren 12 – Intensely malty and fruit-forward quadrupel from Westvleteren with 10.2% ABV. Often called one of the best beers in the world.
  7. La Trappe Quadrupel – At 10% ABV, this quad from La Trappe is potent but smooth with raisins, figs, toffee.
  8. St. Bernardus Abt 12 – A Belgian quadrupel often compared to the famous Westvleteren 12 for its ripe fruit flavors.
  9. Chimay Grande Réserve – A dark ale also called Chimay Blue. Complex with dried fruits, peppery phenols, and chocolate notes.
  10. Westmalle Tripel – Crisp and fruity Belgian tripel with aromas of tropical fruit and spice. Bright golden color.

We’re diving into the world of Trappist Ale, a beer that’s not just a drink but a piece of history. Have you ever sipped a beer and wondered about its story?

Well, Trappist Ale has a tale that’s as rich and complex as its flavor. It’s not just any beer; it’s a brew born in the serene halls of Trappist monasteries. Let’s unravel what makes Trappist Ale so special and why it stands out in the beer world.

The History of Trappist Brewing

Origins in Monastic Life

Imagine a time when monasteries were the epicenters of brewing excellence. That’s where our story begins. Trappist brewing dates back centuries, rooted in a tradition where monks sought a self-sufficient life.

These monks didn’t just pray; they worked hard, and brewing was part of their daily grind. It was more than a job; it was a spiritual act.

Picture this: a group of monks, in the tranquility of their monastery, crafting beer as a way to sustain their community and offer hospitality. Isn’t that a picture of serene dedication?

Brewing Through Time

Now, let’s time-travel through the centuries. Trappist brewing has seen it all – wars, societal changes, technological advancements. But guess what? The essence of their brewing art remained untouched.

This unchanging tradition is like a river that flows steady and strong, despite the changing landscape around it. Each era added a layer to the Trappist Ale story, making it a living piece of history in your glass.

Monks and the Community

Ever wondered how these monasteries influenced the world around them? The monastic breweries were not just about making beer; they were a beacon of community and support.

The monks used their brewing skills to help their communities, offering both sustenance and economic support. It’s like the monasteries were ancient community centers, with beer as the social glue.

The Brewing Process of Trappist Ale

Traditional Methods

If you’re picturing a high-tech brewery, think again. Trappist brewing is about tradition. These monks stick to time-honored methods, where patience is key, and every step is a testament to their dedication.

It’s like cooking a family recipe passed down through generations; there’s respect for the process and the history behind it.

What Goes Into a Trappist Ale

Let’s break down the ingredients. Water, malt, hops, and yeast – simple, right? But in the hands of Trappist monks, these transform into something extraordinary.

The water is often sourced from wells within the monasteries, adding a touch of sanctity. The choice of malt and hops can vary, but it’s the yeast that’s the secret weapon.

Some of these yeast strains are centuries old, carrying the legacy of the monastery in every bubble.

The Monks’ Role

Think of the monks as the conductors of an orchestra, where every ingredient plays a crucial part in the symphony that is Trappist Ale.

They’re not just brewers; they’re custodians of a legacy. Every stir of the mash, every check of the fermentation, is done with a mindfulness that’s almost meditative.

Varieties of Trappist Ale

A Spectrum of Flavors

Let’s take a stroll through the diverse world of Trappist Ales. Imagine a rainbow of beer, each color representing a different flavor profile.

From the light, refreshing blondes to the dark, rich quadrupels, there’s a Trappist Ale for every palate. Each monastery has its unique recipes, but they all share a common thread – complexity and depth of flavor.

It’s like a symphony where each note is perfectly in place, creating a harmonious melody in your mouth.

Spotlight on Signature Brews

Now, let’s put some names to these flavors. Think of Westvleteren 12, often hailed as one of the best beers in the world. Or Rochefort 10, with its deep, fruity richness.

And let’s not forget the crisp and spicy Orval, a beer that changes character as it ages. Each of these beers tells a story of the monastery it comes from, like liquid postcards from these serene retreats.

More variations include:

Tasting and Pairing

Drinking a Trappist Ale is not just about quenching thirst; it’s an experience. To truly savor it, pair it with the right food. Imagine a Chimay Blue with a hearty stew, or a La Trappe Quadrupel with a rich, creamy cheese.

The right pairing elevates both the beer and the food, creating a dance of flavors on your palate.

Trappist Ale in Modern Brewing Culture

Influencing Craft Brewing

Trappist Ale is like the wise old mentor of the beer world. Modern craft brewers look to these monastic recipes for inspiration, blending tradition with innovation.

It’s fascinating to see how centuries-old techniques are being adapted in new and creative ways. It’s like a dialogue between the past and the present, with beer as the language.

Challenges and Adaptations

But it’s not all smooth sailing. The rise of craft beer has brought challenges for Trappist breweries. How do they stay relevant in a rapidly changing market? By striking a delicate balance between tradition and adaptation.

They’re like sturdy trees, deeply rooted in tradition but flexible enough to sway with the winds of change.

The Trappist Certification

What makes a Trappist Ale authentic? It’s not just about the recipe; it’s about where and how it’s made. The Trappist certification is a seal of authenticity and quality.

To be labeled a Trappist Ale, the beer must be brewed within a Trappist monastery, under the supervision of monks. It’s a badge of honor, a guarantee that what you’re drinking is the real deal.

The Cultural and Economic Impact of Trappist Ale

Boosting Local Economies

Did you know that your pint of Trappist Ale is doing more than just pleasing your taste buds? It’s also boosting local economies.

Many of these monasteries are in small, rural areas where the brewery plays a significant role in the local economy. It’s like a ripple effect – the brewery supports the monastery, which in turn supports the community.

Global Beer Culture

Trappist Ale has put a spotlight on Belgian beer culture, but its influence is felt worldwide. It’s a global ambassador for quality and tradition in brewing.

Imagine a world map, with lines connecting all the places influenced by Trappist brewing – it would be a web of inspiration and appreciation.

Philanthropy and Community Support

Remember, at the heart of Trappist brewing is a commitment to community and charity.

The profits from these beers often go back into the monastery’s charitable work, supporting everything from local community projects to international aid efforts. It’s beer with a conscience, a brew that gives back.

Visiting Trappist Monasteries

A Journey to the Source

Ready for an adventure? Visiting a Trappist monastery is like stepping into a world where time moves at its own pace. It’s not just about the beer; it’s about experiencing a lifestyle that’s remained unchanged for centuries.

Picture tranquil gardens, ancient halls, and the serene hum of monastic life. It’s a pilgrimage for beer lovers and a unique opportunity to see where this liquid gold is born.

The Monastic Experience

Imagine waking up to the sound of monastery bells, strolling through cloisters, and maybe even joining the monks for prayer. It’s a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of modern life and find a moment of peace.

And of course, there’s the beer tasting. Sipping a Trappist Ale in the very place it’s brewed is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – like tasting history.

Tips for Visitors

If you’re planning a visit, remember it’s a place of worship and work. Respect the monks’ privacy and the sanctity of the monastery.

Dress modestly, speak softly, and soak in the tranquility. And don’t forget to check visiting hours and book in advance – these aren’t typical tourist destinations.

Pros and Cons of Trappist Ale

The Upsides

Let’s start with the pros. Trappist Ale is more than a beverage; it’s a masterpiece of brewing. The complexity and depth of flavors are unmatched. There’s a sense of history and tradition in every sip – it’s like drinking a piece of art.

And by buying Trappist Ale, you’re supporting monastic communities and their charitable works.

The Downsides

But let’s be real, it’s not for everyone. The rich, intense flavors can be overwhelming for some, especially if you’re used to lighter beers.

They’re also generally higher in alcohol content, which might not suit everyone’s taste or tolerance. And let’s talk availability and price – these ales can be hard to find and a bit pricier than your average beer.

Web Ratings and Reviews

What the Internet Says

In the age of information, online reviews and ratings are gold. Trappist Ales consistently score high on beer rating websites.

Beer enthusiasts rave about the complexity and craftsmanship. It’s like a star athlete consistently winning accolades – a testament to their quality and appeal.

Highlights from Connoisseurs and Casual Drinkers

You’ll find a mix of opinions, from seasoned beer connoisseurs to casual drinkers. While experts might delve into the intricate notes of caramel, dark fruits, or earthy hops, the average drinker might simply love the rich, smooth taste.

It’s a beer that invites a wide range of perspectives, each adding to the tapestry of its reputation.

A Word on Personal Taste

Remember, beer tasting is subjective. What might be a heavenly brew to one person could be just okay to another. Trappist Ales are a journey of taste, and part of the fun is discovering where your preferences lie.

FAQs About Trappist Ale

What Exactly Makes a Beer ‘Trappist’?

This is a common question and an important one. To be labeled ‘Trappist’, the beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, under the supervision of the monks. It’s not just about the location; it’s about adhering to the monastic brewing traditions and standards. Think of it as a badge of authenticity and quality.

Why Are Trappist Ales Generally More Expensive?

You’re not just buying a beer; you’re investing in a piece of heritage. The higher price tag reflects the traditional brewing methods, quality ingredients, and often the small-scale production. Plus, a significant portion of the profits goes to charity and maintaining the monasteries. It’s beer with a purpose.

Can Trappist Ales Be Aged?

Absolutely! In fact, many Trappist Ales are known for their aging potential. Aging can mellow the flavors and bring out new complexities, much like a fine wine. It’s a fun experiment for any beer enthusiast – just remember that not all beers age well, so do a bit of research first.

Are All Trappist Ales Strong?

While Trappist Ales are known for their robust flavors and higher alcohol content, not all of them are ‘strong’ in the traditional sense. There’s a range, from lighter, more refreshing brews to the heavy-hitters. There’s a Trappist Ale out there for every taste preference.

How Should Trappist Ales Be Served?

To fully appreciate their complexity, Trappist Ales should be served in the right glassware, typically a chalice or tulip glass, at the right temperature. This isn’t a beer to gulp down ice-cold. Serving it slightly chilled or at cellar temperature allows the nuances to shine through.

Can I Visit All Trappist Monasteries?

While many Trappist monasteries welcome visitors for tours and tastings, not all are open to the public. It’s best to check their individual policies and visiting hours. Remember, these are places of worship and reflection, so respecting their rules and customs is paramount.


Trappist Ale isn’t just another item on the beer menu; it’s a testament to a rich, enduring tradition of monastic brewing.

From the serene halls of Trappist monasteries to your glass, each brew carries centuries of history, dedication, and a flavor profile that’s unmatched.

Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or just dipping your toes into the world of artisanal brews, Trappist Ale offers a depth and richness that’s worth exploring. It’s a journey through history, culture, and taste – a journey that’s as rewarding as it is delicious.

So, next time you raise a glass of Trappist Ale, remember, you’re not just enjoying a beer; you’re savoring a piece of brewing heritage. Cheers to that!