How To Brew Trappist Single | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Updated: June 4, 2021

Trappist Single is the name for the lightest beer the Trappist monks brew.

Before diving into the beer itself, let’s take a step back and understand those that brewed these beers. 

La Trappe Abbey

The Trappist order of monks received their name from La Trappe Abbey in France, which was founded by the Cistercian order in 1663.

By 1892, the Trappist monks serrated from the Cistercian order. 

Self-Reliant Monk

Trappist beers have been made famous by the Trappist monks. Trappist monks lived in monasteries and were fairly self-reliant.

With the vast land around them, these monks were able to grow their own food and even make their own drink, including their own wine and beer.

What’s a Beer Worth?

During the Middle Ages, water was not the safest to drink. Wine and beer were actually safer to drink as they did not harbor diseases that could be dangerous or even deadly. 

Monastery brew houses produced beer throughout Europe for the monk’s consumption and sold it for the church.

Table Beers

Most Trappist beers are quite strong, the stronger beers were usually brewed to send out and make a profit. The beers that the monks drank were considered their table beers.

These beers were considered the singel or single, a relatively light beer. These Trappist singles did not interfere with their prayer and work in the monasteries. 

Trappist Single

Most of the Trappist single beers are golden to light amber in color. They are top fermenting at warm temperatures with traditional Belgian yeast.

The fruity and spicy qualities are still prevalent with this style. They usually have 5% alcohol by volume or lighter. These beers also tend to be hoppy versus their light gravities. With a dry finish, these beers are very refreshing. 

Style Profile for Trappist Single

Appearance

Trappist singles are pale yellow to medium gold in color. Good clarity with a moderate-sized, persistent white head with lacing. 

Aroma

There is medium-low to medium-high Trappist yeast character, with fruity, spicy character. There is a medium-low to medium hop character that comes across as spicy or floral. Low to medium-low grainy sweetness.

There may be light honey or sugar quality along with fruity notes, with citrus, pome fruit, or stone fruit taking center stage. Yeast phenols give off some light spicy notes.

Flavor

The flavors that are prominent in Trappist single include fruity, hoppy, bitter. The malt may have a grainy sweetness with honeyed biscuit or cracker. Moderate spicy or flroal hop flavor.

Esters may be present including citrus, pome fruit, or stone fruit. Bitterness rises with a dry finish. Aftertaste is light maly, moderate hops, and yeast character. 

Mouthfeel

Mouthfeel is medium-light to medium. Medium-high to high carbonation. Beer should not have noticeable alcohol warmth. 

Food Pairings

When it comes to pairing a Trappist single with food, there are many dishes that work well.  Pad Thai pair well. Spicy cuisine such as Mexican, Indian, or Asian foods pair well due to the high level of carbonation across the palate.

Cheese that pairs well includes: Aged Chevre, Colby,Gorgonzola,Triple Creme, Asiago, Gontina, and Parmesan. 

Tips for Brewing your own Trappist Single

Grain

The grist for a Trappist single is fairly simple. Floor-malted Pilsner is used for the base malt. Even though it is more expensive, the flavor is well worth the extra money.

A half pound of Biscuit malt and a half pound of cane sugar is added to dry out the beer. 

Hops

Since the hop profile for this style is pretty important, choose your hops wisely. Usually German noble hop varieties are used for a Trappist single. Using hops such as Hallertau, Styrian Goldings is fairly safe.

Usually the hop schedule will look like Hallertau at 60 min. (19 IBUs’ worth), an ounce of Hallertau at 15 minutes, and finally a five minute addition of Styrian Goldings. 

Yeast

Like most Belgian beers, yeast is important. There is a wide selection of yeast to choose from for this style.

The Trappist High Gravity yeasts from White Labs or Wyeast will work well.

Trappist Single By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 3 – 5 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.044 – 1.054 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.004 – 1.010 FG
  • IBU Range: 25 – 45
  • ABV Range: 4.8 – 6.0% 

Martin Keen’s Trappist Single Recipe

Grain

  • 85%          8 lbs     Pilsner; Floor Malted Bohemian
  •   5%          8 oz      Carahell
  • 10%          1 lb      Candi Sugar, Clear (Boil)

Hops

  • 1 oz         Hallertauer Hersbrucker – Boil – 60 min
  • 1 oz         Hallertauer Hersbrucker – Boil – 15 min
  • 1 oz         Stryian Goldings – Boil – 5 min

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   Trappist Ale White Labs WLP500

Directions:

  1. Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: This innocent looking bag of grain is going to perform double duty today. First of all, it’s the grist to brew today’s beer; Trappist single, and then it’s going to help me make a loaf of bread.

My name is Martin Keen. I’m taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. When I started this Homebrew challenge nearly two years ago, the category that I was most looking forward to was category 26.

This one is Trappist ale.

Also my legal team would like to point out that Trappist is a protected legal appellation of the Trappist Monastery and is not being used here for commercial purposes.

Now this category has a bunch of great beers in it. My favorite beer style of all is in it, which is triple. I love belgian tripple. But there’s also in here Belgium Dubbeland Belgium Quad.

And I have made those three styles multiple times in multiple ways. The fourth style in this category, Trappist single, I have never made until now.

This one is a pretty simple grist and I’m going to be mashing it at 150 Fahrenheit or 66 Celsius.

Now like all of the beers in this category, a lot of the character of it is going to come from the yeast that Belgium yeast will really give us those spicy phenols and fruity esters.

But this beer also has a certain floral bitterness to it as well. And it is nowhere near as strong as some of those other styles.

So in terms of building a recipe, well, we’re looking for an original gravity of around 1.049, so about five and a half percent ABV.

Now we want to build a malt base that is really sort of a quite pleasantly sweet character format. I’m going to be using floor malted Bohemian Pilsner that will make up 85% of my grist.

The only other grain that is going in is Carahel. I’m going to add that in at 5%, and that will also contribute a little bit to darkening the color just a bit as well. And then the final fermentable is going to be clear candi sugar, and I’ll be adding that in at 10% during the boil.

Just draining the wort out of the grains now. Um, I never really know what to do with these grains. Typically, I just chuck them out. Uh, after each brew day, I’m going to have used them to like try to brew a Parti-gyle beer or get them to a friend who has a farm who tried to use it as animal feed. That wasn’t much of a success.

Um, but today I am going to do something with at least a little bit of this spent grain and that is to use it to bake a loaf of bread. So to do that, I’m going to take a one cup of the spent grain. Oh, I’ll keep that for later.

Now is a good chance to talk about the hops that are going into this beer. So this beer has an IBU of around 29 and considering it’s around a 5% beer, that is a notable amount of bitterness in this style.

I’m going to use as my bittering hop hallertauer hesrbrucker.

That’s going to go in at the start of the boil and give me most of my IBU. Um, and then with 15 minutes to go, I’m going to be adding in another charge of hersbrucker. And this will just add that sort of, that floral characteristic that we’re looking for in the beer.

Uh, with five minutes to go, I will be adding in my aroma hop, which is Syrian Golding. And then also with about five minutes to go, that is where I have my clear candy sugar. That’s going to help bump up the ABV of this beer just a little bit. And that will go in with about five minutes to go.

Yeast I’m using for this beer is WLP 500 Monastery ale yeast. Now this is a yeast that can handle much bigger beers than this one, but it should give the esters and phenols that I am looking for. I’m going to pitch this one at around 70 Fahrenheit, got to maintain the fermentation temperature at 70 Fahrenheit or 21 Celsius.

All right. And that’s the brew day portion of the day done.

Spent Grain Bread

Everything cleared away. It’s bread time. So I’ve got my bread machine here. I read years back that this was the bread machine to get and I have used it somewhat intermittently mainly to make sort of French bread, uh, some sort of wheat bread, some English breads as well.

Um, the recipe I’ve put together today is, well, it’s kind of based upon the basic white bread recipe for this system. Um, but of course, with some of the flour substituted for some of these spent grain, don’t know if this is going to work.

I did look up a few other recipes online, but I think really took my fancy. So I’m going to give this a go. So, so here’s what I have the exact amounts of everything is in the description of this video. But I have some water in here. I have a combination of sugar, salt and milk powder, dried milk powder. I have some butter and I have bread machine flour or bread flour.

Um, my one cup of course, of the good stuff from today’s Trappist beer. And I have some dry yeast. Okay. So what I remember of making this, you put the wet stuff in first. So I’ll add the water.

Now I’m adding the spent grain. Okay. Now I’m going to have the wheat bread flour in, And then I have the salt, sugar and the milk powder. And then the last thing is the yeast. This does need to stay dry initially. So what it recommends is you just create a little, a little pocket here and pour the yeast in.

Okay, it’s ready for the breadmachine. So I’m going to set this to regular basic with a medium crust. I click on start, and this is going to take about three hours to make.

This looks pretty good right? Smell delicious. That’s slices, more crusty, like the bread you’ll get like a Walmart? I feel, goodness, this, you just got the little bits of the beer grain in it.

Oh, I need the best. Okay. Taste, test. Well, I don’t know what they taste like, but if I did are really, really like this. I’d like to say that this is the result of dozens of test batches to get just exactly the right ingredients.

But I just winged it. Well, I’m hoping that the beer tastes as good as the bread, but for now, cheers.

Well, welcome to the tasting. Notice anything different?

This is not the first time I’ve gone for a brick look behind here. Do you remember the very first set of videos? Yeah, the white brick? Yeah. This isn’t a bit of an improvement on that one, I think, but it’s still incredibly fake. It’s just peel and stick wallpaper. Okay.

So now we have got the trappist single to try. What do we think about this one? It’s got a little bit more color than I was expecting. I’m expecting it to be pale, which it is. Yeah. But it’s just a little bit more of an orange hue to it than I was expecting. It’s nice.

Smells like fruity notes to it. But subtle. I feel like I always say the same thing, but it’s exactly what right. It’s subtle notes of citrus, I think. Yeah. I’m going to try it though. Let’s do it. Okay.

That’s a bit mouthwatering like salivating, uh, yeah, not juicy, but like it’s, I think it actually is quite juicy. I think it’s juicy, but it’s like a subtle juiciness to it, but it definitely has like a little pucker and, but it’s not sour.

It was very refreshing, refreshing. It’s quite light right now. This one I’ve not had very many of these trappers singles I’ve had maybe like one or two ever, I’ve only had a trappers triple never had a single or any of the other ones, but, um, it’s a lovely drink.

It’s got hose characteristics of the belgian trapper styles that I like. Okay. Well, nobody yet at this point I would tease what next week’s beer is. I may have telegraphed that, but just to say, this is just a wonderful next couple of weeks, because some more really good styles to try, but until then, cheers!

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.