Saturday, December 27, 2008
A few days ago I shared a Koningshoeven Quadrupel with my father-in-law and Meg and I realized that it was a Trappist beer that I had never heard of. With the recent rise in popularity of Trappist beers, it got me thinking. How many Trappist breweries are there?
First, it probably makes sense to define what a Trappist brewery is. Trappist beer is beer brewed by Trappist monks. Who are the Trappist monks? They are Roman Catholic monks of the "Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance." According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/), this order was started by the Abbot de Rancé (b. 1626; d. 1700) in the Abbey of La Trappe, in France, in reaction to the relaxation of practices in many Cistercian monasteries.
The life of the Trappists is guided by the Rule of St. Benedict, written in the sixth century. As a "contemplative order", the Trappists live a life of prayer and penance. The day of a Trappist is divided between work and prayer. Manual work is preferred over other types of work and Trappist monasteries generally provide for themselves through the sale of goods produced in the monastery (e.g. beer, cheese). Except for the ill, they abstain from meat and fowl and eat fish on a limited basis. To the extent that it is practical, they are expected to remain silent throughout the day and most especially at night. They are expected to live a life of strict personal poverty with few personal possessions and limited contact with the outside world.
Currently there are nearly 170 Trappist monasteries in the world, the home of approximately 2,500 Trappist monks and 1,800 Trappist nuns. Despite the 170 monasteries, only seven produce beer commercially (six in Belgium and one in The Netherlands).
The posts to follow will cover each of these Trappist breweries.
Brew like a Trappist,