Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trappists III - Rochefort

Rochefort, the brewery, is located inside the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy, near the town of Rochefort, and has been brewing beer since 1595. There are approximately 15 monks resident at the monastery. The monks are very secretive about the brewing process, and the brewery is not open to the public, therefore much of the information publicly known about the brewery comes from only a few sources.

Circa 1230, Gilles de Walcourt, count of Rochefort, founded a monastery for Cistercian nuns called Secours de Notre-Dame. In 1464 Louis de la Marck ordered the nuns to leave the monastery which had decayed and they were replaced by monks. During the Eighty Years War the abbey was ravaged by the protestant armies of the Seventeen Provinces (a personal union of Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, a part of the North of France, and a small part of the West of Germany) and the Austrian armies of John of Austria (1577). Around 1595, the first brewery was founded within the abbey.

In the 17th century the abbey suffered from war, famine and the plague. On 30 April 1650, an army from Lorraine, lead by baron Châtelet, invaded the abbey. The monks had to flee, and again in 1652 and 1653.

In 1789 the French revolutionary army invaded the Austrian Netherlands, and in 1797 the abbey was closed and sold to Lucien-Jospeh Poncelet. Poncelet demolished the abbey around 1805 and converted it to a farm. Material of the abbey was used for buildings in the town of Rochefort.

On 11 October 1887, father Anselmus Judong from the Trappist Abbey of Achel (we'll cover these guys in an upcoming post) came to the old abbey and on 21 December 1887 the buildings were bought by the monks of Achel. The abbey was restored and new buildings were raised. A new brewery was founded, but it would take until 1952 for the brewery to produce enough beer to be sold.

Like many strong Belgian beers, those produced at Rochefort age well and can be cellared for up to five years while maintaining quality. Each of these beers is brewed to the same recipe, with the only difference being the alcoholic content. The water for the beers is drawn from a well located inside the monastery walls.

It produces three trappist beers :

* Rochefort 6 (red cap, brown beer, 7.5% ABV). Reddish color, almost like autumn leaves, very consistent texture with a slightly spicy aroma and an intense taste of caramel, fruit, and hints of raisins. It is only brewed about once per year, representing approximately 1% of total beer production. Strangely this beer can be easily obtained in the Northern Virginia area. I know several of the Whole Foods regularly carry it as well as Norm's in Vienna, Va.

* Rochefort 8 (green cap, brown beer, 9.2% ABV). Yellowish-brown color. This variety constitutes the largest proportion of production. I can honestly say I've never had this beer and that it is fairly hard to find in the NOVA area.

* Rochefort 10 (blue cap, dark beer, 11.3% ABV). Reddish-brown color, with a very compact and creamy head and an aroma of figs, feels like honey in the mouth. The alcohol profile is a major component in the flavor of this strong ale. This beer can be found in the NoVa area, but it usually leaves the shelves quickly.

No comments: