The Trappist Ales

There is no reason Catholic monks should brew exceptional beer, and yet of the products produced by the Trappist monasteries of Belgium and Holland, three are regarded as world standards, one is arguably the best beer in the world, and none are less than excellent. I have recently returned to the monastic beers and have been tasting them in order for comparison, something I've never done.

American breweries are now beginning to tinker with the radical methods of the low countries--beer made with multiple yeast strains, using multiple fermentations, and with sometimes unexpected ingredients before being aged for sometimes long periods in wooden vessels. When you think of this kind of brewing, it makes sense that the monks would do it very well. They have the long view, not regarding beer as a commodity so much as another extension of God's work. They are in no rush to turn a buck, have no intention of becoming a multinational brand. The monks bring care and attention to their beers, and they have been perfecting them for decades. Considering these facts, it isn't surprising in the slightest that the would produce uniformly wonderful beer.

I'll review them in turn over the next few days. I have been looking at them with an eye to understanding what mkaes a Belgian ale tick, and what our own brewers need to do to match these standards. Since they also bring care and attention to their brewing, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect them to meet or exceed world standards within the next couple decades.