Though they may be best known for Westvleteren XII, Trappist monks have long been brewing a number of other beers that have become popular all over the world. In fact, they’ve become so popular that, in 1997, eight abbeys created the International Trappist Association, to keep commercial companies from fraudulently claiming some type of allegiance. Today, there are 10 breweries that carry this logo. While Westvleteren XII may be the most famous example, there are a number worth exploring.
The abbey in Westmalle goes all the way back to 1794. Today, they are known for their dubels and tripels. The latter came out in 1934 and was the first modern usage of the name. Today, the brewery staff is made up of 40 secular members and 22 monks, who together make 120,000 hL of beer a year.
The Saint-Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren may be the most famous. Of course, this is because of their Westvleteren XII beer, which has a reputation all over the world. Aside from Westvleteren XII, the abbey is distinctive for being the only one where monks still handle the entire brewing process. There are three beers altogether, including the Westvleteren XII. However, if you want to purchase Westvleteren XII or the other two, you have to actually travel to the abbey.
Though the Achel brewery is the smallest, it has the longest official name: Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis. Originally, constructed in 1648, the abbey has been abandoned and destroyed on multiple occasions due to wars and revolutions in the area.
This brewery produces three widely distributed and wildly popular ales: Chimay Bleue, Chimay Rouge and Chimay Blanche. Each year, they bring in roughly $50 million, though this money is used for maintaining their home and assisting charities. Many consider these beers right up there with the Westvleteren XII.
With only 15 monks calling the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint- Rémy home, their brewery not being open to the public and they being very selective about their process, little is known about Rochefort beers. However, we do know the water for their beers is drawn from a well within their own wells and, like many high-alcohol content Belgian beers, theirs will age well for about five years. One of the beers they create is also considered to be very similar to the Westvleteren XII.
Two beers come out from Orval, both of which are meant to be served in a specific glass custom made by Henry Vaes, the same man who designed the brewery in 1931. Orval holds the distinction of being the first Trappist beer sold outside the country.
This brewery has been creating beer since 1884. In the late 90s, though, the monastery began using an LLC to brew for them, as too many of their ageing monks were having issues doing so. The result was a six year period where the abbey couldn’t use the Trappist logo. The issue has since been resolved though.
This abbey is only one of two allowed to brew Trappist beer outside of Belgium. The order was given the right in May of 2012
St. Joseph’s Abbey
In 2013, St. Joseph’s Abbey was made the first brewery outside of Europe and the only in the United States to be given the rights to brew Trappist beer. The beer they make is also unfiltered and unpasteurized.
Abdig Maria Toevlucht
Shortly after St. Joseph’s received their designation, Abdig Maria Toevlucht Trappist Abbey was granted permission as well, making them the last monastery to do so. This is also the only abbey brewing Trappist beer in the Netherlands.
So while you’re right to covet a bottle of Westvleteren XII, don’t forget that the Trappists have several others to enjoy as well. Though Westvleteren XII is considered the best, you’ll find the others are perfectly enjoyable too.