Killing Trappist Beer

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The Trappist brewers are getting old

This is one of the saddest drinking stories of the past few months: Trappist beers are declining due to a lack of new vocations.

The Trappists don’t screw around: The Authentic Trappist Product label is only given to beers that are

  • made in the immediate surroundings of an abbey,
  • produced under the supervision of monks and
  • sold to fund the monastery and for charitable works.

If you lack one of those things, like a brewer monk, you don’t get the label.

Monastic vocations have fallen off a cliff, especially in Belgium, the “spiritual home of Trappist beers.” There are still five or six Trappist breweries and 100 brewer monks in Belgium, but most of them are older (this article says at least one is in his early 30s). I gotta believe they’re going to start dropping like flies around the corn-mash vat.

We need an updated Seven Storey Mountain in Flemish. Merton published his autobiography in 1949. By 1950, monastic vocations were surging. From Wikipedia:

“The book has served as a powerful recruitment tool for the priestly life in general, and for the monastic orders in particular. In the 1950s, Gethsemani Abbey and the other Trappist monasteries experienced a surge in young men presenting themselves for the cenobitic life. It is a well-known bit of Catholic lore that, after the book’s publication, many priests entered monasteries or seminaries with a copy in their suitcase.”


10 Trappist breweries worldwide

“Worldwide there are only 10 Trappist abbeys where Trappist beer is brewed. Six of them are Belgian Trappist breweries: AchelChimay, OrvalRochefortWestmalle and Westvleteren.

“In The Netherlands there are two Trappist breweries: La Trappe and Zundert. In Austria there is the Engelszell Abbey and the United States are home to the Spencer Brewery (Saint Joseph’s Abbey).

“Trappist beer is an authentic beer with a special origin. There are several types of Trappist beer, varying from blonde beers to very dark beers and different levels of alcohol by volume. You will be surprised by the wide range of Trappist beers. As a (Belgian) beer lover you should definitely try its unique taste. And remember: Trappist beers taste even better in an original Trappist glass.”

The United States Trappist brewery is in Spencer, Massachusetts, which is about one hour outside of Boston.

If you combine a tour of that brewery with Sam Adams in Boston, it’d make a great one-two punch. The Sam Adams Brewery tour is outstanding. Fun, with lots of samples.