Trappist beer is a beer brewed by or under the control of Trappist monks. The Trappist monks or the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.: Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae), is a Catholic monastic order founded in 1663 by Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé in Soligny-la-Trappe, France. During the French Revolution the monks where expelled from France and founded new abbeys in Switzerland, Russia and Prussia, where was also persecuted and in 1817 they returned to France.
Trappist monks produce and sell various goods: bread, cheese, chocolate, other food and religious goods and, according to monastic rules, do not require abstinence from alcohol, so some Trappist abbeys have their own breweries, which produce the famous Trappist beer.
There are 170 Trappist monasteries in the world, but only 12 are situated in Belgium, half of which are brewing beer already. Trappist is not a style of beer; it is more of a certification that tells the consumer this product was brewed and sold under the guidelines of The International Trappist Association (ITA). In order to be classified as a Trappist beer, ITA requires the monastery to follow the requirements below:
- Products which carry this label are produced within the walls of the monastery or in the vicinity of the monastery.
- The monastic community determines the policies and provides the means of production. The whole process of production must clearly evidence the indisputable bond of subsidiarity and must be in accordance with the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.
- The brewery is not intended to be commercial and commercial enterprise . The economic purpose of the brewery should be directed to support rather than financial profit. The income from the sales of beer have to cover the cost of living of the monks and maintenance of the monastery buildings and facilities.The remaining income must be intended for charity, social activities and support for persons in needs.
- The profits are primarily intended to provide for the needs of the community or for social services.
Trappist beer is a type of ale, falling styles of Belgian special ale and Belgian strong ale. Most Trappist beers are bottled condition Belgian style ales that follow the beer style guidelines of Enkel, Dubbel, and Tripel or also known as Single, Double, and Triple. The color varies from white to dark brown . As alcoholic content they are more stronger, alcohol ranges from about 7% to 12%.
The unique taste of these beers can be felt in the finish. You will not find any metal aftertaste as is the case with industrial beers. These beers are finely crafted in small batches so a lot of attention goes into them. The general characteristics are a ripe, round, and fruity taste.