Introduction to the noble art of trappist (beer)

The word “trappist” does not refer to a certain kind of beer, but to its origin. It actually comes from La Trappe (France), where the Trappist order originated in a Cistercian monastery. The monks started brewing beer in the late 17th century.

There are a lot of monasteries where beer is brewed, but not all these beers can be called trappist. Or have the right to be called trappist, because there is actually an International Trappist Association (ITA), that has come up with four criteria:

  1. The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  2. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life
  3. The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture.  The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
  4. Trappist breweries are constantly monitored to assure the irreproachable quality of their beers.

When these criteria are fulfilled, the association will label a beer officially as a trappist. At the moment, there are 7 such beers:

  1. Chimay (Belgium)
  2. Orval (Belgium)
  3. Rochefort (Belgium)
  4. Westmalle (Belgium)
  5. Westvleteren (Belgium)
  6. Achel (Belgium)
  7. La Trappe (Netherlands)

Most of these beers are ales, which come in different varieties (usually different strengths). Westvleteren is very popular, but is also quite difficult to find, since the monks only produce limited quantities of it. Nowadays, it can only be bought at the monastery itself, but there is a – long – waiting list.

The monasteries -and breweries – themselves can in most cases not be visited, but there is usually a visitor’s center, where you can taste and buy the beers. In October 2010, The Viking and I visited the monastery of Orval. The village is actually called Villers-devant-Orval and is situated in the south of Belgium. The monastery was founded in the 12th century and today you can visit the church and the ruins of the abbey.



  • thesweetkitten January 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Charlie will have the time of his life in Belgium then, since there are than 1200 beers here 🙂 Thanks for your comment! We thought that the former look was a bit too gloomy!

  • Kristina January 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Lovely, Charlie would love that, he is a fan of ales 😀 Every time we go somewhere he has to try the local ale 🙂 Beautiful images and I am loving the new look of your blog! Nice and bright! 🙂

  • Dena Rabadi January 26, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    French are artful in making and tasting wine

    • thesweetkitten January 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      And in beer too!

  • kareninhonolulu January 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    OMG! I just love Trappist Beer. That was the best memory that I took home with me after my trip to Holland. I’ll never again be able to sit in a pub and have one with my brother but I’ll always have that memory. Thank you for the post.

    • thesweetkitten January 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      You’re welcome!

  • pedmar10 January 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    good article, congrats. I am all over westmalle at home lol!

    • thesweetkitten January 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks! My personal favorite is Rochefort 🙂

  • aussieian2011 January 27, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Thanks for that informative look into the world of Trappist ales
    Enjoyed the pics of the abbey , If I remember rightly Belgium
    suffered greatly during the second world war
    Aussie Ian

    • thesweetkitten January 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      And the first one too, unfortunately.

  • Lost in Town January 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Very interesting travel tip!;)

    • thesweetkitten January 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm


  • Tasting the new trappist … or not? | Cosy Travels of the Viking and his Kitten January 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    […] Introduction to the noble art of trappist (beer) ( #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } […]

  • Colline January 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    So interesting! I did not realise that there was a specialised beer like this (but then I am not a beer drinker)

    • thesweetkitten January 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      Just check the gastronomy section of our blog 🙂 There are about 1200 Belgian beers!

  • Bongo January 27, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I didn’t know about Trappist beer. A fascinating read.

    • thesweetkitten January 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Thanks, Bongo! But I don’t think your person would allow to drink beer.

  • glen January 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    cool ideas for beer thanks


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