Most people assume La Trappe Trappist beers are Belgian; they adorn the shelves of supermarkets and specialist beer shops in Belgium and are to be found nestling cosily amongst the Belgian beer selections in specialist outlets and on line shops throughout the world.
How long it takes to find out the truth varies; some people like to research their beers and are interested in the brewery history; others study the label; and quite a few just drink and hopefully enjoy the beer.
The fact is, the beers are brewed at the monastery in Berkel-Enschot near Tilburg in Holland. The brewery started in 1884 and apart from a period between 1969 and 1980 (when production was licenced to the the Artois brewery – Belgian connection!) the brewery was mainly run by the monks. Until 1999; by then the monks were getting too old so a deal was struck with the large Dutch Bavaria brewery, who established a limited liability company (De Koningshoeven NV) as a subsidiary to take over the commercial production.
This proved to be a problem for the International Trappist Association and the right to display the authentic Trappist beer logo was withdrawn. Finally, on 9th. September 2005 a settlement was reached; the monks agreed to take a more active part in the day to day production and the beers, although no different, once again became authentic!
Apart from the few hours worked by the monks, nothing changed. The buildings and equipment are still owned by the abbey and the monks have the last say regarding the brewing process.
Today, in terms of Trappist beer production La Trappe with about 145000 hl. per annum slots in behind Chimay and a bit ahead of Westmalle. In comparison with Westvleteren or Achel, three very big brothers!
I’ve chosen the Dubbel, a beer with a nice dark amber – red colour topped off with a medium lasting tan head. A spicy Belgian yeast smell with a caramel maltiness are apparent together with a grape and ripe apple and pear fruitiness.
A sour note, bready yeast, spice and malt comes out in the taste and a light bitterness remains in the background. The sharpness mellows into the apple pear fruit esters with a pleasant addition of half bitter chocolate. The sweetens tones down into a relatively dry finish and a slight alcohol (7.0% alc. Vol.) warmth.
All in all, a good dubbel, but still not a true competitor for Westmalle!
Happy beer drinking!