The styles popularized by Trappist breweries and the secular Abbey breweries are Blonde Belgian Ale (these rarely leave the monastery), Dubbel, Tripel and Quad/Strong Dark Ale. The similarities among them include raw organic materials, as well as technique and brewing philosophy. Abbey/Trappist beers are highly attenuated and never cloying, but retain a touch of sweetness. Adjuncts are universally used, typically Belgian Candi, and sometimes wheat or corn. The beers are almost exclusively presented as bottle-conditioned products and often are effervescent. Forced carbonation is convenient, but it is dismissive of the nuance that the yeasts impart over time. These beers usually always have a big fluffy head that sits on top of your beer and forms heavy lacing. So many similarities between the two, but whats the difference between Trappist, and Abbey? The answer is very simple actually. The term Abbey beer is used to refer to any beers produced in the style of the Trappist monasteries, but is not actually produced on a monastery. Trappist beers are brewed by monks within the walls of a monastery in the traditional fashion. It is kind of like the difference between Champagne wine and “sparkling white wine”. Many of these beers were brewed originally for the monks during times of fasting. It was a way for them to get nutrients (and probably super tanked) when they could not eat anything.
Trappist ales aren’t created on the basis of supply and demand. In order to comply with the rules of the, International Trappist Association (ITA), monasteries may not turn a profit from selling their world-famous beers. Beer brewing must be secondary to religious pursuits, and all money earned from selling beer to the public must support the monastery, the monks themselves, and the surrounding communities and charities. There is only so many authentic Trappist breweries that they will never meet demand. But fear not, major breweries brewing Abbey beers will satisfy that belgian beer craving you have. A Great Abbey to try out is Ommegang’s Abbey brewed in Cooper’s Town, NY.
There are currently eleven breweries that are allowed to have the products they sell display the Authentic Trappist Product logo. Six of them being from belgium, two Dutch, one Austrian, one Italian, and the newest one which is located here in the United States. St. Joseph’s Abbey located in the U.S. is a monastery of the Catholic Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.), popularly known as the “Trappists,” located in Spencer, Massachusetts. It is known for its production and marketing of Trappist Preserves, a line of jams and jellies, which partially supports the abbey. On December 10, 2013 the abbey was certified by the International Trappist Association to become the first Trappist brewery in the United States and the first outside Europe.
- Brasserie De Rochfort (Belgium)
- Brouwerij Der Trappisten Van Westmalle (Belgium)
- Brouwerij Westvleteren (Belgium)
- Bières de Chimay (Belgium)
- Brasserie d’Orval (Belgium)
- Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis (Belgium)
- La Trappe (Netherlands)
- Stift Engelszell (Austria)
- St. Joseph’s Abbey (USA)
- Brouwerij Abdij Maria Toevlucht (Netherlands)
- Tre Fontane Abbey (Italy)
To this day monks follow generation old recipes to brew these authentic Trappist beers, so fill your goblet with either an Abbey or a Trappist beer, and respect tradition, as some of these beers are the livelihood of these monks and their monasteries.