Trappist blog post Wim Swinnen
The time when Trappist was synonymous with Belgian beer has long since passed. Authentic Trappist beers are now also brewed in abbeys in the Netherlands, Austria, the USA, Italy and England. With a panel of renowned beer connoisseurs, we held a blind tasting at Bier Central on Antwerp's De Keyserlei: 6 Trappist beers, 3 of which were home-grown and 3 foreign, were given their due.
The tasting panel
Luc De Raedemaeker
Beer sommelier, director Brussels Beer Challenge
Fiona de Lange
Beer sommelier, zythologist
Beer teacher, beer journalist
Beer sommelier, zythologist, beer journalist
Brewmaster beer company BIRR/Montaigu
MONT DES CATS (7,6%)
Amber beer, brewed since June 2011 at l'Abbaye Notre-Dame de Scourmont in Chimay for l'Abbaye du Mont des Cats in Godewaersvelde in French Flanders. Because it is not made on site ('intra muros'), the beer does not receive the 'Authentic Trappist Product' logo, although it is considered a Trappist beer.
Appearance: between orange and amber, veiled, fine pearl, fine and stable off-white head,
Odour: rather closed nose, caramel, slightly bitter, vegetal
Taste: again a lot of caramel, full sweet attack and fine, bitter aftertaste, medium body
Comments: Fairly balanced, but the bitterness and caramel do not go together very well
ZUNDERT 8 (8%)
Amber beer, which is brewed in the Trappist brewery De Kievit of the Abbey Maria Toevlucht in the North Brabant municipality of Zundert in the Netherlands. It was launched on 6 December 2013.
Appearance: copper-coloured, sparkling clear, fine beading, rocky and fast-dissolving beige head
Scent: rather closed nose, caramel, bread, malty, grassy
Taste: caramel again, slightly bitter, subtle, balanced, the sweetness is not on top
Comments: the aroma, onset and aftertaste are fairly consistent, the flavours flow well together
Dark beer, brewed since 2012 in the brewery of Stift Engelszell in Engelhartszell an der Donau, the only Trappist monastery in Austria. On 15 October of the same year, the International Trappist Association announced that Gregorius may carry the ATP logo.
Appearance: dark brown, turbid, regular beadiness, firm and full beige head
Aroma: malty nose, leather, coffee, chocolate, dried fruit, salty
Taste: re-dried fruit, liquorice, honey, liquorice, alcoholic, pronounced roasted aromas, acidity, long dry, bitter finish
Comments: a complex tasting beer with many gastronomic possibilities, the roasted malt determines the colour and character of the beer
CHIMAY BLUE (9%)
Dark beer, brewed since 1954 in l'Abbaye Notre-Dame de Scourmont in Chimay. Initially launched as a Christmas beer and since 1982 also available in 75 cl bottles under the name Grande Réserve.
Appearance: between chestnut brown and reddish brown, veiled, ordinary pearl, pockmarked and not so stable off-white head
Scent: roasted malt, ripe fruit, cuberdon, caramel, candy, bread
Taste: round and sweet attack, full body, dry liquorice-like aftertaste
Comments: Firm, complete beer with a lot of fraueness and gastronomic possibilities
ROCHEFORT 10 (11.3%)
Dark beer, brewed since 1950 in l'Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy in Rochefort. Still the Trappist beer with the highest alcohol content. In the ranking of the best beers in the world on Ratebeer, it is in 15th place (year 2022).
Appearance: dark brown with red glow, cloudy, regular beadiness, creamy, compact and fine beige head
Odour: dried fruit, sultana, caramel, plum, coffee, milk chocolate, roasted malt, alcoholic
Taste: balanced, rich, full-flavoured, round, high density
Comments: eating and drinking at the same time, with a robust body and quite a bit of alcohol heat
WESTVLETEREN 12 (10.2%)
Dark beer, brewed from 1940 onwards in St. Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, with the understanding that from 1946 to 1992 it was produced under licence in the St. Bernard brewery in Watou. No Belgian Trappist beer is brewed in smaller quantities. For years, Westvleteren 12 was the best beer in the world according to Ratebeer; in 2022, it dropped to third place.
Appearance: between bordeaux and dark brown, turbid, fine beading, not so fine and falling cream-coloured foam
Odour: sweet, malty, liquorice, dried fruit, banana, vanilla, chocolate, bread, sultanas
Flavour: caramel, candy sugar, star anise, fairly alcoholic, black fruit, creamy, balanced
Comments: very highly saturated and complex dessert beer, to be enjoyed slowly
Score: 8 .5/10
Slight turmoil after adding up the points. The most renowned, but according to some connoisseurs, grossly overrated Trappist beats the competition, while the Dutch and French representatives have to make do with a rather modest score. Rochefort 10, Chimay Blauw and Gregorius come an honourable second, a sigh away from the untouchable Westvleteren 12.
Courtesy of Bier Central, De Keyserlei 25, 2018 Antwerp - www.biercentral.be
By Wim Swinnen (previously published in Culinaire Ambiance).