Wednesday, January 13, 2010

authentic Trappist?

Last weekend I treated myself with La Trappe Quadruppel, a beer I´ve had many times before but never really impressed me in recent times. Sure, it´s big, heavy and very tasty, but it´s also completly lacking in character.

I´ve never been fond of La Trappe. Not only being over-commercialized, it´s also situated outside of Belgium. The monks at Koningshoeven have authority over the brewing process and also own the equipment but all business aspects are handled by Bavaria. Due to this fact, I find their Trappist status highly questionable although granted rights to label the beers as Trappist beers from 2005 by the International Trappist Association.

Although my eccentricity tells me different, La Trappe are real Trappists beers today. The monks at Koningshoeven have been brewing beer since the 1800´s. After World War II the brewery was bought by Stella Artois who brutally violated the Trappist name with the introduction of "Trappist Pils". Shortly after the failed introduction of a Trappist Pils, the monks bought their brewery back. In the late 1960´s they were brewing all kinds of beers, which included both Dortmunder and Bock beers. The production was too much for the monks to handle and again they turned to commercial breweries for assistance. In 1980 they decided to take things seriously again, and started brewing the La Trappe Dubbel after an old recipe from the 1950´s. The Dubbel is in my opinion the best of the range with high levels of yeast which creates a very malty and creamy beer. The Dubbel was the only beer brewed by the monks until the early 1990´s when they introduced Enkel, Tripel and Quaddruppel.

What I find very annoying with La Trappe, is the fact that the monks have always been very flexible about both marketing and selling their beer. They even tested the Vatican when they brewed beer for the Sainsbury supermarket chain. Bavaria also brew other beers at the Koningshoeven brewery, which are not labeled as Trappist, and are marketed under the names of Kroon, Moreeke and Tilsburgs.

Being the purist that I am, I tend to draw the conclusion that in 1999 the monks sold their soul, albeit it has worked to their advantage in marketing, as the La Trappe range is known all over the world. It did cost them the Authentic Trappist Product logo, but after modifications on the agreement with Bavaria, they got their status back in 2005.

Although brewing good beer, La Trappe is nowhere near the quality of beers such as Orval, Rochefort or Westvleteren.

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