As the name of this beer style suggests, Trappist ales originate from the Trappist monks. Trappist monks are part of the “Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance”, which began in 1098 and was originating from La Trappe, France. This order of monks follows strictly the “Rule of Benedict” as a guiding principle for the life in the monasteries. Their life is dedicated to study, prayer and various occupations that would offer the monasteries a degree of financial sustainability. In this framework , Trappist ales emerged.
Trappist monks were brewing and selling their beers undisturbed until 1800s when French revolution paused Trappist ale production . Monasteries were burned and looted and monks were forced to abandon their breweries. Then, Trappist monks moved to Belgium and resumed their monastic life and beer production as a mean to finance and restore their monasteries.
Trappist beers today
Today Trappist beers are regulated and protected from the International Trappist Association (ITA). According to ITA, in order for a beer to be called a Trappist, it must meet the following criteria:
- Brewing must take place inside the walls of a Trappist monastery and be performed or supervised by monks.
- Operations of the brewery must come second to the religious pursuits of the monastery and should be conducted in a way that aligns with monastic life.
- Profits from the beer should be used only to sustain the monastery and its residents, with any excess used to help the needs of the community — but breweries may not make profits.
Today, there are only 11 active Trappist breweries creating certified Trappist beer. 6 in Belgium, 2 in the Netherlands,1 in Austria, 1 in Italy and 1 in the United States. The original Trappist beers should have the following mark on their label that certifies that are original.