Tag Archives: monk

#210 – Triple Moine

#210 - Triple Moine

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.3 %

When is a new beer not a new beer? The answer to this question became obvious on my brewery tour of Du Bocq. Following a mystifying non-English speaking jaunt around the premises I was delighted to settle in the brewery tap and select my free beer from the bar. I’d opted for the Deugniet (#64) for no other reason than it had a jaunty picture of a jester on the label and I’d never seen it before. As I recall it was a reasonable beer, and it was with beer in hand that I approached the bar and attempted to engage the bar girl in some inane beer chat. It’s what the English are good at.

“Sho”, she says in a thick Flemish drawl, “thees Deugniet beer you are drinking eest the same as these one here”, pointing at the small bottle of beer behind the bar with the dull brown label that didn’t have a jaunty picture of a jester on the label. “Excuse me?”, I said trying my best not to sound Dutch. “Yesh, they are the shame beers, but for different markets – the Deugniet eest for the Dutch speaking people, and the Triple Moine eest for the French speaking people”. I’ll spare the rest of the conversation from these pages, but it essentially covered the Belgium Conundrum, and one of course which has resonated through the politics of the country for the last year or so. Belgium is divided of course and if it helps to sell beer then why not market the same beer to two different populations?

I’ll tell you why not – because it fucks with my counting! Is the Triple Moine a new beer? It’s not is it? It’s the same beer but it’s just called something different. I decided the matter needed investigating, and once I was back in the UK I started to poke around. I noticed the small farmyard brewery at St Monon did it. Their Ambree for example doubles up as a number of brand beers for local breweries. Lefebvre have done it also – their Floreffe Double (#40) is also a double of the Durboyse Brune; their Floreffe Wit is also their Blanche de Bruxelles. Brasserie de Silly have done it, Millevertus have done it, and Van Steenberge – well they are guilty beyond belief.

I needed to make a judgment call and decided to rest my case on the tasting. I much preferred this one to the Deugniet. It looked the same as you would expect, but this seemed to be more fruity than I noted from the brewery tap. It had a decent afterkick and it lasted well to the end of the beer. I am beginning to learn that on different occasions and under different conditions, beers often can taste very different, even if they are actually the same. For that reason, and because a different label can tell a different story I am counting them. In this case a new beer actually is a new beer, though there isn’t much of a story on this one. Moine means monk, and that’s about as interesting as it gets.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Tripel, Du Bocq

#139 – Moinette Blonde

#139 - Moinette Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.5 %

There could be a handful of reasons why Dupont chose to name their popular beer Moinette Blonde. I’m happy to run through a number of hypotheses and let you play detective (#75).

1. Well its obvious really. The word monk in French is moine. The success of Abbey beers led to the association. The little monk beer.

2. The original name of the beer created in 1955 was the Abbaye de la Moinette. It was the showpiece beer from Dupont, and again was paying lip service to the sellability of Abbey Tripel style beers on the market. The name was changed to Moinette in 1980 due to the fact there is no Abbaye de la Moinette.

3. The Dupont brewery is situated in a swampy area renowned for its marshland. The modern French term for swamp is marais, whilst the ancient French term was moene. The beer was therefore named Moinette, as it was from the Moene region.

4. In the tiny village of Tourpes, which is the home of Dupont, there used to be an old mill, and a farmstead which belonged to the long line of Dupont ancestors. This farmstead was known as the Cense de la Moinette. The name of the flagship beer was chosen as a sentimental reference to the good old days.

It’s safe to say that all the above are pretty much a minor variation on a common set of truths. The one common factor that is beyond doubt however is the general appreciation of this beer. Aside from qualifying in the Top 100 Belgian Beers to try before you die book, the label and style of this beer reeks of professionalism. The beer itself was similar with a classy velvet finish. The flavour was smooth without being stunning, and yet had all the hoppiness I have come to expect from Dupont. It’s a great beer, but isn’t necessarily the kind of style that I get overly excited about.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, Dupont

#137 – Tongerlo Dubbel Bruin

#137 - Tongerlo Dubbel Bruin

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6 %

This is the second dabbling I have had with the beers of Tongerlo, my first stop being the Tongerlo Tripel Blonde (#30) which gave me a chance to introduce the Abbey which so elegantly adorns the beers labels. The abbey is famous for its Norbertine traditions, but just what sets aside a Norbertine from say a Cistercian, or a Trappist?

It all stems funnily enough from St. Norbert, who was a migrant preacher that founded the religious community of Premontre in France in 1121. The influential teachings here spread like wildfire, and the Norbertines or Premonstratensians were soon involved in the beginnings of Tongerlo Abbey in 1133. You may also recall he was the founder of Grimbergen Abbey (#8).

The main difference in the Norbertines of the Premonstratensian order was that they weren’t exactly monks, they were canons regular. It’s a subtle difference, one in which I am trying manfully to get my head round – especially as the orders and expectations manifest themselves so differently through time. Essentially the Norbertines originally based their traditions on the Cistercian (#94), and Augustinian ways, in that they were seeking a more austere way of being, but fundamentally they acted as canons regular, and therefore did not lead the true monastic contemplative life. They had far more responsibility in looking to minister to those outside the abbeys, and were if you like, the link between the inner sanctum of the monks, and the wider secular clergy. A subtle difference but one which saved the canon regulars from the long choral duties, and systemic moral reproofs which characterised the monks lives.

At the end of the day though, they were bonded by the brewing of the beer, and I say amen to that. The Tongerlo Dubbel Bruin itself was a safe brown. Thinner and fizzier than I expected, but with the subtle maltiness that you expect from a decent brown beer. At 6% it didn’t have the kick of some darker Belgians but is one I wouldn’t have a problem drinking again.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Dubbel, Haacht

#106 – St. Bernardus Tripel

#106 - St. Bernardus Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

I was able to begin the account of the wonderful St. Bernardus brewery after drinking the awesome St. Bernardus Abt (#46), but there’s certainly a bit more to the story worth reading about. The initial account explained how St. Bernardus had had to split from St. Sixtus in 1992 and cease to promote their beers as Trappist. It was not to be a simple process!

While the monks and workers at St. Bernardus were happy to continue in this fashion, cafes and restaurants continued to market and label the beers as Trappist, such were the benefits associated with these wonderful beers. This led to a period of confusion and of course eventually a legal challenge, and the powers that be at St. Bernardus responded by tinkering with the label. The old label associated with St. Sixtus portrayed a monk in full religious garb, while the new label was altered subtly to depict the same gentlemen now in a medieval robe. Never had a man who had just been so unceremoniously excommunicated looked so pleased about it.

St Sixtus - the happy monk

It was an inspired move as the St. Bernardus beers have never looked back since 1992. What might have been the death knell was the catalyst for a future strategy based on simply ensuring the quality of the beers.

The St. Bernardus Tripel was probably the beer which when launched really hit home the fact that St. Bernardus meant business; and to stay in business. This was regarded as a top notch tripel when it was launched and it still is today. It is a pristine amber with a deliciously creamy head which puffs up perfectly for the first swig. It is both hoppy and fruity and even after three beers I couldn’t help but be impressed by the flavour. I would like to try it again and am actively seeking out the 750 ml bottle for my collection on my next trip overseas.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, St. Bernardus

#94 – Witkap Pater Tripel

#94 - Witkap Pater Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

I am a big fan of the gentleman who adorns the Witkap beers – after all it’s clear proof that beer-drinking hoodies have been around since medieval times ! The chap is in actual fact a Cistercian monk, and the Witkap name refers to the white hoods that the Cistercians chose to wear. Of course, Cistercians – no different to any monks – seriously enjoyed their beer.

Cistercian monks essentially were a splinter group from the Benedictine monks who felt that they needed to pay stricter homage to the rules of St. Benedict. The name comes from Cistercium, the Latin name for the village of Citeaux where the reformist monks founded their first abbey in 1098. The word spread quickly as by the end of the 12th Century the order had spread throughout France, and much of Western Europe. The result of the Cistercian reversion was the return to stricter austerity and a reproduction of the original days of Benedictism – with particular determination to revert to manual labour – including of course the production of great beer !

Just like the Benedictines though, the Cistercians over time began to sway in their following, and during the 19th century, the Trappists (who we of course know very well these days in Belgium) decided that they also needed a reform to the original teachings and observances of St. Benedict.

Either way, all nuances of the “contemplative orders” mentioned above are categorised by the adherence to silence while within the monastery walls. It is a common misplaced myth that monks make vows of silence, its just that quiet helps to increase the monks ability to communicate and to continue in prayer.

The brewers of this beer, Slagmuylder claim that the Witkap Pater Tripel was actually the first golden Tripel although I would imagine that the monks at Westmalle may seek redress over this point. I have been brought up on the Westmalle Tripel (#149) and the Witkap, despite being eminently drinkable is not in the same league. It poured well, had plenty of bubbles and went down extremely well before a heavy night out, but just lacked the class of the ‘real’ golden Tripel.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, Brewers, Slagmuylder

#90 – Westvleteren Blonde

#90 - Westvleteren Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 5.8 %

Back on the last day of my summer jaunt around Belgium I stopped at the Westvleteren brewery in the heart of hop country for a last beer (#66). As I reported I was able to pick up a six pack of their blonde beer. Now was the time to try one of them.

I spent the last report discussing how the media had built up a frenzy over the quality of the beers here, but I didn’t really get a chance to dip into the history. The brewery was founded inside the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren back in 1838, just seven years after the monastery had been formed by Trappist monks from Catsberg in France. It is interesting to note that some of these same monks moved down to the Notre-Dame de Scourmont monastery where of course Chimay is brewed.

The beers at St. Sixtus were sold commercially until World War II, when Evarist Deconinck took over the mantle of many of the recipes at St. Bernardus down the road (#46). The brewery was the only Trappist monastery to continue to brew during both World Wars as it was the only one not plundered for copper by the German forces. It was in actual fact used as a sanitarium for caring for wounded allied forces. In 1989 the Abbey was able to open its newer brewery just off-site where it replaced all the old equipment, and then in 1992 the monks terminated their agreement with St. Bernardus with the sole intention of following the purist Trappist rules of brewing beers (#7). They have ever since maintained a strict policy of only monks doing all the brewing, although in recent years they have used one or two secular workers for much of the manual labour needed.

The green capped Westvleteren Blonde was added to the range of beers in 1999 and was designed to replace the 6.2% ABV dark beer and a lighter 4% table beer. Clearly the monks wanted a pater with a bit more bite, to support their stronger and world famous 8 and 12 (#66). It poured an impeccable cloudy blonde, thick and yet crisp, and was noticeably hoppy, with a fine head and some brown guts of sediment. It had been listed as a pale ale and I can probably imagine old men enjoying this beer. Of course from a brewery with as much international repute as Westvleteren you would expect to enjoy it, but I wasn’t expecting to immediately open another straight after! A very good beer.

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#55 – Saint-Monon Brune

#55 - Saint-Monon Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

Our travels took us further today, deep into the heart of rural Germany. I still had a car full of Belgian beers so I was happy, although the only worry I had was keeping them cool. I reverted to buying bags of peas in the supermarket to wrap around those selected but it really was only a temporary measure, and of course I ended up leaving a Hansel and Gretel style trail of peas around the European hinterlands. It had been another long day on the road, and after throwing our tent up and knocking up some dinner I settled down with a Saint-Monon Brune.

St. Monon, believe it or not, was Scottish. Like us, he found himself travelling across Europe albeit it was probably a little more taxing in the 7th Century – I found it hard enough finding the campsite with my sat-nav! He had been visited by an angel (allegedly of course) and instructed to find the village of Nassogne so that he could evangelise the pagans living there. In true tradition of a Saint, he came, he saw and he evangelised, although not without a little help from one of the pigs of the flock he adopted. The pig dug up an old Roman bell called a tintinnabulum, which St. Monon used to call the people to prayer. Over time our Scottish monk worked hard to recruit locals and to destroy the pagan idols, although not without upsetting those less willing to submit to the saintly ways. In 636 St.Monon was ambushed in his oratory by unrepentant sinners who murdered him with a wooden spear. I am beginning to learn that it’s not all rosy being a Saint. They always seem to get offed in the most alarming of ways (#18, #29). Of course he wasn’t a Saint up until this point, but the people of the local area who so appreciated the work he did with the animals made him the Patron Saint of Livestock, of which he still remains to this day.

The beer probably was a bit warm still as the peas had defrosted, but then browns tend to prefer the warmer climate. It was a particularly muddy pour, with a real milk chocolate colour to it – almost to the point of looking quite unappetising. The experience on the tongue was quite spicy, and almost certainly coriander, thus quite unique to date. I wouldn’t say I would go buy it again in a hurry but it was worth the taste, even if it didn’t have the legs to be a stayer – a bit like poor St. Monon.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Dubbel, Horse, Pig, Saint-Monon

#47 – Dendermonde Tripel

#47 - Dendermonde Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

If you take a good look at the label of the Dendermonde Tripel, you can see the stunningly gothic cathedral, but if you look closer you will make out the silhouette of a monk, with musical notes fluttering further in the background. This is actually the silhouette of a woman – Hildegard von Bingen, and the representation of the music highlights just one of her many skills. In fact her association with Dendermonde Abbey is that 58 of her liturgical symphonies from the 12th Century are preserved here.

Many of her other roles in her 81 year life are listed as mystic, author, counsellor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, herbalist, poet, channeller, visionary, composer, polymath, and Benedictine Abbess. I would imagine from our experiences thus far, that it is the latter that associates her most with beer. After all what monk, male or female, didn’t enjoy a drink to help them cope with the solitude?

This medieval Carol Vorderman was born in 1098 in what is now modern day Germany. She had many visions as a child (although modern day scientists suggest these may have been migraines – but who am I to ruin a good story?), and was thus tithed to the church by her parents in the belief that this was some kind of portent. Regardless of the authenticity of these claims, Hildegard became so embroiled in the clergy that she was eventually founding monasteries in Rupertsberg in 1150, and Eibingen in 1165. Her preaching tours were legendary and coupled with her musical talent and penchance for a good vision, she ended up being extremely popular, although not seemingly as much in modern days due to so many of her medieval works being readily available for scrutiny – a rare indulgence for modern day students of ancient music.

I am surprised Hildegard would have found much time for drinking, especially given her feministic tendencies and non-liberal approach to sexuality, however she found her way onto a beer label, and for that we assume the marketers of Dendermonde Tripel saw some worth in her. The beer itself was the first of two enjoyed on my sofa the night before going back to Belgium. She smelt fairly average, but poured impressively with a solid robust head. There was a good all-round pale colour with hints of oranges deeper in, and definite grapefruit and other citrus that stirred on the tongue. The taste was excellent though, making this a good all-round strong tripel. In fact, some more of the over-rated tripels I doubt could live with this on a blind taste-test. Just don’t drink too many – like Hildegard, it might just give you a migraine !

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Filed under 8, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, De Block

#31 – Trappistes Rochefort 8

#31 - Trappistes Rochefort 8

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9.2 %

I have already outlined the history of the Trappistes Rochefort Abbey in my coverage of the Rochefort 10 (#13). Perhaps what I didn’t mention was that the success of the Trappistes Rochefort beers of today is mainly due to two of the other Trappist breweries of the modern age.

In 1887 with the monastery closed for nigh on 80 years, monks from the Trappist Abbey of Achel came to Rochefort and bought the ruined buildings. Over the next 10 years the Abbey was restored, and a new brewery founded which began to produce a reasonable range of beers over the next 40 years. The fact that they weren’t world beating beers caused a lull in sales in the late 1940’s after Chimay had signed a distribution agreement which authorised the national sale of their tasty beers, even in the town of Rochefort. The abbot of Rochefort complained bitterly to the fellow monks at Chimay who unable to undo the agreement, did agree to help to manufacture a much better beer for Rochefort, which was launched in 1953 as a stronger and more popular brew. Rochefort is probably now considered the pick of the trappist breweries and it is clearly thanks to Achel and Chimay for making this happen.

The Rochefort 8 – this time with the green cap – is for me the better of the Rochefort beers. I don’t think there is a great deal in it, but the 8 is just that bit more refined than the more complex 10. The beer is still dark, thick, malty and chocolatey, even with distant hits of coffee and Christmas fruit. It really is the perfect late night drink, or alternative to dessert after a heavy meal. It is fairly ironic, that Chimay helped to create this masterpiece and yet it is far superior to any of the Chimay beers I have tried over the years. As near to a 10 rating as I have come yet.

(Post-Script) – For a bit more detail on why the Trappistes beers are called 6, 8 and 10, check out the review of the Trappistes Rochefort 6 (#107).

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Filed under 9, Abbey Beer, Belgian Strong Ale, Rochefort, Trappist Beer

#30 – Tongerlo Tripel Blond

#30 - Tongerlo Tripel Blond

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

The date on the label of the Tongerlo beer says 1133. If I’m not mistaken that’s – er – 876 years of brewing beers? Apparently true.

The monastic community of the Norbertine Abbey of Tongerlo was founded in the same year, and like all good monks, they didn’t mess around in getting the beers brewed. We have Abbot Waltman and Bishop Burchard of Kamerijk to thank for this, and the subsequent rise of Tongerlo abbey as a powerful centre of religion and culture.

The usual history affected the abbey throughout the middle ages with secular powers and Calvinism haranguing the occupants, but it was only eventually World War I that put a final nail in the coffin of the brewing at the abbey, when the German occupying forces looted the abbey of the copper stills to make armaments. It was only in 1989 that the beer was re-launched by Haacht, and the Norbertine traditions (#137) were once more reignited in this beautiful area.

With a seriously blocked nose it probably wasn’t wise to waste a beer as I was unlikely to taste much, but I doubted it would be a classic. The beer poured golden with an initially thick head, with not much of a smell and to be honest not much of a taste (who knows?). This seemed a fairly routine blonde which definitely tastes of 8% but remains fairly anonymous. Pretty average fare in all with bit of a kick to it. I blame the Germans 😉

(Post-Script) – I have since learnt that this beer is now retired, to be replaced by the stronger and yet untested Tongerlo Prior Tripel.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, Haacht

#29 – St Feuillien Blonde

#29 - St Feuillien Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

Another famous Saint? Yep. Another martyr? Yep. Another range of beers in honour of? But of course. Did he come from Ireland originally? How on earth did you know that? .. yawn

It’s a familiar story, Feuillien (or as often referred to in Ireland as Foillan) decided in the 7th Century to quit the Emerald Isle and chance his arm in Britain. He settled in East Anglia until viciously attacked and in one last fling at peace, he boarded a boat to the continent of Gaul, where he spread the word of God, setting up a monastery in Fosses-la-Ville in Namur. One night while on his way back from preaching in local Nivelles, he was set upon by bandits and brutally murdered, having his head cut off and thrown into a pigsty. Again rumour had it that the head continued to preach as it lay in the hay (reminiscent of St Livinus #18).

As a martyr he attracted many disciples who eventually in 1125 set up the Abbaye St-Feuillien du Roeulx in his honour. The abbey of course flourished until the decimation of the French Revolution, but the legend and name of St Feuillien live on in Belgium, especially with the self-named range of beers being fairly popular in present day Belgium.

I have to say however, that I wasn’t overly impressed with this one. This may be more personal taste than anything as everything else seemed to fit the bill. It smelt extremely fruity, had a big puffy head on a barley coloured beer. I couldn’t clear the taste of lemons, and it ended being very distinctive – just too distinctive in the end. I like beers that challenge me, and remain unique, but this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

(Post-Script) – Much better beers are the velvety St. Feuillien Brune (#119), and the sumptuous St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel (#123).

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Belgian Strong Ale, St. Feuillien