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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Filed under 8, Belgian Ale, Westvleteren

#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