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Friday, February 17, 2012

Coming to a Supermarket Near You: Austrian Trappist Ale

Thanks to a heads up by Jay Brooks, there's this fascinating news about a potential eighth Trappist monastery. He dug around a bit and found this info:
The monastery of Engelszell Stift has filed an application and expects to be notified of the ITAs decision in 4-5 weeks. According to, the Engelszell Stift monastery was “founded in 1293 and needs financial input to recover the old paintings, fresco’s and paintings” and has decided to start a small brewery to raise the necessary funds. It is located a little over 120 miles from Munich in Austria.
I did a bit more digging and came up with this (Google Translate at work, so):
The brewery plant has a capacity of 15 hectoliters (= 1500 liters) per brew. The only top-brewed [ie, ale] stout [strong ale, probably] reaches an alcohol content of seven to ten percent by volume and has an original gravity 18 to 22 degrees. Engelszell is brewed in the early light and dark Trappist beer.

Interesting. But especially interesting is this:
As the Trappist beer is extremely popular in America, a majority of the production will be packed in containers that go to the American market.
Most Americans are unaware of how dependent Belgian specialty ales are on exports. When I visited Dupont, De Struise, Rodenbach, and Cantillon, I was startled to learn how much of their production goes to foreign markets (a quarter to nearly all, in the case of De Struise). The US market is one of the most important--though with rising connoisseurship in places like China, maybe not for long.

In any case, it's remarkable that a monastery would look at this information and decide to build a brewery based on exports. We tend to think of Trappist monks as incredibly hidebound, making beer in a lineage that dates back to Carolingian Europe, when 600 monasteries brewed beer. But these aren't Lenten repast ales for the monks, they're purely commodities entering an international market. The function--to support the monastery--is the same as those monasteries in 800 AD, but the mode is far different.

Now, the real question: is the beer any good?



  1. Money is money I guess, and when it's needed, you just need to do what you have to sometimes. Just look at Westvleteren... they needed extra cash for referbs, so they sold to supermarkets - as I'm sure you already know. Sounds good though!

  2. I do know--and to my GREAT consternation, I missed that huge disbursement by about three weeks when I visited Belgium last year.