Saint Benedict’s Brews, Part 3: Tracking Down the Seven

A Taste and History of Trappist Beer in Four Parts

Following centuries of brewing experience, those monasteries participating in the International Trappist Association (ITA) finally possessed exclusive control of the Trappist name.  The ITA’s legal blessing in 1985 provided brand exclusivity to the food, drink, and goods produced by the participating monasteries.

The ITA is comprised of 15 monasteries of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, located in Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany.  Of those Trappist and Trappistine monasteries, seven produce 23 authentic Trappist beers: Achel; Chimay; La Trappe Koningshoeven; Orval; Rochefort; Westmalle; and Westvleteren.  All are located in Belgium aside from La Trappe, which resides in the Netherlands.

Although the seven produce a combined total of 23 varieties, the requirement to be produced either in or near the monastery understandably limits the production quantity of the beers; Chimay is however, more widely available and thereby more recognizable than the others.

Accordingly, Chimay was not difficult to locate, being available at any number of local DC wine or liquor stores.   Three others were found at a local independent wine and beer retailer: Trappistes Rochefort 6; Westmalle Ale Trippel; and Koningshoeven Dubbel Ale.  Locating Orval Ale took a bit more work but was found a few days later at Westover Market, a hidden gem of a grocery hidden in northern Virginia’s suburbs, boasting over 925 kinds of beer in stock.

That left two.  I decided to consult the experts at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, a DC landmark with area drinkers.  After relaying my request for Achel and Westvleteren (of any kind), they provided interesting information.  Westvleteren – or Westie – is only served at two places, both in Belgium: the monastery itself and a small tavern across the street.  And while they currently were out of Achel, a friend’s recommendation led to Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits, far up Connecticut Avenue in northwest DC.  Among their 1,200-plus choices of beer, I found Achel Blond.

Barring a last minute flight to Belgium, six out of seven would have to do.  Enjoying them would hopefully match the effort to find them.

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Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 10:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. So when’s the tasting? Sounds like you’re gonna have a fun and intoxicating time! 🙂


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