Samplesode 11: Trappist Trappings

IMG_1172There is just too much beer in the world to only taste twice a month. In the spirit of more is better the Blind Tiger podcast team has decided to add samplesodes to the podcast lineup. These mini-episodes will feature only tastings of hopefully unique or exotic beer, often on location to keep your Blind Tiger intake at a more regular interval.

This week the entire Blind Tiger crew assembled to discuss all things Trappist.  We discussed three main topics (and plenty of tangents) all centered around Trappist breweries.  We discussed what it means to be a Trappist brewery, the induction of America’s very first Trappist brewery, and the loss of renown Orval brewery as a Trappist brewery.

While discussing these issues we managed to grab three solid examples of official Trappist beers from three different Trappist breweries.

While discussing the definition of a Trappist brewery we enjoyed Trappist Achel Blond Bier 8°.  It is called 8° because of its 8% ABV.  It is light Belgian blonde beer with a nice aroma, strong flavor, and is considered world class by Beer Advocate.
While drinking this beer we discussed the merits and potential flaws of what the International Trappist Association defines as an official Trappist brewery.
- The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under the monks’ supervision.
- The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life. - The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture.  The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need. - Trappist breweries must be constantly monitored to assure the irreproachable quality of their beers.

The second beer we sampled was the Trappist Rochefort 6.  The Trappist Rochefort produces three beers the 6, the 8, and the 10 which are named after a rough approximation of their alcohol by volume.  In attempting to keep to the tradition of drinking what the monks drink we chose the lighter 6 as the monks usually drink even less alcoholic beers than are commercially available.  The 6 is a darker red than the 8° slightly less ABV.  It is also considered to be world-class.

While drinking this amazing beer we discussed the recent news that America has been officially added to the very short list of countries that have a Trappist brewery.

The last beer we ended up sampling was Orval Trappist Ale.  This was the weakest in terms of ABV being only 6.9%.  This is still a lot stronger than what the monks drink themselves but is not as strong as a lot of imported Belgian beers which are more commonly Belgian doubles or triples with much higher ABVs.  Orval is the only beer within the group to have a bit of a sour flavor by the addition of brettanomyces yeasts.  This addition can be a bit polarizing but it adds a unique flavor to a traditional Belgian style.

While drinking this beer we discuss the sad news that because of a loss of monk man power at the Orval Abbey over the past few decades the monks cannot keep up production themselves.  Because of this they have been forced to hire outside help to continue beer production and as a result will no longer be able to maintain their official Trappist status.  Is this a shame?  Is it an inevitability?  Will it change the quality of the beer or the moral implications that come from enjoying it?  We discuss it all in detail.

Keep an eye out for the next full episode scheduled for release next Thursday with the full Blind Tiger crew and of course the next samplesode.

Thanks for listening and of course, as always, keep on drinking!

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