Last night I had the pleasure of partaking in Top Hops Trappist tasting class. It was a great night of tasting many beers I have never had before. Also tasting beers that cannot be bought in the United States. Certified Cicerone Justin Crider guided the enthusiastic group of beer drinkers through the world of Trappist breweries from Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, and the US.
Having arrived a little early, I decided pass the time with a pint of Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale. This was Smuttynose’s debut beer back when they opened in 1994 in New Hampshire. An English Style ale using Cascade and Galena hops. Slighty fruity with a malty back end.
Starting off the class, we dived into the oldest of the Trappist breweries, Brasserie de Rochfort. Located near Rochefort, Belgium, they have been brewing beer since 1595. We got the chance to try all three of their beers.
Rochefort 6 is a Belgium Dubbel with an ABV of 7.5%.. Malty, sweet, hints of caramel and fruit.
This is a Rochefort 8 Belgian Dark Strong beer and one of my favorites of the night. Smooth, sweet with sugary maltiness, and with nice fruit flavors as well. 9.2% ABV.
This Belgian Dark Strong ale can also be called a Quad since it comes in at 11.3% ABV. Thick maltiness with caramel tones. This would be great on a cold Winter’s day.
The Next brewery we got to sample was Brouwerij Der Trappisten van Westmalle. This brewery is located in Westmalle, Belgium and has been brewing beer since 1836.
The Westmalle Dubbel is only one of two beers commercially available from Westmalle Abbey. This Dubbel is fruity and herbal with a crisp bitterness on the end. It has an ABV of 7%.
The other beer released by Westmalle Abbey is their Westmalle Tripel*. At an ABV of 9.5%, this tripel is slightly bitter with a fruity aroma. *Westmalle brews a paterbiers called Westmalle Extra, though it is only available at the monastery.
Next up is the highly sought after Brouwerij Westvleteren. Located in Saint Sixtus Abbey in Vleteren, Belgium, this brewery has been operating since 1838. Their beers are not available outside of the Abbey, so finding them in the States is next to impossible unless you have friends in Belgium (even then it takes months of reservations). Our tasting class was lucky enough to try all three of the beers they produce.
First off was the Westvleteren Blonde. This was my favorite beer of the night. A Belgian Blonde at 5.8% ABV with a beautiful floral flavor and a crisp, dry finish. I’ve read that this is the “least sought after” of their beers, I hope so because that means there will be more around for me!
Next was the Westvleteren 8. This is currently the #72 most popular beer in the world according to beeradvocate.com. Sweet malt with hints of chocolate and toffee, this Dubbel weighs in at 8% ABV.
Then there was the legendary Westvleteren 12. A Belgian Dark Strong Quad that is considered to be one of the best beer in the world. Beer nerds have heaped praise upon this beer, but I have to say it wasn’t a party in my mouth. With an ABV of 10.2%, this beer was filled with dark fruit flavors, caramel, and bready flavors. This is a world class beer with out a doubt, but it’s not meant for my palate.
World Famous Chimay was the next Trappist brewery we sampled. Bieres de Chimay has been brewing since 1862 in the Scourmount Abbey located in Chimay, Belgium. They are one of the largest Trappist brewers in the world producing approximately 3.2 million gallons of beer annually. They currently make three beers for commercial sale, but they also make a patersbier that is for sale in certain EU markets.
The Chimay Première is Chimay’s most well known and widely available beer. Even corner bodegas carry this beer among all the BMCs. This Dubbel is 7% ABV, slightly fruity, malty, and silky smooth. A classic beer that everyone should try due to it’s availability.
The Chimay Tripel was another stand out of the night for me. With a nice balance of sweetness and bitterness, this 8% ABV tripel had notes of apples and grapes with no alcohol astringency. A smooth beer that goes down easy.
Chimay Grande Réserveis Chimay’s version of a Belgium Strong Dark ale that has an ABV of 9%. Full bodied with large malt and yeast flavors with dark fruit undertones.
The 5th Trappist brewery on the list was De Koningshoeven Brewery also known as La Trappe. This brewery has been in operation since 1884 in the the town of Berkel-Enschot, Netherlands located inside the Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningshoeven monastery. The class got to taste six of the nine beers they produce.
La Trappe Dubbel is a dark brown ale that uses caramel to enhance it’s sweetness and malty character. It has an ABV of 7%.
Next up was an impromptu beer that wasn’t initially on the menu for the night. By the suggestion of a smart class participant, we go to try La Trapp Isid’or Blond Ale to compare and contrast to the next beer on the list which was the the Oak Aged version of the same beer. This beer was named for brother Isidorus who was Koningshoeven Abbey’s first brewer, and was first brewed for the 125h anniversary of the Abbey in 2009. This 7.5% ABV unfiltered blonde ale is light and fruity with a slight, crisp bitterness on the end. I found this to be another very enjoyable Trappist beer.
Here is the Oak Aged version of the Isid’or. This has the same 7.5% ABV and flavor profiles in addition to a nice oak flavor from the barrels.
Though the La Trappe Tripel is at 8% ABV, the body is very light. Fruity and spicy with soft malt character. An easy drinking tripel.
La Trappe Quadrupel is is the brewery’s Belgian Strong Dark Ale. This amber 10% ABV Quad is rich, yet balanced. Very malty with dark fruit flavors. Aromas of bananas and nuts.
The official name of this beer is La Trappe Quadrupel Oak Aged Batch #8 Whisky. This was the 8th batch of La Trappe Quadrupel to be aged. Each batch is aged differently. Batch #8 was blended in October of 2011 using whiskey barrels and New French Oak. The aroma and flavor of whiskey is at the forefront of this 10% ABV beer. I’ll fully admit I’m not a whiskey fan, so whiskey aged beers don’t do much for me, though I can appreciate the quality.
In 1931, in the city of Luxembourg, Belgium, Brasserie d’Orval started brewing a golden ale that uses Brettanomyces lambicus yeast and is dry hopped for three weeks. This Trappist Ale is brewed at the Abbey Notre-Dame d’Orval.
Crisp with a slight lemon-like tart fruitiness, this 6.8% ABV ale was another favorite of the night for me. Fresh hops flavor from the dry hopping came through which I enjoy. I need to drink more of this.
Located within the Saint Benedictus Abbey in Achel, Belgium, Brouwerij der St. Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis has been brewing their Achel Trappist beers since 1998. They brew a total of 6 beers, though only 3 are commercially available outside the Abbey.
First up from this brewery was their Achel 8° Blond, a Tripel that is 8% ABV. Dry maltiness with hop balance and slightly fruity with a light spice.
A very nice dubbel that I gave high marks, the Achel 8° Bruin has a great fruit flavor of plums and raisins with bready maltiness. Caramel flavors round out this 8% ABV beer.
Though the Engelszell Abbey was founded in 1293 in Engelhartszell, Austria, the Stift Engelszell brewery has only been producing beer since 2012. This is the only Trappist brewery located in Austria and only has 7 monks who produce their 2 styles of beer.
The Stift Engelszell Benno is a good example of the Saison style. Crisp, clean, fruity, peppery, with some cloves. The ABV is 7.2%, though very little alcohol flavor comes through.
A slight contrast to the Benno Saison, the Stift Engelszell Gregorius is a strong 9.7% ABV Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Heavy dark fruit flavors with candied sweetness and bready malts. Slight hint of cherry is noticeable.
We now come to the first Trappist brewery to be located outside of Europe which Spencer Brewery located at the St. Josephs Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. They have been brewing since 2013 and were officially inducted into the International Trappist Association in December of 2013. One caveat of being inducted is that they can only brew one kind of beer for the first 5 years of production. This beer is known as Spencer Trappist Ale.
Spencer Trappist Ale is a Patersbier that is at 6.5% ABV. This sessionable Belgian Pale Ale has a golden hue and is unfiltered and unpasteurized. Fruity with a slight hop bitterness, this beer goes down dry and crisp.
Finally we reach our last Trappist brewery of the night which is also the youngest Trappist brewery of the 10 that exist. Located in the Brouwerij Abdij Maria Toevlucht in Zundert, Netherlands, the De Kievit Trappist Brewery started brewing in 2012 and was officially inducted into the ITA in late Decmber 2013, just after Spencer Brewery. They also only produce one beer which is a Tripel.
The De Kievit Zundert is a 8% ABV tripel. Malty with dark fruits, caramel, and slight alcohol astringency with medium body. A decent way to end a night of Trappist beer tasting.
I can not recommend this class enough. I can’t think of anywhere else where one could try all these beers in one sitting. For more information about classes at Top Hops please click here.
I have to give a big thanks Cicerone Justin Crider for guiding us though all these wonderful beers. A great teacher who makes learning interesting and tasty!