Trappist beers heading for extinction?

21 December 2013, by

Trappist beers are a popular treat in bars and pubs throughout the Netherlands. But, as the number of monks declines, these brews could be heading for rocky times.

What's special about Trappist beer?

Trappist beers are specially brewed in accordance with various rules set out by the International Trappist Association (ITA). 

The drinks must be made in an abbey, under the supervision of certified monks. Authentic Trappist Products have all seen a surge in (international) popularity recently, owing to their unique taste and, perhaps, their scarcity.

One of the first rules for Trappist breweries is that they should only make enough hops-related profit to cover the modest needs of the monks and their community. This means that many monasteries have put limits on their production of beer - despite considerable increases in demand.

Dwindling numbers

As well as production caps, the world of Trappist beers also faces a major threat: the number of people seeking to become monks is rapidly declining.

There are currently just eight trappist breweries worldwide. The Orval Monastery in Belgium is one of these, and it reports seeing the number of recruits fall from 35 to a mere 12 in a matter of decades.

Similarly, northern Belgium's Achel monastery houses only six monks, and only one of these men is under 70. As the number of monks dwindles, concern mounts that trappist breweries could struggle to continue their ancient trade. 

Trappist beers
Photo by Flickr user Fabio Bruna

Of course, becoming a monk is not a decision one takes lightly. Potential monks must endure at least one "novice" stage, while also making personal sacrifices.

Brother Bernard of the Orval Monastery remarked that, "unfortunately, we cannot hire a head-hunter... Some people come in looking for an application form, but it doesn't work like that."

Source: The Independent

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Elzi Lewis

Elzi swapped rainy Manchester for (rainier) Amsterdam a year ago, and has never looked back. Having ...

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