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This Monk Knows Good Beer


This Philadelphia staple is known for having one of the country's best Belgian beer selections (any with doubts about how seriously they take the style need by try the house Flemish Sour Ale). While also known for having a string of bad luck in recent years, the bar's thoughtful collections, highly praised exclusive brews, and authentic Belgian food has kept any chance of business slowing down far away.


5 Beers Made by Real Monks

Most people who care about beer care about what goes into the beer. But one man in Florida is very concerned about the occupation and religious leanings of those making it. Optometrist and angry beer drinker Henry Vazquez recently filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch InBev because Leffe beer is not actually brewed in an abbey by monks (as the label art led him to believe), but instead made in a Belgian brewery by laymen.

Though we can’t take back the countless Leffes that Vazquez may have drunk under false pretenses, we can help him and others to make informed purchasing decisions in the future. Here, five Trappist beers that are brewed by real, literally honest-to-God monks.


Trappist Dubbel and Tripel Beer Recipes

Trappist ale is a beer brewed originally by Trappist monks. The style and its substyles (Enkel, Dubbel and Tripel) have also been popularized by many microbreweries over the last 30 years. This week, we take a look at the popular Trappist style and how to formulate recipes to brew this beer at home.

History of Trappist Beer

Trappist ale has its clear origins with Trappist monasteries. From the early middle ages, monastery brew houses produced beer throughout Europe both to feed the community and later for sale to fund other church works. The Trappist order, which took its name from La Trappe Abbey in France, was founded as part of the Cistercian order in 1663, though it did not formally separate from the Cistercian order until 1892. The La Trappe Abbey had its own brewery as early as 1685.

Today there are only seven Trappist monasteries that brew beer and six of them are located in Belgium while one is in the Netherlands. The six in Belgium are the most well known, which is why Trappist ales are categorized as Belgian ales. In the late 20’th century, many breweries worldwide started labeling their beer as “Trappist” in response to the popularity of the ales, forcing Trappist abbeys to form the International Trappist Association who’s goal is to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from using the name. They created a logo and convention for true Trappist beers, which must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey by monastic brewers, and the gains must go to charitable causes and not financial profit.

Due to the popularity of Trappist ales, many commercial brewers still brew similar style beers which are typically sold under as Belgian Dubbels and Tripels. (Ref: Wikipedia).

The Trappist Style

Trappist beers may be divided into four sub-styles. By tradition, most of the true Trappist ales are bottle conditioned. These include:

  • Patersbier – “Father’s beer” which is brewed for the monks and intended for consumption by the monks within the abbey walls. Occasionally this may be offered on site to guests. It is a relatively weak beer in the tradition of Trappist austerity.
  • Enkel – “Single” beer which was traditionally used to describe the brewery’s lightest beer. This is a very close relation to the Patersbier. Currently the term is rarely used, and I am not aware of any abbeys that currently produce this style for commercial sale.
  • Dubbel – “Double” beer. Dubbels are a strong brown ale with low bitterness, a heavy body, and a malty, nutty finish with no diacytl. These beers have a starting gravity of 1.062-1.075 and 6.5-8% alcohol by volume. Color runs the range from dark amber to copper color (10-17 SRM) and bitterness from 15-25 IBUs. This style is also widely brewed by commercial brewers.
  • Tripel – “Triple” beer. Tripel’s are the strongest Trappist ales, running from 7.5-9% alcohol by volume with a starting gravity of 1.075-1.085. They are highly alcoholic, but brewed with high carbonation and high attenuation yeasts to reduce the taste of alcohol. Color runs lighter than Dubbels in the range of 4.5-7.0 SRM and bitterness from 20-40 IBUs, though most Tripels have 30+ IBUs.

Brewing Trappist Style Ales

I’m going to focus on the Dubbel and Tripel styles as these are the only ones brewed commercially today. For both Dubbel and Tripel, Belgian pilsner malt makes up the base ingredient. For Dubbels, sometimes Belgian pale malt may also be used as a base.

For Dubbels, the grain bill can be complex with Munich malts added for maltiness (up to 20%), Special B malt to provide raisin falvor and CaraMunich for a dried fruit flavor. Also dark candi sugar is used both to boost alcohol and add rum-raisin flavors. The sugar also allows for a cleaner finish and less alcohol flavor than would be possible with an all-malt beer. Despite the complex spicy flavor of the finished beer, spices are not used.

Tripels being lighter in color typically use a less complicated malt bill. Starting with a pilsner malt base, they add up to 20% white candi sugar but typically lack the complex array of malts used for Dubbels.

One of the main ingredients that makes Trappist ales unique is the yeast. Both Dubbels and Tripels use special Belgian yeast strains that produce fruity esters, spicy phenolics and higher alcohol. Often the Trappist ales are fermented at higher than normal temperatures for an ale yeast which increases the array of complex flavors from the yeast.

For hops, noble hop varieties or Styrian Goldings hops are commonly used. Occasionally low alpha English hops may also be added. Despite the hop rate of Tripel needed to balance the malt, hops is not a major flavor in either finished beer style. Large amounts of finishing and dry hops are not typically used for this beer for the same reason.

Water used for brewing is typically soft – without a large quantity of hard minerals present. Both styles are traditionally bottle conditioned with medium to high carbonation which adds to the beer’s presentation.

Mashing is typically done with a medium to full bodied mash profile, as Trappist beers are full bodied.

Trappist Style Recipes

Here are some Trappist style recipes from the BeerSmith Recipe Site:

Do you have a favorite Trappist recipe or thoughts on how to make a great Trappist style beer? Leave a comment below. Thank you for joining us on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Please don’t hesitate to subscribe for many more great articles on home brewing.

Related Beer Brewing Articles from BeerSmith:

Westvleteren makes a single known as the 𔄞”. Westmalle makes a beer called “Extra” which could be considered a single. The Achel Blonde and Bruin are 5% beers and are sort of in the same category. None of these are extremely widely availible, but they are produced commercially.

What about the Quadruppel/ABT 12? I know that has been made for at least the last 70 years (could be a lot more for all I know)

The extract recipe attached to this article looks pretty lame, especially since the author didn’t like his own beer. Google Willambroux Belgian Blonde Ale for a recipe that I created and is a winner.

David,
Fair enough – perhaps I should have excluded that one, but I wanted to give a variety of recipes for people to look at. If you have a great Dubbel or Tripel recipe please post it here – I’m sure we would all enjoy it!

I’m not personally familiar with the Quadruppel – but if you have more information on it I would love to hear it!

I tried my first batch a week ago and it actually is not that hard. Thanks for the recipes was easy to follow and hopefully the beer will turn out good. Reading the instructions in this guide i have can make it sound intimidating but just start and it all falls into place. Plus when I went to buy the ingredients from the beer supply store they were super helpful and answered any questions I had.

Rochefort 10 is also a good example of the Trappist Quad style

Hi. Hey. The cane sugar. Isn’t that just regular table sugar? No bitterness from that?


The Authentic Recipe (SPOILER: I don’t have it!)

If you were to seek, you would find numerous recipes for the cheese, each of them, as it were, 𠇊uthentic.” In general, all include sharp cheddar cheese and beer most include garlic and Worcestershire sauce. A few involve the use of mayonnaise and heating of the dip, both of which I find shockingly heretical, frankly. It is your everlasting soul, however, and you are free to do as you see fit.

This cheese is found at nearly every gathering be it a family reunion, Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, game day (did I say “Go Cats”?), Derby parties. We all tend to feel tender allegiance to our own family recipe. Below, I’ve included two distinctly different recipes. The first is the recipe we use in our home. This recipe is based on the recipe in Marion Flexner’s “Out of Kentucky Kitchens” cookbook, a 1949 edition which is very precious to me.

Here I am going to say something heretical, which explains why I can’t point my finger at those who use mayonnaise to make beer cheese: I am not completely convinced that Joe Allman “invented” this recipe. I know, “hush your mouth”! The reason I say this is because in Flexner’s introductory paragraph for the recipe included in this 1949 cookbook, it is said “In the days when free lunches were served in Kentucky saloons with every 5-cent glass of beer, we were told of a wonderful beer cheese that decked every bar.” Knowing this, I can’t help but doubt. I believe beer cheese was already “out there” in Kentucky bars and saloons (perhaps even in Indiana, Tennessee?!) and had been for quite a while. I think Allman simply did beer cheese better.


2,550-Year-Old Celtic Beer Recipe Resurrected

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Early Celtic rulers of a community in what’s now southwestern Germany liked to party, staging elaborate feasts in a ceremonial center. The business side of their revelries was located in a nearby brewery capable of turning out large quantities of a beer with a dark, smoky, slightly sour taste, new evidence suggests.

Six specially constructed ditches previously excavated at Eberdingen-Hochdorf a 2,550-year-old Celtic settlement, were used to make high-quality barley malt, a key beer ingredient, says archaeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. Thousands of charred barley grains unearthed in the ditches about a decade ago came from a large malt-making enterprise, Stika reports in a paper published online Jan. 4 in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Stika bases that conclusion on a close resemblance of the ancient grains to barley malt that he made by reproducing several methods that Iron Age folk might have used. He also compared the ancient grains to malt produced in modern facilities. Upon confirming the presence of malt at the Celtic site, Stika reconstructed malt-making techniques there to determine how they must have affected beer taste.

The oldest known beer residue and brewing facilities date to 5,500 years ago in the Middle East, but archaeological clues to beer’s history are rare (Science News: Oct, 2, 2004, p. 216).

At the Celtic site, barley was soaked in the specially constructed ditches until it sprouted, Stika proposes. Grains were then dried by lighting fires at the ends of the ditches, giving the malt a smoky taste and a darkened color. Lactic acid bacteria stimulated by slow drying of soaked grains, a well-known phenomenon, added sourness to the brew.

Unlike modern beers that are flavored with flowers of the hop plant, the Eberdingen-Hochdorf brew probably contained spices such as mugwort, carrot seeds or henbane, in Stika’s opinion. Beer makers are known to have used these additives by medieval times. Excavations at the Celtic site have yielded a few seeds of henbane, a plant that also makes beer more intoxicating.

“These additives gave Celtic beer a completely different taste than what we’re used to today,” Stika says.

Heated stones placed in liquefied malt during the brewing process — a common practice later in Europe — would have added a caramelized flavor to this fermented Celtic drink, he adds. So far, no fire-cracked stones have been found at Eberdingen-Hochdorf but they may have been used to heat pulpy malt slowly, a practice documented at later brewing sites, Stika says. He suspects that fermentation was triggered by using yeast-coated brewing equipment or by adding honey or fruit, which both contain wild yeasts.

Celts consisted of Iron Age tribes, loosely tied by language and culture, that inhabited much of Western Europe from about the 11th to the first century B.C.

In the same report Stika describes another tidbit for fans of malt-beverage history: A burned medieval structure from the 14th century A.D., recently unearthed in Berlin during a construction project, contains enough barley malt to have brewed 500 liters of beer, the equivalent of nearly 60 cases.

Classics professor Max Nelson of the University of Windsor in Canada, an authority on ancient beer, largely agrees with Stika’s conclusions. Malt-making occurred at Eberdingen-Hochsdorf, and malt was probably stored in the medieval Berlin building, Nelson says.

Other stages of brewing occurred either at these sites, as suggested by Stika, or nearby, in Nelson’s view.

“Stika’s experiments go a long way toward showing how precisely barley was malted in ancient times,” he remarks.

Beer buffs today would regard Celtic beer as a strange brew not only for its flavor but because it would have been cloudy, contained yeasty sediment and been imbibed at room temperature, Nelson notes.

Stika’s insights into the range of techniques and ingredients available to Celtic beer makers should inspire modern “extreme brewers” to try out the recipe that he describes, says anthropologist Bettina Arnold of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

Perhaps they’ll find out whether Roman emperor Julian, in a 1,600-year-old poem, correctly described Celtic beer as smelling “like a billy goat.”

Image: Charred barley grains from an Iron Age Celtic settlement, such as these, inspired experiments to determine that they had been malted as part of a brewing operation that produced beer with a smoky and somewhat sour taste./H.-P. Stika


Father’s Reward Enkel

This recipe is featured in “Seeing the Light: Belgian Session Beers” by Drew Beechum in the May/June 2009 issue of Zymurgy magazine. Access this issue instantly online or using the mobile apps.

Ingredients for 5.5 gallons (21 L)

  • 6.0 lb (2.7 kg) | Belgian Pilsner malt
  • 0.5 lb (0.2 kg) | Special B malt
  • 0.25 lb (113 g) | Carafa malt
  • 1.0 lb (0.5 kg) | Turbinado sugar
  • 0.5 oz (14 g) | Styrian Goldings pellet hops, 4.7% a.a. (60 min)
  • 0.5 oz (14 g) | Saaz pellet hops, 3.5% a.a. (15 min)
  • 1/2 | Cinnamon stick (5 min)
  • 1/8 tsp | mace, crushed (5 min)
  • Wyeast 1762 Abbey II or White Labs WLP530 Abbey Ale

Specifications

  • Original Gravity: 1.040
  • IBUs: 12
  • SRM: 16.0

Directions

Mash for 60 minutes at 152°F (67°C). Bring runoff to a boil and add 60 minute hops. Add hops and spices according to the recipe. After 60 minute boil, chill to 66°F (19°C). Ferment one week, allowing temperature to rise into the low 70s°F (21-23°C), then rack to secondary. Age two weeks then bottle or keg.

Extract Version:

Substitute 3.5 lbs (1.6 kg) of extra light dry malt extract for Pilsner malt, and increase 60 minute hops to 0.75 oz (22 g). Steep malt in 1.0 gallon (3.8 L) of water at 160°F (71°C) for 60 minutes. Strain and sparge into brew kettle with 0.75 gallon (2.8 L) of 170°F (77°C) water. Stir in extract, bring to a boil and add 60 minute hops. Boil 60 minutes, adding hops and spices according to the recipe. Strain into a fermenter with enough cold water to make 5.5 gallons (21 L). When temperature drops to 66°F (19°C), pitch yeast and aerate well. Ferment one week, allowing temperature to rise into the low 70s°F (21-23°C), then rack to secondary. Age two weeks then bottle or keg.

Sources: The Oxford Companion to Beer by Garret Oliver et al. “Seeing the Light: Belgian Session Beers” by Drew Beechum (May/June 2009 Zymurgy)


You, Too, Can Brew Like a Monk

Just follow the example of the monks at Mount Angel Abbey and ask yourself these nine questions before you tackle your first abbey-style beer.

Father Martin Grassel brews beer in his home. He lives in a monastery.

At the outset, he was simply making homebrew. He produced his first 5-gallon batch in the kitchen of the retreat house at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon with used equipment that somebody had given him. Now he looks forward to brewing 5-barrel batches for the newest American abbey brewery. That won’t be homebrew.

Benedictine Brewery expects to begin selling beer brewed by the monks in summer 2016. Father Martin and Chris Jones, the director of enterprises who helps him brew on the pilot system the monastery purchased, continue to work on recipes while waiting for a new brewery building to be finished. The original plan was to install a 5-barrel brewhouse in a vacant part of the monastery. However, one location after another proved to be unsuitable. During the summer, Jones took bids for constructing a brewery on land across from the abbey.

“[We decided that] we’re just going to do this ourselves. There [aren’t] going to be any partners,” Farther Martin said some time after the monks voted in 2012 to start the brewery. “The whole vision will be ours.” And the work as well.

Monks at Mount Angel will make beer for the same reason that monks at other monasteries oversee—sometimes actually brewing, often not—production of beer within the walls of their abbeys. They live by the rule of Saint Benedict, written about A.D. 530. It calls on monks to be self-sufficient through their own labor. But at Mount Angel, what began as a revenue enterprise evolved into something more.

“It quickly became something for the community,” Father Martin says. The monks did not simply vote on whether to start a brewery. They tasted commercial beers and talked about the flavors they liked, or didn’t. They eventually helped pick the yeast Benedictine Brewery will use in all its beer. Some sat in on meetings with Brand Navigation, an agency that created a message and design that represents the monastery as well as the beers.

“[The project] went in another direction. We began to see the outreach potential,” Father Martin continues, “if we could have our product with our values on the label, telling our story.”

He pauses for an emotional but not awkward moment. “When you see a holy image on a beer bottle, there is more here than beer,” he says, his voice still unsteady. “That’s something you want to do, to get your values out there. That is a great thing. It is really us. Things like that happened with the project to energize our whole community.”

The label of Black Habit Dark Ale, for instance, describes the monks’ basic attire, black to signify that a monk has died to this world to live with Christ. It was the first recipe developed and will be one of the core beers. The monks received help from the Oregon State University fermentation science program and professional brewers in Portland—most particularly Alex Ganum, Upright Brewing’s owner and head brewer—but the questions they asked themselves are the ones any brewer who wants to make abbey-style beer should ask.

1. Which Yeast?

Trappist is not a beer style, but an appellation, indicating that a beer is brewed under the supervision of Trappist monks. Although Mount Angel Abbey is not a Trappist monastery and was founded in 1882 by Swiss monks, its members understand that consumers expect a beer with flavor characteristics like those apparent in Trappist and abbey beers. They put considerable effort into choosing their yeast, beginning by tasting a wide range of beers. They next sampled test batches, some pale and others dark, brewed with different strains (sourced from Trappist abbeys such as Westmalle and Chimay, as well as other Belgian breweries, such as Brasserie Achouffe) before choosing one to use in their brewery. It is Belgian in origin, commercially available, and will be a cornerstone for all the monastery beers. As a homebrewer, you could consider Wyeast 3787/White Labs WLP530 (Westmalle), Wyeast 1214/White Labs WLP500 (Chimay), or Wyeast 3522/White Labs WLP550 (Achouffe).

2. How Strong?

Black Habit starts at 17°P (1.070) and finishes between 2.2 and 2.5°P (1.009–1.010). A mark of Trappist beers, more so even than abbey beers, is attenuation. The BJCP guidelines provide parameters, but a brewer should remember that a beer that begins at the top end of the scale for original gravity and ends at the low end for final gravity will likely contain too much alcohol by volume (ABV).

3. What Grains and Color?

Trappist-brewed beers start with Pilsner malt at the base. Black Habit is made with 2-row (pale-ale malt), Vienna, flaked barley, crystal 80 and 120, roasted barley, and black malt. For dark beers, a handy rule of thumb is to limit malts darker than 40°L to 7 percent of the grist.

4. Step Mash or Single Temperature?

Good attenuation begins in the mash tun. Trappist brewers typically conduct a four-step infusion mash, with steps at 135°F (57°C), 145°F (63°C), 165°F (74°C), and 172°F (78°C) being common. An alternative is to do a long conversion at about 146°F (63°C). Black Habit is mashed a bit warmer, in the low-150s Fahrenheit (mid-60s Celsius).

5. How Much Sugar?

Sugar accounts for a modest 7.5 percent of the fermentables in Black Habit. Trappist brewers use sugar to boost ABV without increasing body. In some cases, sugar—basic table sugar will do—may account for more than 20 percent of fermentables, but 10 to 15 percent is more typical.

6. How Much Hops and Which Ones?

Hops bitterness plays a modest role in most monastery beers (Westvleteren Blond and Orval are notable exceptions). At monastery breweries, the bitterness ratio (BU:GU ratio) is most often 1:2 or less—even a lot less—but the beers would not be the same without aroma and flavor from European so-called noble hops. Monks at Mount Angel own hundreds of acres of hops land surrounding the brewery. In the past, they tended to the hops themselves, picking and processing them. Now they lease out the land, but they are intent on using Oregon hops, preferably grown on their land. Black Habit targets 23–27 IBUs, most of the bitterness coming from an addition of Liberty, or a similar hops, in the second half of the boil. Willamette hops at knockout and in the hopback provide most of the aroma and flavor.

7. What Temperature?

Jones and Father Martin continue to experiment with fermentation temperatures for Black Habit and other test batches. They’ve brewed some batches holding the temperature to 68°F (20°C), others in the mid-70s Fahrenheit (low-20s Celsius). They have let it rise on its own, reaching 81°F (27°C). What they’ve seen is that most of the fermentation takes place in two to three days. Trappist brewers usually pitch in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (high-teens Celsius) and let the temperatures generated by fermentation rise into the 70s Fahrenheit (20s Celsius), or even 80s Fahrenheit (high-20s Celsius). By starting low they assure that most of the fermentation will be complete at lower temperatures.

8. How Long Must I Wait?

After primary fermentation, Black Habit spends a few days at 48°F (9°C), then two weeks at 34°F (1°C). Practices vary at Trappist breweries. At Rochefort, beer conditions only three days at 46°F (8°C) after primary fermentation and before bottling. At Westmalle, however, secondary lasts three weeks at 46°F (8°C). At Achel, beer lagers three to four weeks at 32°F (0°C).

9. What’s My Target Carbonation?

All Benedictine Brewery beers will be bottle-conditioned and should contain about 3.5 volumes of CO2. Likewise, Trappist beers are bottle-conditioned at similar levels of carbonation, much higher than most others, with the notable exception of German weisse beers. Assuring the pour is effervescent might be the last step for a brewer, but the pour itself is the first step for a drinker.


The original 17th century Tripel Karmeliet recipe

Tripel Karmeliet is one of Belgium’s most famous beers. It has received multiple international awards and rightly is considered a modern classic. And according to the label it is brewed ‘according to a 17th century recipe from the Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde’. Which of course made me wonder: what recipe? Or: why real Carmelites are not allowed to brew this anymore.

Lately I’ve started to occupy myself a bit more with Belgium, where beer history is concerned. Firstly of course because Belgian beer is incredibly good, but secondly because the existing literature does not answer the questions I’d like to see answered. Where have all those beers and breweries gone that are still advertised by scores of enamel signs in every Belgian pub? Why has the beer type Spéciale Belge (Palm, De Koninck) been invented in 1905 to counter the rise of pils, while the apparent first Belgian pils, Cristal Alken, dates only from 1928? Surely it wasn’t just because of imported beer?

I’d really like to clear things up when it comes to Belgian beer. Not to ruin the fairy tale, after all life is much more fun when La Chouffe really is brewed by leprechauns, but just to fit all loose facts and trivia into a framework that makes sense.

Father and son Bosteels on the Belgian tv show Tournée Générale (2011), explaining how they came up with Tripel Karmeliet.

So, Tripel Karmeliet. It was introduced in 1996 by the Bosteels brewery from the East-Flemish town of Buggenhout. A 8% ABV triple made from three grains: barley, wheat and oats. It became especially known after winning a ‘World’s Best Pale Ale’ award at the World Beer Awards in 2008, when sales went up so quickly that for a while there was a worldwide Karmeliet shortage.[1]

In an episode of the Flemish tv series Tournée Générale, Antoine Bosteels spoke quite openly about the birth of their Tripel Karmeliet. In fact, the idea of a three grains beer came first. ‘That was actually our concept, when we came up with the idea of a multi-grain beer in 1993, just like multi-grain breads. We researched it for three years, but hadn’t come up with a name. By chance, I found a book about breweries in the region and my eye was drawn to a 1679 recipe from the Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde. I looked and it contained the same grains that we had used in our test beer and for 90% it was the same formula.’[2]

The 17th century Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde was located on an island in the Dender river. Source: Wikipedia

All in all I became more and more curious for this original recipe. The Carmelites are a Roman Catholic monastic order founded in the Middle Ages, and they still have monasteries in Belgium and the Netherlands. In Dendermonde, a fortified town on the Schelde river, the Carmelites had been present from the year 1655 onwards.[3] The monks also had beer brewed, just like in many other monasteries, although these monastic beers did not even remotely enjoy the fame today’s Belgium abbey beers have, and their production volumes probably weren’t so great either.

In 1796 the Dendermonde Carmelites were thrown out of their monastery by the French, just like everywhere else in what is now Belgium. The abbey became a courthouse, which went up in flames during the First World War, when the Germans set the entire city on fire. No trace of the Carmelites remains today in the streets of Dendermonde.

And yet, a beer recipe has survived. In Gent, at the Carmelite archive, there is a manuscript bound in parchment, containing a list of deceased monks of the Dendermonde monastery. At the end of the manuscript however, there is an account of the Carmelites’ debts and obligations. And among these lists, there is this recipe:[4]

Instruction to brew 16 barrels of good beer
12 vats of wheat at 24 stuivers per vat, that is 14.8 guilders
36 vats of barley at 20 stuivers per vat, that is 36 guilders
6 vats of spelt or ‘vorte avere’ [rotten oats?] at 18 stuivers, that is 5.8 guilders
40 pounds of hops at 3 stuivers a pound, that is 7.10 guilders
5 ‘waeghen’ of coal at 30 stuivers a ‘wage’, that is 7.10 guilders
50 pieces of wood at 6 guilders per 100, that is 3 guilders
for wear and tear and brewer’s work 8 guilders
80.6 guilders

See below for my interpretation of this recipe. To my surprise, the result is a beer that is slightly heavier than the Bosteels version! It does contain three grains, but they are wheat, barley, and spelt. However, spelt apparently could be replaced by ‘vorte avere’, which the authors of the 1981 article about this recipe interpret as ‘rotten oats’. That sounds rather odd, but maybe they made an error during transcription or they just misinterpreted. [Edit: the original text probably said ‘corte avere’, ‘short oats’.] In any case, the fact that Bosteels replaced spelt with oats (or rather, they already had a recipe with oats in it and they simply associated it to the historical Carmelite recipe) is not historically unjustifiable.

The Carmelites of Dendermonde didn’t brew their own beer. Source: City Library, Bruges

Also it is interesting to see that they used coal and wood – probably the coal was used for roasting the malt, and the wood to heat and boil the wort. It seems that the monks didn’t brew themselves, because they paid a brewer for his work. In any case, it looks like a typical beer for its time, because other monastical beers from the 17th century, like the 1627 Jesuit beer from Brussels, were strong three grain beers as well.[5]

A last issue is the date attached to the beer, because the year is not so precise as Bosteels wants us to believe. The historical recipe speaks of guilders and stuivers. Guilders were gold coins, and one guilder was worth 20 stuivers. Or at least this was the case from 1679 onwards, because before that year, a guilder was worth no less than 28 stuivers. (It makes you wonder how such a change was put into effect just imagine the chaos if they would suddenly decide to divide the euro or dollar into 120 cents instead of 100…) In any case, the guilder mentioned in the recipe consists of 20 stuivers, and so it dates from 1679 or later. And also it dates from before 1689, because in that year a different monk with a different handwriting started to write down the records. Therefore, it’s a recipe dating from the years between 1679 and 1689, and it’s no more precise than that!

By the way, the Carmelites in Dendermonde may have had a good reason to write down their recipe for ‘Good beer’ in that period: in 1676 the city had decreed that all citizens had to demolish their private breweries, to facilitate collecting excise taxes. Possibly, the Carmelites were afraid they had to do likewise or maybe they had already been forced to so: in any case it may have been a good idea for them to write down a well-proven recipe.[6]

The actual dating of ‘ca. 1679-1689’ simply became �’ on Bosteel’s Tripel Karmeliet labels, and the indication that it is ‘still’ brewed according to a 17th century Carmelite recipe can be taken with a pinch of salt, for a beer that was only created in 1996. That said, it still is a wonderful beer that rightly enjoys a good reputation, and also it is a clear example of the always innovative Belgian beer culture.

The ‘Good Beer’ of the Carmelites in Bruges, after the same historical recipe, was not allowed to be called ‘Karmeliet’.

Therefore, it does have a sour aftertaste that when the real Carmelites, namely those of Bruges, wanted to brew and sell a beer that was also based on this old recipe, they immediately got into trouble with Bosteels. Even when it came to using the name ‘Karmeliet’ (the Dutch word for ‘Carmelite’) the monks had to be careful: they wanted to simply call it ‘Goedt Bier’ (‘Good Beer’). In the end, they made a settlement with Bosteels that was not made public. As a result, the Goedt bier that was scheduled to be released at Easter 2016, has still not hit the stores.[7] All in all this was a particularly unfair action by Bosteels, that for over twenty years has been using the order’s name for their own profit at zero cost (after all, it is not a registered abbey beer)… Or are the Carmelites receiving royalties now?

Interpreting the recipe

The calculation De Backer and Vandewiele made in their 1981 article doesn’t seem to make much sense. They equate a vat to an almud, and they equate that to a hectolitre, which would result in an impossibly heavy malt grist. Therefore, I equate a vat (as a measure for grains) to about 17.5 litres in the neighbouring Land of Aalst a vat (as a measure for grains) was equal to 17.8 litres and in Northern Brabant a vat was also usually between 15 and 20 litres.[8]


Getting Your Hands on A Westvleteren 12

The beer has to be reserved by calling the monasteries beer line and entering a lottery with other would be buyers. As more people want to buy Westvleterens beers than the brewery makes the telephones are usually engaged. The beer is sold only from the brewery and the monastery visitor cafe.

Reselling of Westvleterens beers is a no-no and should only be sold from the brewery so home brewing your own version is the only way to try something like this for most.

Bottles are not labelled and the only way to tell the difference between the beers is the crown caps which are colour coded: Green = Blonde, Blue = 8 and Yellow – Westvleteren 12.

I highly recommend Brew Like A Monk by Stan Hieronymus if you are interested in Trappist beers it is a real wealth of information as well as insights into how to create your own versions of Belgian and Trappist beers.


Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5. Season the monkfish with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Wrap each fillet with 2 slices of Parma ham.

Heat 15ml (1tbsp) of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the monkfish fillets for 2-3 mins. Transfer to a small roasting tin and roast in the oven for 10 mins.

Toss the asparagus and baby sweetcorn in another 15ml (1tbsp) of the oil and place around the monkfish. Roast for a further 10-15 mins until the fish is firm to the touch and the vegetables are just tender.

Slice each monkfish fillet into 3 and arrange on top of the roasted vegetables. Drizzle over the rest of the olive oil and serve immediately.


5 Things You Might Not Have Known About God And Beer

Beer and Hymns is an event at the annual Greenbelt Festival in London. Since 1974, Greenbelt has brought people together to explore faith, arts and justice issues. Drew McLellan /Courtesy of Greenbelt hide caption

Beer and Hymns is an event at the annual Greenbelt Festival in London. Since 1974, Greenbelt has brought people together to explore faith, arts and justice issues.

On Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR's John Burnett describes how some churches are trying to attract new members by creating a different sort of Christian community around craft beer.

This is actually nothing new. For centuries, beer has brought people together to worship God. And God has inspired people to make beer. We've selected a few of the best examples:


Watch the video: MONK KNOW Live Stream (October 2021).