A True Trappist Brewery May Open in the U.K., the Only One of Its Kind
Back before craft beer renewed America’s interest in unique and independent breweries, “Trappist beers” were one of the first beer snob darlings. Originally consisting mostly of breweries founded in Belgium before the 19th century, but currently encompassing 11 brewers around the world, the International Trappist Association, created in 1997, has come to define a true Trappist beer as one brewed exclusively within the walls of a Trappist monastery intended solely as a secondary venture to support the monastery and its monks. Many Trappist beers are some of the best known and most coveted beers in the world – names like Rochefort, Westvleteren, Chimay and Orval. And if everything goes according to plan, for the first time, a British brewery may be added to this exclusive official Trappist club.
According to the Leicester Mercury, monks at the Mount St Bernard Abbey in rural North West Leicestershire have been approved to convert part of their 19th century Cistercian monastery into a fully operational brewery. “The development will enable the monastery to produce Trappist beer, the only product of its type within the UK, whilst continuing centuries of monastic brewing tradition,” a spokesman for the project said. “It will replace an uneconomical, in-hand dairy farm which has ceased operation.”
As dictated by the International Trappist Association, once up and running, the brewery will be operated entirely by monks and other residents of the monastery with all profits going to the Trustees of Mount St Bernard, a charity that supports the monastery and its monks’ living expenses. “It will ensure that the monastery can continue to be self-sustaining, in accordance with the religious order’s tenets,” said a spokesman for Fisher German, the estate agent behind the plans, who also pointed out that turning the historic building into a brewery will actually help maintain it. “Accordingly, the development will allow for the conservation of the Grade II listed building in a sustainable and economically viable manner.”
Though Trappist breweries are still extremely rare, the continued excitement surrounding these products in the beer world has created a somewhat unexpected resurgence in Trappist brewing. Of the 11 active Trappist brewers, four have opened in the past five years, mostly in non-traditional Trappist brewing regions: One each in Austria, the United States and Italy, as well as a second Trappist brewery in the Netherlands. All the other Trappist brewers are located in Belgium.