The Beer Boutique

How lucky we are to still have them!

The following is a brief history of some of the hardships that faced the Belgian monasteries.

 

Achel

Although brewing at the site of the Achel monastery goes back to the mid 1600’s, Achel didn’t become Trappist until 1871.

In the late 1700’s, Achel was destroyed during the French revolution. Decades later, monks from Westmalle rebuilt the ruins.

By the late 1800’s, brewing and selling of beer commenced but unfortunately in 1914 war came to spoil it again.

World War 1 saw German troops take the brewing coppers away to be melted down for armaments and the monks fleeing the monastery.

Luckily for us though, the brewery was again rebuilt by the monks in 1998 and the great Achel beer lives on.

 

Orval

This abbey dates back to the 1100’s and has a history riddled with hardship.

Just over 100 years after construction, it burnt down and it took another 100 years to rebuild.

Various wars broke out around Orval between the 14 and 1500’s but things carried on after.

It was burnt and plundered by the French in the 1600’s and again in the late 1700’s.

By the 1920’s, monastic life continued and the beautiful amber beer we see today was created in 1931.

 

Rochefort

This abbey was founded in 1230 and brewing beer began in 1595.

During the 1500’s, troops from a Lowlander union army and soon after an army from Austria came through and raided the abbey.

In the 1600’s, the abbey suffered from the plague as well as another 2 more wars that swept through. The monks had to flee 3 times during this period.

The 1700’s didn’t let up – the French came through during the revolution and soon after the abbey was demolished by a farmer.

In the late 1800’s, the buildings were once again raised and brewing commenced not too long after.

The first decent sized batch of beer was brewed in the 1950’s and the world rejoiced.

You’d think luck would stay then-on, however Rochefort nearly burnt down in 2010 - luckily the beer survived.

 

Westmalle

The abbey at Westmalle was founded in 1794 and became Trappist in 1836 – from this time they immediately started producing fine beer.

During the 17 and 1800’s, 2 French revolutions prohibited monks practicing so they fled – mostly to other countries. When Napoleon was defeated, the abbey continued and monks returned.

Throughout the World Wars, the abbey was relatively spared although the retreating Belgian army blew off the tower during World War 1.

The buildings have been renovated continuously since and extensions have been added over the years.

Not all battles, diseases and political issues are listed in this post either - so it is amazing to think how close we were to losing this special type of brewery. We should be very grateful to the Trappists for their endurance over the ages and think of that every time we take a sip of their special beer.

 

 

Written by The Beer Boutique — September 30, 2013

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