Trappist beers are abbey beers that are still brewed by Trappist monks, while abbey beers are beers that were once brewed by monks, but are now being brewed by secular breweries, on the monastic estate or in reference to the abbey.
So a Trappist is an abbey beer. But an abbey beer is not necessarily a Trappist.
Abbey beer or Trappist beer is the drink of the monks, who mastered its production and know-how, allowing them to drink beverages purified of the diseases that have ravaged Europe in the past centuries. This activity also allowed them to keep their community alive.
A Trappist beer is defined by the origin of the beer and not by the type of beer. The name "Trappist" comes from La Trappe, a French abbey that founded the Trappist order. The designation is protected and in order to obtain it, the beer must meet strict criteria.
What are these criteria for a beer to be called "Trappist"?
1. The brewing of the beer must take place inside the monastery.
2. The beer must be brewed by the Trappist monks, occupying the monastery.
3. The profits from the sale of Trappist beer must be used for the proper religious functioning of the monastery, and any surplus must be dedicated to charitable and social works.
The quantities brewed each year are quite limited. Some religious communities have obtained the designation in the Netherlands, France and even in the United States. They are numerous in Belgium, like the Trappist Westmalle Triple.
For Abbey beers (non-Trappist - which are therefore no longer brewed by monks), the criteria are less strict.
What are the conditions for a beer to be an Abbey beer?
1. The brewery must have a link with the abbey, whether it is the location, the taking over of ancestral monastic recipes or even a licence issued by the monks to a brewer in the past.
2. The brewery must pay royalties to the Abbey whose name it bears.
3. The brewery must give the Abbey a right of inspection in several areas concerning beer, but especially communication.
Among these Abbey beers, the most intriguing is Paix Dieu This beer was brewed at the Abbey of Paix Dieu, where the lunar calendar played a central role in monastic life. The brewery is committed to preserving the soul of the abbey and therefore, this beer is only brewed when the moon is full. The Abbey of Paix Dieu is the former abbey of the nuns of the Order of Cîteaux, founded in Amay in Belgium in the 13th century.
Tripel Karmeliet is still brewed according to an authentic 1679 beer recipe from the former Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde. Written more than 300 years ago, this recipe describes the use of three types of cereals: wheat, oats and barley.
The St Feuillen comes from Ireland. In the 7th century AD, an Irish monk named Folian crossed what is now Belgium to convert the local population. Folian died a martyr's death in the village of Le Roeulx, the current location of the brewery. Later, Folian was elevated to the rank of holiness and Le Roeulx became a place of pilgrimage. In 1125, an abbey was founded in St Feuillien du Roeulx.
You will discover many other Abbey beers, with their incredible history, at Beer My Guest.