The thing I find most fascinating about Trappist breweries that there is a “Trappist police” of sorts who closely monitor who is calling themselves that.
If you look at a bottle from one of the officially-sanctioned breweries, you’ll see a hexagonal logo on the label that identifies them as a Trappist brewery.
And if a brewery no longer fulfills any of the Trappist police’s criteria, then their status is revoked and they’re no longer able to call themselves a Trappist brewery. It’s all very serious business indeed.
The critieria are that the beer is brewed within the monastery walls; that the monks determine the policies of the brewery and provide the means of production; and that the profits are mainly use to provide for the community.
Actually having monks making the beer doesn’t seem to be a requirement.
Surprisingly, according to the OCB, Trappist beers as we know them are only a relatively new thing. If, like me, you thought they were steeped in tradition and made that way for hundred years you’d be wrong. They’ve only been around since the 1930s when Orval and Westmalle made their first beers for the open market.
What’s the go here?: For those who have just stumbled across this post, I’m going through the Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB) and posting an entry for every letter. Why? Because I have a copy at home but hadn’t really gone through it page by page and I figured this would be an exercise that would force me to do that.