In June this year I was lucky enough to secure a place on a trip to visit the Chimay monastery and look around their brewhouse. As it is not normally open to the public I jumped at the chance to see where these iconic Trappist Beers are made.
Trappist Beers must be made within the walls of a Trappist monastery under the supervison of the monks, the brewing must be of secondary importance to the main activities of the monastery and any money made after sustaining the monks is given to charity. Chimay is the largest of the 11 Trappist breweries in the world.
After looking around the very peaceful grounds and buildings, including the church that the monks pray in five times a day we moved into the brewhouse. What we found here was a stunningly clean, modern and professional set up, able to produce large qualities of very high quality and consistent beer. They use a single yeast strain for their four beers (Gold, Red, White and Blue as they are best known) and the control at every step of the way was exemplary.
This style of modern brewery is a far cry from the look and feel that many on the trip expect from a Belgium brewery. The reputation of Belgium breweries is more along the lines of Cantillon in Brussels (see previous posts) where wild yeasts and bacterias are allowed during the fermentation.