Trappist monks brew beer, hope to replace leaky roof on abbey


By Mark Ellis –

Mount Saint Bernard Monastery

At Mount Saint Bernard Abbey the monks are brewing a strong dark ale in hopes of using the proceeds to replace a section of leaky roof. They shouldn’t have any trouble because the demand for their beer has outstripped the supply.

“We haven’t had any difficulty in selling it,” Father Joseph Delargy told the BBC. “What we produce, we can sell.”

The brewery set up a year ago in the United Kingdom has produced about 30,000 bottles of their signature ale, called Tynt Meadow.

There are 176 Trappist monasteries in the world, but only 14 of those have been licensed to brew beer. Six of the 14 breweries are based in Belgium, two are in The Netherlands and there are one each in Spain, France, Austria, Italy, the UK and US.

When their dairy farm failed to raise enough money to support their activities, they launched the brewing operation and named the beverage after the meadow where monks settled in 1835.

The monks even allow themselves the indulgence of nipping their brew on Sundays.

Monks at Mount Saint Bernard in 2013


The abbott of the monastery, Erik Varden, said they had been approached by retailers from the US and other countries wanting to stock their beer but were unable to satisfy the demand.

He hopes enough money can be raised from beer sales over the next two years to replace a leaky roof on a section of the abbey.

In Belgium, monks at the Norbertine Abbey recently rediscovered the lost art of brewing Grimbergen beers in a 220-year-old book containing details about the recipe and production techniques, which had not been practiced by the brothers since the end of the 18th century.

“We’ve spent hours leafing through the books, which are written in Latin and Old Dutch,” Rev. Karel Stautemas told CNN., “and have discovered ingredient lists for beers brewed in previous centuries, the hops used, the types of barrels and bottles, and even a list of the actual beers produced centuries ago.”

Father Karel described one of their “new” beers: a limited-edition Grimbergen Triple D’Abbaye, which is aged for five months in whiskey barrels before it’s bottled.

This technique was used in the production of Belgian brews as far back as the 1500s. The official description of the beer reads:

“To begin with, the beer is aged in French oak barrels, which were previously used for bourbon and whisky, and yeast is added to give it a slight re-fermentation. During this time, the coriander, fruity and spicy phenolic flavors decrease allowing the malty, sweet, vanilla flavors from the whiskey barrel to infuse itself.”

While the Bible does not forbid drinking, it does speak against drunkenness, which many believers take to heart in limiting their consumption of alcohol.