A couple of months ago Lithuania received an addition to its (yet meager) Trappist beer selection, Zundert, courtesy of Alaus Gidas. But before we start dissecting it yeast by yeast (hur), let’s talk about Trappist beer in general and what makes it so exceptional and revered, even.
Trappist monks (and nuns!) branched out of Cistercian order. In 1664 in La Trappe abbey in France, Normandy, monks started to wonder that perhaps they have become too slack in following the rules of St. Benedict (written down in the 6th century) and decided to live even more frugally and modestly. According to the rules, it is considered inappropriate to engage in frivolous talks, so Trappists tend to be quiet. They’ve even adopted a certain sign language. Trappists decided to say no to meat, but they didn’t say no to… beer, which, ironically, turned the humble monks into world-renowned superstars. The rules of St. Benedict state that monks may sell certain produce to earn money for the monasteries. It’s strictly non-profit, though, and every additional penny goes to charity. The aforementioned produce includes cheese, clothing, coffins and, of course, beer, the Holy Grail for many a beer geek.
Currently, there are 170 Trappist monasteries in the world; only eleven have functioning breweries. There were more, of course, but French Revolution and two World wars had their toll. The largest number of Trappist breweries – six – is in Belgium (this country obviously loves and respects beer, since the newly found dwarf sun is called TRAPPIST-1). Then Austria, Italy, and the USA each have one, and since 2013 the Netherlands have two, Zundert being the youngest to receive the official Trappist badge. Yup, such badge is needed, since people got into the habit of producing false Trappist beer. One such brewery was sued, the precedent was set, and all was well with the world.
It’s obvious now why Trappist beer is so sought-after. Its production quantities are generally low (except maybe for Chimay, Orval or Rochefort), making it quite difficult to obtain. For example, Westvleteren can only be ordered by phone, which does create a certain buzz. According to the regulations of International Trappist Association, Trappist beer is brewed at a Trappist monastery directly by the monks themselves or under their supervision. Zundert complies with these requirements, and now the time has come to taste it!
Appearance: Semi-opaque copper body with a tall thick off-white head that left beautiful traces.
Aroma: Cellar, earth, some burnt sugar and apple notes somewhere far away. The aroma is not very intense.
Taste: You can distinctly taste the burnt sugar, however, it is very mild and properly tamed. There’s some fruitiness, too, and it ends on roasted bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Well carbonated beer with a long lasting aftertaste.
Notes: It’s a solid beer. A clean, classic tripel that will surely be appreciated by the lovers of this style. It pales in comparison with Westlveteren or even Chimay Red, but it still is a very decent beer, worth a try.
Disclaimer: We had this beer on 20/02/2017