After the last four monks at the Austrian abbey of Engelszell have announced to leave the premises, the future of the last remaining Trappist brewery in Austria is uncertain.
On Wednesday, Abbot General Dom Bernardus Peeters announced the closure of the last German-speaking male monastery. The Cistercian Trappist order is now looking for a “suitable, preferably Catholic” solution for the church and the other buildings as well as for the production of beer and liqueurs.
Stift Engelszell was founded in 1925. In 2012, a brewing operation had been added with the support of Peter Krammer and his family brewery Hofstetten, located in Sankt Martin, some 30 kilometers from the abbey. However, in the last few years, the brewery had its own brewmaster and worked totally independent.
The closure of the Abbey does not necessarily mean the end of the brewery, which can be seen in Belgium. Two years ago, Achel Brouwerij, the smallest of the Belgian Trappist breweries at Saint Benedict's Abbey in the Belgian municipality of Hamont-Achel in Limburg lost its title as an Authentic Trappist Product when the last monk left the abbey. (inside.beer, 21.1.2020)
Since the brewing activity in Achel continued under the supervision of the abbot of Westmalle, Achel beer was still allowed to continue to bear the Trappist brand name. However, the protected label Authentic Trappist Product was removed from the label and replaced by the coat of arms of the monastery, because by the strict regulations stipulate that production must be supervised by Trappist monks which was no longer possible when the monks left the abbey.
Engelszell and Achel are not the only two Trappist breweries facing problems.
Exactly one year ago, the first and only Trappist brewery in the United States announced to shut down. The monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey had “come to the sad conclusion that brewing [at their Spencer brewery] is not a viable industry for us and that it is time to close.” (inside.beer, 18.5.2022)
With the closure of the Engelszell abbey, there are just nine breweries left with the official Trappist title, five of them being in Belgium (Chimay, Orval, Rochefort [inside.beer, 17.5.2021], Westmalle and Westvleteren) and the remaining four in the Netherlands (La Trappe and Zundert), UK (Tynt Meadow [inside.beer, 25.10.2017]) and Italy (Tre Fontane).
Three other beers - and maybe in future also Engelszell - can call themselves Trappist, but without the title of ‘authentic’.
If no Trappist monastery is found that will take over the patronage of Engelszell in the future, the brewery could possibly be sold to a private investor and continue to produce "monastery beer", just without the addition "Trappist".