Belgium has lost one of its six official Trappist breweries. The reason is the lack of monks in Saint Benedict's Abbey in the Belgian municipality of Hamont-Achel in Limburg where six months ago the last monk has left.
That does not mean that Achel Brouwerij which is the smallest of the Belgian Trappist breweries has stopped brewing. The abbey and hence the brewery belongs to the Abbey of Westmalle which itself has one of the best known Trappist breweries in the world. However, the beer is not any more an Authentic Trappist Product.
The strong regulations require that the product must be made within the abbey walls and the monks are not allowed to make any profit with the product. Both criteria can still be met. Finally, production must be supervised by Trappist monks which is no longer possible since all the monks have left the abbey. This means that Achel is still a Trappist beer but not anymore an “authentic” one.
"Much is not going to change for beer drinkers. At most, something on the label, on which the logo will no longer be displayed," emphasises Abbot Nathanaël Koninkx of Westmalle Abbey. The beer and everything else stays the same.
The Trappist Order is facing an uncertain future, at least in Belgium. Most of the around 100 friars have reached retirement age and there is a lack of offspring. 'If there are no vocations, the monastic order (Cistercians) disappears and so does the name. The beer can continue to exist, but no longer under the Trappist label, 'Koninkx told Belgium newspaper De Tijd.
'Achel is the first of six where there is no longer a living community. In the past four years there were barely two brothers. There are still 27 of us in Westmalle. How many that will still be in twenty years, I dare not say. If you can provide more callings, please, ” he added.
Achel was one of the twelve active Trappist breweries in the world. Six of them are located in Belgium, two in the Netherlands and one in Austria, USA, Italy and UK each. Five of the latter have opened in the last decade in the wake of the craft beer movement and the resurgence in Trappist brewing. (inside.beer, 25.10.2017)
Best known are the “traditional” Belgium Trappist breweries of Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Chimay and Orval, with most of them are hundreds of years old.