Belgium: Trappist brewery wins legal battle over billion-dollar company

The Trappists in Rochefort, Belgium, have won the legal battle over their brewing water against the billion-dollar company Lhoist. The world leading producer of lime, dolime and minerals planned to deepen its chalk quarry nearby the monastery and redirect the Tridaine Spring which is used for centuries as a water source for the abbey’s Brasserie de Rochefort. The monks of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy feared that this could endanger the purity of the local spring water and could cause a change of the unique taste of their celebrated and for centuries unchanged abbey beer.

As the British daily The Guardian reported on Sunday, the court of appeal in Liège has now ruled against Lhoist. It said despite the fact that the quarry owner also owns the spring, it does not have the right to “remove or divert all or part of the water which supply the abbey”. This ends a legal dispute after almost ten years, provided Lhoist does not appeal to the Court of Cassation. According to a spokesman, the group is currently examining whether it will appeal.

The deepening of the quarry would have allowed the mine to operate until 2046 instead of 2022. While the Walloon regional government supported the Lhoist project, which secures 150 jobs in the mine, residents and the monks had been protesting about the endangerment of their drinking water for years.

The first documented evidence of a monastery brewery at the location of the Tridaine spring dates back to 1595. It has been proven that the brewery has been using the water from the spring since at least 1797. Since 1899 the brewery has existed in its current building.

The Trappist Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy Rochefort as it is today, exists since 1887; before that there were Cistercian monasteries in the same place, first from 1230 the female and from 1464 the male branch of the order.

The Trappists are known for their beers. There are 12 or 13 authentic Trappist beers around the world, depending on the criteria applied. 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. (, 25.10.2017)

Recently Belgium has lost one of its official Trappist breweries. The reason is the lack of monks in Saint Benedict's Abbey in the Belgian municipality of Hamont-Achel in Limburg. Last year 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 since the strong regulations require that the production must be supervised by Trappist monks which is no longer possible. (, 21.1.2021)

Trappist beers have been booming for years. The corona pandemic even intensified the trend with the effect that the Trappists, with their limited capacities, are almost unable to meet demand.

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