For many people, it is a surprise when they hear that the Trappist Ale ‘La Trappe’ comes from Tilburg’s soil. Here in Tilburg the first Trappist monastery of the world was established. This Trappist monastery is called Abbey Our Lady of Koningshoeven. The origins of the brand name ‘La Trappe’ lies with the founders of the Abbey, the monks of the monastery ‘Notre-Dame de la Grande Trappe’ from French Normandy.
The name “Trappist” is derived from “La Grande Trappe”. The Abbey of Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe belongs to a strict order – ‘Strict Order of Reservance’. This monastic order advocates separation from the world, renunciation of the use of meat, restoration of hands labour, dedication to a life of prayer and penance. One of the most important features is continuous silence. The Trappist order originated from the Order of Cistercians. They were not recognised as an independent order until 1892 under Pope Leo XIII.
During the French Revolution (1789 – 1799), the French La Trappe Abbey was the only monastery to escape total destruction. Encouraged by political developments, the order founded new communities and Abbey’s outside France in Belgium, Austria, Germany, and also in the Netherlands.
This is how these French monks order ended up in Tilburg, where they started brewing beer in 1884. The growth of the Congregation meant that there was a need for new economic activities. The conditions for setting up a brewery were favourable. In fact, one of the fathers was the son of a German brewer, who had sufficient knowledge of the brewing process. In addition, very pure well water was available in Tilburg.
In addition to the economic benefits, there was also a public benefit. At the same time, the beer introduced by the monks promoted the general health of the population. Because of the rise of the industrialization of the textile industry, the Tilburg factory workers lived in poor conditions. The surface water was polluted by the factories and contaminated by the unhygienic conditions, associated with urban development. Making ‘germs free’ beer available was a step forward in the fight against the common diseases.
Only ten “real” Trappist breweries in the world are:
In the first place La Trappe, of Abbey OLV van Koningshoeven from the Netherlands. In addition to the Netherlands, the Trappist Order is strongly represented in Belgium:
– Chimay, of Abbey Notre-Dame de Scourmont
– Orval, of Abbey Notre-Dame d’Orval
– Rochefort, of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy
– Westmalle, van Westmalle brewery from Belgium
– Achel, from the Trappist brewery the Achelse Kluis
– Westvleteren, of Saint Sixtus Abbey (brewery since 1838)
There are two international misfits:
– Engelszell, from Stift Engelszell from Austria
– Spencer, from St. Joseph Abbey in the U.S.
Recently the 10th Trappist brewery was opened in Zundert, Netherlands, by the Abbey of Maria Toevlucht. In the meantime, the Trappist ales have grown into the well-known specialty beers with their own taste and character. The original goal of brewing this beer has of course changed. To make a suitable ‘drink’ available in order to fight disease for the people and to provide economic support for the Congregation was the first step. And nowadays, Trappist beer is brewed with an extra added value that connects the original ‘monastic values’ with our present times. Besides brewing tradition, the craft of brewing special beers with rich flavours, these abbey beers refer also to the life of the Trappist monks. Concepts such as quality, cleanliness, regional, sustainable, refined taste, tranquillity, and contemplation play an important role in this.
In addition to beer, Trappist Abbeys also produce regional delicacies with distinctive characteristics such as cheese, bread, jam, honey, and other traditional products. Near the Schaapskooi, the tasting room of the Abbey of Our Lady of La Trappe, you’ll find a shop with a tempting selection of products – also from other monasteries.