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Tuesday, May 09, 2006 

Trappists





Much like sparkling wine can only be Champagne if it’s from the Champagne region of France and whiskey can only be Bourbon if it’s from Bourbon County, Kentucky; only beer made in by monks in Trappist Abbeys can truly be called – Trappist.





In today’s Belgium, there remain just 6 Abbeys of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, more commonly known the Trappist Order, that carry the official Trappist approval :



Bières de Chimay


Brasserie d'Orval


Brasserie de Rochefort (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy)


Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse


Brouwerij Westmalle


Brouwerij Westvleteren (Abbey of of Saint Sixtus)



The most prevalently available is Chimay. Three varieties (Première, Grande Réserve and Cinqs Cents) of Chimay can be found quite easily with a bit of effort - even Trader Joe’s is now carrying them. If nothing else, do yourself a favor in sampling one of these delicious ales. The Cinq Cents is a great starting point if you’re not ready to jump full into heavy ales.



I’ve sampled most of the imported bottled versions of all of the other Trappists – all but one: Westvleteren. According the Beer Advocate Top 100 Westvleteren 12 is the best beer in the world, as reviewed by it's readers (Westvleteren 8 is the 4th best). Perhaps it's a bunch of beer geeks showing off that they were able to get this elusive beverage, or perhaps it really its that good. My bet is somewhere in between. There is only one place outside of the Abbey of Saint Sixtus where this can be purchased (and for a hefty shipping fee, also ordered online) and that is Belgian Shop. Before you hurry off to buy some, I will tell you that I've ordered a few, several months ago that I'm still waiting to be delivered.



If you scour the local beer shops you can find the others. Rochefort and Achel seem to have gained distribution over the last year. A trip to Cap N Cork can find you Rochefort, Achel, Chimay, Westmalle and Orval (thus far, my favorite). Worth any trip for these fine beers.




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