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An Introduction to Trappist Beer (Part 2)

By Alexis

Before looking more in detail at the Trappist beers, here is a bit of information about tasting Trappist beers.

Trappist Glassware
As Trappist beers are made in a monastery by monks, the glasses used by them resembles a chalice. This shape provides a good glass as it enables you to pour a good head and leaves plenty of room to smell the nice aromas coming out of it. Look around - there are tons of crazy Trappist glass collectors on the net.

Beer Cellar
Since most of the Trappist beers are bottle fermented, their taste and alcohol will still evolve if they are properly stored. Unlike wine, a beer will not be good if kept for more than ten years. After this point, the taste will become awful. This is why on most Trappist bottles you will find a date suggesting how long you can keep the beer. I must say it is quite an experience to drink a 5 year old Orval! This is why I recommend you buy a couple of bottles and store some in your basement and start your own beer cellar. Iím sure you will thank me in a year or two!

Trappist Styles
Most of them have unique tastes, however, you might find that some of them are not so original. This can be explained by the fact that these beers have been copied a lot! Westmalle, for example, was the first brewery to make a Belgian triple. It is still the best one on the market but a lot of other companies are now manufacturing triples.

Another reason for the similarities stems from the fact that some Trappist monks have acted as consultants to help other breweries. For example, Brother Thomas, who was the master brewer at Westmalle, has helped Achel develop itís products.

In general, you will find that there are four styles of Trappist beers: regular, double (dubbel), triple (trippel) and quadruple (quadrupel). Although this is a great source of debate, most people agree that these names correspond to the strength of the beer. You will find these styles written on the bottles or you might find it as a number. Example: Rochefort has the following numbers: 6 being regular, 8 being double, 10 being triple.

Serving a Trappist Beer
Since the beers referment in bottle, small particles can sometimes be found in the bottom of the bottle. It is therefore recommended to serve the beer with care and to not pour the last drops as it will contain the particles. These sediments are good to taste and the main reason why one should not pour them is strictly for appearance. I recommend you drink these last drops directly from the bottle (like the monks) as they are filled with vitamins.

I also recommend you serve the beer at the proposed temperature as serving them too cold or too hot might alter the taste.

Trappist Taste
At this point, you might ask what is to be expected from such beers. The general characteristics are a ripe, round, and fruity taste. The overall effect is warming and round with spicy aromas as these beers are strong (6% to 12%). If you prefer light yellow beers with low alcohol, this might not be for you.

The unique taste of these beers can be felt in the finish. Here, you will not find any metal aftertaste as is the case with industrial beers. These beers are finely crafted in small batches so a lot of attention goes into them. I recommend you take your time to drink them the first time so that you can appreciate the quality. These beers are a treat so treat them with respect!

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