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Belgian Food & Beer – The Trappist Experience

For all the lovers of beer (and food), Belgium is an unavoidable choice when traveling for pleasure. Situated in-between France, Netherlands and Germany, the country has a distinctive character and its capital, Brussels, is not only the administrative centre of the European Union but also known as the “Capital of chocolate”. As well as Brussels, the other towns and cities of Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, and Leuven are popular, but wherever you stop Belgium offers lots of countryside sight-seeing, great food and great beer.

Brewery Westmalle, Antwerp Photo: visitflanders of Flickr

Brewery Westmalle, Antwerp

In addition to the famous chocolate, Trappist cheese and beer are made in Trappist monasteries and enjoy a world-renowned reputation. Belgian people are very sensitive about their beer – every beer has its own type of glass and it is common opinion that beer doesn’t taste the same in different glasses.

In Belgium there are six out of seven Trappist breweries in the whole world and since Trappist monasteries are part of Benedictine order, they have very strict rules. Some of the Trappist beers are brewed in very small amounts, for monastery’s maintenance and charity funds only and being just a tourist may not grant you an entrance to their brewery.

Chimay Grande Réserve Photo: Bernt Rostad of Flickr

Chimay Grande Réserve Trappist beer from Belgium

Only seven breweries in the whole world carry the title of Trappist beer producers and what makes Trappist beers special is the way they’re produced which is different to other monastery beers.  Starting with all natural ingredients, brewing within the monastery walls, and as to whether the profits are spent on charity, all those monasteries are subject to high quality controls.

Among the most famous Trappist breweries is Chimay, with its 3 types of beer: Blue, Red and Triple; and four types of cheese: Grand Classic, Grand Cru, Old, Chimay with beer, Le Poteaupré. It is said that each Chimay beer has its own personality.

Abbaye d'Orval Photo: ines saraiva of Flickr

Abbaye d'Orval

Orval has one of the longest histories among Trappists and here the monks make only one type of cheese, brew only one sort of beer. If you’re not planning to drink it in any of the cool pubs in the previously mentioned cities, make sure you have an appointment with the brewery and come preferably at the weekend.

Westmalle brewery makes Trippel, Dubbel and Extra although Westmalle Extra is not available for purchase. There is also Westmalle cheese but it’s sold only at the monastery gates. Achel brewery is one of the smallest but produces few kind of Trappist beer: Blond, Brown, and Extra (with different percentage of alcohol).

Rochefort beers have rather simple names: 6, 8 and 10 – and yes, that’s alcohol percentage. If you’re fond of strong and a bit sour taste, Rochefort is the right beer for you.

Brewery Westmalle, Antwerp Photo: visitflanders  of Flickr

Brewery Westmalle, Antwerp

Westvleteren is the kind of brewery you were warned about before – they only sell beers at their own store and if you make a reservation, and you can only take few beers at a time. There are three sorts of Westvleteren: Blond, 8 and 12 (both dark). So empty your trunks and hit the road to the abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren!

After tasting some of the Belgian Trappist beers, one might bravely exclaim that the Trappist beers are the obvious manifestation of a great experience.

My thanks for this Guest Post to Mihaela from Looktrains.com

More good things to eat and drink around Europe

In search of the perfect Smørrebrød – in Copenhagen
Bratwurst and Sacher Torte – or what we ate in Salzburg
Lángos and other street food – in Hungary

Photo credits: Brewery Westmalle by visitflanders, Chimay Grande Réserve by Bernt Rostad, and Abbaye d’Orval by ines saraiva.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Camels & Chocolate
    February 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Belgium (Brussels then Antwerp) is where my husband and I first got together so I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that country! I didn’t visit any breweries last time I was there, but I definitely drank my weight in beer.
    Camels & Chocolate´s last blog post ..A First-Timer’s Guide to Skiing Vail

  • Reply
    Nomadic Samuel
    February 21, 2012 at 5:41 am

    I’ve associated Belgium cuisine and beer as being of such a high/refined standard.
    Nomadic Samuel´s last blog post ..Girl and Alpaca Kiss | Chivay, Peru | Travel Photo

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    February 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I love the Trappist beers! Especially the triples. I would have loved to go see some of the monasteries. Can you tour any of them?
    Sherry Ott´s last blog post ..Take a Polar Plunge in Minnesota

  • Reply
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