Day 12 Trappist 5 yesterday, number 6 today!
We happen to see several glider trailers drive by the hotel.. my dad the glider pilot, is convinced there must be an event going on and we should look for the location. As luck would have it, we find the small airport where the event, a school of sorts, was being held. A short visit and we were off again in search of the Abbey of Postel (1138) , not far away.
Although the beer is no longer made at the Abbey (it's made by De Smedt), we visit anyway. It is well worth the trip as we have time to walk the grounds and take a few photos before the shop is opened for the day. Drinking the beers later in the trip, we find them quick tasty and wish we had bought more.
Arriving in the vicinity of Westmalle, we find that the 'it's not in town rule' still applies. We drive up a narrow, tree-lined road, to what appears to be the brewery. Entering a courtyard, we find construction on what will be a visitor center and encounter Marleen Hurdak, who explains, as we well know, that the brewery is not open to visitors and tours are not available.
A short conversation about our other Trappist visits and a request for labels, gets us upstairs into her office. Having acquired the necessary labels for Becky and a few bottle caps, we are offered a look at the bottling line, undergoing testing, if we promise not to take any photos. We agree and get to see the largest most automated line I've ever seen (possibly excluding Budweiser). We ask about brother Thomas, now at Achel, and his contribution to the triple. It seems he is credited with the 'perfection' of the style rather than it's creation.
Again we hear (as at Orval) about how diligently they protect the Trappist name. We're also told that the brewery, in spite of the new 40,000 bottle/hr line is at it's maximum of 120,000 hectoliters per year and will not be expanded per the desire of the Abbot and the community. There are 23 brothers, living in the abbey and only two of them, the Abbot and the Prior ever leave. In spite of the 300 head of cattle, now indoors due to hoof and mouth threat, the brothers are all vegetarians. The cows supply milk for the cheese, available at the abbey.
We head across the road to the café where we have a few beers, a lunch of curried kippers and abbey cheese and watch a video about the abbey and the brewery. We are reminded that the day starts at 4:00 am and they must 'labor by the hand'.
The video tells us that the spent grain is used for fertilizer and to feed the cattle. This abbey has been brewing for over 150 years and is the largest Trappist brewery, the double being the only Trappist on tap (the video was made before Achel, where the beers are only on tap). In the new automated line, the 'best before' date is laser printed. The beer is stored at 21-22c for 2-3 weeks and held for at least 3 months before shipping.
Marleen had told us that this abbey has always had a vision of the future and very interested in using the latest technology. Although the brewery is run by secular workers, giving employment to the locals, the board of 7, secular and brothers, control the policy and future of the brewery.
Reluctantly, we leave heading toward Antwerp. My dad convinces me that we don't want to drive into the city, so we skirt around planning the next stop at Duvel. Easily found, it's right on the main road, you can't miss the large building on which is painted “ SSST HIER RIJPT DEN DUVEL” (Quiet, please here matures Duvel). We stop in to find that the next tour will be in Flemish. We decide that our time would be best spent drinking the beer rather than seeing it made.
In the associated café my dad has a Duvel while I try the Passendale. Nice, light, good for the driver who thinks that the Duvel would be too much. So, after a chaser of Marsoudes 8, we are heading back toward Maiseres to spend the night.
But, how could be pass Lembeek without visiting Brouwerij Boon? After a few missed turns, we arrive to find Frank in his office. After explaining that there is no time for a proper tour, he ask us to accompany him to the bottling line where there is some problem to resolve.
The most interesting aspect of this brewery is it's barrels. Frank explains that his newest one is from 1961 while the oldest are from the time of the French Revolution, around 160 years old. These were originally port wine barrels and are still in use. At one time the town, a 'tax-free zone' Lembeek had 43 breweries, the name coming from the French for stills. We're told that on April 22nd this year (check for other times), 8 of the local breweries are open to the public.
Back to Belgium 2001