Celebrity Monks!
BE Monge La Trappe

Trappist beers are among the best in the world in almost all existing reviews.

The number of people who can write and store knowledge in antiquity world was very small, concentrating these tasks in monasteries - communities created with the focus on the spiritual world. The monks have always had the habit of drinking beers with the meals. Add to this context the fact that the monks sought self-sufficiency, producing the largest number of products within the abbeys’ walls, including beer, and youll understand how this beer became a tradition and natural popular curiosity.

Despite all the success, ironically these beers have never sought fame, never had the focus to please a consumer or to meet a local demand. The goal was always to produce seeking self-sufficiency and have a income source to perform the main monastery’s work: help others.

The monks never created marketing campaigns for their products. The exclusivity, the difficulty often encountered to purchase, the mysticism and the Abbey’s tradition created, unwittingly, a very strong and beloved brand in the beer market.

The demand for this beer continues to grow around the world, either by the huge increase of premium beers sales in the Americas or by the overall market growth in Asia.

The world production of the 11 abbeys approved by the International Trappist Association (ITA) is around 500,000 hl/year. Abbey Saint – Rémy, who brews Rochefort, has approximately 9% of the market share, revenues of EUR 9 million and profits of around EUR 1 million to keep alive the social projects.

But monk communities are declining in Europe. The Notre Dame d Orval Abbey had 35 monks and today has only a dozen. Numbers in Saint - Rémy are very similar, with an aggravating point: no more aspirants. The youngest monk in the monastery is now reaching his 50s and some have passed 80.

None of the traditional monasteries can meet the retracted demand that exists in the world today. Orval already decided not to enter in any new market. Rochefort can only supply only one client in Asia, despite frequent requests coming from the region.

The most radical Trappist brewery is the Westvleteren, inside of the Abbey of Saint Sixus, brews some of the most coveted beers in the world. In 1945, Abbot Gerardus decided to reduce production at the Abbey because he believed that the brewery was taking too much time of the monks and interfering with the spiritual work. Since then the brewery only produces 5,000 hectoliters per year. The abbey sells only by phone and have a high degree of control to ensure that the product is not being resold and that more people can have access to the beer. Just had put their beers in supermarkets once in 2011 to raise funds for a reform in the abbey.

To meet growing demand, the monasteries would have to make huge investments to expand production areas and inevitably would have to use outside labor (due to the small number of suitable monks working in breweries), losing some production control, going directly against one of the main pillars of a Trappist beer.

Wouldn’t this expansion run against the very monks’ philosophy?

The real client should be God, right? The brewery should never be the main focus of an abbey but a mean for her to raise the necessary funds to maintain the property and finance social work in the local community.

Would this expansion lead the monks to become more business men, leaving them no time to really be monks, hurting one of the pillars that characterize the Trappist beer?

But would it be wrong monks seek a higher income to be able to further assist their communities?

Only time will tell how capitalism can interfere with the philosophical monks’ beliefs.


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