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The Brewing Monks: Almost Trappist

In the first 4 parts of the The Brewing Monks, we looked specifically at the history of the Trappist order and the current Trappist Breweries.  In the first part, The Brewing Monks: A Brief History of the Trappist Order and Monastic Brewing, I looked at the history of the Trappist order and how abbeys become involved in brewing.  In the Second Part, The Brewing Monks: The Trappist Breweries (Part 1), I delved into the history of Rochefort, Stift Engelszell, Westmalle, and Westvleteren.  In the third part, The Brewing Monks: The Trappist Breweries (Part 2), I covered the history of Chimay, Orval, La Trappe, and Achel.  In 2015, a new brewery was added at one of the oldest monasteries in Italy. Their story is told here: The Brewing Monks: The 11th Trappist Brewery – Tre Fontane. The next part will cover the Trappist Monasteries that are in the process of adding a brewery in or have beer ventures that would allow them to add one in the future.

Edited & Updated 10/21/2013

Edited & Updated 03/07/2014

Edited & UPdated 12/03/2016

Almost Trappist

Update: Zundert and Spencer Abbey have both released their beers with the official Authentic Trappist Product logo.  Therefore, I’ve updated and moved them to their rightful place alongside their Trappist brethren in this series.

Not Quite Trappist

Abbaye du Sainte Marie Mont des Cats – Godewaesvelde, France (Est. 1650, Original Brewery Est. 1848) Mont des Cats Beer

The original abbey at Mont des Cats was established by the “Hermits of St. Anthony” in 1650 and remained with that order until 1792 when the French Revolution forced the abandonment of their home.  The site lay dormant until the Cisterician Order sent monks to reestablish the site at Mont des Cats in 1826.  The monks built their first brewery in 1847 and continued to expand it until restrictive laws by the French Parliament forced the monastery to shut down the brewery.  The final blow to the brewery came during WWI when the Germans shelled the abbey doing considerable damage to the brewery.  As the monks rebuilt, they decided not to reopen the brewery.

The monastery survived on its farm lands and by selling cheese.  However, their financial needs become too much for cheese alone to maintain.  The monks decided to return to their roots and sell a beer.  Their initial decision was to have the beer brewed by the monks of Chimay who created a unique recipe for the abbey of Mont des Cats which falls into the Tripel style range. Mont des Cats is allowed to use the word Trappist on the label because the beer is brewed at a Trappist Brewery for a Trappist monastery.  They aren’t allowed to use the ATP logo because it’s not brewed within their own walls.  There are no short-term plans to build a brewery on site, but the monks haven’t ruled it out and will probably build one at some point (here is the press release announcing the release of their beer).  The beer is currently only available in Western Europe.

Abbey of New Clairvaux – Vina, California (Est. 1955, No Brewery)

Ovila Chapter House
(A view from the inside of the Ovila Chapter House. Picture from

New Clairvaux was founded in 1955 when Trappist monks from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky found a new place to expand.  The site of the monastery was on land that has hosted a vineyard since the mid 19th century.  Although the monks survived on the orchards and on the dairy products they produced.  It wasn’t until 2000 that they sought to revive the vineyards and begin producing wine.

In 2010, Sierra Nevada Brewing announced a joint venture with New Clairvaux to begin producing beer.  The venture would be called Ovila, after a Cistercian chapter house that was originally built in Spain during the 12th century.  The chapter house had been acquired by the Hearst family in the 1930’s.  They’d intended to use its stones to create a mansion.  Their plans never came to fruition.  The monks of New Clairvaux got the stones in the mid-90’s and began re-assembling the chapter house.  Some of the proceeds of the collaboration are going to help the New Clairvaux monks rebuild their chapter house on-site in California.

They have produced 6 beers in the 2 years they’ve been collaborating.  The first 4 beers were a dubbel, a saison, a quad, and a golden.  At the end of 2012, they retooled the beers to include ingredients produced on the monks’ land.  The first was a Belgian Quad brewed with plums.  The second was a Saison brewed with mandarin oranges and peppercorns.  While this collaboration isn’t a “Trappist” labeled product, New Clairvaux would only need to add a brewery to the property to begin the process of joining the ATP breweries.

More About Monastic Brewing

The Brewing Monks: The Benedictine Breweries (Part 1) – A look at some of the Benedictine Monasteries producing beer commercially.

The Brewing Monks: The Benedictine Breweries (Part 2) – A look at some more of the Benedictine Monasteries producing beer commercially.


Great Beers of Belgium by Michael Jackson, (Brewers Publications, 2008)

brew like a monk by Stan Hieronymus, (Brewers Publications, 2005)

The Oxford Companion to Beer edited by Garret Oliver, (Oxford University Press, 2012)

18 thoughts on “The Brewing Monks: Almost Trappist

  1. Really good read. Good to hear there are more trappist breweries on the horizon. On Abbey of New Clairvaux though I don’t see an on site brewery happening. At least no time soon. When I did a review on their beer I linked it to their Facebook page and asked if they would be working towards the official trappist logo. The monk that replied that they are currently very happy making wine and have no plans to build a brewery.

      1. Maybe Sierra Nevada Brewing should build a small brewery on site at the monetary. Lol. Run it like the Granville island brewery in Vancouver. GIB may be owned by the Devil (Molson) but all of their 22oz stuff is brewed on site and is great. Their large scale stuff is garbage and brewed at Molson. Not saying anything bad about Sierra Nevada Brewing though.

        1. I know Sierra Nevada has joked about it. Currently, they’re brewing the Ovila on their 10bbl pilot brew system. It wouldn’t take much space/effort to put that kind of setup in the abbey.

  2. I read about the Spencer Brewery recently and am glad to see you’re keeping things current! New Trappist breweries are an interesting development, since in my mind they occupy a very specific niche in the beer community which I never expected to see expanded!

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