This story has been in the new for a few weeks now, but I’ve noticed that the attention it’s getting is starting to tapper off and I wish to keep it in people’s minds. Recently it was announced that the mining company, Lhoist, that mines the limestone quarry near Rochefort (the town and the Monastery) is seeking permits to expand and deepen the mine. This would cause the ancient Tridaine spring that is used by the town of Rochefort and the Abbey to be blocked. Lhoist has guaranteed that they’ll dig new wells that would match the needs of all parties, but they haven’t mentioned anything about the quality of that water.
Water is the single largest ingredient in beer, making up 90-95% of the beer. Additionally, the mineral content of the water plays a huge role in how the brewer uses the water and what kind of beers can be made with it. For example, the famously soft water of Plzen, Czech Republic is a key ingredient to the flavor of Pilsners, while the notoriously hard water of Burton-on-Trent helped make bitter pale ales famous. Rocheforts water is definitely on the harder side, meaning it has a lot more Calcium and Magnesium as well as other mineral dissolved in it.
This played a key role in their yeast selection when the brewery was modernized in the 1950’s. The initial attempt to use Chimay’s yeast failed because it couldn’t perform well in the harder water of Rochefort.
Many people may respond: “What does it matter? You can change the chemistry of the water to meet the original.” While this may be true in some part, how can you match what’s already perfect through tinkering and man-made means? The town of Rochefort and the Abbey, which has been there for nearly 800 years, have been using the water source happily for centuries. Water is the base for the beer; it’s the canvas the brewer uses to create the art of Rochefort Trappist Ales. If you have a source that’s perfect for your needs and that your needs have evolved around, why take the chance of having to use artificial means to reproduce it? Besides, who knows what pollution will leak into the water and surrounding environment as Lhoist delves deeper into the earth?
The Call to Action
There are several petitions circulating. Probably the best one to sign is the Belgian one (I suggest you NOT use Google Translate on the first page, it messes up the formatting. There is a little blurb in English. You can translate once you get to the actual petition). There is another that is English language based.
Sign the Petition! Save the Tridaine and Rochefort Beers – Belgian Version
Sign the Petition! Save the Tridaine and Rochefort Beers – A Different, English Version
Please take a moment to go to one or both of the Petitions to show that you care! The Trappist Abbey of Rochefort isn’t a for profit company. The money they make goes toward upkeep of their ancient Abbey and to maintaining their monastic lifestyle. All excess money is used to further their various charitable ventures. Additionally, add a bottle or two to your shopping basket next time you see some at your favorite beer store! The beers of Rochefort are truly wonderful examples of the Trappist brewing art. Sign the petition to protect these wonderful, traditional products and the people who make them happen. Rochefort is truly a world heritage site. One that is worth protecting.
Do your part: take a few minutes and fill out the petition. Then, share this story with your friends so they can sign the petition too.
Sauvez La Tridaine has some great information, up-to-date news, another link to the petition, and some additional resources you can use to add to your site to help advance the cause (Such as the lovely banner you see to the right).
The Brewing Monks: A Brief History of the Trappist Order and Monastic Brewing – My history of the Trappist order and how monks became involved in brewing.
The Brewing Monks: The Eight Trappist Breweries (Part 1) – The history of Rochefort Abbey and their brewery.