Abbey and Trappist ales may appear similar in a liquor store. While there are no rigid brewing styles they must conform to, they tend to be dark, rich, and strong with notes of fruit and spice. There are some defining differences as well – all Trappist ales are abbeys, but not all abbey beers are Trappists.
The term “abbey beer” refers to a beer brewed in the style of Trappist monks, but could easily be brewed by a monks, a secular brewery or some guy in his basement. An actual “Trappist” beer must be recognized by the International Trappist Association to be considered as such.
At the moment there are only 10 of the trappist monasteries that produce beer, six of which are located in Belgium. It is unlikely there will ever be more, due to the strict criteria a Trappist brewery must comply with.
- The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
- The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.
- The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
I say unlikely, but not impossible. After all, Spencer Trappist Ale has already defied the odds by producing the first and only certified Trappist ale in the United States.
A list of the Trappist monasteries that currently brew is as follows:
- The Trappist beer and the Trappist cheeses of Orval Abbey (Belgium)
- The Trappist beers of Achel Abbey (Belgium)
- The Trappist beers and Trappist cheeses of Westmalle Abbey (Belgium)
- The Trappist beers and Trappist cheeses of Scourmont-Lez-Chimay Abbey (Belgium)
- The Trappist beers of Rochefort Abbey (Belgium)
- The Trappist beers of Westvleteren Abbey (Belgium)
- The Trappist beers, Trappist cheeses, breads, cookies, chocolate, jams, and honey of Koningshoeven Abbey in Tilburg (The Netherlands)
- The Trappist beers and liqueurs of Stift Engelszell Abbey (Austria)
- The Trappist beer of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer (USA)
- The Trappist beer of Maria Toevlucht Abbey in Zundert (The Netherlands)
- The Trappist beer of Tre Fontane Abbey in Rome (Italy)
If you noticed the Orval, Westmalle, Scourmont-Lez-Chimay, and Koninghoeven Abbeys also produce cheese. Other Trappist monasteries exist, but may choose not to brew at all. For example, Mont des Cats in France does not produce beer, instead focusing their efforts on cheese. Likewise, Echt-Tegelen in the Netherlands produces an interesting selection of liqueurs.
The following recipe makes 4-5 crispy, fluffy Belgian waffles with a rich Belgian ale syrup. If you don’t have an abbey or a Trappist on hand, any beer will do.
Bacon Belgian Beer Waffles
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup dark Trappist ale or stout
1/4 cup milk
5 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 strips maple bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
Maple Caramel Ale Syrup to serve (see below)
- Pre-heat waffle iron according to manufacturers instructions.
- Separate the eggs, placing the whites in one medium bowl and the yolks in another. Do not get any yolk in the whites, or all is lost.
- Add the sugar, beer, milk, melted butter and vanilla to the yolks. Whisk gently until combined.
- Add the salt to the whites and whip vigorously with a hand-mixer or stand-mixer until stiff peaks form. Or do it by hand, if your biceps are up to it. This should take about 4 minutes.
- In the large bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Add chopped bacon to the bowl and stir to combine.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Slowly add the yolk mixture and stir until just combined.
- Gently fold the whites into the batter, making sure not to crush .
- Pre-heat a waffle maker, cook waffles according to manufactures specifications.
- Serve with Guinness Caramel Syrup.
Serves four somewhat-hungry humans.
3/4 cup Guinness
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup maple syrup
- Combine all three ingredients in a small saucepan.
- Stir over high heat for 1-2 minutes.
- Once mixture begins to foam, reduce to medium-low heat.
- Simmer until syrup is 50% of its original volume. Keep a watchful eye on the pot while this occurs – the syrup (if overcooked) will harden upon cooling.
- Serve over waffles or pancakes.
Makes 1 cup of syrup
Note: If you do overcook the syrup (and it hardens when cooled), it’s not the end of the world. Re-heat the caramel prior to pouring over pancakes. Let the syrup-coated pancakes cool a minute or two before eating.
- Recipe adapted from The Beeroness. http://thebeeroness.com/2015/03/04/maple-bacon-beer-waffles/
- Image sourced from http://bensbeerblog.com/2012/12/12/beer-and-star-wars-a-pairing-guide/its-a-trappist/