Trappistenfest, Niel

Having first heard about the Trappistenfest in Niel on Belgian Beer Board last year, a visit to the festival in the small town just outside Antwerp was definitely one to be done!

Fortunately, on the same weekend of the festival, the first Modeste Bierfestival was due to be held, so this would pack in a bit of ‘added value’ to the trip. More about the Modeste Bierfestival here.

Trains to Niel don’t run on a weekend, so last Sunday, we took the bus from Antwerp for the short walk to the ‘Kapel van de Jongenschiro’. Once again, the weather was unseasonably hot so we took a seat outside.

First beer up was Chimay Doree – part of the Chimay ‘family’ of beers but not available anywhere except Auberge de Poteaupré or inside the Scourmont Abbey if you happen to be a monk there! Definitely the hardest to get hold of beer on the list. There’s none currently on eBay and a website in the USA is asking $69!!! I ought to have got a few to take with me…

Next was the Petit Orval, again only available if you’re a monk or at the cafe next to the abbey. There’s none of this on eBay or any other site I could see.

Shortly following this was the new Mont des Cats beer. Mont des Cats is a Trappist abbey just over the border in France, but their beer is brewed at the Scourmont Abbey, along with Chimay. On one hand I’ve heard that they’ll be getting their Trappist accreditation in the next month or so. Another source says that for it to qualify, they must brew it themselves at their abbey. So, it’s brewed by Trappist monks at a Trappist abbey, the labels say ‘bière trappiste’, but it’s not an ‘Authentic Trappist Product’. Once again, it’s rather a good beer, but you won’t find it in shops near you as it’s only currently available in the Abbey shop and cafe. This may change soon though.

Even though I’d tried it before, it seemed a shame not to sample to Westmalle Extra. Again, only generally available at the abbey, this beer seems to be a bit more easily available than the others (at least one bar in Antwerpen seems to have it much of the time). It’s a light, golden beer, very easy drinking and at 4.8%, just right for a late summers’ (ish!) day.

So – the festival? Well run, in a most pleasant location, good table service and not too busy. The only downside is that it’s well out of the way! Looking forward to another visit in the near future…

Getting hold of Westvletern

Article copied from my other blog

4 simple steps to buying Westvleteren beer:

1) Visit http://www.sintsixtus.be/eng/brouwerijactueel.htm and see when the beer is available. It’s now shown in a coloured chart! Call the (+32 (0)70/21.00.45 at the time shown on the chart, but be prepared to wait and be persistent – I often try probably 30 or 40 times over a 2 1/2 hour period.

2) Drive to Westvleteren at the allotted time (usually in the week after the reservation day).

3) Collect the beer, pay the man and jump with joy.

4) Go across the road to In de Vrede and sample a glass of the beer you have just bought (not the actual ones you’ve bought but one of theirs!). Watch how it’s poured and take note of the temperature for when you get yours home. You might also be able to get the other beers in the shop, but this is limited to 6 bottles per person and is not always available. Be sensible if you’re driving – the beers are quite strong so I wouldn’t suggest doing both. The cheese they sell is also rather nice.

Glasses – make sure you buy a couple of glasses. A standard trappist glass will do, but I’m sure that the beer tastes better still from the right glass. The monastery sell them in boxes of 6 and In de Vrede individually.

Old beer

Some beers are promoted to taste better ‘fresh’. These tend to be the bland, tasteless factory produced rubbish.

On the other hand, some beers are better with age. My stash of Westvleteren is aging well at the moment with a case of 8 being just over 3 years old now.

Some bars feature aged beers – Kulminator in Antwerp have a fantastic list. Not so well advertised is the famous Delirium Cafe in Bruxelles – they have a number of older beers on their menu but are not advertised so – you just have to pick a beer that isn’t that common and hope it’s an older one.

This leads me on to a ‘find’ that Filip Geerts from Belgian Beer Board discovered. He was visiting the abbey at Westvleteren to collect some beer and stumbled across a case of really old Westvleteren 12. He managed to procure a couple of bottles.

After drinking one, he presented the other to a Vintage Tasting Event at Brugge Bier Festival the other week – more details here.

I was at the festival – if only I’d seen the info on his blog in enough time! *cry*!