Belgians like beer. They have red, white, blonde, amber, brown, pale, dark, fruity, bitter, creamy, leafy, vanilla, peppery, and nutty beers. Some Belgian beers taste like chocolate, some coffee. There’s even one that has a banana taste.
There are more than 175 breweries in Belgium and Belgian beers are among the best in the world. Indeed, ratebeer.com rates Westvliteran XII, made by the Trappist monastery of St Sixtus, as its number one beer. The Trappists also categorize their beers by amount of malt: enkel (no longer used), dubbel, tripel and even quadrupel. Westvliteren XII is a quadrupel with an alcohol content of 10.2%.
Cistercian monks have been making beer for their own consumption for hundreds of years. Some of the Trappist monks (their official name is The Order of Cistercian of the Strict Observance) who relocated to Belgium from France during the French Revolution began selling their potion about 150 years ago. Of the eight Trappist monasteries in the world that sell their own beer, six are in Belgium. Some of these are hard to get in the US and elsewhere. Recently a six-pack of Westvleteren XII was selling in California for more than $90.00!
My friend George served a Chimay to go with the delicious lunch his wife Jacqueline prepared when we visited Nivelles in May of last year. It’s one of the most popular Trappist beers and they have a different color label for each of their three popular beers: red for their “premiere” dark brown dubbel (7% alcohol), white for their triple golden amber (8%), and blue for their “classic” darker brown ale (9%).
One of the most popular breweries in Wallonia Belgium is St Feuillien. It is one of eighteen breweries in Belgium who produce beers similar to the Trappists but are called Abbey beers to distinguish them from the official Trappist monastery beers. St Feuillien Triple is the popular beer with the banana taste. They also have a Saison beer (brewed in winter for summer consumption) and another (Cuvee de Noel) that contains winter spices for celebration at Christmas.
In one of my recent postings on Nivelles I mentioned that Ste Gertrude received the aid of Irish monks in the running of her abbey in Nivelles during the seventh century. Well, the two who provided the most assistance were brothers, both saints: Ultan and Foillan (Faolan in Irish, Feuillien in French). With the help of Ste Gertrude the monks established a monastery in Fosses-la-Ville, a small town in the Wallonia province of Namur about 34 kilometers east of Nivelles. One day St Feuillien traveled to Nivelles to say Mass for the nuns and teach them some religious music. On his way back to Fosses-la-Ville he was waylaid and murdered by bandits, reputedly in the area of Le Roeulx, about 19 kilometers south of Nivelles. Ste Gertrude found his body and brought it back to Fosses-la-Ville for burial. St Feuillien is revered in this part of French-speaking Belgium — Nivelles and Fossses-la-Ville and Le Roeulx where an abbey founded in the 12th century is named after him. Le Roeulx also just happens to be the home of Brasserie St Feuillien, the brewery run by the Friart family since 1873.
The St Feuillien brewery also sells its three most popular beers under the Jean De Nivelles label, named after the gold-plated copper figure on the south tower of the Collegiate Church of Ste Gertrude that has been striking his bell with a hammer off and on since the 15th century. These beers are really the same as the St Feuillien popular brands and are marketed only in Nivelles.
Of course the Trappist and Abbey beers aren’t the only beers made in Belgium. Many of those 175+ Belgian breweries produce standard lagers and pilsners. InBev, the largest brewer in the world, sells the lager Stella Artois as their most popular beer. Stella is brewed in Leuven but distributed all over the world. InBev also sells Jupiler, the largest-selling beer in Belgium. And they sell Hoegaarden, often considered the best white beer in the world. They also own Anheuser-Busch, Antarctica, Labatt, Bass, Spaten and Beck’s (and many others around the world).
So Cheers, Prost, Proost, A votre sante and let’s hear a Slainte for good old St Faolan!