Trappist Breweries in Belgium

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Beer flight at the Chimay visitor center and restaurant

What is a trappist brewery, you ask?  Trappist breweries are breweries which are tucked away in monasteries and produce high quality craft beers brewed by Trappists, also known as Cistercian monks.  Sales of these beers support the monasteries and missions of the monks who reside within them.  There are fewer than a dozen trappist breweries in the entire world, most of which (and the oldest of which) are in Belgium.

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Westvleteren Abbey

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Westvleteren Abbey

During our stay in Belgium, we had the pleasure of visiting trappist breweries in Chimay and Westvleteren.  You may be familiar with the Chimay label, as Chimay beers are widely exported and can be found in many US markets.  If you’ve never heard of Westvleteren, there’s a very good reason… the monks of Westvleteren do not sell their beer anywhere except at the monastery gates… it is one of the most rare and collectible beers in the world.

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The monks of Westvleteren sell a few cases of beer every day. You need an appointment to make a purchase. Don’t bother arriving early – you will be asked to wait!

In addition to sampling delicious trappist beers, we were able to sample products made from beer.  The tasting menus at both Chimay and Westvleteren offered excellent cheeses for sampling and also for bulk purchase.  Both locations also offered beer-laced desserts including ice creams and pies.  As you can see from the photos below, we sampled many items.  Each was more delicious than the last!

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Even if you don’t fancy yourself much of a beer aficionado, visiting at least one trappist brewery during a visit to Belgium is a must-do.  Enjoy this uniquely Belgian experience!

Hofbräuhaus Pilgrimage (Yes, I AM a tourist – what tipped you off?)

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A full liter of dunkel bier and a half liter of weiss bier

Thus far on our European Food Tour, we’ve managed to avoid (most of) the touristy kitsch.  Indulge me just this once.  We were in Munich, we were hungry, and we did it… we followed the camera wielding masses into that most epic of bier halls, Hofbräuhaus.  Simply put, it’s too old and too big NOT to visit!  The history of Hofbräuhaus dates back to the 16th century, and is a long, fascinating story.  The current building – “only” 117 years old – can seat a whopping 1,300 hungry and thirsty guests.

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High, painted ceilings

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Bavarian style oompah band

For me, the most fascinating thing about Hofbräuhaus is how, despite the hordes of tourists, the old bier hall is clearly beloved by locals.  If you don’t believe me, check out the bier hall’s website.  An impressive number of tables are reserved for regular guests, many of whom own their own bier steins and store them in one of the 454 lockers available on site!  Possession of one of these lockers is considered a status symbol among regular guests.

Whether drinking from a fancy schmancy bier stein or a plain old glass mug, everyone can enjoy a hearty and delicious meal.  I’ll leave you with a few photos while I pack my bags.  Next stop:  Austria!

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Pork Knuckle

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Bread dumplings in a mushroom cream sauce

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Spaetzle (for Half-Pint!)

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Apple strudel

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Gift shop (Of course there’s a gift shop… just feel your way through the sea of blinding camera flashes, and you’ll find it eventually!)