Nicolas Maeterlinck

Belgium loses Trappist beer

Beer brewed at Achel Abbey in Limburg will no longer be allowed to bear the name Trappist beer.  The abbey is being sold to businessman Jan Tormans and the brewery at the abbey will cut all links with Westmalle Abbey that supervised operations at the Achel Abbey brewery until now.  Earlier, when the Trappist monks moved out, the brewery lost the right to display the ATP label, proving Authentic Trappist Product, on its brews. The ATP label can only be used when beer is brewed in an abbey with live-in monks. The name could still be used thanks to the connection with Westmalle Abbey, but with the sale to private hands that now too is a thing of the past.

It's a sad day in the story of Belgian Trappist beers when a brew loses its right to bear the Trappist name, but Jan Tormans, who owns the Tormans Group and is expected to purchase the abbey, also has plans to extend brewing operations at the site. By ending up in private hands the brewery also forfeits the right to use the name Trappist.

It was three years ago that the last monks quit the St Benedict Abbey known as the Achelse Kluis. They moved to Westmalle Abbey that owned the Achel Abbey.  The brewery, the pub and the abbey shop stayed open and remained immensely popular, especially among ramblers in the Groote Heide (Great Heath) nature area. Fazenda da Esperança, a religious community with Brazilian roots, also continued to provide a home for former addicts, but the number of guests remained limited.

Jan Tormans’s exact plans for the site still need to be divulged, but it’s clear the brewery will stay as the abbey’s economic heart.  The local mayor is looking forward to working with the new owners.  The municipality has long dreamed of a visitors’ centre at the abbey.

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