A Monk's Brew
Launched in July 2018, Tynt Meadow beer is the world’s first English Trappist ale. Mount St Bernard monastery in rural Leicestershire is the world’s 12th establishment to be granted permission to call itself a Trappist brewery, and the Trappist Monks chose to name this strong, dark ale after the meadow in which monks originally settled in 1835. The monastery previously operated as a dairy farm, but in 2013 the monks began looking at opening a brewery when the farm became economically unviable. With the wish to maintain their historic abbey, the monks said goodbye to their cattle and worked on a new business venture of beer, brewed in accordance with recipes dating back centuries. But what’s makes monastic brewing so special?
St Benedict’s Rule
The practice of monastic brewing began in medieval times. Monks were encouraged to drink beer due to the unsafe water supply, and as the brewing process involves boiling water before the fermentation takes place, it was evidently the safer option. Trappist beer is beer made by or under the supervision of monks within the walls of a Benedictine abbey, and “benedictine” refers to a section of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance that follows St Benedict’s rule. This rule says monks and nuns should live by the labours of their own hands and not accept charity, and to join the order they take three vows - stability, fidelity to monastic life and obedience. And so one way monks have traditionally raised funds is through brewing and selling beer.
Any profit made from beer must go towards the upkeep of the abbey or charitable causes in the local area, and to live by the labours of their own hands, monastery inhabitants must do manual labour, which is why you’ll find most of these establishments out in the countryside surrounded by fields with livestock and crops. It will come as no surprise that the Trappist beers grew in fame and popularity over the years, and non-Trappist brewers started to use the term. The Monks eventually resorted to legal action in 1962. And so in 1997, the 6 Belgian Trappists, 1 Dutch Trappist, and 1 Dutch Trappist monastery formed the “International Trappist Association” (the ITA). They created a unique logo that can only be used by Trappist monasteries on the products they produce including cheese, bread, wine, and beer.
The brothers of Mount St Bernard took inspiration from these other Trappist breweries, whose beers are regarded as among the finest in the world, and conducted their first experimental brew on St Lutgard’s Day, a saint famous for surviving on bread and beer during fasts. So to commemorate the achievements of monastic breweries, get your hands on a Tynt Meadow and raise a glass to the Trappist age.