So what's so special about Trappist beer? Besides the taste, these beers have been produced following traditional methods for a very long time. To be called "Trappist" beer, they have to meet three essential criteria. Firstly, Trappist produce has to be made within the walls of, or very close to, the Abbey. But not just any abbey; the monks who live there must live according to the doctrine of Saint Benedict of Nursie. And did you know that all Trappist abbeys and communities stem from La Trappe Abbey in Normandy?
Secondly, the beer production must always be carried out under the supervision of Trappist monks or nuns. Last but not least, any income generated by the sale of Trappist products must go to the monastic order or to development projects, or be donated to charity.
Besides beer, various other products can carry the "Trappist" label, such as cheese, bread and liqueurs. Today 13 abbeys boast this label, dotted across the world from the United States to Italy. Including, of course, the Ardennes region which is home to three of them: Orval, Chimay and Rochefort.
Scourmont Abbey was founded in 1850 by a small group of monks. Ever since, its activity has never stopped growing. The brewery within the Abbey cannot be visited, unfortunately. But don't worry, you'll have the opportunity to taste this Trappist beer, which is one of the most famous in the world. Or rather, the collection of beers, because Chimay proposes five different brews: golden beer, blue beer, red beer, the triple-brew and the keg-aged Chimay. A perfect array that will appeal to zythology fans.
Espace Chimay, an interactive centre
The Chimay experience, an entire programme! Equipped with a touchpad, you'll discover the ancestral secrets of beer brewing and cheese making, as well as the history of Scourmont Abbey. This is an interesting facility for anyone who wants to know more about beer production. The tour also includes a tasting session of your choice. We'd probably go for the brewery option, as you can taste the whole range of Chimay beers and related recipes, all in a pleasant setting.
Moment of serenity
Just a 10-minute walk from the Espace Chimay via a lovely forest path, you'll find Scourmont Abbey itself. The site's exquisite gardens and flourishing nature are an invitation to calm and contemplation. The church is open and well worth a visit. Everyone will agree that the atmosphere here oozes with serenity.
Chimay Experience: Daily from 31 March to 4 November, closed on Mondays off-season
Brewery: Daily from 31 March to 4 November, closed on Mondays off-season
Named the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy, the building is closed to the public. Here, the emphasis is on serenity and monastic living. However, the neighbouring gardens are magnificent and worth visiting if you're in the area. The Abbey is also a departure point for many walking and hiking itineraries exploring the Famenne region.