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Zundert Breaks All the Trappist Rules

It will come as no surprise to any of my readers that I am a huge fan of Trappist Beer. The complex, subtle offerings from what I lovingly call The Drunk Monks are some of the most carefully crafted beer on the planet. There are only 11 breweries on the planet that get to call themselves Trappist (the association adds a 12th but their beer is made by Chimay so I think it doesn’t count).

Trappist beer are made by monks and must meet a series of quality and organizational standards to receive the official Trappist authentication. They are all in the classic Belgian style and exemplify the best in Belgian beer.

I say all this because the one and only Trappist beer I had yet to sample recently came to Alberta. The beer is Zundert, from Trappistenbrouwerij de Kievit in Zundert, Netherlands, the second Dutch Trappist brewery. It only received its designation in 2013, making it the second youngest Trappist brewery. I got my hands on it a while ago and finally got around to trying it.

The beer is described on various beer websites as a Tripel. But, as will become clear below, I think that is a wrong designation. I think this beer finds a way to be its own thing. Fully Trappist, but eschewing the standard Single, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel classification.

I knew it as soon as I poured it. The colour was the first thing to tip me off, followed by the aroma. It was a dark copper, almost amber beer. It had the expected clarity and produced a big, dense white head, again as expected. But Tripels aren’t amber.

The aroma also offered something unique. It produced a rich aroma accented by plum, apricot and raisin, along with soft honey and light toffee. I also picked up some hints of peppery spice, but only a little, counter by a noted cinnamon character. For the most part the beer smelled rich and sweet.

The taste starts quite sweet with some toffee, honey, and dark fruit. The middle picks up some hop character and a bit of earthy spiciness. The end brings out the Belgian character – a soft spiciness with a bit of pepper but with a clove and must accent. The linger is musty and peppery with a bit of sweet caramel to back it up.

Zundert is soft, complex and sweet. I has a delicate base of honey and toffee which anchor what is a rather hoppy beer with a balanced Belgian character. It is stunningly drinkable. Plus it completely defies styles. It is not a Tripel. It has the malt base of a Dubbel but is too dry and has a slight earthy hop hit to classify. It is too delicate for the darker, more alcoholic styles.

Simply it is its own thing. Somehow completely in the Trappist tradition. This is a Trappist beer. It is just unlike any other Trappist I have ever tasted. So good on ya, monks of Zundert. You found a way to refresh the Trappist brand, and do it well.

Keep sending this beer to Alberta.

2 comments to Zundert Breaks All the Trappist Rules

  • Brady

    Glad that you got around to more or less agreeing with my BA review from 2 months back – this is indeed a hard to classify Trappist Ale, at the very best, and not one that I would like to revisit.

    • beerguy

      I am not saying I wouldn’t go back to it. I just think it is a bit non-traditional. I will let the readers decide whether they like it or not.

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