Craft beer: Tynt Meadow Trappist beer very much reminiscent of Lowlands brews
THERE are few things as quintessentially Belgian as Trappist beer. The guidelines on what constitute Trappist ale are quite strict, as strict as the observances of the monks who produce it.
For a start, all Trappist beer must be brewed by monks on the grounds of an abbey. Any profits derived must go straight back into the upkeep of the abbey and provide for the monks who live there. Any surplus money is given away to charity in accordance with the values of the Cistercians.
Now, the Cistercians have orders all over the world, but those beer-producing abbeys have been largely concentrated in Belgium. Indeed six of the 13 Trappist breweries which operate today are Belgian, among them are the more well-known ones such as Chimay, Orval and Westmalle.
One of my own favourites, La Trappe, is actually produced in the Brouwerij de Koningshoeven just over the border in the Netherlands. That is one of two in the Netherlands, but while the Lowlands is seen as the true home of Trappist brewing, abbey brewing has spread to other countries such as France, Austria and even the United States.
2018 saw the first Trappist beer to emerge from an abbey in England. Tynt Meadow English Trappist Ale is brewed at the Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire. Tynt Meadow refers to the ground on which the abbey is built, a naming tradition of many Trappist breweries.
Many Belgian and Dutch abbey breweries brew dubbles, tripels and quads but Mount Saint Bernard have started out with this strong, dark ale which is very much reminiscent of many of the beers you'd get in the Lowlands.
It comes in at 7.4 per cent and pours a dark mahogany colour with a slight tan head. The aromas are of dark chocolate and dried fruit and they are very much the dominant flavours on the palate. It has a sweet, toffee malt and there's a hint of roast coffee before you get to the flavours of fig and chocolate.
The monks use an English yeast strain which just about prevents it from having those dry, slightly spicy characteristics you'd get from a Belgian yeast. Still it's lovely, well-rounded, robust and warming ale. On initial release, it was only available in the area around the abbey but distribution has become more widespread and you can pick up Tynt Meadow in The Vineyard in Belfast.