The "historical" trappist breweries

The Abbey of Holy Mary of the 'Mont des Cats'

In 1826, the painter Nicolas Joseph Ruyssen subsidized the creation of a priory to the Mont des Cats. Monks of the reformed Cistercian order settled there.

In 1847, the priory was set up in the abbey under the name of “Sainte Marie du Mont” (Holy Mary of the Mount). The Trappists declared that the house of God must be also that of work. 1847 thus saw the installation of a forging mill and a brewery, under the direction of the abbot Dom Lacaes.

At the beginning, the Trappists brewed beer for their personal consumption. They produced in particular a brown ale that was strong and tasty and much appreciated by visitors. The need for creating resources led them to begin marketing of their beer. The Trappists continually improved their technique of brewing and fermentation.

In 1896, it was decided to modernize the industrial sector of the abbey. The small brewery which fell in ruins was rebuilt. As we know, a good water is at the base of a good beer. This is why a 40 HP steam engine was installed, necessary for the pumping of pure water. The capacity of the brewery was a hundred hectolitres and the beer was sold for 25 French francs per hectolitre.

The know-how of the Trappists, combined with a modern brewery, brought fame to the production of the abbey, as the Father Eugene Arnoult testified in his book, in 1898: “The trade of beer of the Trappist fathers extends far, in the large cities of North, in Paris and in all France. Their product, under the name of “fine beer,” has a well-deserved reputation: its blond color, its lightness, the smoothness of hops employed make of it a worthy rival of the so famous ‘Pale Ale’.”

In 1900, there were seventy Trappist monks. They employed about fifty laic workmen who assisted them in their daily work in the brewery, cheese dairy, and farm.

Marked by the laws of the separation of the Church and the State implemented at the beginning of the century, many of the monks took refuge in a rented farm in Watou, Belgium. Due to ongoing difficulties, the production of beer ceased in 1905.

Brewing on a commercial basis later resumed, but the First World War stopped the project once again. In April 1918, a terrible bombardment transformed the monastery into ruins, as well as the brewery, which was never rebuilt.

After long years without beer at the abbey of Mont des Cats, the creation of a "Trappist beer of Mont des Cats" was announced on June 9, 2011.  The beer, sold only at the abbey, complies with the legal criteria and definitions enacted by different courts of justice, notably those of Ghent and Brussels. Sales started on June 16th, 2011.

For now, the Mont des Cats beer is being produced by the brewery of Chimay.  The Mont des Cats community may consider reinstalling a brewery inside the abbey. However, at the moment, the abbey has neither the financial means nor the brewing skills to do so.

It is still unsure whether the abbey will ask to the International Trappist Association (ITA) the right to display the "Authentic Trappist Product" hexagonal logo on its beer.  Once initiated by the ITA, the process of allowing a trappist brewery to display the logo on its product generally takes over one year.  The ITA, is composed of members from various Trappists communities, and is a moral authority on the matter of Trappist certification, although it has no legislative or jurisprudential standing.

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The machine room

Inside view of the brewery

General view of the abbey (the brewery's chimney is on the right)