I’m in my local bottle shop picking up an order. As the shopkeeper hands over the bottles, the look in the his eyes says it all. Here is something truly new and exciting. After so many novelty-chasing beers, different from last month’s only in the hops used, this is a real breath of fresh air: a beer from the UK’s first Trappist brewery.
I love Trappist beers. There’s something special about them. They don’t chase trends. There are no small batch versions with hyped hops. It’s just quality beer, brewed well. And it shows.
What is a Trappist beer?
A beer must meet certain criteria before it can be called Trappist. It must be made within the immediate surroundings of an abbey. Production must be carried out under the supervision of the monks or nuns. And finally, any profits should be intended for the needs of the monastic community, for purposes of solidarity within the Trappist Order, or for development projects and charitable works. In other words: no commercial brewing. Trappist breweries produce only what they need and no more.
In most people’s minds Trappist means Belgian. And it’s true that most Trappist beer is brewed there. Six of the 14 breweries recognised by the International Trappist Association are in Belgium. Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. Of the rest, two are in the Netherlands, with one each for Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and the USA.
And now the UK has Tynt Meadow, brewed by the monks at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey.
The beer is full-bodied, gently balancing the taste of dark chocolate, pepper, and fig.Mount St Bernard Abbey
The abbey monks describe their beer as “mahogany-coloured, with a subtle, warm red hue, and a lasting beige head.” It certainly looks the part of a well-brewed beer. While Tynt Meadow wouldn’t look out of place next to a Westmalle Dubbel or a Westvleteren quadrupel, it is distinctly different. The beer is not simply a clone of other Trappist beers. For a start it doesn’t display the fruity yeast character of Belgian beers. Instead its aroma is spicier, with hints of liquorice and mint, and perhaps clove. This is all apparent in its flavour, where there are dark sugars too, molasses and burnt orange.
The body is full and soft, with gentle carbonation and a drying finish combining to keep the overall impression balanced and light. It may be 7.4% but it doesn’t taste like a big hitter. Its hop bitterness is somewhat restrained, giving a warming note to the aftertaste. Tynt Meadow feels like a great, grownup addition to British brewing. It exists comfortably within the framework of what we already know as Trappist beer but remains distinct and full of character.
This beer should pair very nicely with food, although exactly which it’s a little early to say. My initial thoughts are duck, game, and lamb. Perhaps also mushrooms and caramelised onions. It should work with spiced puddings, dark chocolate desserts, dark fruit cakes, glazed burnt oranges, and of course figs.
Have you tried Tynt Meadow yet? Or have you tasted any other Trappist beers? What did you like about them? Did you try them paired with food? I’ve love to know.