Friday, January 24, 2014

The 8th Wonder of the Trappist World

For many years, there were seven wonders of the trappist beer world (i.e., the world were the beers are made by or produced under the strict supervision of trappist monks). Six of them are found in Belgium: Chimay (Bières de Chimay), Orvan (Brasserie d'Orval), Rochefort (Brasserie de Rochefort), Westmalle (Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle), Westvleteren (Brouwerij Westvleteren) and Achel (Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis).  The seventh wonder is found in the Netherlands: La Trappe (Brouwerij de Koningshoeven).  It is one of my goals to try beers from each of the trappist breweries.  To date, I have tried and reviewed beers from three of the breweries: the Westmalle Tripel, the Orval Trappist Ale, and the La Trappe Quadrupel.  (I have had Chimay beers, but I have not done a review of any of those beers). 

As I struggle to achieve my goal of trying beers from the seven trappist breweries, more such breweries have emerged.  Indeed, there is now an eighth trappist brewery: Stift Engelszell.  (There is also a ninth and a tenth trappist brewery, including one in the United States.)  Unlike the older trappist breweries, which are found in either Belgium or the Netherlands, Gregorius brews its beer at the Engelzell Abbey, which is located near Engelharrzell and der Donau in northern Austria. It is the only trappist brewery in Austria. 

The abbey was founded in 1293, although it was dissolved by Emperor Joseph II in 1786.  German monks, who were expelled from Oelenbery Abbey in Alsace after World War I, re-founded the abbey in 1925. Having being originally established as a priory, Engelszell was elevated to an Abbey with Gregorius Eisvogel named as the abbot. In 1939, the Engelszell monks were evicted by the Gestapo (with four monks being sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp). 

Fast-forward over 70 years, and we come to the first beer to be produced by Stift Engelszell.  The beer is a dark ale brewed in the Belgian style, with an ABV of  9.7%.  The beer is named "Gregorius," which is a tribute to Abbott Gregorius Eisvogel who was at the Abbey for 25 years (1925-1950). The monks produce Gregorius with honey that is local to the monastery and a unique Alsacian wine yeast. 

The Gregorius pours a dark brown color, that is typical of the Belgian dark ale.  The aroma is malt driven, with bready tones that are accentuated by the alcohol and yeast.  Some dark fruit, perhaps some raisons or plums, are present in the aroma.  As for the flavor of the beer, there is a noticeable, sweet Belgian candy element to the beer.  The candy is complemented with a light chocolate taste and a little bit of bitterness on the finish, which reminds you that there is more to this beer than just malts.  

Although I could venture some food pairing for this beer, I think that the beer is best enjoyed on its own ... as, in my humble opinion, are most trappist beers. 

This beer was available in the Chicago area, which is where a bottle was picked up and given to me.  I have not seen it around where I live.  If you happen to come across a bottle, it is worth trying.


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