If you’ve ever had an honest chat with a brewer over a beer or two about the financial feasibility of running a brewery, you’ve probably heard the line - don’t get into brewing if you want to make money. It’s a competitive industry for sure and the capital involved in starting up is significant.
However, the recent flurry of new members in the International Trappist Association seems to paint a different picture of brewing’s current commercial viability - with five out of 12 of the official members having started brewing since 2012.
Manual labour plays an important role in Cistercian spiritual tradition, but a Trappist community won’t run a brewery unless it is financially sustainable and gives back to the community.
Zundert beer is a good example of this. It’s brewed at Maria Toevlucht Abbey in Holland where the Trappists have been going strong for over a century. Originally the manual labour element for the community was fulfilled by work on the local farm, but in 2009, the community decided to stop farming and start brewing - citing a need for a balance between labour and revenue.
The brewery appears to be going from strength to strength too with the recent addition of a second beer - to add to the inaugural tripel now known as Zundert 8, and which happens to be the beer we are cracking today. Let’s give it a taste…
The beer pours a slightly cloudy deep amber with a decent smattering of sediment too and a brilliant white head. The nose is ripe and confected with orange, spice and ripe tropical fruits (plus a green banana or two for good measure). The palate is exactly what you would expect for an 8% Trappist number with real body and sweetness balanced very successful by a good handful of bitter hop notes.
This beer has nailed the Trappist tripel style it was intending to hit and has certainly provided a refreshing interlude in our discussion about beer’s commercial viability.
But let’s get back to the nitty gritty…
The recent boom in Trappist breweries seems to imply a healthy beer industry, but I guess you could argue that the monastic business model is fairly atypical, with revenue more easily absorbed into a local community that isn’t so demanding of an out and out profit.
Maybe what the current trend really demonstrates is the need for a community element that supports brewing and breweries?
The essence of modern craft brewing certainly incorporates a community element and in some ways the successful breweries that manage to hit escape velocity, and actually make it work, are those that achieve a fellowship of sorts.
Of course, in the global age with beer available all around the world, the notion of local community has changed somewhat.
Let’s not get too carried away with the significance of your Saturday night beer… but It’s worth bearing in mind that a beer purchase really is an investment in the breweries you admire, and that in this day and age, you can join that fellowship you admire so much with a simple online click of a button.
Purchase Zundert 8 here.