FRENCH FRIARS

Doc shared a link to this story about the birth of a new Trappist brewery in France yesterday. Along with the link, he asked how we felt about those wine-snorting cheesemongers horning in on our beloved Trappist brews.

My reponse? Slap the Trappist logo on the Mont des Cats beers all you like, but they’ll always be knock-off abbey ales to me.

I’m old-school. I don’t accept La Trappe because they lost their Trappist designation back in 1999 after the monks gave up control of the brewing operations. And I don’t accept Achel because any brewery founded three years after Dogfish Head ain’t a Trappist where I come from. So what constitutes a legit brewery from the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance? I made up a simple rule which will shortly be voted into the Aleheads Code at this year’s retreat:

If it doesn’t start with the word West, end with the word Fort, have a fish for a logo, or have a name that is an anagram for Icy Ham, then it’s not a goddamn Trappist.

End of story. Sorry Mont des Cats. You don’t count…

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OK, I’m clearly kidding. In all seriousness, if Mont des Cats produces beer anywhere near the level of the other Trappist breweries, I’ll be a happy camper. The world is plenty big enough for more Trappist breweries…even ones from France. I think that’s the reason Doc asked for our opinion…if another Trappist brewery was opening in Belgium, it would be no big deal…but France? The French wouldn’t know a good beer if it bit them in the culottes, right?

Contrary to popular belief, the French DO make good beer. Sure, they’re mostly known for wine and over-priced vodka, but France makes some very high-quality brews as well. The country shares borders with Belgium and Germany after all…SOME of that brewing knowledge must have leaked across the Maginot line from time to time. The French even invented an excellent style of beer…the Bière de Garde (which is like a darker, sweeter, fruitier Belgian Pale Ale). For a beautiful example of the style, grab a bottle of 3 Monts from the French brewery Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre (a beer Doc turned me onto back in our days behind the counter of a Beacon Hill liquor store).

So ignore my false indignation over this new development. I am, in fact, quite excited about Mont des Cats. First, as I’ve noted, the French actually DO know a thing or two about good beer. Second, the brothers from Chimay are helping Mont des Cats get their brewing operations off the ground. Third, the Chimay brothers actually developed the recipe for the beer themselves AND will be brewing it in Belgium for a few months until it’s perfected. Add all that up, and I’m fairly certain that I’ll be snapping up some bottles of Mont des Cats once they make their way stateside.

There is one little issue though…they HAVE to do something about that name. Mont des Cats? What is that? Mountain of Cats? Who would want to associate their beer with a mewling, hissing pile of cats so large that it constitutes an entire mountain? Aleheads, can you come up with some better names for France’s first Trappist ale? Pepé Le Brew? Beret Blonde? Je Suis Un Ananas Ale? Help our French brothers out, s’il vous plaît.

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6 comments

  1. From wiki:

    The name has nothing to do with cats, but is derived from the name of a Germanic tribe known as Chatti (French: Chattes; Dutch; Chatten), living in the area after the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century). The Dutch name is supposed to be also the root for the name of the town Katwijk.

  2. 5 of the top 10 beers in France on RateBeer are Ciders. I think that speaks volumes.

    http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/country/france/72/

  3. Woh Barley, did you just make a reference from Tele Francais at the end of your post?

  4. There are some wonderful artisan breweries in France, thankfully they have the same approach as the really good wine producers – keep the good stuff and sell the shite abroad to people who pretend to know better. Whenever I get to my parents hamlet in the Haute Vienne, task one is to stock up from the 9 artisan brewers within a 40km radius of their house, task 2 is to settle in for many days merry imbibing.

  5. @Velky Al- that’s interesting…. what kind of selection do you have in terms of styles?

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