St Benedictus Abdij - Achel

- History of the brewery : death and rebirth - 2/2

During the first world war, the abbey came under German fire and the monks were obliged to leave. They decided to live in huts that were nearby. A German decree of seizure of tin and copper lead to the dismantling of the brewery, whose material, of a declared weight of 725 kg, was dismounted and dispatched in Vivegnis in the province of Liege.

Once the war was over, the abbey asked for a case of war damages to the ministry of war, in order to renovate the convent and to restore the brewery. However, this request did not succeed, the convent having been put in the name of two Dutch monks. The case lasted until 1925, but the means necessary to rebuild the brewery were not forthcoming, so the project of restoration was abandoned.

More than 80 years passed before a new brewery re-appeared. Founded in September 1998, Achel constitutes the sixth authentic Belgian Trappist brewery.

Meanwhile, the monks of Saint Benedict had contracted with various Belgian breweries to produce their beers. Thus the brewery De Kluis in Hoegaarden, then directed by Pierre Celis, produced a “Trappistenbier De Achelse Kluis,” soon renamed “Sint Benedict - trappisten abdij.” When the brewery De Kluis burned in 1985, the production was taken by Sterkens in Meer, which brewed a “Kluyserbier Achel.” The brewery De Teut in Neerpelt brewed the Saint Benedict beer from 1991 to 1995.

In 1998, the monks decided to restart the production. Tests were then carried out on several types of beer, initially 2 blonds and 1 brown, of different strengths: 4% and 6%. The first beers were available only on draught, and no bottling was planned at the beginning of the brewery. Brother Thomas, the famous brewer of Westmalle, designed the first “outlines” of the beers of Achel. Brother Antoine (the former brewer of Rochefort), being then retired in the abbey of Achel, took over to help the project along, and also to develop and improve the range of beers.

Today, after various evolutions of the range of beers, one can find a draught brown beer of 5% alc, a draught blond of 5%, a triple of 8% alc (refermented in the bottle), and a bottled brown beer of 8%. Occasionally, a stronger brown ale of approximately 9% is also brewed. The brewery St Josef in Oppiter helped for the bottling of blond beer. Beers of Achel are now (2005) bottled in the brewery Bios-Van Steenberge in Ertvelde.

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