Rochefort (abbey Our Lady of St Rémy)

- History of the abbey - the brewery (1/2)

Brewing has been going on for a very long time at the abbey of Rochefort. The oldest documents mentioning the manufacture of beer among the practical activities of the monks go back to 1595. At that time, the brewery was only one part of the important farm exploited by the community. In addition to barley, the monks also cultivated hops. The French Revolution drove out the brothers, and the brewery did not survive them.

Back in Rochefort in 1887, the monks waited until 1899 and the end of the period of rebuilding to reinstall a small brewery which has operated since that time without interruption. This is truly remarkable! Neither the two World Wars, nor the total transformation of the brewery, stopped the manufacture of the Trappist beers of Rochefort.

The brewery was started by brother Zozime Jansen, formerly brewer at Oosterhout in the Netherlands. The conditions of starting were very modest: some used bottles were washed within the wash-house, and a wooden mallet was used to cork the bottles, which were then distributed to the monks according to needs of the community. After a while, a bottle washer and a racking machine equipped with four nozzles were acquired, which made it possible to increase the productivity and to empty a barrel of 600 liters in an hour and a half.

During the First World War, brother Paulin Cattoir directed the brewery after having been taught by Mr. Pirlot, the brewer at the nearby village of Lessive. Because of errors of manufacture, he was removed from the brewery for a time, replaced by his younger brother. When the brother died in 1941, Brother Paulin started brewing again. But the many restrictions made brewing conditions difficult, and the beer registered only a small 0,8% alc. level. Only a speciality of 5° was authorized in exceptional circumstances and was named “Beer of the Patients”. At the liberation, a special “Liberator” beer was produced, at 2% alc. At that time, the strong beer (5%) was selling well, but not enough to make the production take off, because the abbey restricted itself voluntarily and put its priorities elsewhere.

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