A couple days ago, you may have noticed certain people had a black cross tattooed across their foreheads. You may have chuckled a bit at such foolishness, but not at me. Because I didn’t go to the mass? No. I happened to grow up in a part of Phoenix where a large number of kids at school were going to ask me what’s with the cross on the forehead? Between the popped collar crowd and, well–(((them))), it was a conversation that got old fast.
While I went to mass, I decided I didn’t need the whole world to know I did. I had the good sense to wash it off when I got to work. If I’m going to burn in Hell, let’s be real, it’s not going to be for that.
This is my review of The Bosteels Brasserie Tripel Farmelier.
Here, I will explain what I preferred not to explain before. Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent. Lent is not supposed to be be some form of medieval self punishment. Unless you want it to be, in which case I leave you here with this guy.
For everyone else, it’s simply a time for prayer and fasting. The word itself is derived from the Middle English word Lenten, which means springtime. The days after all, are lengthening this time of year–get it? Its origin as a time for spiritual renewal was brought about by the tradition of baptizing Catechumens on the Saturday before Easter. Now you know why I never go to Easter Saturday mass, because its three hours long and. It. Takes. Forever…..to watch these people get dunked.
The fasting part was something that developed during the 4th century AD (…or CE) and was typically observed by monks. It might seem like a convenient time to go without eating anything given the abbey was probably running out of food by the end of the winter, but the time of year the fast begins has been as early as January. This time in history is also when it became linked with the traditional 40 days. No one is really certain how Ash Wednesday became recognized as the start of Lent, but for our purposes it is when it is observed. The fast part is now observed by Catholics “giving up” something. There are some theological origins to this, such as the story found in Luke 4:1 to 4:13, but the fast is now more or less observed by going without something. Whether that be something trivial like chocolate, or something more of a challenge like bread, eggs, or milk, its up to the individual. After all, even the monks did not starve themselves. They stayed alive by drinking beer.
By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, this is all relevant because I give up beer for lent. Every year. That and meat, because you’re not supposed to eat meat on Friday and quite frankly I screw that up at breakfast so I just make everyday Friday.
The beer we now associate with these monks originates around the 11th century AD (…fine, CE) with the Order of Cistercian Monks.
The Order of Cistercians was founded in 1098 when monks from the Benedictine abbey of Molesme left to form their own monastery in nearby Citeaux, France (Cistercium in Latin), feeling that things were too lax in Molesme. They wished to return to a more strict adherence of the teachings of St. Benedict.
That sounds familiar. Apparently, the Benedictines of Molesme at the time were the Nick Gillespie of Benedictine Monks.
Word got around of these monks who valued the fruits of hard labor and austerity. The nobility at the time began to offer the Cistercians undeveloped tracts of land, knowing they were capable of turning the wild into hubs of social and economic activity. 200 years later, at the peak of their influence, there were over 300 Cistercian sects across Europe. Benedict XII was a Cistercian. It is during this time, the Trappist Ale became associated with Catholic monks.
It is also during this time the naming convention for Belgian Ales were coined. The Cistercians did not discover it, but by then it was well known that by “washing” the wort a number of times they were able to create multiple ales of varying strength from a single batch of wort.
This was first discovered (documented) by the Jesuit brewers who offered a 5% to travelers and used the 2.5% second run beer for themselves. The next big step came when they realized that people would pay a lot more for a stronger beer, more than the cost of the extra grain. This allowed even bigger beers with more runnings. The first runoff would be the richest and brew the best beer. The second would be next best, and the final running would be the weakest. Again, the first would go to the guests and be sold to help maintain the abbey. The second would be for the monk’s use. The last runnings would be for the poor. This is also the likely origin for terms “single,” “double,” “triple,” and “quadruple.”
This allowed the monks to engage in the abbey’s other function: hospitality. Because grapes are not easily grown in Belgium and a law in the early 20th century that outlawed liquor, strong beer became commonplace. The monasteries were no longer the only ones producing Trappist ales. So if it matters to you, if the bottle bears this mark, it was made in a monastery:
Which is good to know, because after a thousand years the patent runs out. This one, made in Canada however, was just as good.
The Trappist Ale is a wheat based variety, but has more of a sour, citrus like taste. There is substantial body to this type of beer, which in a way is quite satisfying, if this is the only sustenance you had that day. Neither of these bear the mark, which is why I mentioned Chimay a short time ago–which does.
I had the Rouge, which was the last for me until Good Friday. Until then, everything I write has been in a sense, pregamed. Enjoy. The Bosteels Brasserie Tripel Farmelier 4.0/5.