First UK Trappist beer unveiled by Mount St Bernard Abbey

By James Beeson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Quintessentially English: Tynt Meadow is an English Trappist Ale with aromas of chocolate, liquorice and fruit
Quintessentially English: Tynt Meadow is an English Trappist Ale with aromas of chocolate, liquorice and fruit
A group of Cistercian monks have officially unveiled the first Trappist ale to be brewed in the UK, ahead of its release to the trade next month.

Brewed by the monks at the Mount St Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire, according to the monastic tradition set out by the International Trappist Association, the beer will be distributed in the UK by James Clay from 9 July, as well as being sold at the on-site shop at the abbey.

The abbey’s accreditation by the International Trappist Association was approved earlier this year and Mount St Bernard has now become the 12th Trappist brewery in the world. The abbey brewed for the first time in March of this year, and has this week revealed its first beer.

The beer takes its name from Tynt Meadow, a nearby field in which the monks of St Bernard originally settled upon arriving in Leicestershire in 1835 and is brewed using an English strain of yeast and English barley and hops. It is twice fermented, with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle.

With an ABV of 7.4%, Tynt Meadow is described as an English Trappist Ale with aromas of dark chocolate, liquorice and rich fruit. It is full-bodied and balanced. On the palate are flavours of chocolate, pepper and fig, and a lingering boozy finish.

Mount St Bernard, where the beer is brewed by a group of Cistercian monks
Mount St Bernard, where the beer is brewed by a group of Cistercian monks
Father Erik Varden, Abbot of Mount St Bernard
Father Erik Varden, Abbot of Mount St Bernard
The monks farm was no longer sustainable, so they began brewing
The monks farm was no longer sustainable, so they began brewing

Monastic tradition

“At the first meeting we had with the International Trappist Association pretty much everyone said: ‘Don't brew a Belgian imitation beer, make something that draws on local tradition',” explained Father Erik Varden, abbot of Mount St Bernard. “So we did a lot of highly scientific tasting to decide which kind of beers we liked.

“We decided early on that we wanted to make something fairly strong and dark, and then we simply tried to make the different beer styles we enjoyed in Father Michael's little proto brewery, and came up with something we are happy with and we hope that you will enjoy.”

Profits from the sales of the beer will be used to maintain the abbey and the monk’s way of life, as the Trappist association dictates. An authentic Trappist product must be produced within the walls or in the vicinity of the monastery; in accordance with the direction of the community and in accordance with their rule; and for the benefit of the community and/or their social work.

The name ‘Trappist’ originates from the La Trappe Abbey, in Soligny-la-Trappe, Normandy, France, where a movement broke away from the Cistercian Order in the 17th century. Today, various Trappist monasteries around the world produce products as varied as wine, beer, oil, bread, honey, cheese and cosmetics.

Prior to Mount St Bernard Abbey, there were 11 breweries in the world producing Trappist beer. Eight of these are based in Belgium and the Netherlands, while the remaining three hail from Austria, the US and Italy.

Our view - An historic moment for UK beer

Despite the UK’s rich brewing heritage and tradition, the secrecy and intrigue surrounding Trappist brewing has always been a source of great excitement among British beer drinkers. This historic moment, which sees the UK join an elite club of countries that can lay claim to having an authentic Trappist beer, has rightly generated a significant buzz in the industry.

The monks of Mount St Bernard have been unsurprisingly coy about their new brewery project, details of which have been few and far between. Even now, with the beer officially revealed to the public, head brewer Father Michael would not reveal which hops or strain of yeast were used in its production. The monks insist the beer is not ‘a Belgian imitation’, and although it shares some of the characteristics of other Trappist Ales, Tynt Meadow is distinctly English in both its name, design and flavour profile.

Securing the distribution rights to Tynt Meadow is quite a coup for James Clay, and tops a productive couple of months for the distributor, following its acquisition of Beer Direct.​ The novelty factor of the beer will ensure strong initial sales, and there will likely be quite a clamour as specialist bars, pubs and shops seek to secure the limited stock.  

The idea for setting up the brewery within the abbey walls has been almost five years in the making, and came about after the monks realised they could no longer continue to fund the upkeep of the monastery through dairy farming.

“We are ordinary people living an ordinary life, but for an extraordinary reason in an extraordinary setting,” explained Father Erik. “However, we don't receive any financial support from any institution outside of ourselves. People sometimes assume we get coffers of gold sent to us from Rome and that is unfortunately not the case. So a monastery will always have to find a way of earning its own subsistence."

The German brewkit can produce 2,000 litres in one batch
The German brewkit can produce 2,000 litres in one batch
Father Michael is the head brewer of the beer
Father Michael is the head brewer of the beer
The beer is being distributed by James Clay
The beer is being distributed by James Clay

Communal activity

Father Erik continued: “Cistercians have always been farmers, and our abbey has always been a dairy farm, which we continued to do until 2014. But we reached a point where we started asking serious questions about the viability of the farm, and we needed to make some fairly heavy investments to carry on. The work was very heavy and the reward was minimal and we deemed it would be irresponsible to continue.

“After a long process of deliberation we closed down the farm, but we needed something to replace it with, both as a source of income, and to enable us to maintain our engagements in charitable work.

The monks reached out to their brothers across Europe for advice on the tradition of Trappist brewing, as well as several local breweries, before starting to perfect the recipe for Tynt Meadow on their own 20hl kit from Germany.  

“We wanted to have a sphere of work that would unite many of us in a single project,” Father Erik added. “Something we could all do together as a community. Various possibilities were on the drawing table, and brewing was there pretty much from the beginning.”

Around the world - the 12 accredited Trappist breweries

Achel Brewery (Belgium)
Brasserie de Chimay (Belgium)
Brasserie de Rochefort (Belgium)
Brasserie d'Orval (Belgium)
Brouwerij Westvleteren (Belgium)
De Kievit Trappist Brewery (Netherlands)
Engelszell Abbey (Austria)
La Trappe Brewery (Netherlands)
Mount St Bernard, Tynt Meadow (UK)
Spencer Brewery (USA)
Tre Fontane Abbey (Italy)
Westmalle Brewery (Belgium)

The beer will be distributed by James Clay into a number of specialist UK bars and bottle shops in the coming weeks, at a price to be determined by the individual retailer in question.

“This is a huge milestone for domestic beer and we are really excited to be working with our friends at Mount St Bernard Abbey to bring Tynt Meadow to consumers,” said Mike Watson, head of marketing at James Clay. “It’s a really special and unique beer that fans of Trappist beer will fall in love with.”

“We currently distribute a number of other European Trappist beers, all of which are highly regarded among our clients, and we think Tynt Meadow will have the same positive impact.”

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