Trappist Monks – A World Disconnected from the Digitalized Era

The average person receives about 120 notifications each day, not including emails or spam. In addition to that, we are exposed to thousands of ads each day. Digitalization enables so many brilliant things but I am not going to write about it here. Instead, if you still find yourself irrationally retrogressive from time to time like I do, I hope this piece will bring you some comfort in the fact that some things never change. 

A group not known for their ever-changing field and speed are monks. The Trappist order, or the ‘Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance’ to be precise, is a roman-catholic order originating from the Cistercians which took form in France in 1098. The Trappists stand out for their strict lifestyle with sustained fast and silence; they even made a vow of silence.

Somewhere along the way the Cistercians, and later the Trappists, began brewing beer, and not just any beer. Trappist beer is well known among beer enthusiasts since beers approved by the International Trappist Association ensure a high standard. Even though there are no direct guidelines for the character of Trappist beer it tends to be top fermented and have a big amount of malt. Some brands further enrichen the flavour by adding herbs and spices.

The Trappists are a self-sufficient order and the monasteries provide in different ways. In the 1880s an abbey (and now also brewery) in Tilburg in the Netherlands ran the monastery with help from agriculture. Fortunately, the agriculture was unsuccessful and abbot Nivardus Schewkar, like any other businessman with an unsuccessful business, decided to make a change. This led to abbot Schewkar sending monk Isidorus Laaber to Munich in order to learn about the art of brewery. Thanks to the misfortune in agriculture in Tilburg, the today, world famous La Trappe beer was founded in 1884. Although abbot Schewkar appears to be the hippest monk in the late 1800’s, the Trappists in Tilburg were quite late to the party. As per usual, the Belgians outdid everyone else in the beer industry.

Cistercian monks in Rochefort, Belgium, established their brewery in 1595. The surplus of the profits, after the basic need of the monastery has been seen to, is donated to charity. Once the brewery reaches a sufficient volume the production stays at this level, which partly explains the high price and inaccessibility of most Trappist beers. As the monks produce a product with a high demand, one may question why they don’t increase their production in order to be able to donate even more to charity. The answer is simply that the monks main goal is to keep the monastery maintained, not to achieve profit.

In addition to enriching the international beer scene, monks have historically dominated the alcohol production in general. Way back in in the Middle Ages, monks made herbal liqueur used in medicines. Herbal liqueur is still a highly appreciated beverage, even though the purpose of the drink has shifted, as it is a frequent ingredient in assorted drinks.

In a world where everything has to be as efficient, productive and digitalized as possible, one can find comfort in the fact that there are parts of the world that digitalization will never reach.


Lovisa Walldén Persson

Editor In Chief


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