The La Trappe Brewery, Monk Made Beer in the Netherlands

Entrance to the de Koningshoeven Trappist abbey of La Trappe, the La Trappe brewery

Whether you’re Christian or not, monk made beer is special, so special that many breweries make abbey style beers, passed off as the real deal when they’re not. There are only 8 Trappist monk breweries of the Cistercian order approved to sell beer with the official Trappist label. An additional 10 monasteries are approved to sell other Trappist products including spirits, cheeses, jams, biscuits and soaps which keep their monasteries self sufficient, as per the order of St. Benedict. Six of the Eight Trappist breweries are located in Belgium- Achel, Orval, Westmalle, Rochefort, Westvleteren and the most recognized, Chimay. While Bell and I were living in the Netherlands, we had the opportunity to visit the La Trappe brewery, the only monk made beer in the Netherlands. The Trappist order recently approved Engelszell in Austria just last year, in order to renovate their monastery, thanks to beer.

 

Sun light shines from the heavens into the beer on the terrace of the de Koningshoeven cafe, the La Trappe brewery

The De Koningshoeven brewery, makers of La Trappe is located near the town of Tilburg, in the southwest of the Netherlands, just a 15 minute drive from the Belgian border and about 1 and 1/2 hours from Amsterdam. Officially, the De Koningshoeven brewery lies in the village of Berkel-Enschot because Benedictine Monks aren’t really into setting up shop in the middle of a bustling town. The quiet property of the abbey Onze Lieve Vrouw (Our Beloved Lady) can be reached by public bus from Tilburg’s central train station in just 10 minutes. The buses do not run frequently though, only every two hours on weekends so check the times. If you just missed the bus you can easily rent a bicycle from the train station and be at the abbey quickly, barring you don’t get lost. And if you have a car, the abbey welcomes you with a free public parking lot.

 

Inside the de Koningshoeven monastery/brewery, the La Trappe brewery

Bell and I caught the bus from Tilburg’s central station as I did not want to drink and bike, a favorite pastime of the Dutch however. Reaching the large and peaceful abbey grounds is quite dramatic. The first thing that greets you is a castle looking brick gate with a marble statue of the Virgin Mary gazing down at you. Unfortunately you cannot enter through this gate. Instead you walk over a small wooden bridge that leads you through a side entrance of the abbey. Once you have entered the abbey grounds you are immediately greeted by the La Trappe gift shop.

 

La Trappe gift shop, the La Trappe brewery

The La Trappe gift shop is probably where you will encounter the only monk during your visit to the abbey. One monk regularly works behind the register, but the monks generally prefer to work away from their guests, in silence. The La Trappe cafe and brewery tour are operated by hired workers who are not monks. In the gift shop you can purchase all the La Trappe beers in small and large bottles. But the gift shop houses many more goodies asides from beer. Here you can find Trappist cheeses, liqueurs and chocolates among many delicious treats that are difficult to find outside the abbey. You can also purchase La Trappe bar towels, and Trappist soap and face wash gift bags. Of course you can buy La Trappe beer glasses too, just know that you will receive a free glass after your brewery tour, to be picked up back in the gift shop.

Many styles of La Trappe in the abbey's gift shop

La Trappe is the only Trappist brewery that allows you to regularly tour their facilities from April-October and one of the few where you can enjoy a bar and restaurant within the abbey walls. Summer is the best time to visit De Koningshoeven as you can sit on their spacious patio consisting of about 20 large wooden tables. The inside seating area is also quite spacious and nice, it is sparsely decorated but has a modern rustic feel that is wonderful to enjoy when the weather outside isn’t agreeable.

 

The outside terrace of the La Trappe cafe, the La Trappe brewery

The abbey bar serves all 9 La Trappe beers currently being brewed, most of which can be purchased on draft as well. This is also by far the biggest selection of beers any Trappist brewery offers. Their lunch menu has a wide variety of items including Trappist cheeses, soups, salads, sandwiches and several hot meals. When we went I had shrimp croquettes with salad. Bell’s meal was quite diverse and included tomato meatball soup, a small salad, 2 types of Trappist cheeses on 3 slices of buttered bread, and sliced ham with a fried egg. It was a lot of food and a better dish than the shrimp croquettes.

 

Menu and La Trappe Tripel golden bier, the La Trappe brewery
 

Bell enjoys a meal and a delicious beer in the cafe of the de Koningshoeven monastery, the La Trappe brewery

After lunch and a few delicious beers it was time for our 3:30pm tour. The brewery and abbey grounds tour costs 10 euro but not only includes a beer glass, but a free beer of your choice when the tour is over. The tours are only conducted in Dutch and Bell and I were the only non-Dutch people in attendance that day. Despite how commercial the brewery is, it was nice not having the tour bombarded with other foreign tourists. And our friendly Dutch guide provided us with an English printout explaining most of what he was discussing on the tour. He even addressed a few important highlights in English, just for Bell and I.

 

the La Trappe brewery tour, Dutch guide
 

Old La Trappe bottles on display in the brewery of the monastery

During the 45 minute tour, you not only see La Trappe beer vats and the bottling/distribution warehouse but you also see the lovely abbey garden and the old bakery. Unfortunately the production line was not bottling beer on the day we visited as it’s always exciting to see an army of beers zipping around a conveyor belt. The gigantic stacks of La Trappe crates certainly warranted a big thumbs up though!

 

Stacks of La Trappe beer crates wait to be distributed outside the monastery
 

Inside arches of the La Trappe brewery

An added bonus of supporting any Trappist beer is that additional revenue not used to sustain the monastery goes towards other charitable endeavors,  Trappist monks do not seek to purchase yachts, therefore they don’t accumulate wealth off the sale of their beer.
We have been on a lot of brewery tours but the De Koningshoeven brewery is the best we have experienced for a beautiful day out. And barring you haven’t royally rocked the boat, you don’t have to worry about being restricted in beer consumption like you are at some breweries. The Monks might be quiet and pious but they’re obviously pretty cool.

 

Drinking La Trappe beers on the cafe's outdoor patio

We didn’t book ahead but according to the La Trappe website you should. All the details are listed below. Additionally, the monastery now offers cycling tours of the area as well!
Regular excursions, (from 1 person) 
Monday to Thursday(only during the summer period, April to October)
At 2pm.

Fridays at 2pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 1.30pm and 3.30pm

Tasting Room and excursions
c/o Bierbrouwerij de Koningshoeven B.V.
Eindhovenseweg 3
Berkel-Enschot
PO Box 394
5000 AJ Tilburg, the Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0)13 572 26 50
Fax: +31 (0)13 543 74 72

proeflokaal@latrappe.nl

 

De Koningshoeven brewery's majestic exit

11 thoughts on “The La Trappe Brewery, Monk Made Beer in the Netherlands

  1. I love the beer and I did not know that Rochefort cheese was from the Trappist monks, it is a wonderful cheese!!!

    1. Most of the Trappist beers are pretty good! I really want to try the Austrian one but their new brewery is very small so hard to get outside the area apparently….Actually, Roquefort is a region in France so that blue cheese isn’t associated with the Rochefort monastery (who probably makes their own cheese too though :)).

      1. The Austrian Engelszell is really nice so do try it if you have the opportunity. I tried it at Monk’s in Stockholm. Expensive but well worth it!

        1. Thank you for the tip Jenny! Yes the Engelszell is a tasty and unique beer. We love the story that the brewery recently starting brewing this beer thanks to the help of a local brewer who lent a hand in teaching them to brew beer to keep the monastery’s doors open. We were really lucky to find Engelszell in Dublin, in a bottle shop called Redmond’s of Ranelagh. Love the real honey added to the beer, made from bee hives on the monastery 🙂

  2. Not sure about fake Trappist beers…In my college days in Florida I was just concerned what was the cheapest special: Bud, Coors, Michelob or Miller!

  3. I don’t think that I can get the Bockbier here in the “greater DC metro area” (i.e., Maryland). Just got a case of the Tripel ordered special from the liquor store down the street. La Trappe is my absolute favorite. Prefer the tripel, though I am currently enjoying a 750 of the Quadrupel.

    1. Hey Frank. Thanks for swinging by and sharing La Trappe’s availability in your area 🙂 We haven’t lived in the States for awhile and when I go home to Florida for a visit I normally don’t seek out the European beers so I don’t know about the bock bier down there (guessing hard to find). Here in Ireland La Trappe is quite a bit more expensive because alcohol taxes are also higher. The Quad and Tripel are a little easier to find but I think in Ireland we can also get the bock. Will have to double check now that you brought this up!

    1. Hi Danny, thanks for reading and for the comment! Aside from the monastery/brewery, La Trappe was a great beer to pick up from Albert Heijn or one of the other grocery stores for picnics along a canal in Amsterdam or another cute Dutch town. When we first moved to Amsterdam in 2008 the grocery stores shockingly sold ZERO cold beer (eventually refrigerators with Heineken Cold popped up in the stores around 2010). But Trappist beers commonly found in the store, like La Trappe Dubbel or WestMalle Tripel (my Albert Heijn favorite) meant you could organise a great last minute picnic on a warm summers eve with fresh bread, nice cheese and sausage and delicious beer that tastes good without being freezing cold. Hope you enjoyed your time in the NL, cheers to you too! 🙂

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