Fire at the Rochefort Trappist Brewery

Beer has been around since the dawn of history. Interestingly, several breweries still in operation have an immensely long history. Take the Rochefort Trappist abbey in St Remy-Rochefort for example. The abbey has brewed beer for almost 400 years and has become well known for its dark, rich brews (particularly for their Trappistes Rochefort 6, 8 and 10). Of course, the abbey has faced numerous threats during its long history, particularly from the threat of fire. It has been damaged by fire four times in its past with the most recent of which was in December of 2010.

This recent fire seems to have started in a building holding the abbey’s generators. The heavy snowfall and ice during December 2010 caused problems with power delivery, forcing the abbey to rely on their own power production methods to keep the brewery running. Battling the blaze took 70 firefighters several hours but it ended as happily as it could. None of the monks in the abbey were harmed (they were all evacuated safely), the library onsite remained intact and the brewery itself was also largely undamaged. Thankfully no beers were harmed; thank God (no pun intended).

The Rochefort Trappist brewery has actually been destroyed on two occasions in its storied career. The first time was in 1650, when the troops of Lorraine overran it. The second time was during the French Revolution. However, the abbey has always risen from the ashes of such events. Today, it’s one of just a few remaining breweries that produce Trappist beer in the world. This brewing style is considered one of the most exquisite in the world of beer and the St Remy-Rochefort abbey produces one of the strongest beers in the style, coming in at 12% alcohol.

What exactly is a “Trappist” beer? In order to be considered a Trappist beer, the beer has to be brewed inside a Trappist abbey. The abbey must be actively controlled by Trappist monks as well. In addition, the goal of the brewery must be community assistance, rather than a traditional for-profit model. There are only a handful of Trappist breweries still in existence, most of which are located in Belgium (where Rochefort can be found). There is one other abbey in Germany and one in the Netherlands. All but two of these were founded before the 1900s, though the Brasserie d’Orval and the Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis were founded in 1931 and 1998 respectively.