Last winter the Wandering Kiwis made a lunch stop on our Netherlands road trip at the Abbey of Koningshoeven. As I mentioned in my previous post, this is the only Trappiste brewery in the Netherlands and we were keen to add it to our collection of Trappiste monasteries visited (there are only seven in Europe and we have already been to three in Belgium – Rochfort, Orval and Chimay).
Ever since our visit last year I had been salivating at the thought of eating and drinking at the cosy Koningshoeven restaurant again. The delicious food and beer tasting selection were just as good the second time around. Since I had just done a brilliant Eating Europe foodie tour of the Jordaan district in Amsterdam I was quick to order my new favourite beer-accompanying snack bitte bollen! This time we were sure to time our visit so that we could attend one of the tours of the abbey brewery itself.
Koningshoeven means King’s Farm and that is because the land once belonged to King William II. In 1891 it was passed over to a group of Benedictine Trappiste monks who had fled anti-clerical France and come to the Netherlands because of its history of accepting refugees.
The land needed a lot of work to bring it into successful production and Brother Isidor decided to start a brewery using the traditional brewing processes of Trappiste monasteries. The 150-metre-deep well was dug to provide water that is so important to achieve the quintessential La Trappe flavour.
Nowadays La Trappe is of course a modern production facility but the monks keep a close overseeing eye on the whole process. Otherwise it would not be Trappiste beer! Apparently on Sundays the residents of Koningshoeven carefully check the quality of the brewery’s output. And every day is Sunday in Konigshoeven…
The group tour costs only 10 euros and after a short film about the history and life of the monks at Koningshoeven, a charming guide takes you through the doors into the brewhouse. We got to see the old bakery and the (snow-covered) kitchen gardens, the different parts of the brewing process and the bottling room.
At La Trappe they still use entirely authentic, natural ingredients, including local hops and grains, and organic as much as possible. They recycle residual by-products of the process and have cut back water and energy consumption, particularly with the use of solar panels and electric vehicles. So much for stuffy, old-fashioned monks!
There are no less than seven beers available to taste in the restaurant. The blonde is probably the most authentic of the La Trappe beers; very soft and friendly. There is a sweet dubel and then a tripel, which is the perennial favourite of visiting Belgians. Then there is the quadruple, the emperor of beers. L’Isidor is named for the brother who first started brewing here at Konigshoeven. There is also a delicious wheat beer – the only Trappiste wheat beer.
A recent development that will bring joy to the heart of true beer enthusiasts is the reinstatement of oak barrel maturation of beers!
Indeed this is beer production with a heart. Konigshoeven was recently given an award for being entrepreneurs with high level of social responsibility. They do charity work in their local community and offer disabled people work in their packaging operation. Profits from the brewery go to an international charity project in Uganda.
The life of the monks here revolves around work, prayer and silence. They live their lives according to ancient rules and you can taste all three in their La Trappe beer. Perhaps we are all of us looking for a little tranquillity and contemplation…
By Natasha von Geldern
I travelled to the Netherlands (and Belgium) from the United Kingdom by ferry with StenaLine – I travelled to Belgium and the Netherlands in comfort on a Stena Line ferry – right to the Hook of Holland with our car ready to start a marvellous road trip of the ‘Low Countries’.