The Abdij Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningshoeven (Our Lady of Koningshoeven Abbey (Notre Dame Abbey, Koningshoeven)) (www.koningshoeven.nl), is a Trappist Monastery, in Berkel-Enschot, near Tilburg, in the Dutch Province of North Brabant (Noord-Brabant). Within the walls of this Monastery, there is a brewery, a Trappist Brewery, that produces "Authentic Trappist Products", i.e. the "La Trappe" range of Trappist Beers. The photo on the left shows yours truly, John White, in the Monastery, with its Abbot, Dom Bernardus Peeters (1968-). In the photo on the right, I am with Thijs Thijssen, the General Manager of the brewery, in its bar. The photos were taken in January, 2006, by world-renowned beer writer, Roger Protz (1939-) (www.beer-pages.com), on the occasion of a visit, to the Monastery and its brewery, by myself and Roger.
The Abdij Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningshoeven Trappist Monastery and its Trappist Brewery:
The photo, above left, of De Koningshoeven's former copper (brew kettle) and the one, above right, of the new brew house (from left to right, the lauter tun, brew kettle and mash tun, with the whirlpool in another room), were taken by John White, in January, 2006. There is another photo of the old brew house, when it was still in operation, below. I first visited this most impressive of breweries in 1994 and 1995 with groups of White Beer Travels Beer Hunters. Like myself, they loved the place and its beers.
La Trappe beers are also available outside The Netherlands, for example, in the outstanding Wenlock Arms, in London (26 Wenlock Road (corner Sturt Street), tel 020 7608 3406, www.wenlock-arms.co.uk, GPS: 51.531663o N, 0.093902o W), which has La Trappe Tripel on draught, and superb it is, too. A possible subconscious reason for such a long time between visits was that the place's brewery has undeservedly been under a cloud for a few years, but this all changed in October, 2005, when there was some wonderful news concerning the place; it prompted me to knock up this Web page and organise the January, 2006 visit.
In 1999, the brewery removed the Authentic Trappist Product logo from its La Trappe range of beers. It was rumoured that Pope John Paul II (Papa Giovanni Paulo II) (Karol Wojtyla) (1920-2005) was involved in the decision, but this was not the case, although the General Abbot and his council of the Trappist Order, which is based in The Vatican, in Rome, were involved. This followed the Monastery's decision to allow The Netherlands' second largest brewer, Bavaria (www.bavaria.nl), to become involved in the brewery within the Monastery. To explain the reason for engaging in this partnership, the following was posted on the Monastery's website: "Because of the increasing competition in the speciality beer market and to create optimal conditions to give La Trappe optimal attention, in early 1999 the Monks and management of the brewery started looking for a partner. Condition for an agreement was that the partner respected the tradition, recipes and authenticity of the brewery. Bavaria Brewery, in Lieshout, met these requirements and, in April, 1999, an agreement was signed. The monks of Koningshoeven remain brand owner of La Trappe and control the brewing process". Despite its size, Bavaria is actually still owned by members of the Swinkels family, this being a particularly important consideration when the Monastery chose a company to get involved with. It also helped that Bavaria is based in the same Dutch Province as the Monastery, North Brabant, i.e. Bavaria's headquarters and main brewery is in the town of Lieshout, a few kilometres/miles to the NE of Eindhoven.
Throughout the period that De Koningshoeven was not able to use the Authentic Trappist Product logo, it remained on the executive board of the ITA, and thus continued to attend its regular meetings, De Koningshoeven's representative being Broeder Bernardus, in his capacity as the Director of the Brewery. To win back the logo, he first had to convince other members of the ITA that the Monastery had not actually sold the Monastery's brewery to Bavaria, and over the years, after listening to what the other members of the board had to say, the relationship with Bavaria was modified, such that the position of the Monastery was stronger, and it was clarified, to the satisfaction of the ITA, and approved by three external assessors, i.e. Bavaria provide brewery personnel; they handle advertising and distribution; and they have the right to use the brewery's spare capacity. The latter is something that Bavaria does by no means over-exploit, for example, in 2004, only 45,000 hectolitres of the brewery's 145,000 hectolitre capacity was used. Monks can and do whatever beer-related work that is practical, such as packing beer into the presentation packs that are sold in the Monastery's shop (which is manned by a monk). Note that, although marketing and export are the responsibility of Bavaria, these are carried out independently from the same functions for Bavaria's own products. The Monastery also has to approve advertising methods, new bottle labels, raw materials used, etc, etc. Note that although the Monastery has nineteen monks (March, 2006), it can be quite difficult for any of them to do significant work in the brewery, since there are scheduled times for prayer and the attendance of religious services, which would often conflict with work required in the brewery. The important thing is that the Monastery is responsible for the recipes, beer quality, etc, which is the case at De Koningshoeven, despite the presence of Bavaria. The monastery also owns the buildings housing the brewery and al the equipment and facilities within it, this including investments carried out following the partnership with Bavaria, such as a new bottling plant and a new warm room, which are covered below. Dom Bernardus said that the outside world in general has a rather romantic view of Trappist Breweries, i.e. they have a picture in their mind of monks being involved in every aspect of the brewing process, and, indeed, former La Trappe publicity material had a monk standing in front of traditional copper brewing vessels, with a glass of beer in his hand, as per the one on the old sign featured above. Dom Bernardus pointed out that only the brewery in the St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery, in Westvleteren, in Belgium is manned by monks and, thus, it could arguably be regarded as being the only true Trappist Brewery!
At a meeting in Brussels, on the 9th of September, 2005, the ITA agreed that the logo should be reinstated for the La Trappe range of beers from De Koningshoeven; a few weeks later, Broeder Bernardus Peeters, the Monastery's then Prior, the Director of the Brewery, issued a press release to this effect, which was also put on the Monastery's website, which stated that The International Trappist Association, after investigation, had come up with the view that whilst Bavaria continues to be involved in the running of the brewery within the Monastery, that there is sufficient involvement of members of the community of monks in the production of the La Trappe range of beers, to justify the reinstatement of the Authentic Trappist Product designation to these beers. An English version of the press release can be seen by clicking here; click here for a Dutch version. The spokespeople for the International Trappist Association are François de Harenne, from the Orval Trappist Monastery, and Mrs Anneke Benoit, who was formerly connected with the St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery. Note that on the 21st of December, 2005, Brother Bernardus became the Monastery's sixth Abbot, Dom Bernardus, taking over from Dom Korneel Vermeiren. Dom Bernardus was born Pascal Peeters, in Heerlen, in Dutch Limburg, which is close to Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), in Germany, and the Val-Dieu Cistercian Monastery, in the Belgian Province of Liège. He joined the Koningshoeven Monastery, straight after theological studies, in Tilburg, in 1986, specifically on August the 20th, this being the Saint's Day for the most revered name in the Cistercian Monastic Order (of which the Trappists are a sub-order): Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, see below. Bernard is Bernardus in Latin. Dom, which is short for the Latin Dominus (Lord Master), is a title for the Abbot of a Monastery used by the Benedictine Order (including derivatives such as the Cistercians and the Trappists) and the Carthusian Order. I noticed that Dom Bernardus still referred to himself as Broeder Bernardus after becoming the Abbot, so I asked him about this, during our visit in January, 2006; he explained that in Dutch, Dom means Stupid. Clearly Dom Bernardus is anything but Dom, c.f. the English Dumb! Initially on becoming Abbot, he retained the post of Director of the Brewery, but a successor will be appointed before May, 2006.
Bavaria, which produces everyday Pils, as well as Specialty Beers, such as Hooghe Bock, in its own brewery, has input significant know-how into the monastic brewery, and the quality of the La Trappe range has improved under its stewardship. As already stated, Thijs Thijssen is the brewery's General Manager (he was previously its Marketing Director); Thijs, who arrived at De Koningshoeven in 1999, reports both to the Monastery's Director of Brewing and to the MD of Bavaria. Four people from Bavaria are directly involved in actual brewing at De Koningshoeven, the Head Brewer being Joost van Beers.
Note also that, since 1999, additional beers have been produced in De Koningshoeven Brewery, some of which have become permanent additions to the portfolios of both De Koningshoeven and Bavaria. A Wheat Beer was added to the La Trappe range, Witte Trappist (5.5%), this being the first and only Trappist Wheat Beer in the world. Note that this is based on a beer that the Monastery brewed for a short time in the 1950s. In the early 1990s, De Koningshoeven also brewed a Wheat Beer for the Brouwerij Raaf, before this brewery in Heumen, Gelderland, closed in 1994: Raaf Witbier. Bavaria beers brewed within the Monastery following Bavaria's involvement with the Monastery include: Kroon Pilsener (5%); Kroon Oirschot's Wit (5%); Moreeke (5%), the latter being another original beer of Bavaria's; and Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale (5%) (www.tdba.nl) (a Bavaria beer, brewed initially for sale in the USA, but now also available in The Netherlands). The label for Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale incorporates a character from Hieronymus (Jheronimus) Bosch's most famous masterpiece, a triptych called "The Garden of Earthly Delights" (c. 1500), a reproduction of which is on the beer's website, along with a detailed analysis of it (click on the three sections of the triptych). Hieronymus Bosch, the inspiration for the 20th Century Surrealists, was born Jeroen (Jerome) van Aken (c. 1460-1516), quite close to the monastery, in the capital of the Province of North Brabant, the historic, ramparted city of 's-Hertogenbosch (which is also known as Den Bosch); the monastery is in the Diocese of 's-Hertogenbosch. In English, 's-Hertogenbosch is "The Duke's Wood", the Duke in question being Hendrik I, the Duke of Brabant, which, at the time covered a different area than it does today, see below. Clearly, Hieronymus took his second name from the city, which his family seems to have had a habit of, since "van Aken" means "from Aachen in [Germany]". This work of Bosch's was commissioned by Hendrik III (Henry III) (1483-1538) of the house of Nassau, see below, and was originally displayed in his palace in Brussels, but Philip II of Spain (1527-98) acquired it, such that today, it hangs in the Prado in Madrid. At this time, the four most important places in Brabant, were Brussels, Leuven Antwerp and 's-Hertogenbosch. In French, 's-Hertogenbosch is Bois-le-Duc, and was so named in Napoleonic times between 1810 and 1814, when it was the capital of the French Département of Bouches-du-Rhin (Mouth of the River Rhine).
There is a Brew Pub/Speciality Beer Bar, in "Bois-le-Duc", with a name that is pronounced in a similar way to it: the Café Bar le Duc, Korenbrugstraat 7, www.cafebarleduc.nl, which has over ninety bottled beers and a good selection of draught beers, that includes its own brews, of course. The brewery in the basement, the Stadsbrouwerij van Kollenburg, is covered in the place's website. Note that there is a town in Lorraine, in France, called Bar-le-Duc, the Dutch Café Bar le Duc having a road sign from the town in its bar! Next door to the Bar le Duc, Het Veulen (Korenbrugstraat 9a, tel 073 612 30 38) has around thirty bottled Specialty Beers and a number on draught.
De Kroon was a brewery in Oirschot that was taken over by Bavaria and then closed. However, the Kroon beers are now brewed in Bavaria's brewery in Lieshout. Oirschot's Wit is not the same beer as Witte Trappist, which, as can be seen, has a different ABV (Alcohol By Volume) to Oirschot's Wit. Note, however, that this beer is to be discontinued by Bavaria, who are to concentrate on promoting the La Trappe Wheat Beer. The Kroon beers are available in 't Arendsnest (www.arendsnest.nl, White Beer Travels Web page), a world-class bar, in Amsterdam, which, when it opened in 2000, was unique in that it was the only bar in the world that sold a significant number of Dutch Beers, and no other beers; it has beers from every Dutch brewery (there are around fifty-two); its pub sign is actually badged Kroon. Note that brewing has recommenced, with new equipment, in the building formerly occupied by De Kroon, in Oirschot, i.e. it is now home to the "Brouwerij Oirschots Bier" (www.oirschotsbier.nl), Koestraat 20. The brewer is Gerard de Kroon, who could not use his own surname in his brewery's name, as it is now a Bavaria brand name. Oirschot, like the Monastery, is on the number 141 bus route between Tilburg and Eindhoven, see below. The brewery can be visited.
Deeply involved in De Koningshoeven Brewery is Lodewijk Swinkels; Lodi is a member of the Swinkels family that own the Bavaria Brewery. Lodi oversees production at De Koningshoeven. He brings a marvellous portfolio of Speciality Beer experience to the Monastery. He was involved in the development of La Trappe Bock and Witte Trappist. He also has a product development role at Bavaria, where he developed Hooghe Bock (6.5%), the beer that replaced a Wheat Beer of Bavaria's, Tarwebok. Lodi was the Head Brewer at De Kroon, in Oirschot, and before that he was the brewer at the spectacular Oudaen Brew-Pub/Restaurant (www.oudaen.nl), in the Stadskasteel (Town's Castle), in Utrecht (Oudegracht 99), the building in which the famous 1713 Treaty of Utrecht was signed. Lodi studied at the famous Weihenstephan Brewing School (www.wzw.tum.de), in Freising, in Bavaria, which incorporates the world's oldest brewery (www.brauerei-weihenstephan.de).
Since 1992, it has readily been possible for the general public to visit the brewery and/or its bar. On brewery visits, the original mash tun, lauter tun and copper (brew kettle) are first seen, see the photo above, all made of copper, these now forming part of the Brewery Museum, as they are no longer in use. One is then shown their modern stainless steel replacements, which were supplied by Zieman, from Germany, in 1990, with associated computer-driven screens and control panels. This control scheme will be replaced in 2006, and the brew kettle will be modified making it more energy efficient, but it will also remove less protein from the wort, something which will significantly improve head retention in the final beer. Water for the mash is drawn from the Monastery's five, 200 metre deep wells. The Monastery claims that it is the purest water in North Brabant. The only treatment is filtration using the natural mineral, Kieselguhr, to remove iron. Spent grains from the mash tun are fed to the Monastery's herd of 660 bulls, the farm being its other main source of income. The warm room, where the secondary fermentation in bottle takes place, and the 1999 bottling plant, are also visited. These are featured in the above photos, which were taken by John White, in January, 2006. In the one on the left, the progress of the secondary fermentation of sample bottles of La Trappe Dubbel are being monitored with pressure gauges, the pressure being related to temperature, hence the thermometer in one of the bottles. A little sugar and yeast is added to the beer just before bottling, this producing carbon dioxide, which increases the pressure in the bottle, hence the pressure measurement to monitor the progress of a process which is favoured by the heat of the "Warm Room". Bottling Plant can be boring to some, but, at Koningshoeven, an attempt has been made to make the place more interesting, by having paintings on the walls, as per the photo, above right, which cover the history of the Trappist Order and Trappist Brewing.
Of course, the pressure gauges are part of quality control, but the real test comes in tasting the beers, and thus controlled tastings are carried out at the brewery each week, typically at 11am each Friday. Present at these tastings are brewery staff and members of the monastic community and appropriate visitors.
In 1991, the old open fermenters were replaced, as can be seen on visits, by four enclosed stainless steel cylindro-conical ones, supplied by Holvrieka, in Emmen, with engineering and automation by Alfa Laval. These can hold the beer from two brews; in 1994, four further fermenters were installed (three brew capacity). Oxygen is used at the start of fermentation to increase yeast activity. All the new equipment is installed in the building housing the original brewery.
From the 1st of April to the 31st of October, the bar is open every day, apart from Mondays, between 11am (Noon on Sundays) and 6pm. The shop opening times are given below. Scheduled visits to the brewery, which are called Excursies on the brewery's website (follow the Bezoek (Visit) link), take place at 1.30pm and 3pm, on Thursday to Saturday throughout the year. The bar is additionally open for people who have been on such visits, to coincide with these times. In January, 2006, visits cost €6.50 for adults, this including one beer and a "little present" (Presentje). These visits can be booked using the e-mail address on the website, or by phoning 013 572 26 50. Large groups can visit at different times, by arrangement. The contact is Berrie Verhagen, who can be seen in the photo, above right, which was taken in the brewery's bar, by John White, in January, 2006; note the monk on top of the beer dispense. Barrie typically conducts the public brewery visits, and a most amiable host he is. He gets into great detail, telling you for example that all Trappist Breweries have a cross on the wall of the brew house, but that the one in Koningshoeven is a little different, i.e. see the photo of it, above right, which was taken by John White, in January, 2006. The cross is by Camiel Potters and was unveiled at the official opening of the new brew house on the 26th of June, 1990.
Alongside the bar, there used to be a shop selling beer from the Monastery, and from the other Trappist monasteries in Belgium. This shop has now been closed and the separate Kloosterwinkel (Monastic Shop) near the entrance to the Monastery, which is manned by a Monk, has been significantly expanded to take its place. Many of the beers in this shop are attractively packaged; particularly appealing is an appropriately enamelled biscuit tin, inside which are La Trappe Beers. The shop also has glasses, Trappist Cheeses, enamelled bar wall plaques, monastic liqueurs, a Dutch/English interactive CD-ROM version of the film shown in the bar on visits, and various souvenirs, including T-Shirts and wooden carvings of monks. There is also the Monastery's own Bierlikeur, a 30% ABV Beer Liqueur produced by the distillation of La Trappe Dubbel, and the addition of Oranges, Orange and Lemon Peel, Honey and Vanilla. It is produced for the Monastery by Isidorus Jonkers in Tilburg. Note that the shop has different opening times to the bar, see above, and, significantly, it does not open on Sundays, which is a particularly popular day for visiting the bar. The shop is open on Tuesday to Saturday from 10.30am to 5.30pm in May until October, and, on the same days from 3pm until 5pm from November to April.
The shop is essentially part of the impressive gatehouse (Poortgebouw), through which one enters the Monastery, see the photo, above left, which like the one on its right, of the Monastery itself, was taken by John White, in January, 2006. The statue above the archway of the gatehouse, is of Mary, the "Our Lady" of the Monastery's name. Once through the gate, the splendour of the neo-Gothic Monastery overwhelms you; it is evident that a very special brewery and/or bar visit is to take place. Surprisingly, given its location, the bar can be quite raucous, in a pleasant sort of way, i.e. particularly at weekends, it can be packed with people who are fully intent on enjoying themselves.
The brewery and the Proeflokaal are to the right of the Monastery. The Monastery itself is not open to the general public, but on our January, 2006 meeting with the Monastery's Abbot, we were admitted into it and the Abbot gave us a tour of what is meant, in the tradition of the Trappist Order, to be an austere building, but which is, nevertheless, most impressive, its brick vaulting being particularly striking, as can be seen in the photo, above left, which was taken by John White, in January, 2006, as was the one on its right. The first photo is of the archway above the entrance to the Monastery. Along the walls are a series of outstanding paintings (1919) by Albert Servaes (1883-1966), covering "The Stations of the Cross" (De Kruisweg), which, after originally hanging in a Carmelite Church (Kapel van de Karmelieten), in Luithagen (Mortsel), near Antwerp, in Belgium, were acquired by the Monastery, in 1951, using a bequest from Tilburg Woolen Manufacturer, Gijs van den Bergh. Albert Servaes was born in Ghent, in East Flanders, Belgium. These paintings are mentioned in the CD-ROM that covers the Monastery and its brewery, it being pointed out that they do not impinge on the deliberately austere nature of the building. The photo on the right is of the entrance to the Monastery's Chapter House (Kapittelzaal) (as can be seen, this is "Capitulum" in Latin). In this room, Chapters from The Rule of St. Benedict are read out and discussed, see below.
On a Sunday, in May or June each year, the Monastery typically runs its own beer festival, the Koningshoeven Bierfestival, although none was scheduled for 2007.
There are details on how to get to the Monastery below, along with tourist and bar information for Tilburg, the town nearest to the Monastery.
The above photos were scanned from a book that was published in 1984. a scan of its cover being provided above the two photos. The original photos are in the Regionaal Archief Tilburg, rhc.tilburg.nl, where other photos of the monastery and its brewery are held and are on view on the place's website (click on "BeeldOnline" and then put, for example, Schaapskooi, in the "Zoek naar:" box (or here to get straight there), and then click on "Zoek"). As can be seen, the book is by Anselmus Terstegge, entitled Honderd jaar monnikenleven in Koningshoeven (100 Years of Monastic Life in ...) [1881-1981]. It is on sale in the Monastery's shop. This book, and a booklet covering the brewery (Trappistenbrouwerij De Schaapskooi 1884-1994, by Hans Meijs) have been used as the source of some of the historical aspects of the Monastery and its brewery that follow. I originally produced this write-up in 1994, for a White Beer Travels Beer Hunt; it was part of the handouts that are typical of these. It was written before the Monastery had a website, this having a history of the Monastery and its brewery, in Dutch and in other languages, including English; click here to see the latter. I keep with mine, as it has stuff in it that is not covered by the Monastery's website, the latter, in turn, going into more detail in certain areas. In the book, the photo on the left is captioned "De drie hoeven" (The Three Farmsteads) and the one on the right "De oude Schaapskooi" (The Old Sheepfold). My translation of Koningshoeven is "King's Farmsteads", this being based on the photo on the left; in my comprehensive van Dale dictionary, Koning is King, and one farmstead is a Hoeve, the plural of which is Hoeven. Farmstead (a farm's main buildings and its adjoining land) is not a particularly common word in English, i.e. it is more usual to just refer to a farm and, as appropriate, to its farmhouse, farmyard and its farm land, etc. The normal Dutch word for a farm is a Boerderij. King's Farmhouses is the translation of Koningshoeven on the English pages of the Monastery's website; it is King's Farmsteads on Bavaria's US website, www.bavariahollandbeer.us.
The Dutch Trappist Brewery is referred to as the Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven (King's Farmsteads [Beer] Brewery). One also comes across its former name, De Schaapskooi (The Sheepfold). The land on which it stands formerly belonged to Dutch royalty, that once included the three adjacent farmsteads of the photo, above left. The King in question was the Dutch King William II (Koning Willem II) (1792-1849); the farmsteads were called Annahoeve (Anna's Farmstead), Willemshoeve (William's Farmstead) and Sophiahoeve (Sophia's Farmstead). Anna Palowna Romanov (1795-1865), the sister of Tsar Alexander I of Russia (1777-1825), was Willem II's wife, and Sophia of Württemberg (1818-77) was the wife of his son, Willem III (1817-90). Adjacent to the farmsteads was the building called the Schaapskooi. Eventually, the complex of farmsteads and this building was collectively referred to as the Schaapskooi.
The Dutch Province of North Brabant, which is in the southern half of The Netherlands, once formed part of the Duchy of Brabant, along with the present day neighbouring Belgian Provinces of Antwerp and Brabant, the latter containing Brussels. King William II was a member of the House of Orange (or more correctly the House of Orange-Nassau, see later). The present Dutch royal family, are also from the Huis van Oranje, a family which has served The Netherlands for over 400 years. In 1568, an earlier Prins Willem van Oranje, William the Silent (1533-84), "The Father of The Netherlands", took the first steps towards creating independence for what is now The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg. At this time these were part of the Burgundian Hapsburg Empire, ruled by Philip II (1527-98), the King of Spain. The revolt which Willem led against Philip marked the start of the eighty year war of independence. In 1677, Charles II (1630-85) of England agreed to the marriage of Mary, the daughter of his brother James, the Duke of York, to the current Prins Willem van Oranje (1650-1702). James subsequently became James II (1633-1701), England's last Catholic King. However, his attempts to re-establish Catholicism in England forced his abdication and permanently established parliament as the ruling power in England. Prins Willem became King William III of England. He played a big part in Irish history, most remembered when his Protestant army defeated his father-in-law's Catholic army at the river Boyne in 1690, the famous Battle of the Boyne. (James was attempting to hold on to power in Ireland, after losing it in England.) Today's Protestant orange lodges and processions in Northern Ireland derive from William of Orange. After defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, James II followed his wife to France, where he remained for the rest of his life - the "King over the water". The La Trappe Monastery, see below, had become famous, such that he spent time there in prayer, during his exile. (This fame has apparently made the trap bigger: it is La Grande Trappe on some modern maps!) Monasticism in France was actively discouraged, following the revolution and the Napoleonic wars. This led to monks fleeing or being expelled from France. Some later returned, but there were further expulsions, some even during the 20th Century. As a result, Trappist abbeys were set up outside of France, including a number in Belgium and The Netherlands.
The name Orange comes from the present town, on the Rhône, in Provence, of that name, or rather the Principality of the same name which surrounded it. This passed to the German House of Nassau, and then to the ancestors of William III, who declared themselves Princes of Orange-Nassau. The name is still used, even though the Principality itself was absorbed into France, as one of the conditions of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, along with an undertaking that France would cease supporting James Edward (1688-1766), The Old Pretender - the son of James II. Nassau, in the Bahamas, gets its name from King William III of Orange-Nassau.
Modern Christian monasticism was founded, in circa 529 AD, by St. Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-c. 547), in Montecassino. This is in central Italy, between Rome and Naples. St. Benedict is buried in the present, spectacularly situated Monastery there, which is a major tourist attraction (www.officine.it/montecassino). In 1964, during the dedication of the rebuilt Montecassino Monastery, Pope Paul VI declared St. Benedict to be the "principal, heavenly patron of the whole of Europe", i.e. the principal Patron Saint of Europe.
Benedictine monks were soon sent all over Europe to set up Monasteries, primarily on a missionary basis. For example, conversion to Christianity in England was first carried out by a team led by St. Augustine, who arrived from Rome in 596. He became the very first Archbishop of Canterbury in 601, a position he held until his death in 604. The earliest known example of a Monastery with a brewery (well, actually it had three) is in St. Gall (St. Gallen), in Switzerland, which was founded by an Irish Benedictine Monk, St. Gall, in 612. This Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, see whc.unesco.org/pg.cfm?cid=31 for the complete list. In France, in 1098, a group of the Benedictines, led by Robert of Molesme, felt that a stricter monastic regime would be more appropriate: they formed the Cistercians, in Cîteaux (www.citeaux-abbaye.com), which is sixteen miles (twenty-six kilometres) South of Dijon, in Burgundy. (Cistercianum is Latin for "from Cîteaux".) Although not the founder of the movement, the most famous and revered name in the Cistercian world is St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in Champagne, in France. St. Bernard (circa 1090-1153) was the founder of over 70 Cistercian Monasteries.
In 1122, a Benedictine Monastery was built in Soligny la Trappe, Moulins la Marche, which is a few miles north of Mortagne-au-Perche, in the Perche area of southern Normandy (in the Département of Orne). In 1140, La Trappe became a Cistercian Monastery. In 1664, La Trappe's Abbot, Armand Jean Le Bouthillier de Rançé (1626-1700), a Godson of the famous Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), believed that the Cistercian order had become too liberal; he therefore changed the regime within the abbey. Penitential exercise was introduced, absolute silence had to be observed, a vegetarian diet was imposed, and the reading of literature was suppressed, to concentrate the mind on penance and death. This more severe order came to be known as the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, or more commonly the Trappist Order, getting its name from the location of the founding abbey. In previous notes on Trappist Monasteries, I stated, based on information now known to be incorrect, that the Monastery was located in a valley, only accessible by a narrow defile, which, in consequence, gave the Monastery its name of La Trappe (The Trap). On a journey to La Trappe, in Normandy, I had this vision of having to enter a mini-Grand Canyon to get to the place. Imagine my surprise to come across the Monastery in open countryside! Therefore, I searched further for the origin of the word Trappe. I subsequently found out from a reliable source that the word originates from the name used by the people of the Perche for the steps used to get down to the numerous ponds in the area, in order to fish; the word was in use with this meaning before the building of the Monastery. In 1140, La Trappe Abbey became a Cistercian Monastery.
Many of the restrictions of life in a Trappist Monastery have now been lifted, including a particularly important one for beer lovers, since when Armand de Rançé founded the Trappist Order, in the 17th Century, see above, the only thing he allowed the monks to drink was water; beer was only re-introduced into the present-day Trappist monasteries by Westmalle, in 1836. Today, study is encouraged within Trappist monasteries, and in recent years women have been allowed inside some of the Monasteries under certain conditions. The Trappist monks' famous vows of silence (anyone remember the porridge joke?) were relaxed around 1965 by The Vatican. The dietary restrictions have also been lifted, although Trappist monks still refer to Cistercians as "meat-eaters"! But you never know, maybe one day a more severe Order will consequently be formed, hopefully brewing Such-and-such-an-Order's Beer!
Between 530 and 560, St. Benedict of Nursia is said to have formulated his famous Regula Monachorum, Regula Benedicti, or Rule, although the one now generally quoted from is a revised version produced by a monk from Aniane, in the South of France, also, somewhat confusingly, a St. Benedict (Benoît) (750-821). He codified The Rule into a small missive divided up into seventy-three chapters, annotated with the dates on which each, or a part of each, should be read out in the Chapter House of a Monastery or Cathedral. The famous chapter six, for example, is read out on the 24th of January, the 25th of May, and the 24th of September. In approximately 200 words, it gives the reasoning for the vows of silence. Click here to access the text, in English, of all seventy-three chapters of The Rule, this link being from The Order of Saint Benedict's official website, www.osb.org, from where one can access the text of The Rule in other languages.
Fortunately, from a beer lover's point of view, the most important part of the rule of St. Benedict is still in force.
Above the archway of the brewery's former Maltings (Mouttoren, Malt Tower) (now used to store Belgian malt) there is a statue of St. Benedict. On one side is a latin inscription attributed to chapter forty-eight of his rule. On the other side is a translation, in an old form of Dutch, which reads "Dan zyn zy waarlyk monniken als zy van den arbeid hunner handen leven", see the photo, above left. In English, this means "You are only really a monk when you live from the work of your hands". The former Maltings are on the right, in the photo, above right. Beyond the just mentioned archway, are the steps leading into the Brew House, and in the background can be seen the Monastery itself.
As a consequence of the rule of Saint Benedict, just quoted, Trappist Monasteries around the world produce, for example, soap, cheese, children's clothes, beer, farm produce, wine, cosmetics, and bread, for sale in and/or outside the Monasteries. The Trappist abbey Nôtre-Dame-d'Aiguebelle (www.abbaye-aiguebelle.com), near the famous nougat town of Montélimar, in Provence, produces renowned nougat and liqueurs. The founding Monastery, La Trappe, does not brew beer, but it does produce a Yogurt! I thus have an empty Trappist Yogurt Pot on my desk to keep pencils, etc in. The shop there is worth a visit if you are in the area. It has a very large range of monastic products from round the world, including Trappist coffee beans from Africa, monastic Liqueurs, including special versions of Green Chartreuse (www.chartreuse.fr), from the Carthusian St. Pierre de Chartreuse Monastery, near Grenoble, in France, and Trappist beer from Belgium, along with religious books, including some on the history of the Trappist order. The abbey at Cîteaux, birthplace of the Cistercian order, is also now a Trappist Monastery. It produces an outstanding cheese, readily available in Burgundy and other parts of France.
In French Flanders, by the village of Godewaersvelde (in the Nord Département), is the Sainte-Marie-du-Mont Abbey (www.abbaye-montdescats.com). It is usually referred to by the hill on which it stands, the Mont des Cats. Its name derives from a Germanic tribe which settled in the area in the 5th Century, the Cattes. This Monastery is close to the Belgian border, indeed the nearest town is Poperinge, Belgium's hop capital, in the Province of West Flanders, five miles away. Nine miles away, in Westvleteren, is the St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery/brewery. This was founded in 1831 by monks from the Mont des Cats. It commenced brewing in 1839. In 1880, the monks from the Mont des Cats (Katsberg in Dutch) were under pressure to leave France. In December, 1880, Father Sebastianus Wyart of the Mont des Cats came to Tilburg, then a bastion of Dutch Catholicism. Tilburg was also deemed suitable because of a preference for setting up monasteries close to frontiers, should the need to move again occur: Tilburg is close to the border with Belgium. The Tilburg clergy arranged a meeting between Father Sebastianus (who became Dom Sebastianus, the first Abbot) and a sympathetic Tilburg Wool Dyer (Wolverver), Caspar Houben (1823-99), the then owner of the three farmsteads. (In 1852, after the death of William II, they were sold by his successor, William III.) Caspar Houben agreed to lease the properties and associated land at no cost for three years, but eventually he sold both for a nominal sum, and even contributed to the abbey's building costs. By February, 1881 the monks of the Mont des Cats had a refuge. Today, the French La Trappe and De Koningshoeven's Mother House (Moederhuis), the Mont des Cats, are once again Trappist monasteries, although they do not brew. Close by the Mont des Cats is the Saint Sylvestre Brewery (www.brasserie-st-sylvestre.com), in St. Sylvestre-Cappel. It brews some very good beers, including 3 Monts (8.5%), a good buy in Channel port supermarkets. One of the three "mountains" on the label of the beer has an abbey on top: the Mont des Cats. It is only 518 feet (158 metres) high, but in the otherwise flat and low Flanders, this is considered to be a mountain!
Initially, the monks that had come to Berkel-Enschot, adapted the existing farm buildings, making up the three farmsteads, for accommodation, and the Schaapskooi became the Monastery's place of worship, until the much larger building that you see today was built; click here to see a photo of it (up this page, on the right). The first Eucharist was celebrated, in the converted Schaapskooi building, on the 5th of March, 1881. The service was conducted by Father Franciscus De Beer! Koningshoeven achieved Abbey status in 1891, its first Abbot being Dom Willibrord Verbruggen, who oversaw the building of the Monastery, and the replacement for the original brewery and the former maltings, that exist today. The abbey church was consecrated on the 17th of September, 1894, by the Bishop of 's-Hertogenbosch; the original places of worship, that were conversions of the King's Farmsteads, were demolished, once the new building started to be used. The original brewery was built before this, beer being first brewed in 1884. At first, a dark bottom fermented beer in the Munich style was produced, the novice monk Isidorus Laaber, from Moravia, having been sent there to learn to brew. (After being in charge of brewing, he later became the abbey's electrician.) Before being simply called Schaapskooi, the first brew was given a Germanic name: Bernardiner Bräu; the Monastery's name on its bottle label was also in German, Abtei Königshöfe. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in Champagne, as already stated, was one of the early promoters of the Cistercian order. Mount St. Bernard (www.mountsaintbernard.org), founded in 1835, is the only Trappist Monastery in England. It is in Charnwood Forest, near Coalville, in Leicestershire. Koningshoeven was the first Catholic Monastery in The Netherlands, and Mount St. Bernard the first in England with an Abbot, since the Reformation.
In addition to monasteries being set up in other countries, because of the political situation prevailing in the country being fled from, many of the Trappist Monasteries throughout the world were formed, as per the English one just mentioned, by colonisation from established Trappist Monasteries. A well known example, in Wales, is Caldey Island (www.caldey-island.co.uk), off the Pembrokeshire (Dyfed) coast, much visited by holiday makers from Tenby. It was formed in 1929 by monks from the Abbaye de Scourmont, in Belgium, the latter being better known as Chimay, which is pronounced She May!
The Belgian Trappist Beer, Chimay Blanche (White) (8%) (now called Chimay Triple), was also, at one time, produced in Koningshoeven, when demand could not be met at Chimay itself, i.e. before the expansions there in the early 1990s. Between 1990 and 1996, for Heineken, they also produced Wieckse Witte (Maastrichts Witbier), a Wheat Beer brewed at De Ridder, in Maastricht, in Dutch Limburg, which Heineken had taken over in 1982.
Production of top fermented beers recommenced, on the 18th of January 1980. In an 1992 leaflet update to his 1984 book, detailed above, Anselmus Terstegge, who, at the time was eighty-three, and still a monk at the abbey, describes this day as " ... the resurrection day of The Netherlands' only Trappist brewery ...". Initially a Dubbel (6.5% (now 7%)) and a Tripel (8%) were produced commercially, roughly equivalent to the famous counterparts from Westmalle; the Dutch Tripel is a little deeper in colour than the Westmalle benchmark. In 1991, the Dubbel and Tripel were complemented by the dark golden, rich but not cloying, strong brew Quadrupel (10%), a really lovely sweetish beer, with a pleasantly bitter after taste and a malty aroma. Spices are used, including Coriander, in the Tripel. I find the use of Coriander or whatever in the Tripel really enhances the beer; it has a significantly higher level of complexity than other monastic Tripels. The Quadrupel is available in year-dated bottles and, like all of the Monastery's beers, it is available on draught, as well as in bottle. Note that Quadrupel is a De Koningshoeven registered trade mark. In 2004, 200 kegs (20 litre ones) of that years's vintage were sealed and will not be put on sale until 2009, i.e. the 125th Anniversary [1884-2009] of the commencement of brewing at De Koningshoeven. The seal on the first one will be broken by the Abbot. Apart from the brewery's own bar, what should be a truly remarkable beer will be exclusively available in bars which are members of ABT, the Alliantie van Biertapperijen (Alliance of Beer Tappers (Pubs)) (www.alliantie-van-biertapperijen.nl). Member bars undertake to supply beers in the correct glass, but must also take a certain volume of a [draught] beer of the month, chosen by the Alliance. The pubs are listed on the ABT website and also in an essential booklet that is available in them: Bijzondere (Special) Biercafés in Nederland. Interestingly, Abt is Dutch for Abbot!
Another Trappist beer, Enkel, which means single, was brewed following the resurrection of the Trappist Beers in 1980. This "Refter" or refectory beer was drunk by the monks, as an everyday beer, being relatively weak (5.5%). Like bread, beer is made from grain, albeit malted - during Lent the strongest beer serves as liquid bread, within the monasteries. Originally monasteries principally made drinks for guests, at a time when many travellers were pilgrims, and most "hotels" were abbeys. In southern Europe, the drink would be wine or a liqueur, produced from local grapes, in the North, beer, from local grain. Originally beer was introduced into Monasteries, at a time when water was often not safe to drink, the boiling which takes place during the brewing process killing off all bugs. Like bread, beer is made from grain, albeit malted; during Lent, the strongest beer can also be served as liquid bread, within the Monasteries.
Most Trappist breweries brew a similar beer to La Trappe Enkel, which is not sold to the public. In late 1993, Enkel, which tastes like a slightly sweeter version of the Tripel - although a lot weaker it does not lack body - appeared on draught and in bottle. Initially the bottles were not labelled, but it then became a permanent feature of the commercial portfolio, the labels having the alternative name of Angelus. The other beers also have latinised alternative names: Duplus, Triplus and Quadruplus, but these no longer appear on bottle labels. Note that Enkel is no longer in the La Trappe range; in 2000, it was replaced by La Trappe Blond (6.5%).
La Trappe Bock really is one to seek out, when it is made available from October to December or perhaps January. La Trappe Blond is now the monks' Refter beer, which they have a bottle of each day, although on certain Saint's Days, they can choose any La Trappe beer.
The bottled La Trappe beers sold in The Netherlands have yeast in the bottle for a secondary fermentation, i.e. they are bottle conditioned: Real Ale in a bottle.This was also the case with the Dominus beers, although the John Martin's beers that preceded them were filtered, when their Dutch-market counterparts were not. In the USA and Canada, the La Trappe range is marketed under the name Koningshoeven Trappist Ales. For example, in North America, La Trappe Quadrupel is sold as Koningshoeven Quadrupel Trappist Ale. These are the same beer, i.e. both are bottle-conditioned, since Bavaria's US website, www.bavariahollandbeer.us, states this to be the case for the Koningshoeven Trappist Ales. Note that the arrangement with John Martin's was discontinued in 2006, since the volumes involved do not warrant it.
Seven of the Trappist monasteries produce beer, drunk both by the monks and for sale. Six are in Belgium: Achel (www.achelsekluis.org), Abbaye de Scourmont (Chimay) (www.chimay.com), Orval (www.orval.be, White Beer Travels Web page), Rochefort (www.trappistes-rochefort.com, White Beer Travels Web page), Westmalle (www.trappistwestmalle.be and (for its bar) www.trappisten.be) and Westvleteren (www.sintsixtus.be and (for its bar) www.indevrede.be, White Beer Travels Web page). As already stated, the Abdij O.L.V. Koningshoeven is the only Trappist monastery in The Netherlands producing beer. Only beers from the seven Trappist monasteries can, following a 28th of February, 1962 ruling by a trade court in Ghent, use the appellation Trappistenbier (or Bière des Pères Trappistes). Nominal damages were awarded, but far more important than these, sales of all fake Trappist Beers were banned after the judgement. Some years later, the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo was introduced, to identify those articles (including beer) that are produced within the cloisters of a Trappist Monastery, see above.
The website, www.ocso.org, has information, including contact details, for all Trappist Monasteries, OCSO being the "Ordre Cistercien de la Stricte Observance" (Trappistes). Information on Trappist, Cistercian and Benedictine Monasteries in Belgian Flanders and The Netherlands can also be found on the following website: www.monasteria.org.
Elsewhere, particularly in Germany, there are non-Trappist Monasteries and Convents producing beer. In Belgium, the Cistercian Val-Dieu Monastery (www.val-dieu.com), in Wallonia, recommenced brewing in October, 1997. All but Westvleteren and Achel of the seven brewing Trappist Monasteries sell their beers around the world, directly themselves and/or using wholesalers, the latter method being the sole method used by Rochefort. Achel, which is in the Belgian Province of Limburg, but right on the Dutch border, recommenced brewing in December, 1998. In addition to bottled Achel beers, available in the usual beer shops and Specialty Beer bars, its beers are available on draught in the brewery's café, which, like De Koningshoeven, is within the walls of the Monastery, and can be freely visited. In Achel there is also a supermarket within the Monastery's walls. The supermarket sells a good range of beers from both Trappist and secular brewers. The reason why there is a bar and a brewery that can be visited within the walls of both the Achel and the Koningshoeven Monasteries is that they both come under Dutch ecclesiastic law, which allows this, whereas the other five Belgian ones that brew are governed by Belgian ecclesiastic law, which does not.
De Koningshoeven's La Trappe Tripel was, at one time, on sale in selected outlets of Sainsbury's, in the UK, as their own brand "Trappist Ale", although the abbey's name was declared on the label. The Tripel was selected because its bitter taste was thought to best suit the British palate. Sainsbury's Trappist Ale was sold in half litre corked stone jars (Crocks), as used for certain Bavarian beers, produced by monks and nuns. (The name Munich, the German Bavaria's capital, derives from the German for monk.) Apart from the container, it was exactly the same as La Trappe Tripel on sale in the Netherlands, i.e. it was unfiltered. Since Bavaria became involved, Crocks with La Trappe labels have reappeared in UK supermarkets, i.e. the Dubbel in Tesco, the Blond and the Dubbel in both Safeway and in Morrison's. Speciality Beer shops in England usually have a good selection of Belgian Beers, including Trappist ones. In The Netherlands, the Dutch and Belgian Trappist beers are widely available, even in the simplest of cafés. La Trappe beers are imported into the USA by Bob Leggett and Lanny Hoff 's Artisanal Imports, www.artisanalimports.com, which is based in Austin, Texas.
Some abbeys commission brews from secular brewers; these are classed as Abbey Beers, not Trappist Beers. A well known example is Leffe (www.abbaye-de-leffe.be), whose beers are manufactured at InBev's factory in Leuven. Note that Leffe is a Norbertine (Premonstratensian) Monastery, not a Trappist one. Also, numerous Abbey-Style Beers are produced in Belgium and The Netherlands: Natte from 't IJ, is their example of a Dubbel, Zatte their Tripel, being respectively dark and light in colour, and having ascending alcohol levels, as per their Westmalle counterparts.
In addition to the monastery's official website, one called "Proef De Stilte" (Taste The Silence), www.proefdestilte.nl, also covers various aspects of the Monastery. Unlike the official site, it is only in Dutch. It was produced to accompany a 1999-2000 TV advert for La Trappe beers, which was much talked about, in a positive way, at the time, because it was silent. " Proef De Stilte" as a slogan still appears on publicity material for De Koningshoeven's beers.
Two excellent websites covering Trappist breweries, including De Koningshoeven and their beers are: Cyril Pagniez's www.trappistbeer.net); and Danny Van Tricht's www.trappistbier.be. Note that Danny has a Message Board, devoted to Trappist Beer, groups.yahoo.com/group/trappistbier. Oisterwijk resident, Siemen van Niersen's Dutch-language Web pages covering De Koningshoeven, have some very good photos of the brewery, members.lycos.nl/latrappevooranw. Wim Grem's invaluable website, www.latrappe.eu, (www.latrappe.org for the English version), covers De Koningshoeven items such as beer glasses (headed GLAZEN), bottle labels (ETIKETTEN), beer mats (coasters) (VILTJES), Dispense Tap Ends and their Tap Clips (TAPKNOP-RUITERS), and miscellaneous items, such as postcards (DIVERSE).
Most visitors to De Koningshoeven get to it after first arriving in the nearby town of Tilburg by train.
From Amsterdam, one can get a train to Tilburg Centraal Station from Amsterdam Centraal Station, the suburban RAI Station, and from the station in the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport complex (www.schiphol.nl). From RAI or from Schiphol, one changes at Dordrecht, or at both 's-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) and Duivendrecht. A Trappist Nunnery, the Koningsoord Abbey, which is covered later, can be seen on the left, a couple of minutes before the train comes into Tilburg Centraal Station. There are direct trains from Rotterdam Centraal to Tilburg. From Brussels and Antwerp, one would change trains at Roosendaal. There are also trains from Eindhoven Centraal Station; Eindhoven has an airport (www.eindhovenairport.nl) served by budget airlines, such as Ryanair (www.ryanair.com). The number 401 bus travels frequently between Eindhoven Airport and Eindhoven Centraal Station. Note that from the bus station outside Eindhoven Centraal Station, one can also get the number 141 bus going to Tilburg, which actually stops outside the Monastery (stop name "Moergestel Trappistenklooster", not the one after it called "Tilburg Koningshoeven", this stop being on a road with the street name of Koningshoeven). Use the links in the next paragraph to get the bus times. The multi-journey bus/tram Strip Cards (Strippenkaarten) (www.vbn-bv.nl) bought in, say, Amsterdam, are valid on this and most other buses/trams in The Netherlands. Train times and ticket prices can be obtained from the NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Dutch Railways) website, www.ns.nl. Dutch bus times can be obtained from the BBA website, www.bba.nl, or, for the Tilburg bus, from www.tbus.nl.
The Monastery is about three miles (five kilometres) from the centre of Tilburg. In outline, if walking, cross the Wilhelminakanaal, on the East of the town, then walk South down the path alongside this wide canal. On going under the motorway bridge, take the minor road, Torentjeshoeve, away from the motorway. On crossing the Berkel-Enschot boundary this changes to Eindhovenseweg, down which the two main towers of the Monastery can be seen. For those not wanting to walk from the town centre, a taxi is not too expensive (a conventional one is required, i.e. the Trein-Taxi service does not cover the Monastery).
Hiring a bike is an enjoyable, alternative way to get to the Monastery from Tilburg station. Means of identification, such as a passport, and a deposit are needed. For purchases at the Monastery, a rucksack or whatever, suitable for a bike, is worth thinking about. A "La Trappe Fietsroute" (La Trappe Cycle Route) was opened in 1996, and in the Monastery's shop and bar, a leaflet is available for fifty cents (€0.50) which has a map of the routes (there are three options), and details of points of interest along the way, i.e. outlets for La Trappe beers, these including a truly outstanding place in Oisterwijk, the Boshuis Venkraai, that is covered below.
By road, leave the A58 (E312) motorway (Autosnelweg) (the A65 joins the A58 close to this point) at Afrit (Exit) 10 "Hilvarenbeek", which is signed Tilburg-Oost, then follow the signs to Tilburg-Centrum, by going left at the Tee-junction reached on leaving the motorway, to join the N269 national road, which is called Kempenbaan. After a soon-reached BP Filling Station, turn right and then another very quick right to join a road named Koningshoeven, in the signed direction of Moergestel. Immediately after going under the motorway, turn left to go over a canal (Wilhelminakanaal), to stay on Koningshoeven. The road name soon changes to Torentjeshoeve and then to the required Eindhovenseweg. The Abbey is soon reached, and cannot be missed, at the end of a longish straight section of Eindhovenseweg. On road maps, it typically appears as Trappistenklooster, but it should be noted that there is another in the area, see the next paragraph.
To prepare for my first visit with a group of White Beer Travels Beer Hunters, in 1994, as is the norm, a recce was carried out. My wife Joyce, and I arrived at Tilburg railway station, knowing only that the Monastery was in the nearby village of Berkel-Enschot. We bought a map of the neighbourhood and soon spotted a "Trappistenklooster" on it, just North of the village. So we hired bikes at the station and proceeded to find it, stopping at bars on the way to sample La Trappe beers. Quite perversely, in each bar we were asked if we wished to have a shot of the pomegranate-based syrup, Grenadine, added to the beers! We declined, considering that this is only suitable for extremely tart beers, such as Berliner Weisse. (I personally much prefer it neat.) We soon found an abbey, and were surprised to find it so quiet, it being a very pleasant Saturday afternoon in May. After a while I peered through a window to see a Trappistine, a Trappist nun! She came out and I soon discovered that she was Spanish and spoke no English, we were to find out that we had arrived at an Abbey with a fairly similar name to the one we were seeking, the Abdij Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningsoord (www.koningsoord.org), Raadhuisstraat 26, Berkel-Enschot. In fact, it was designated as a "Trappistinnenklooster" on the map, but I had not noticed the difference, "inn", between the male and female versions! Eventually with the help of another visitor to the grounds, we discovered that we should have been at another Trappist Cloister, the male version, five miles (eight kilometres) away, but also in Berkel-Enschot, and much closer to Tilburg. We hurried off to the required Monastery, to be confronted by a large, amiable crowd, sampling the beers. There was a sign advertising brewery visits; a White Beer Travels trip to a Monastery with beer was thus booked. To celebrate, a Tripel was drunk in the Monastery bar, and no Grenadine was offered! Note that the Koningsoord establishment was founded by Koningshoeven, in 1936.
Bars in Tilburg, and a Brewery
Most people who visit De Koningshoeven Brewery, in Berkel-Enschot, first arrive in Tilburg (www.tilburg.nl). With time to spare, before and/or after the visit, it is worth checking out some of its bars; there are a good number of very nice ones in Tilburg, many of which have the local La Trappe beers. A good option for lunch near the station, prior to a visit to the Monastery, is Het Wapen van Tilburg (www.hetwapenvantilburg.nl), Spoorlaan 362 (on the corner with Willem II Straat), tel 013 542 26 92, a former 19th Century coffee-house, now a nice, basic bar with above average food, and cheap accommodation, albeit not en suite, well it does describe itself as an Herberg (Inn). Bottled beers (January, 2006) include: Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel, both at €3.50; and Van Honsebrouk's Kasteelbier and Brigand, both at €3. De Koninck's Winterkoninck was the draught/tap Bier van de Maand (Beer of the Month) at €3.50. At this time, there was a three course set meal for €15, and dishes such as Soup at €3, Pasta (including Vegetarian options) in the range €8.75-9.25, Broodjes (Sandwiches) in the range €2.75-3.50, Croque Herbergier (their version of a Croque Monsieur) at €3.50, and Thaise Kipcurry (Thai Chicken Curry) at €9.25. To reach Het Wapen van Tilburg, cross the road opposite the station and turn left and it is then on the right. It is open seven days a week from 7am to 2am (3am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday).
In Tilburg, there are a small number of bars with a good selection (over sixty) of Specialty Beers (mainly from Belgium and The Netherlands), but they are excellent; they make a trip to Tilburg worthwhile, in its own right. The Café Zomerlust, Oisterwijksbaan 15 (just to the East of the junction with Hoevense Kanaaldijk), tel 013 542 52 92, is closed on Monday and Tuesday; it opens at 11am on Sunday, 3pm on Friday and Saturday, and 7pm on Wednesday and Thursday. It closes on these days at 2am. The Café Kandinsky (www.biercafe-kandinsky.nl), Telegraafstraat 58 (on the corner with Ijzerstraat), tel 013 542 52 92, is open seven days a week from 3pm. The Café 't Buitenbeentje, Heuvel 15a, tel 013 536 04 66, is open from 3pm to 2am (3am on Friday and Saturday). Burgemeester Jansen (Tapperij aan de Piushaven (Bar on Piushaven)) (www.burgemeesterjansen.nl), Piushaven 22. tel 013 545 10 08, is open every day except Monday from 2pm to Midnight (2am on Friday and Saturday).
There is a superb bar in Oisterwijk, which is close to Tilburg, and even closer to the Monastery: the Boshuis Venkraai (www.venkraai.nl), at Bosweg 162, tel 013 528 23 96. It has a truly marvellous woodland setting and a superlative beer list. It should be noted that it stands in isolation, so that if you find Bosweg 160, you still have a way to go. If driving, you have to park a few hundred yards/metres from it, but this really is a don't-miss when in the area. It is open from 10am (9am on Sundays) until Sunset (or at 7pm, whichever is earlier). Food is available until 6.30pm. It is closed on Thursdays, apart from in July and August. You can get to it by train, cycle, or by road, and it can also be reached by a number 140 bus from Tilburg Centraal Station going to 's-Hertogenbosch (get off at the stop named "Oisterwijk-Baerdijk", then walk South down Baerdijk, turn left at the first T-junction reached, to join Graaf Bernadottelaan, and then turn right at the next T-junction reached to join the required Bosweg. The Boshuis Venkraai is close to the Bezoekerscentrum (Visitors' Centre) for a most pleasant Nature Reserve (Natuurmonument), at Van Tienhovenlaan 5, which has details of walks that are possible in the woods.
There is a very small brewery, in Tilburg, the Bierbrouwerij Moerenburg, at Jasmijnstraat 77, tel 013 536 05 18. Its beers are quite scarce; there were none available in the Café Kandinsky, in Tilburg on a January, 2006 visit. Jan van Pelt has a Dutch-language website covering breweries and beers, past and present, in North Brabant, "Bier in Noord-Brabant", www.brabantsbier.nl. Jan Ausems and Ton van Opstal's "Cambrinus.nl - Dutch Beer Portal - The Place To Beer!", is an outstanding, essential resource on breweries and beer, for the whole of The Netherlands, www.cambrinus.nl.
Tilburg for the Tourist
Tilburg's tourist attractions include the National Textiles Museum (Nederlands Textielmuseum) (www.textielmuseum.nl) - Tilburg initially developed as a centre of the textile industry. This gets one star, out of a maximum three in the Michelin Green Guide (www.viamichelin.com). Michelin gives two stars to the town's De Pont Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst (Museum of Contemporary Art) (www.depont.nl). The Stadsmuseum (Town Museum) (stadsmuseum.tilburg.nl) does not have a home until 2007. There is a Wine Museum the "Wijnmuseum Maison du Vin" at Geminiweg 9, tel 013584 12 02. It is open every day except Sunday. Many people who come to Tilburg are en route to a major Children's Theme Park, Efteling (www.efteling.nl), which is on the N261 national road, near Kaatsheuvel, eight kilometres (five miles) to the North of Tilburg; Efteling is served by the number 137 bus from Tilburg Railway Station. Even closer is the Michelin one-starred Safaripark Beekse Bergen, www.safaripark.nl, four kilometres (two and a half miles) to the SE of the town, in Hilvarenbeek, on the N269. Bused numbered 142 and 143 stop outside.
The VVV tourist information office is in a palace built by the previously mentioned Dutch King Willem II, when Tilburg was the seat of the House of Orange, from 1831 until his death there in 1849. It is a white building in the English Romantic style. After being donated to the town, it had numerous uses before becoming a VVV. In 1866 it became the Willem II Grammar School: for eighteen months Vincent van Gogh was a pupil. There is one beer on sale inside, to take-out: Tilburgs Kruikenbier (Crock or Stone Jar Beer). It is, in fact, La Trappe Tripel. Note the statue of a Scottish highlander close by, commemorating Tilburg's liberation by a Scottish regiment in World War II. De Koningshoeven Monastery was liberated by the English on the 26th of October, 1944. In 1942, the Nazis transported Father Nivardus Löb, Father Ignatius Löb and Brother Linus Löb from the Monastery, to Auschwitz, where they died.