Beer-brewing Belgian monks in legal battle to protect well water from mining

From CBC Radio, by Interview produced by Menaka Raman-Wilms

Photo: Old Trappist beer bottles stored in a cellar at the Rochefort Abbey Brewery, southeast of Brussels. (Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images) 

‘It’s a battle between capitalism and a human way of doing business,’ says brewing expert

For centuries, the Trappist monks of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy Abbey in Rochefort, Belgium have been brewing a unique brown beer. The recipe is precise — and it calls for pure spring water from the local water table, which the monks insist is essential to the quality of their beer.

But now, lime-quarrying mining company Lloist wants to drill in the area.

Jef Van den Steen is a Belgian brewer, and the author of the book Belgian Trappist and Abbey Beers. He spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off about the battle that has been brewing between the monks and the mining company. Here is part of their conversation.

What is so special about this beer from this monastery?

Well first of all, all Trappist beers in Belgium are special. But most special for the beers of Rochefort is that they only do dark brown beers. And that’s a very old tradition. In the time when the country — Belgium — was a poor country, beer was part of the food. And therefore, the beers — the popular beers — in that time were [those] with a lot of calories in it.

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