Did you know that there are two Trappist breweries in the Netherlands? The oldest of these, Brewery De Koningshoeven is open to visitors. They brew beers called La Trappe, that you might know as they are distributed internationally. Here I will explain what to expect of a visit to De Koningshoeven and how to get there by public transport.
What to expect of a visit to the La Trappe brewery
Brewery De Koningshoeven is situated on abbey grounds. The abbey was built at the end of the 19th century, by Trappist monks that originally came from France. They’ve produced beer since 1884. Note that during your visit to De Koningshoeven you won’t be allowed to visit the abbey itself, because the monks live in seclusion.
Things to do during your visit to the La Trappe brewery:
- Book a tour. Tours last about about 45 minutes. English tours are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. During the tour they will show a short movie, guide you through the brewery and the gardens and let you taste one glass of La Trappe beer;
- Visit the tasting room, garden and terrace where you can taste all the La Trappe beers and have lunch.
- Go shopping. There is a small shop on the abbey grounds where you can buy the products of the monastery. Next to La Trappe beers, you can buy their cheese, honey, cookies and bread.
Note that the La Trappe brewery is only in production on weekdays. During the weekends they will still show you the brewery, but no one is working there then.
How to get to the La Trappe brewery by public transport
First go to Tilburg railway station. From there you’ll have to walk about 750 meters to a bus stop to catch a bus that will bring you straight to brewery de Koningshoeven.
Another option is to rent a bike in Tilburg and cycle to the abbey. This won’t save you much time, but if you want to pay a visit to Tilburg later on, this is a fast way to get around.
Is a visit to the La Trappe brewery worth your time?
Coming from one of the big cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague or Rotterdam, you have to go through some trouble to get to the La Trappe brewery. If you are only interested in doing a brewery tour, you could easily do one closer to where you are staying, as (honestly) the La Trappe tour is not very exceptional.
On the other hand, if you are interested in abbey and Trappist ales, and would like to visit abbey grounds, you should certainly go. The abbey is quite impressive. Also, they have special La Trappe brews in their shop that you won’t be able to find so easily in supermarkets or bars, such as the barrel aged editions of their quadruple ales.
You may want to combine your visit to the La Trappe brewery with a visit to the city of Tilburg. They have a couple of good museums and some intersting craft beer breweries.
Background: Trappist ales vs abbey ales
So what’s the difference between a Trappist ale and an abbey ale again? In fact, it’s all about organization. Trappist ales have got to be brewed on abbey grounds, by monks or under strict supervision of monks, and at least part of the profits have to go to charity. Abbey ales are often based on old abbey recipes, but are produced outside of the abbeys.
Worldwide there are only 14 breweries that have been officially recognized by the International Trappist Association. But honestly, this doesn’t say much about quality or taste. For example try to taste the difference between the famous Westvleteren XII (a Trappist ale) and the St Bernardus 12 (an abbey ale). I think you should just follow your taste buds and drink what you enjoy most.
Famous abbey and Trappist beer styles are blonde ales, dubbels and tripels. But nowadays you will find more diverse styles. La Trappe for example produces witbier, and invented the “quadruple”, a very strong dark ale. Some critics say that this is not a new style at all, but compares to the strong Belgian ale, or Grand Cru, but hey, that’s a discussion for beer nerds…
The second Dutch Trappist brewery : De Kievit / Zundert Trappist
By the way, the second Dutch Trappist brewer is Brewery De Kievit. They have started only a couple of years ago and brew a beer called Zundert, that you may find on the menu of good beer bars and in some supermarkets. However, their brewery is not open to visitors. You can stay in the monastery though, if you are in for a silent retreat. For more information, check out the website of the monastery: Abdij Maria Toevlucht (in English).