In 1740, a brewer who worked in Notre-Dam de Leffe, an abbey in Belgium, ended up making a beer so delicious that parishioners preferred drinking this beer on Sundays over visiting the church. Fearing that the practice was turning into a tradition, the abbot was forced to take action against absenteeism. But that didn’t stop the beer’s reputation from becoming famous the world over.
Characterised by its creamy head and full-bodied tone, Leffe is one of the most popular Abbey beers in the world. Taj Lands End, to give the city a taste of this drink, has this year included it in their annual month-long beer festival, Brewery Voyage, which started on Saturday. The festival
also features Trappist beers, which, like Abbey beers, are some of the earliest varieties brewed by monks from monasteries in France and, mostly, Belgium.
“Today, close to 11 monasteries make Trappist beer. Their original recipes are well-guarded secrets, passed on from one generation of monks to another,” says Vijay More, Head Barman at Atrium Lounge & Bar, Taj Lands End. Many of the Trappist monasteries and breweries were destroyed during the French revolution and the two World Wars. The money made by the few remaining breweries went towards rebuilding them.
However, most monasteries have since sold their labels and recipes to bigger brewery chains. Yet, many of the brews continue to be known as Abbey beers. One such variety that comes with a rich history is Duvel, from the Moortgat brewery. The name means “the devil” in a local Dutch dialect. Known for its dense appearance and bold flavour, Duvel is one of the strongest beers with a high alcohol content, of about 8.5 per cent. Thus, Duvel is aptly referred to as “Judas” or “the forbidden fruit” by beer connoisseurs. However, in striking contrast to its taste, the fragrance is a fruity mixture of Asian pears and cloves, which complement its appearance, that of cider. “The bottle is shaped like water flasks that monks would tie around their waists during long journeys. As a tribute to the tradition, the shape has been retained by the brewery,” says More, who can whip up a mean beer cocktail with some of the unlikeliest of ingredients such as ginger syrup, cucumber and sake.
The festival, which is in its third edition, also features other known international labels, such as the light and crisp Estrella Damm from Spain, Birra Moretti from Italy and Schneider Weisse from Germany, among others. Look out for Chimay, a Trappist beer that comes from the Scourmont Abbey in Belgium. Though unavailable during our visit, Chimay is known for its silky texture and a malty aftertaste.