Chimay Trappist beers and cheeses, Chimay
Every day, a high number of tourists visit l’Abbaye de Scourmont, in the borough of Chimay. They are looking for the secrets of the famous Chimay beer, known throughout the world.
‘Do you know where the Chimay beer is produced?’ a tourist asks a monk sitting on reception at l’Abbaye de Scourmont. ‘It’s here in the buildings just next to the church and the cloisters, but you can’t visit the brewery. I advise you instead to go through the woods opposite the car park and you will find l’Auberge du Poteaupré. There you will be able to find the Chimay products which you will of course be able to taste,’ he replies.
Frère Edouard, has worked on reception for a number of years and welcomes tourists from all over the world who are attracted by this specific beer. He is one of 16 monks who make up the community of the abbey, aged from 46 to 105 years old.
In addition to prayer, the community of monks continue to make beer, a voluntary choice in order to keep up the tradition of Trappist beer.
Beer and cheese production at the heart of the abbey
As Trappist beers, the Chimay beers are brewed within the abbey. Fabrice Bordon, spokesperson for the company, shows us the premises: the casks, the laboratory for carrying out daily tasks, the reserves, etc. ‘This is the meeting and tasting room. Every day at 11:30 a.m., several experts test different beers to primarily check the fermentation and the consistency of the taste of the beer.’
As a Trappist beer, the beer is brewed within the abbey under the supervision of the monks.
Well incorporated into the abbey’s architecture, the brewery is a real production plant equipped with cutting-edge technology. 180,000 hectolitres of beer are brewed here each year. This amount corresponds to 60 million small bottles, well known on the market. The brewing process lasts 5 weeks, more or less. The beers are exported to 74 countries, mainly to France, USA and China. The Chimay Bleue has had the most international success.
The abbey also produces cheese, 960 tonnes each year. ‘The company is supplied by the surrounding farms by about 60 farmers. The cheesemaking process lasts 4 weeks, more or less.’
A warm welcome for tourists
Another feature of the premises: many enthusiasts want to explore the production premises. The company therefore developed a tourist activity to meet this significant demand: it created the Espace ChimayExpérience to display its history via an interactive exhibition. It also established l’Auberge du Poteaupré. This place invites passing visitors to taste a beer, a local dish or to relax in an upstairs bedroom. More than 2,000 tourists pass through there each year.
Finally, the company also stands out thanks to its way of working. The offices and the bottling areas are located a few kilometres from l’Abbaye de Scourmont, in the Baileux zone. They have 200 employees who organise their schedules according to the monastery’s philosophy. ‘We work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., five days a week. We have some soup at 11:00 a.m. Boxes of beer or cheese are given to the employees’, says Fabrice Bordon. ‘Working hours are limited to the abbey’s opening hours, even if production demand increases.’
The employees are given boxes of beer or cheese
The profits are distributed to local social initiatives
Still according to the Trappist philosophy, most of the profits go to social initiatives. The Fondation Chimay Wartoise was created to manage the distribution of the profits. It selects local projects based on their social involvement. ‘90% of the income from the Chimaycompany is managed by the foundation. The foundation has already supported more than 900 projects in the region,’ says Fabrice Bordon.
For some years, the company has been testing new methods for storing the beer. It now sells Chimay Bleue Grande Réserve beers. ‘These are Chimay Bleue beers which have aged in oak casks for 4 months. These casks are old barrels that used to store brandy, rum or whisky that we recovered. They give the beer a particular taste,’ he says.
Some beers, aged for tens of years, are still stored in the cellars of the abbey. Only a privileged few will be able to taste them.
Rue de Poteaupré, 5
+32 (0)60 21 14 33
©Video/Reed & Leslie Artamonow