'Extra' beer from behind the walls of Westmalle Abbey
Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel are known to almost everyone. Westmalle Extra, on the other hand, was previously known only to real beer enthusiasts. That has now changed, as everyone can buy it.
In 1836, the Trappist monks of Westmalle Abbey in the Antwerp Campine started brewing their own beer to accompany their daily meals. The choice of beer instead of water, which is much plainer, dates back to the Middle Ages, when water was often contaminated with germs that could easily cause epidemics. Monasteries and abbeys learned to make beer by leaving water to ferment with grains, which produced a low percentage of alcohol in the water and killed the germs. Westmalle has continued the tradition, and Saint Benoît, whose monastic rule was adopted by the Trappists, saw that it was good.
A white beer quickly appeared after this first dark table beer. An Extra-Orge blonde followed in the early 20th century, produced on a small scale and intended exclusively for consumption within the abbey walls. It was the forerunner of the monks' Extra variety, both blonde and golden. Particularly noteworthy is its low alcohol content (4.8%). And yet, with its fruity notes and rich aroma, it guarantees a surprisingly ideal, refreshing and thirst-quenching taste experience.
The queues at the door on Friday mornings were getting a little too long, so Westmalle Abbey has decided to offer its Extra to restaurants and off-licences. A good tip for the summer, either at home or ... on a terrace?