Thursday 17 January 2008

Notes de terroir: Floreffe

By special request from the Hague special investigation unit, 40b40's Trappist and Regional Brewery Analyst Seb has provided these brief backgrounders on the successive beverages of our competing athlete.
Let us start where we stopped, down in Namur province, in Floreffe. Contrary to Leffe and Chimay which we've already virtualy visited, Floreffe is very much a living and lively abbey. Founded in 1121, the abbey today holds a scondary school said to be among the best in the region. The site of the abbey, magnificently preserved, hosts an annual world music festival called Esperanzah at the end of July.

With only three beers so far reviewed, you already have an understanding of the respect Belgians pay religious people for their brewing habits. It is in 1121 that the Count of Namur ordered the building of an abbey on the site of Floreffe (coming from the Latin for flower, flores). The first inhabitants of the abbey were monks of the Premontrés order. The first beers were brewed in the middle of the thirteenth century, when a brewing mill was erected on the site. Beer production sustained the monastic finances for over five centuries -- until the French Revolution hit the region. In 1794, the mill was destroyed, the monks fled to Germany, and the brewery ceased production.

The monastery gave way to a seminary and then a secondary school, dubbed the small seminary. In 1960, the headmaster of the secondary school, facing substantial maintenance bills for the magnificent set of abbey buildings, decided to relaunch the historical economic pillar of the abbey: beer making. The mill was restored.

In 1983, beer making was transfered to the Lefebvre brewery, which developed and diversified the brand, making it -- as our Competing Athlete confirms -- one the gems among belgian beers.

If the beer is worth the detour, the abbey site is just as much. The historic mill today serves as a salon de degustation where tourists can enjoy beer on tap and other abbey products, such as smoked ham, pâté, cheese and bread, all made localy.

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