Austrian Trappist abbey closes leading to uncertainty over brewery

Austrian Trappist abbey closes leading to uncertainty over brewery
Engelszell Trappist beer. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The last four monks staying at the Austrian abbey of Engelszell will soon leave the premises. Engelszell is home to Austria’s only Trappist brewery, leaving its future ridden with uncertainty.

The resident monk community announced on Friday that it is no longer able to maintain a Trappist life within the monastery. The decision to dissolve was taken in consultation with the Cistercian Trappist order.

The fate of the buildings, the church and the production of beer and liqueurs is uncertain. They are looking for a “suitable, preferably Catholic” solution.

The time frame for the closure as such is also not known. According to Austrian media, it could take another two years before the monks leave the premises for good. The abbey also had about 10 staff members.

Stift Engelszell was founded in 1925. A brewing operation had been launched there in 2012 in collaboration with Peter Krammer, who runs the family brewery Hofstetten, located in Sankt Martin, some 30 kilometres from the abbey.

“We had interrupted the collaboration around 2019-2020, but the abbey had its own brewmaster since then,” Peter Krammer told Belga agency, who remains very surprised by the closure announcement.

The production of the beers is not definitively over. The beer could lose its Authentic Trappist Product (ATP) logo, which states that a Trappist beer must be brewed within an abbey of the order and under the supervision of the monks.

In Belgium, Achel was recently confronted with the same situation when the last monks of the Limburg abbey left the premises in the summer of 2020. However, the beer is still produced on site by lay people and marketed. The recipe is unchanged, but the label no longer carries the ATP logo.

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A year ago, it was the American Trappists in Spencer, Massachusetts (northeast), who had stopped brewing, but not because of a shortage of staff. The community of St Joseph’s Abbey had felt that this activity, also launched a decade ago, was no longer viable.

If Engelszell has to give up its Trappist label, there will still be nine breweries to which this title applies.

Five of these are Belgian: Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren. Added to these are La Trappe and Zundert (Netherlands), Tynt Meadow (England) and Tre Fontane (Italy).

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