The main character of our itinerary will be the Trappist. Specifically, beer brewed by Trappists, also known as Cistercians monks. The Trappists originally brewed beer in order to be self-sufficient and feed their community. Nowadays, most Trappist breweries also fund charitable causes with revenues from beer sales. In most abbeys, the monks are no longer involved in the daily activities of the brewery, as it has become a modern business.
However there’s still a very strict, specific set of criteria that the beer has to respect to be considered a Trappist. It must still be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, and at least under the monks’ supervision.Since the rules are so strict, there are only 14 Trappist breweries in the world, and at least five of them are in Belgium (Achel used to be a Trappist brewery but since 2021 the monks have retired, so it lost its Trappist status).
Yes, that’s how important beer is in Belgian culture! With more than 800 different varieties, the country has more diversity in beer styles than any other beer-producing region. That’s why, even if Trappist beer is the star of our tour, we can’t leave the side characters out: let us guide you to some lesser-known spots and discover stunning abbeys and historical buildings in the regions of Flanders and Wallonia.
Buckle up and get ready to discover the history of traditional beer knowledge passed through families and breweries for centuries.
Day 1: Westmalle Brewery, De Koninck brewery
We’ll definitely get off to a good start with the Westmalle Brewery. Located in the small Westmalle village, not far from Antwerp, this brewery and abbey date back to the early 18th century. Using barley malt, sugar, and yeast from the abbey's own culture, the monks have been brewing beer for over 180 years. But the special thing about Westmalle is that this was the very first Tripel beer in the world. The monks were the first to create it in the 1930s.
The monks live a very private, secluded life, so the brewery is not open to visitors. However, you can take a 45-minute walk around the abbey and take a glimpse of the history of this special place. And after a long walk, shop or have a lovely meal at the Trappist Café nearby: the products made by the Trappistines might not be as famous as the beer, but your taste buds will thank you for trying the locally produced Westmalle cheese. There’s a wide choice: creamy, semi-hard two-month-old cheese with a buttery, mild taste, the stronger yet balanced six-month-old cheese, or the zesty, salty twelve-month-old cheese for those who prefer a more complex flavour.
The next place you definitely shouldn’t miss out on is De Koninck Brewery. Even if it’s not a Trappist abbey, this Antwerp-based brewery is worth a visit, trust us. Get ready for an immersive, audiovisual interactive tour in the world of beer-making. Driving through town in a vintage delivery van and exploring the brewery hall with your very own Bolleke glass are just a couple of the things you’ll get to experience. And since this is the last activity for the day, you can even combine the tour with a “meet the crafts” fun, and educational beer tasting to dive into the world of beer. You can also choose to pair the beer with some delicious food. Unfortunately, that’s only possible for groups of ten or more during the week, but you can have a tour with smaller groups if you go on Sundays. Don’t forget to make a reservation on the official website if you want to do that.
Where to Stay in Antwerp:
Budget - BONJOUR Apartments Сentre 3
Mid-range - HotelO Kathedral
Luxury - Hotel Rubens-Grote Markt
Day 2: Duvel Moortgat brewery, Aulne abbey
The next brewery on our tour is Duvel Moortgat: this family-owned brewery was founded in 1871 by Jan-Leonard Moortgat, who descended from a family of brewers from Steenhuffel.
Ever since then, the Moortgats have been brewing their famous golden ale and many more varieties of beer.
Have a guided visit and discover more about the brewing process of the renowned devil beer. The visit includes two drinks and a small gift. You can also stop in the Café Depot Duvel nearby, but since it’s a long way to get to the next brewery, we recommend stopping in the shop to buy a couple of bottles to bring home or gadgets like glasses or bottle openers.
For the next brewery, we’re heading to Wallonia, the French-speaking region in the south of the country, to go for a change of setting. Although beer is what we’re here for, you can’t skip a visit to the Aulne abbey. Not far from the city of Charleroi, the ruins of the abbey are nestled in the stunning nature of the quiet Vallée de la Paix (Valley of Peace) by the Sambre river. The abbey has a fascinating history: the legend says that Saint Landelin, a repenting thief, founded it and named it Aulne after the trees of the area. French revolutionaries under Napoleon burnt the abbey down in 1794, but you can still walk its ruins, and marvel at the stunning view of this Walloon Heritage site. After the walk, it’s time to go back to your beer journey and delight your palate in the Brasserie de l’Abbaye d’Aulne, where the Aulne beer is brewed following the traditional brewing arts of the Cistercian monks.
Where to Stay in Thuin:
Budget - Auberge de l'Abbaye
Mid-range - Au vert chez Cécile
Luxury - Ferme du Pont de Bois - Le Fenil
Day 3: Brasserie d’Orval, Brasserie d’Achouffe
The last Trappist for our final day: the historical Orval Trappist Brewery had to be a part of our itinerary. As you know by now, Trappist beer must be brewed by Cistercian monks… so you guessed it! There’s an Abbey to visit. There’s plenty to do and see here: the stunning 18th-century ruins, where nature and history meet in a perfect combination, the medicinal herb garden, where you can admire lots of plants used by the monks for centuries for medicinal purposes a history museum, where the neoclassical buildings will transport visitors back to the past. The brewery is only open to visitors on special Open Door days. Alternatively, if you’re a big group, you can book a visit on the official website.
Don’t forget to drink a glass of beer along with immersing yourself in the history: this Trappist is made in the traditional Belgian way by re-fermenting in the bottle. But hold your horses! There’s still one brewery to visit, so don’t drink too much because there’s still a long way (and a lot more tasting) to do. Alternatively, you can taste and buy the locally made cheese at the nearby fromagerie.
Visiting this last brewery will feel like entering a fairytale. Created in the 1970s by brothers-in-law Pierre Gobron and Chris Bauweraerts in the Vallée des Fées (the Valley of the Fairies), the Brewery La Chouffe expanded its business throughout the years and gained success. That’s when the brothers-in-law decided to create a gnome character for every beer they made! Yes, cute little gnomes that you’ll find on the logos of each different Chouffe beer glass along the tour. There’s a selection of 8 Belgian craft beers to choose from: from Blond beer to IPA, from dark to cherry flavour, there’s something for every palate. You’ll get a chance to taste 4 of them in their Auberge des Lutins (Gnome’s Inn), after the guided brewery tour. You can book a tour on the official website or join a last-minute tour on Sundays.
Where to Stay in Houffalize:
Budget - B&B La Source Houffalize
Mid-range - Hotel des Postes
Luxury - Maison-indi
Map of Belgium's Trappist beer experience
Want to see all the stops and destinations planned out? Check out a map of the itinerary here: