Brew Like A Monk came in the mail last week. It is part two of a three-part book on the ales of Belgium published over the last few years by Brewers Publications. The author, Stan Hieronymus, is one of those kind more experienced beer writers who has been very supportive over the life of this here blog and so it was quite nice to be able to read a longer example of his work in addition to his own blog, Appellation Beer, a conversation on a wide range of beer related topics, and the companion site for this book which focuses on Belgian and Belgian style brewing.
As with its partner, Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski reviewed last October, in this book Stan was able to give focus on very few breweries and give a good accounting of the processes used by each as well as their individual histories - though he also describes the non-Trappist brewers in Belgium and the USA that follow in the tradition. In doing so, he sets out some remarkable themes that reframe my thinking about the Trappist monasteries that brew some of the most famous and sought after beers in the world. One thing that I had a sense of but never was presented with so plainly was how these six small religious communities and their products mirror the history of Belgium which was founded in 1830 in the aftermath and as response to the Napoleonic wars. Most of the orders were disrupted by Revolutionary France in the 1790s and sought new and safer homes to the north. Another thing I had not so clearly understood is that the brew produced by these monks is not a pure continuation of anything enjoyed in the medieval era but a commercial response to consumer marketplace throughout the 20th century: slowly but surely, new beers are created and new ways of selling it are also devised.
"Brew Like A Monk" is organized like all books in this series - and its predecessor, the Classic Beer Style Series - in that they provide historical discussion and technical production descriptions before setting out how a home brewer can recreate examples. For me, this way of connecting brewing with the beer is an excellent path to understanding. A great addition to the library.