Last April, I paid a visit-my fourth since 2003-to l’ Abbaye Notre Dame de St-Remy, and its storied Brasserie Rochefort. The stunning brewhouse, said by many to one of the most beautiful in the world, continues to impress on every visit. The copper kettles and stained-glass windows create quite and effect, especially on sunny days.
The dark Rochefort 6, 8, and 10 are among the most respected strong ales in the world. With their high alcohol contents-7.5%, 9.2%, and 11.3%, respectively, they are rich, flavorful, and contemplative-and great candidates for aging. I have enjoyed bottles of both the 8 and 10 with more than 25 years of age, and the brews were still excellent, with noticeable port and sherry characteristics.
The abbey, located in Namur province, has bounced back from a fire in December 2010, which fortunately did not affect the brewhouse, library, or other important buildings.
The brewery’s annual output has been increasing steadily for a number of years. Brewmaster Gumer Santos told me in February: “We brewed 35,153 hectoliters (about 30,000 U.S. barrels) overall in 2013.” The breakdown was: 9.81% for the Rochefort 6; 50.64% for the 8; and 39.55% for the mighty 10. Obviously, business is good, as the brewery has roughly doubled production in the last ten years.
During my trip last year, I took a number of beer friends who had never seen the brewery before, as it is closed to the public. Frere (Brother) Pierre, the monk in charge of the brewery, gave us a tour, as he had in 2003 and 2008. My 2005 visit was hosted by Gumer Santos.
Part 2 will feature the abbey, church, and library. In part 3, I will give you an update on the threat to the abbey and brewery’s spring water, and show you the lab, and rest of the brewery. Enjoy!
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