Brother Jules, a well-known face to visitors at Brouwerij Achel, joined the abbey as a monk and brewer in 2002. He had retired from years a baker and is a widower. Marc Knops taught him how to brew during his time at Achel. During my several visits to the brewery and abbey, both Brother Jules and Marc were there.
Brother Jules’ departure from the Abbey and brewery has caused much consternation in the Belgian beer world in the last week or so, as it seemed this could mean the end of the brewing of Trappist beer at Achel. However, Marc told me today that, for now, things would remain the same, and that he and partner brewer, Jordy Theuwen, would continue brewing at Achel. “The monks who remain here will oversee our brewing activities, as required by the rules of the International Trappist Association,” Marc commented.
All Trappist beers have to be brewed by, or under the supervision of, monks, within the walls of an Abbey. In order to keep the “Authentic Trappist Product” (ATP) certification, these and other conditions must be met. As long as there are monks at Achel, who are able to oversee and control brewing operations, Trappist beer will continue to be brewed there, Knops told me.
In the case of Achel, there are only six monks left living at the abbey, and five of the six are in their 70’s and 80’s. Long-term, this means that unless some new monks come to live at Achel, the future of Trappist life and Trappist brewing there is not guaranteed. In response to Brother Jules’ retirement, the mayor of nearby Hamont, Theo Schuurmans, stated in an interview with Radio 2 Limburg that the town is prepared to take over the brewery and brewing duties if Trappist life were to ever cease at Achel. The region clearly does not want to lose a much-loved, historic local attraction that is very popular with cyclists and beer lovers.
Brother Jules, now Jules Van den Bossche again, will spend lots of time with his children and grandchildren, he was quoted as saying by a local Internet gazette.