Mount Saint Bernard’s Tynt Meadow Trappist Ale

The new brewery of Trappist (Cistercian Strict Observance) Mount Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, U.K. is now operating. This is a major development in both U.K. and international brewing circles. The first and only beer to be released is Tynt Meadow, named after a patch of land where the first monastic arrivals in the area built shelter, later removing to premises in nearby Charnwood Forest, Coalville, Leicestershire.

A page from the abbey’s website gives full information on the monks’ vocation, the brewing project and underlying aims, and how to source the beer. It is available in bottled form only and is bottled with its residual yeast, a technique at least hundreds of years old.

Such “bottle-conditioning” is not dissimilar (in substance) to the part of Champagne production that generates the famous fizz. “Champers” is said to be, pleasingly in this context, of monastic origin via the historical originator Dom Perignon, although the story may be mythic or in part.

Mount Saint Bernard’s beer sales will help support the trust that funds the abbey’s activities – promotes its good works. The brewery is one of only a dozen authorized to use the Trappist designation. Most Trappist breweries are in Belgium with a scattering in other countries, including now the U.K.

First reports indicate a rich brew of traditional English character. As the abbey’s website makes clear, the beer is mashed and brewed from all-English materials including malt, hops, and yeast. I was very glad to read this and had called substantially for this style of beer in my 2016 essay discussing historical brewing at the abbey, see here.

While it is doubtful a strong ale was made at Mount Saint Bernard in the 1800s vs. the low-alcohol, “small beer” I discuss in the 2016 post, older monastic brewing history suggests full-strength monastic ale was made in Britain that influenced European abbey brewing before the French Revolution.

This earlier tradition, deployed notably at the Benedictine Dieulouard abbey in France before the Revolution, had to, in my view, influence in turn the strong beers later made at Belgian Trappist monasteries in the post-Napoleon period. See again my 2016 post for this broader history.

In time, and certainly today, a Belgian yeast signature emerged that typifies most (not quite all) Belgian Trappist beer, influenced likely too by the typically high fermentation temperatures used. The impact on the palate is quite different, in my experience, to that resulting from today’s English brewing yeasts and fermentation practice.

The Belgian yeast signature displays a chalky, clovey note, whereas English yeasts generate a range of flavours from mineral to soft black, or other, fruit character. I realize this is generalization and does not take account of numerous factors such as water profile, but still a bright line can be drawn, imo.

Regarding the true nature of the beer brewed (or sourced, perhaps) at Mount Saint Bernard in the 1800s, perhaps it was a typical English 7% abv “first mash” strong ale but diluted for serving in the refectory.

As pointed out in my earlier posts there is evidence that strong abbey ales were considered to “support” dilution, meaning sometimes the beer was cut with water to reduce the alcohol. If this process was not used at Mount Saint Bernard, then presumably a small beer or ale was brewed (1-3% abv), the type of low-alcohol beer still widely brewed in Britain then.

Until such time as Mount Saint Bernard brewing records of the 1800s surface – apparently the monastery cannot locate them – the precise character of the monks’ 19th century beer cannot be known. Nonetheless, as I documented earlier, from 1842 until the 1890s numerous visitors to the abbey recounted that a small beer was served with the meals; we know that much.

Any way one looks at it, the type of beer Mount Saint Bernard has decided to brew in 2018 is fully within the Anglo-European abbey brewing tradition. And it offers, in my view, a (welcome) change from the typical Trappist/Abbey/Belgian ale palate, dominated as it is by the Belgian yeast signature.

4 thoughts on “Mount Saint Bernard’s Tynt Meadow Trappist Ale”

  1. Yes, thanks v much, Gary, I was wondering when the beer was going to be released. Great detail in there for us all to ponder.

    It is interesting that the Trappist breweries outside the Low Countries brew beers which are quite often different in character to the ‘original’ ones.

    My favourite Trappist beer outside Belgium and Netherlands is ‘Benno’ (ha!), from the Austrian Stift Engeszell monastery, a dubbel-ish type beer of 6.9%. Not the most complex beer, but balanced and tasty to my palate. They do ‘Nivard’ described as a pale ale too, along with their more ‘conventional’ flagship ‘Gregorious’.

    On the other hand, my least favourite Trappist beer outside Belgium and Netherlands is ‘Tre Fontaine’ from near Rome – I just don’t enjoy the flavor of eucalyptus in beer, even if it is from a scared bush within the grounds of the monastery.

    I wonder what this one will taste like. In the glass it reminds me of the relatively new Dutch Trappist ‘Zundert’, not that that means much.

    Cheers!

    • Ben thanks for this. I haven’t had the advantage of having Benno, but note the salute to its inspiration as you did, and Evan Rail in Draft magazine has written it is a saison-type. I haven’t had the others from from Stift (from 2012), or the newer Tre Fontaine or Zundert.

      I did taste Spencer’s first and main beer (with the white label and beveled bottle) from St. Joseph’s in Massachusetts.

      That Spencer is strongly “Belgo-Low Country” ale in taste, that clove, talc, chalky taste. St. Joseph’s has a further line-up, some of which probably divert from that yeast background, e.g. Imperial Stout.

      The first Dutch Trappist brewery, Koningshoeven, is again typically Belgian ale in yeast type.

      So some of the newer Trappist breweries retain the “original” approach to the fermentation side; some appear not to but clearly Mount Saint Bernard strikes its own path. It would be as valid if it had no links to its own or even English monastic brewing in general, but offers the bonus to be squarely in the latter and maybe both.

  2. Hi Gary ,
    Nice article , good to see a traditional take on a classic !
    Cheers
    Edd

    • Thanks Edd, clearly you see the full picture as elucidated in the earlier posts, I appreciate the attention.

      Gary

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: