In 1820, the Saint Gall Monestry designed a template for the medieval monastic brewery. There was three breweries involved in this; One for paying customers and travellers, One for the Monks own Mead and another to make beer for the poor. Each brewery brewed different qualities of beer, the charitable brewery using the least desirable ingredients.
The Monks figured out that people would pay a lot more for stronger beer, a lot more than it would cost them for the extra grain. They also figured out that you could run water through the mash multiple of times. They continued doing the same thing with three separate batches however they would be getting three batches from one load of grain. The first batch which was the strongest and richest would go to the paying customers to keep the abbey running, the second batch would go to the monks and the third, the weakest batch would go to the poor.
Trappists spread across Europe as the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. It wasn’t easy for the Monks to grow wine grapes effectively so beer became the dominant culture, this was the way most abbeys kept maintained.
The next big step in quality started in the early 20th century as the influx of lower alcohol, foreign beers began to gain a following in Belgium. Belgian breweries struggled a lot with this and began to go out of business. This is mainly because Trappists were offering beer that was more flavourful and stronger in alcohol. The demand for this beer grew rapidly which was then boosted again by the 1919 law banning liquor sales in Belgian bars. This meant that punters were looking to the high alcohol levelled beer which was mainly made by monks. Even though the Monks weren’t really best known for change, they adopted new equipment and techniques that would ensure the beer would grow in quality. They believed that as they were working in the name of God that they should produce the best beer they could.
As the Trappist beers grew in fame and popularity, non-Trappist brewers started to use the term “Trappist.” The monks finally resorted to legal action in 1962. In 1997, the 6 Belgian Trappists, 1 Dutch Trappist, and 1 German Trappist monastery formed the “International Trappist Association,” known as the ITA.