Beer has been brewed in Westmalle since 1836, but it hasn’t always been commercialised. Most of the money originally came from the agricultural Trappist abbey, while the beer itself remained within the walls of the abbey. The Trappists of Westmalle actually saw more potential in selling wine than beer back in the early days.
Things changed when the Vandervelde Act was introduced in 1919, stipulating that no strong liquor should be sold in bars. This was enacted to prevent alcohol abuse among workers, who at that time, all drank a lot of gin. Suddenly a gap in the market emerged, that beer brewers were more than happy to fill.
Many of the heavy beers we know today were created in the period that followed. The monks worked hard and expanded sales to Antwerp. Before long, beer wasn’t just being delivered by truck; the abbey even had its own tramway that connected to the Antwerp-Turnhout tram line.
Tripel beer Belgium
When Westmalle’s heaviest beer was introduced as a Tripel in 1956 with huge success, other brewers were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Tripels began to crop up everywhere in Belgium. And since Westmalle’s famous Tripel was blond, the new Tripels were too. Although dark Tripels existed and do sometimes still exist, the 'Tripel' style became synonymous with a heavy, yeasty, fruity blond.