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False Trappists

Ch I
Trappist beers have long attracted the envy of secular brewers, inspired by their reputation for strength and quality.

During the first half of the 20th century, so-called "Trappist" beers flourished, even though they had no connection with the Cistercian monks.


The Trappist monks took several measures aimed at protecting the designation of their products and organized themselves accordingly.

Thus in 1932, the ASBL Abbaye de Westmalle registered the word "Trappistenbier."

In 1934, a dispute arose between the religious community of Westmalle and the Verlinden brewery in Brasschaat, which sold so-called "Trappistenbier."


The Trappist fathers brought an action against this brewer for unfair competition and demanded 250,000 BEF in damages. The commercial court of Antwerp assessed the situation and dismissed the charges.  The court ruled that the name "Trappist" is not a special mark, but applies to several beers made in different convents of Trappists, and that the Trappist monks are not traders and therefore cannot argue unfair competition by a real trader.

In 1962, the abbey and the brewery of Orval began an action against the brewery of Veltem in Louvain. This time the Ghent court ruled in their favor.

The Anglo-Belgian brewery who owned the Veltem brewery was ordered to pay 1 Belgian franc in damages, as well as pay for publishing the judgment.

The Anglo-Belgian brewery found itself with 9,500 wooden bins engraved on the arms ... Since this judgment, the name "Trappist beer" has been protected.

The Verlinden case (1 of 2)

The first brewer of "De Drie Linden" (the three lime trees) breweries in Braschaat was named Julius Simon, who founded the breweries in 1884. Ten years later, he had earned enough money to retire, and the brewery was bought by Edmond Royers, himself the son of a well-known brewer from the city of Antwerp.


Edmond Royers was killed in his house by a German soldier in 1916, and in the fall of 1919 his widow sold the brewery to a then well-known scientist named Hendrik Verlinden.

Hendrik Verlinden was born in 1866 in a humble family from Wijnegem. At the age of 16, he left school and became a worker in the Louis Meeùs factory, then one of the largest distilleries in the world.

It was there that he learned the art of distillery by observing his masters and studying Dutch and German works on the subject.


Within a few years, he became one of the main chemists of the distillery, developing improved procedures for producing yeast and alcohol.


In 1909, Hendrik Verlinden left the distillery after being denied a promotion and salary increase. He thought that this was due to his humble Flemish origins, while his bosses belong to the French-speaking bourgeoisie.


The Verlinden case (2 of 2)


Verlinden embarked on a career as an independent consultant in distillery, brewery and yeast factories across Europe.


His methods of producing pure alcohol were purchased by many distilleries in Germany and Denmark.

In 1916, Verlinden published “Het Praktisch Handboek der Gistingindustries” ("Practical Treatise on the Yeast Industry"), which was the first scientific manual in Flemish, for use in the distillery and yeast industries.

In the years that followed, Hendrik Verlinden helped more than 70 factories (breweries, distilleries and yeast producers) across Europe. He was offered a job as Director of a major distillery in the United States, but he preferred to stay in Flanders.

In 1926 and again in 1929, he came to the aid of the Trappists of Westmalle who were having difficulties with their beers “Dubbel Bruin” and “Extra Gersten.” It was also in 1929 that, probably inspired by the beer of the Trappist fathers of Westmalle, Verlinden launched the production of a Trappist type beer; he registered the trademark “Witkap Pater” in 1932. Indeed, the term Witkap designates the white cap of certain Trappist beers. This initiative must have displeased the monks, who brought legal action against Verlinden.  This was not successful and Verlinden continued using the term "Trappistenbier." The registered trademark “Witkap Pater = Trappistenbier” was used by the Verlinden family until the early 1980s. (An article testifying to this judgment unfavorable to the Trappists can be viewed by clicking here.)

Hendrik Verlinden died in the early days of the German invasion of Belgium in 1940. On Saturday May 11, the German air force bombed Brasschaat. The brewery was hit by two bombs that kill Hendrik Verlinden and his youngest son Jozef. His surviving children took over the brewery from 1940 on, under the name “the children of Hendrik Verlinden.” Production ceased at the end of the 1970s.  It was taken over for a while by the Luyten brewery.  Then, in the early 1980s, the name Witkap Pater was officially acquired by the Slaghmuylder brewery in Ninove, which still brews it today.

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