Mont des Cats
The abbey of Mont-des-Cats was in its time very famous for its beer, found as far away as Paris.
Mont des Cats has long been occupied by religious; we can observe that the Antonine brothers were present there from 1650 to 1792.
In 1826, the painter Nicolas Joseph Ruyssen, from Hazebrouck, bought what remained of the Antonine hermitage and lived there. He took the time to restore it, thus subsidizing the creation of a priory at Mont des Cats.
View of the abbey around 1890 - we see beer carts and brewery chimney
Monks of the reformed Cîteaux order settled there, and in 1826 they asked the Trappists of the Abbey of Gard to establish an abbey on the Mont des Cats.
The foundation had its internal problems, which can be deduced from the rapid succession of priors from 1826 to 1847. To this must be added the “crisis” that the community went through from 1831 to 1835, linked to the request of a brother to be reimbursed for the money he had brought on entering, and which had been invested in the construction of the church. This divided the community to the point that some brothers were more than ready to leave when, at the request by the abbot of Gard, they emigrated to Belgium and participated in the founding of the abbey of Saint Sixte in 1831.
The first monastery was built in stages between 1826 and 1845. In 1847 the monastery was elevated to the rank of abbey and Dom Dominique Lacaes was elected first abbot.
The first years the life was rough on the Mount because of the poverty of the site.
This did not prevent Father Nil from enlarging the buildings of the abbey and building a cabaret in 1833. In 1835, a journalist noted that this "splendid cabaret, including an estaminet for smokers and private offices for sensitive or delicate people" allows the monks to sell "quite simply beer, to the man about town, excellent beer that is sold there to all comers..." .
Does this mean that the monks were already brewing this beer? Everything points to this, but the production was probably very artisanal and in limited quantities for sale on site.
Dom Sébastien Wyart, abbot of Mont des Cats from 1884 to 1889 became abbot of Sept-Fons, then first abbot general of the Trappist Cistercians in 1898. Dom Jérôme Parent, abbot from 1889 to 1906, decided to rebuild the abbey.
The Trappists believe that the house of God should also be that of work. 1847 therefore saw the installation of a forge and a brewery worthy of the name, under the leadership of Father Abbot Dom Lacaes. The cheese dairy was founded in 1849 to transform the herd's milk into cheese for the monks and guests. Cheese has continued to be the community's primary resource until today.
In 1898 the abbey church was consecrated and nine days of “open doors” which drew a considerable crowd.
The Brewery (I)
Originally, the Trappists brewed beer for their personal consumption and probably for the "cabaret." They produced in particular a dark beer, strong and tasty, well-appreciated by visitors. The need to create resources leads them to organize their marketing. The Trappists improved their brewing and fermentation technique every day.
In 1896, the industrial sector of the abbey was modernized.
The small brewery which was falling into ruins was rebuilt. As everyone knows, good water is the basis of good beer. This is why a 40 horsepower steam engine was installed, which is necessary for pumping pure water. The capacity of the brewery was around one hundred hectoliters and beer was sold at the time at 25 F per hectolitre.
This know-how, this concern for modernity brought an excellent reputation to the production of the abbey, as evidenced by Father Eugène Arnoult in his book, in 1898: "The beer trade of the PP Trappists extends far, in the big cities of the North, in Paris and in all of France. Their product, under the name of 'fine beer', has a well-deserved reputation: its blonde color, its lightness, the finesse of the hops used make it a worthy rival of the famous pale ale ".
In 1900, the Trappists, numbering 70, employed about fifty lay workers who assisted them in their daily work: brewery, cheese dairy, farm ... Brother Léon then ran the brewery.
THE Brewery (II)
Marked by the laws of the separation of Church and State implemented at the beginning of the 20th century, a good number of the monks took refuge in a rented farm in Watou, in Belgium.
(The government did not accept requests to maintain four houses including Chambarand and Sainte Marie du Mont, the latter being particularly criticized: "This establishment has a bad reputation ... It deals almost exclusively with a major brewery.")
Faced with these difficulties, the production of beer ceased in 1905. These anticlerical laws forced the foreign monks, many of them at Mont des Cats, to take the path of exile. This explains the closure of the brewery in 1907.
The First World War halted the plan to resume commercial production. In April 1918 a terrible bombardment turned the monastery and the brewery into ruins, with the latter never rebuilt.
After many years without beer at Mont des Cats, on Thursday 9 June 2011 a press conference took place within the abbey to announce the creation of a "Trappist beer from Mont des Cats." This has been sold on the Mount since Thursday, June 16, 2011.
This new Trappist beer corresponds to the criteria and legal definitions of a "Trappist beer" (according in particular to the courts of Ghent and Brussels). It is being produced initially by the Chimay brewery on behalf of the Mont des Cats abbey.
Some were worried about this approach and feared an uncontrolled development of beers with Trappist or other labels. These concerns have been put to rest and the "Mont des Cats" is now available for tasting.