No.1 travel guide for Belgium; dedicated to Belgian beer and food culture.

Westmalle… where Trappists say “Cheese”

Email  •  Print

Author: Erik Verdonck / Published: 2016-07-06 11:19:55 +0200 / Last Updated: almost 2 years ago

Westmalle Tripel, Westmalle trappist cheese Apéro delight!

WESTMALLE - Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel are iconic Trappist beers. The popularity of the beers makes people almost forget that these monks also produce a tasty cheese. Westmalle cheese Still a manual craft...

Westmalle Abbey is built on moorland which is quite bleak and not very productive from an agricultural point of view. However, throughout the years and by sheer virtue of hard work, the monks established fields and meadows that now cover around 300 hectares.

This has enabled two hundred dairy cows to be grazed which are mainly from two breeds: Groningse Blaarkop and Brown Swiss. These cattle varieties are not generally known for their high milk production; however, the milk they do produce on the monks’ lush meadows is of a very high quality.

The cows are milked twice a day. They will step into the auto-tandem – a type of carousel – that has 28 milking positions. These pampered cows lead a stress-free life and are treated with care, producing milk destined for the cheese workshop and some also goes to a local dairy.

“We have opted for sustainable agriculture and this includes the rearing of our cattle,” Brother Francis tells us. “The cows graze in our own meadows, they are fed from own fields and from the milk they produce, we make our own Trappist cheese. The term ‘short chain’ can be taken quite literally here.”

Westmalle Abbey, Westmalle cheese A happy Trappist cow

The Blessed Peace

I am allowed a peek within the abbey walls where I am shown a modern cheese dairy unit (built in 2011) and the places where the cows are housed. Once more, I am overwhelmed by the atmosphere Westmalle cheese, Westmalle Tripel Westmalle "classic"...
of peace and quiet that prevails here - at no point during my visit do I have the feeling of visiting a business.

“The former cheese dairy (1860) was located right next to the brewery,” Brother Francis explains. “Cheese has always been important to us."

"Ever since 1834, when the Abbey was founded, we have been producing beer, cheese and bread. Just take a look at the shape of the cheese: it is perfectly attuned to the way we shape our bread."

"This is how the cheese forms a natural complement to our bread and makes for the ideal sandwich filling."

The Trappist cheese from Westmalle was a well-kept secret for many years; only the locals knew that you could buy it from the abbey gate. These days, the cheese is more heavily promoted and can be often found in specialised cheese shops.

Today we are tasting this cheese with a degustation glass of Dubbel and Tripel in Café Trappisten, located just across the road. Westmalle cheese is low in salt (1%), is pure, healthy and Westmalle trappist cheese The slightly more aged version...
nourishing as it does not contain any preservatives, colouring agents or additional flavours.

Its aromas and tastes are determined by the way the animals are fed and also depend on the seasons. Just like they do with their beer, the monks are striving for harmony, balance and complexity.

I find the slightly sour taste of this cheese quite exceptional. “You’ll not get bored with this cheese,” Brother Francis tells me. “And I should know: I eat it every day!”

This cheese forms a great pairing with the robust beers produced by the Trappists. “On ageing, this cheese will developed even more intense tastes,” the monk assures us.

Westmalle trappist cheese sandwich Westmalle sandwich anyone?

Take Your Time

The day starts early in the cheese dairy. The cheese tub is filled with the previous day’s milk, heated to a temperature between 40°C and 72°C. The cheese master is now heating up Westmalle dubbel, Westmalle cheese croquettes Westmalle dubbel & cheese croquettes
the milk to a temperature of 30°C, stirring all the while.

“You need ten litres of milk to produce one kilo of cheese,” he explains. Rennet is added to create a gelatinous mass: these are the curds. The cheese master allows the curds to firm up before cutting it into shapes.

The liquid whey is now separated from the curd – the whey is used as cattle feed – whilst the curds are rinsed in warm water.

To produce a hard cheese, the Westmalle Trappist for example, the curds will be transferred to a mould before being pressed to ensure the last traces of whey drain away. This cheese will pressed three times, resulting in a homogenous cheese where all the solid particles stick together.

Now, the cheese will be bathed in brine for ten hours to allow it to develop its zesty taste. And finally, it will mature for anything between eight weeks and 12 months in a dedicated maturation chamber at a temperature between 13 and 15°C, at a humidity of 85 to 95%.

During this time, the cheese forms a crust that protects it from mould and the cheese makers will turn each cheese by hand every day.

After all that time, loving care, skill and patience … the delicious cheese is ready to enjoy. Have you put your Westmalle Trappist in to chill?

More info on Westmalle

Brouwerij Westmalle
Abdij Westmalle Antwerpsesteenweg 496
B-2390 Malle

Facebook: Westmalle

Recent Blog Posts

Brewers of Europe Forum 2019: Craftsmanship on the old continent
ANTWERP - Brewers from 59 different countries flocked to attend the Brewers of Europe Forum 2019 in the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hall, right next to the renowned Antwerp Central Station building. ... [ read more ]
Craftsmanship and balance at brewery Van Steenberge
ERTVELDE - To track down a brewer within his own domain is a high-ranking form of sports, or that’s the impression I get. After a bit of practice I spot Jef Versele, CEO of the Van Steenberge brewery, ... [ read more ]
Brussels Beer Challenge 2018 - The results!
MECHELEN - The historic city of Mechelen, halfway between Brussels and Antwerp, is truly a hidden gem. The presence of the Dukes of Burgundy, who ruled here in the late middle ages, still permeates th ... [ read more ]
Best of Belgium Beer & Bites pops up at Brussels Airport
BRUSSELS/ZAVENTEM - This year Brussels Airport is 60 years young! The airport is planning to mark this milestone by showcasing the very best of Belgian produce, which would not be complete without ... [ read more ]
Trappist beer meets whisky, Chimay Grande Réserve Fermentée en Barriques 2018
At the BeerLovers’ Café just behind Liège’s City Hall we get together to taste the limited edition Chimay Grande Réserve Fermentée en Barriques 2018, a Trappist beer aged in whisky barrels. ... [ read more ]


You must be logged in to leave a comment



Westmalle Dubbel or Westmalle Tripel?

WESTMALLE - If you order a Westmalle you’re likely to be served with a Tripel. This is no coincidence as this strong blonde Trappist beer now accounts for 75% of the beer output of this http://belgium.beertouris... [ more ]

Beer cheeses - Hops and milk in perfect harmony

Beer and cheese are made for one another. This isn’t exactly a well-kept secret. Cheese provides tastes and aromas that are not found in beer, most notably salt, and thus, beer and cheese are complementary. ... [ more ]

Trappist beer, a trademark to be reckoned with...

The name ‘Trappist’ refers both to a religious order and to the world famous abbey beers that they produce. In Belgium there are six abbeys that belong to the order of the Trappists, otherwise k... [ more ]

Trappist beer, a Belgian success story

I recently heard it straight from the brewer’s mouth: “You need a good story nowadays if you want to sell beer.” This may go some way in explaining the hype around Belgian Trappist beer. Achel, C... [ more ]

Westmalle, a shining beacon of Trappist beer...

WESTMALLE - Time appears to stand still in a Trappist abbey like Westmalle. However, appearances can be deceptive - even here the latest technologies are quietly creeping in. The abbey has an up-to-date ... [ more ]


More Beer

In 1934, the successful opening of the new Westmalle brewery was celebrated with a ground-breaking new ‘super beer’, brewed on the very same premises. Widely acknowledged as the f... [ more ]

Beer Tourism Newsletter Signup

Enter your name and email address on the right and click "SignUp" to join.