How can you not love a story that includes a sentence like this?
The second-generation Vietnamese-American became interested in Belgian ales while studying for his doctorate in theology in Scotland.
It gets harder when the very next sentence goes astray.
Belgian beers often have a distinctive sweet flavor profile that sets them apart from beers brewed elsewhere, and are intended to be consumed with food to aid as a digestive.
There’s a difference between between a beer being “digestible” — a term I’ve heard several Belgian brewers use — and a digestive, because well-attenuated beers, often dry, are not sweet. Conceding to myself I can be a little anal about these facts, I read on. Until . . .
European monks traditionally brewed beer or other liquor to sustain them during their lengthy devotionals.
Not exactly. Monks live by the rule of Saint Benedict, written about A.D. 530. It calls on monks to be self-sufficient through their own labor. It also requires them to offer hospitality to travelers, making production of beer essential when water was unsafe to drink. Monastery breweries pre-date the rule of Charlemagne (742-814), and led the way when large-scale production of beer in Europe began. Monks consumed most of the beer themselves, but eventually sold a portion to members of the surrounding community. Their beers likely tasted much like those made in homes, where the bulk of brewing still took place, and not at all like today. What eventually set them apart was the scale and method of production, and their practices served as a model for commercial breweries.
As well as sustaining themselves, modern Trappists contribute to multiple charities and to local economies. For instance, Chimay, with 150 employees in its brewery and cheese making facility, is one of the largest employers in one of Belgium’s poorest regions. Westvleteren sells its beer in wooden crates manufactured in a “shielded workplace” for those not able to in a mainstream environment.
So that’s why I quit reading. However, I remain charmed by that one sentence, a reminder that beer is multi-cultural.