This beer is another of our revisited classics, but a beer I'm happy to have any time.
Brasserie de Rochefort is a working Trappist Monastery in the south-eastern Belgium province of Namur. It is probably the most reclusive of all the Belgian Trappist monasteries as it sits atop a hill, with a high brick fence circling the monastery buildings. Rochefort does not even have a designated beer café nearby, as all the others – including Westvleteren – do.
But the beers aren’t hard to find, in the nearby town of Rochefort they are available at almost every café and bar. And even further afield, any respectable bar will make sure Rochefort beers are on their menu.
Until recently, Rochefort was famed for making just its three dark beers, though in 2020 they released their Tripel Extra. Rochefort 10 is the most lauded of the beers, with the 11.3% quadrupel described as the ‘King of the Trappists’. But my preference is this Rochefort 8, first brewed in 1954 and the last of the trio to be released. Originally dubbed the ‘speciale’ it is a little less-sweet than the 10, but with such a beautiful balance of all the flavours.
The beer is a ruddy brown colour, with a frothy off-white head. The aroma is a mixture of sweet dark stone fruits, some spicing, and roasty malts.
Sweet at first with hints of raisins and banana and rich chocolatey malt, as the beer progresses it dries out with some roasted malt astringency coming through along with the hop bitterness and herbal, spicy yeast notes; the aftertaste is long and full.
A threat to the future of Rochefort?: The monastery uses water from a centuries old wellspring with high levels of calcium and bicarbonate. But nearby limestone mining operations are threatening the continued supply and quality of this water. International petitions are supporting the position of the Rochefort Monastery, so hopefully big business profits will not lead to the demise of this world renowned monastery brewery.