Cistercian Order. In the Catholic Church, when laymen or clergy wish to dedicate their lives to the church, they are organized into groups of men (monks) or women (nuns) called “religious orders.” These religious orders are each led by a superior and follow a distinct set of religious rules. The Cistercians are one of the religious orders of the Catholic Church and were founded in the year 1098 in Citeaux, France. Their goal was to break away from the order of the Benedictines, who were supposedly becoming lax at interpreting the Rule of Saint Benedict. The Rule of Saint Benedict is no easy path, comprising a book of 73 chapters that spell out the rules for living together in a religious order. The Cistercians wanted a stricter interpretation of the Rule and to live with greater devotion to the motto of St. Benedict, “ora e labora” (prayer and work).

In the 17th century a sub-family of the Cistercians was created called the Trappists, who advocated an even stricter observance of the Rule. Trappists closely follow three of the Rules: silence, prayer, and living by the work of their hands. In this regard, over the years Trappists have come to make foodstuffs, including beer. There are currently seven recognized Trappist breweries in the world, Koningshoeven in the Netherlands and six from Belgium: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. Trappist beers are world renowned for their taste and quality. A beer labeled as “Trappist” must be brewed by a Trappist brewery. The Trappist designation is protected by law and widely enforced by the International Trappist Association. There exist many beers similar to Trappist beers produced by secular breweries but these beers are called abbey beers.

See also abbey beers and trappist breweries.