For a decade the monks of Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy, in Rochefort, south Belgium - one of only 14 abbeys in the world producing Trappist beer - have been fighting with a quarry owner over the purity of the local spring water.
The monks have doggedly claimed that plans by Lhoist, an international company run by one of Belgium’s richest families, to deepen its chalk quarry and redirect the Tridaine spring risked altering the unique taste of their celebrated drink.
Now, thanks to a deed dating back to 1833, it appears that there's good news for brewers and drinkers alike. A court of appeal in Liège has confirmed that while the quarry owner owns the spring, it does not have the right to “remove or divert all or part of the water which supply the abbey”.
Lhoist is the world’s largest lime, mineral and dolomite producer, with 100 branches in more than 25 countries and 6,400 employees, generating a turnover of more than €1bn.
In contrast, life in the Trappist abbey - which boasts a brewing halls described as the most beautiful in Belgium, akin to a “beer cathedral” - is characterised by prayer, reading and manual labour. The earliest mention of a brewery at the monastery was in 1595, but the current site dates to 1899. The water for the beer is drawn from a well inside the monastery walls.
Only beers made by an abbey under the supervision of monks who live in near silence under the rule of Saint Benedict are allowed to be described as Trappist. But, for now, this particular beer is safe....