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Ascetic Aesthetic


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Photograph by Lane Hartwell

Amid downtown Oakland’s noise and clamor, you open a heavy door and enter another world: cool brick, dark wood, low lighting and dark-clad men murmuring in serious, hushed tones, perusing a great leather-bound book. A monastery? Close, but not quite: This is the Trappist, an establishment devoted to authentic Belgian ale.

Proprietors Chuck Stilphen and Aaron Porter serve more than 120 Belgian, Dutch, French, and American microbrews. “After returning from one of our trips to Belgium,” recalls Porter, “the reality of having to wait another year to visit our favorite pubs started to hit us hard . . . and subsequently transformed into this idea to create our own place at home.” Each beer is served at its optimum temperature in its proper glass. The leather-bound list gives histories of the Trappist monasteries that produce these beers and the breweries that pay homage to the Trappist style. Here are three Belgian brews we enjoyed.

Brouwerij Bosteels Tripel KarmeliEt (8 percent alcohol by volume) Brewed from oats, barley, and wheat, this ale is light and refreshing on the first sip.
Brouwerij De Halve Maan Brugse Zot (6 percent) This extraordinary ale has a devoted following in its Belgian hometown of Bruges. Like champagne, it is refermented in the bottle, giving the flavors a unique “third dimension.”
Brouwerij Slaghmuylder Witkap Stimulo (6 percent) Lovely pear cider flavors and a lemony finish round out the aromatic bouquet of this beer. 

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