One of the beer world's most exclusive clubs gained a new member in 1998 when the monastery of Achel, near Hamont in the province of Limburg, revived its brewing tradition with the assistance of its fellow Trappist brothers at Westmalle. The monastery's previous brewery had closed when the Germans commandeered the kettles in the First World War, and in recent years it had been the only Trappist monastery in Belgium without its own beer portfolio. At first the beer was only available on draught at the monastery's own café, but now the Achel name is popping up on bottles too, and some of them found their way to the London Drinker Beer Festival where I got this sample. How this blond bottle-conditioned ale of 8% ABV corresponds to the draught range isn't clear from the very minimal labelling: perhaps like some Trappist brewers Achel uses colours to distinguish its beers, or perhaps this is the only one bottled. The beer is a very light pale yellow or straw, made slightly cloudy by a loose sediment, with a low, lacy head. The aroma is soft and very subtle, overall dry with scents of hops, yeast, vanilla and melon-like fruit. The palate is also dry but notably full and fruity, with a big-bodied meatiness unusual in such a pale beer. It turns toffeeish and chewy when swallowed, and the finish has a fine perfumed bitterness, with a summery delicacy reminiscent of fresh plums or mirabelles and more estery, meaty tones. There's also a warming alcohol kick as it lingers, along with melon fruit, tasty hops and some flashes of deeper, chocolate-like tones. Although there is a distant similarity to some of the more untypical Trappist beers like Chimay Blanche and Orval, the monks of Achel have clearly decided to plough their own furrow rather than imitate existing Trappist styles: as confirmed by the declared ingredients, this is a beer made from malt and hops alone, with no spices nor that other monastic favourite, candy sugar. In doing so they've created a dry, subtle and thoroughly modern beer from one of the finest and most historic of brewing traditions.