De Kloostergang by Trappist® Tribute

How it all began.

Koen Naulaerts & Kenny Hermans tell their story.
Koen-and-Kenny. Illustration photo our story.

It was written in the stars that the two young Flemings Koen Naulaerts and Kenny Hermans would start this adventure. The day Koen quit his job in Dubai and got on a plane to Belgium, Kenny was already planning to say goodbye to his former employer Coca-Cola. As soon as Koen set foot on Belgian soil, he called Kenny: 'Hey, I'm back. If you want to get together? Kenny answered: 'That's good, I'm unemployed at the moment. Four hours later, they were sitting in Westende eating mussels with a Westmalle Tripel.

Beer was the thread that ran through several months of brainstorming. Especially the experience of beer interested Koen and Kenny. They did research on virtual reality, augmented reality and the beer experience, visited several companies in the Benelux and repeatedly put their ideas on paper. Unfortunately all these plans and wild dreams turned out to be too ambitious, especially financially.    

As fervent beer lovers, Koen and Kenny visited bars in Leuven, Brussels, Amsterdam and other big cities. They were inspired by the Heineken Experience. But the theme that stuck with them the most was Trappist beer.    

Just like Paul Jambers, a Belgian investigative journalist, Koen and Kenny wondered who the Trappists are, what they do and what drives them. They decided to go on a voyage of discovery into this mysterious world.    

After many fruitless mails and failed attempts to introduce themselves, an abbey did open its doors to Koen and Kenny. And it was not the least: the abbey of Orval.  

Brother Xavier, also president of the ITA (International Trappist Association) had heard about two young guys who wanted to set up a project around Trappists and was willing to listen to their proposal. Koen and Kenny told him about their plans for a Tribute Box, a Trappist bar and a few other ideas. The conversation was fascinating and intense. Soon, Koen and Kenny realised that they had landed in a completely different world.    

(If you want to know more about the Trappist order and the ITA, click here!

After this meeting, the ITA took over and occasionally a door opened for Koen and Kenny. On the other hand, it turned out that doing business is not easy, certainly not if you want to penetrate the well-protected world of the Trappists. They are literally hard to reach behind their monastery walls.          

It did not really go forward. Koen and Kenny experienced at first hand what patience is. However virtuous, as young entrepreneurs with no income, they felt that things could improve a bit.    

Finally, Koen and Kenny decided to literally go knocking on abbeys' doors. They travelled from the Netherlands to Austria, from Italy to the United States. And had the experience of a lifetime.    

They were impressed by the size of the Trappist order and got to know not only monks, but also nuns (Trappist women). To their pleasant surprise, Koen and Kenny were given a very warm welcome in all the abbeys. In a short time, they learned an enormous amount from the monastic brothers and sisters. Without their enthusiastic support, the Trappist Tribute project would never have got off the ground.    

The confidence of the Trappist order slowly but surely increased. In the end, the ITA gave its blessing to Koen and Kenny's Trappist Tribute Box.    

But their focus was never just on Trappist beers. They started collecting all kinds of Trappist products: jam, biscuits, coffee, tea, books, you name it. So the idea grew to start a pop-up bar, with a menu featuring only Trappist products. Despite (or thanks to) Kenny's past, Coca-Cola would certainly not be on the menu. In the end, when De Kloostergang was under construction, Koen and Kenny chose not to put any commercial products on the menu. Trappist and nothing else. A unique concept. No one had ever done this to them.      

But Koen and Kenny could not hide their love for beer. They sought contact with experts who were willing to put their shoulders under their project. Jef Van den Steen, perhaps the world's greatest Trappist expert, and Wim Swinnen, a culinary journalist specialising in beer gastronomy, were happy to lend a hand. Swinnen introduced Koen and Kenny to renowned beer chefs like Raf Sainte, Hilaire Spreuwers and Alex Verhoeven. The starting shot of De Kloostergang was given in July 2019 and the e-commerce section with the Trappist Tribute Box followed in October 2019.    

We definitely recommend a visit to the Gebrande Winning (Raf Sainte) & Hert (Alex Verhoeven).

Through this way, Koen and Kenny would like to thank everyone who believed in them and supported their project.

What a story!

De Kloostergang

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De Kloostergang by Trappist® Tribute

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