The Trappist St. Benedict Abbey of Achel (Sint Benedictus Abdij – De Achelse Kluis) which belongs to the Cistercians of Strict Observance (Trappists), is located in Achel in Flanders, Belgium. It is the smallest of the Trappist breweries. The abbey is famous for its spiritual life and its brewery, which is one of very few Trappist breweries in the world. Life in the abbey is characterized by prayer, reading and manual work, the three basic elements of Trappist life.
The early roots of the Abbey date back to 1686, when Petrus van Eynatten, a son of the mayor of Eindhoven, founded a community of hermits of Saint Joseph at Achel. The community would flourish until 1789 when they were expelled from their convent after the French revolutionary army invaded the Austrian Netherlands.
In 1844, the ruins were rebuilt as a Trappist priory by monks from Westmalle. Beer was first brewed on the site in 1852; in 1871 the priory was granted the status of abbey and beer brewing became a regular activity. By reclaiming waste land, the agriculture and cattle-breeding of the abbey prospered. In addition several daughter-houses were founded.
At the beginning of World War I the monks left the abbey. The Germans dismantled the brewery in 1917 to salvage the copper. After World War II a new abbey was built between 1946 and 1952, but with only two wings of the planned four completed. In 1989 the abbey sold most of its land to the Dutch National Forest Administration and the Flemish Government. In 1998, with support from the Trappists of Westmalle and Rochefort, brewing started again. Achel's is the smallest of the seven Trappist breweries. As with all Trappist breweries, the beers are sold in order to support the monastery and its charities.